by Miranda McCormick
Stroud, Eng.: History Press / Chicago: Trafalgar Square, 2015. Pp. 256.
Farming, Fighting and Family: A Memoir of the Second World War. $29.95 paper. ISBN: 075096183X
An English Family’s War
Drawing upon extensive family papers, as well as the published works of her grandfather, A.G. Street, a Wiltshire farmer who published widely on agricultural matters, and was also a journalist and broadcaster, and his daughter, her mother, Pamela Street, a novelist and biographer, McCormick tells the story of their Second World War, and that of her father, David F. H. McCormick, an English kinsman of the Chicago McCormicks, who rose from enlisted man to officer during the war.
This is a well written account which looks into all aspects of the life and experiences of her three principals. McCormick begins with some family background, then carries them from the peaceful world of the 1920s through the rise of Nazism and on into World War II. She covers the lives and experiences of her family members during the war in considerable detail. Her father, for example, volunteered to perform the grim duty of cleaning the boats that returned from Dunkirk ladened with wound, dying, and dead men, so that they go back to pick up yet more stranded troops. He then enlisted as an artilleryman, served in North Africa, and was for a time even believed dead, before turning up in an Italian P/W camp.
But this is also the story of an English farm village and a prosperous family in war time, and McCormick follows them as well. Her grandfather went from having a BBC program about agriculture to a a career in journalism, while her mother served variously in several auxiliary military organizations. McCormick writes quite frankly about how the war changed social mores, the effects of rationing, the Blitz, and more, even knitting bees to help make winter garments for the troops.
Although it might have benefited from some photographs and a map, this is nevertheless a useful work for students of the Home Front, and possibly valuable as an introduction about the war for the novice or those less interested in fighting than in what it was like to live during the war.
Note: Farming, Fighting and Family is also available in several e-editions.