Here is a slice of real life that cuts across the more sanitised and detached narratives that historians, myself included, too often present as ‘proper history’. Sean Longden has gathered the memories of twenty-seven elderly men and women who were children during the Second World War and were forced to grow up fast. Their recollections, fleshed out with other memoirs and stories, recapture a tough age, when adulthood started early. These were lives mainly lived in poverty, but not impoverished; lives apparently emancipated by war, but imprisoned again in war’s callous indifference to suffering.
Longden’s Blitz kids were chosen in most cases not because they experienced the Blitz – though some did, and can recall it in visceral detail – but because they joined one or other branch of the uniformed services well before the age of eighteen. The real meat of these memories