Half the battle

Civilian morale in Britain during the Second World War

How well did civilian morale stand up to the pressures of total war and what factors were important to it? This book rejects contentions that civilian morale fell a long way short of the favourable picture presented at the time and in hundreds of books and films ever since. While acknowledging that some negative attitudes and behaviour existed—panic and defeatism, ration-cheating and black-marketeering—it argues that these involved a very small minority of the population. In fact, most people behaved well, and this should be the real measure of civilian morale, rather than the failing of the few who behaved badly. The book shows that although before the war, the official prognosis was pessimistic, measures to bolster morale were taken nevertheless, in particular with regard to protection against air raids. An examination of indicative factors concludes that moral fluctuated but was in the main good, right to the end of the war. In examining this phenomenon, due credit is accorded to government policies for the maintenance of morale, but special emphasis is given to the ‘invisible chain’ of patriotic feeling that held the nation together during its time of trial.

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