Voices of the Second World War: A Child’s Perspective

Written by Sheila A Renshaw
Review by Edward James

There are nearly 40 authors of this book, 26 of them telling stories mainly of four to six pages, and the rest making shorter contributions, sometimes only a few lines.  All were children or teenagers during WW2, ranging from two to seventeen years old at the start of hostilities, living across Europe in Britain, Germany, Russia and elsewhere.  By the time they met Sheila Renshaw, they were adults, most living in southern England.  Renshaw recorded their stories over several years and decided to publish them before they passed out of living memory.

Some stories are commonplace—rationing, gas masks, air raid shelters—and others are eventful and even tragic.  All are told in a terse, matter-of-fact style with little dramatisation or comment.  They tell us ‘what I did in the war’ but not what it felt to be a child during WW2.  Or perhaps that is what they are telling us.  Six years is a long time in the life of a child, and most were too young to have remembered peace.  War was their normality, and they accepted it as it happened.