Thursday, October 04, 2018

In praise of George Beardmore

I came to George Beardmore's "Civilians At War" after Kate Atkinson credited it as a source for her own "Transcription". It's one of the best books I've ever read about the experience of World War II.

Beardmore was an unsuccessful novelist living in North London with a young family when the war broke out. His asthma disqualified him from military service and so he did a variety of jobs. He was stationed with a rifle outside the engineering department of Broadcasting House in case somebody tried a coup de'├ętat. Later he worked for the local authority, trying to find billets for nurses around where he lived in Harrow and then working with the teams who were sent in to pick up the pieces after air raids.

While they recovered the bodies, some of whom had to be retrieved from several gardens away from the point of impact, and tried to make safe the buildings, Beardmore dealt with the living. He kept a diary of the time. It's a unique account of the tedium and terror of life on the Home Front.

It's actually at its most terrifying in the days following D-Day when Hitler unleashed his so-called "terror weapons" on London and the South-East. After the war he became quite a successful writer and so he didn't do anything with his diary. In fact it wasn't discovered until more than thirty years later and then published by his daughters in 1984. It's well worth reading if you can find a copy. There's more about him here.

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