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British Women in World War Two

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They were usually waiting to meet the ‘ right man’ , get engaged and eventually marry and, because of the marriage bar on jobs such as teaching and nursing and the general assumption that it was improper for a married woman to work, they would then give up work altogether. However, all this changed with the onset of World War Two. It was a signal that turbulent times were ahead. Men were recruited to fight for their countries. Women had no choice but to let go of their men. It was unknown to everyone what the future will bring, but when the war broke out, it seemed that a bleak tomorrow threatened the world. Women, in particular, assailed by a series of unending attacks on their humanity and had to claw at what appears to be a hint of hope for survival.

Class distinctions broke down and the formerly rich women adjusted to life’ s painful realities that they had to live like the rest of the commoners. “ Mass observation surveys conducted during 1941 found that many who advocated conscription believed it would force ‘ idle rich girls’ to work. “ In 1944, Olive Owens, aged 17, was working as an air raid warden in Croydon, Surrey: One day when I was on duty, a V2 rocket dropped on the corner of Park Road and Kings Road.

It was complete devastation. We dug and dug until our fingers bled. My most vivid memory is of an arm raised, to call for silence when someone heard tapping among the ruins. Women prisoners of war were treated inhumanely. Their captors were usually cruel, desensitized by the evils of war. They were forced to live in despicable conditions – overcrowded cockroach-infested huts, poor sanitation, and the epidemic of head lice.

They were made to sleep on very narrow wooden boards, with no privacy at all. They were an utter disregard for their well-being and health. Enslaved, women camp prisoners were ordered around to do forced labor. In all kinds of climates – in very high temperature, under the blazing hot sun, they were made to dig graves to bury the dead, dig up latrines for their own use, chopped wood and carry an extremely heavy load.

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