War and welfare

British POW families, 1939–45

During the Second World War, some 250,000 British servicemen were taken captive either by the Axis powers or the Japanese, as a result of which their wives and families became completely dependent on the military and civil authorities for news of their loved ones and for financial and material support. This book outlines the nature of their plight, and shows how they attempted to overcome the particular difficulties they faced during and in the immediate aftermath of hostilities. It opens up a whole new area of analysis and examines the experiences of the millions of service dependents created by total war. Taking as its starting point the provisions made by pre-Second World War British governments to meet the needs of its service dependents, the book then goes on to focus on the most disadvantaged elements of this group – the wives, children and dependents of men taken prisoner – and the changes brought about by the exigencies of total war. Further chapters reflect on how these families organised to lobby government and the strategies they adopted to circumvent apparent bureaucratic ineptitude and misinformation. The book contributes to our understanding of the ways in which welfare provision was developed during the Second World War.

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