Friday 25 September 2020

#WartimeClassics #BlogTour Green Hands by Barbara Whitton

Today it's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for another book reprinted and published by the  Imperial War Museum.

The Wartime Classics Series was launched by the Imperial War Museum in September 2019 to great acclaim. The novels were all written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Following the IWM’s commitment to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand, each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the battle or their experience of war, which doesn't always include combat.

About the Author
Margaret Hazel Watson (writing under the pseudonym Barbara Whitton) was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1921. She was educated at the Church High Girls School in Newcastle, and later sent to St Leonards School in St Andrews. Due to study Art in Paris, her training was curtailed by the outbreak of the Second World War.

Having volunteered for the Women's Land Army (WLA) in 1939, she worked as a Land Girl for around a year before moving to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and later joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as a driver, where she remained for the duration of the war. Her novel Green Hands is a fictionalised account of her time spent as a Land Girl, detailing the back-breaking hard work and intensity of her experience with good humour and an enchanting lightness of touch. During her time with the ATS she met her husband Pat Chitty and they were married in 1941. After the war, she wrote a number of accounts of her wartime experience and retained an interest in art, literature and horticulture throughout her life. She died in 2016.

Buy Green Hands at Amazon Uk

About the book
It is 1943, and a month into their service as Land Girls, Bee, Anne and Pauline are dispatched to a remote farm in rural Scotland. Here they are introduced to the realities of 'lending a hand on the land', as back-breaking work and inhospitable weather mean they struggle to keep their spirits high.
Soon one of the girls falters, and Bee and Pauline receive a new posting to a Northumberland dairy farm. Detailing their friendship, daily struggles and romantic intrigues with a lightness of touch, Barbara Whitton's autobiographical novel paints a sometimes funny, sometimes bleak picture of time spent in the Women's Land Army during the Second World War.

This story is a fictional account based on the real experiences of Margaret Watson, during World War 2. In 1943 the 17000 women who had already volunteered to help on the homefront were supplemented by adding conscription to the mix. This meant single women had to play their part in winning or fighting the war.

I think we can agree that no matter whether they opted to join the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force), ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service), WRNS ( Women's Royal Naval Service) - work in a wartime factory or join the Land Girls as a member of WLA (Women's Land Army) - the propaganda looks and looked different from the reality.

Even now when I look at the posters and literature I can absolutely see the nostalgic feeling, but most importantly the emotions of pride and sense of belonging it would have evoked. The emotional bond and thread it would have created between the men giving and risking their lives for their country, and those left behind doing their part.

If anything at all Bee's story, and indeed that of her friends, serves to prove how hard it actually was, and that it wasn't the way it is often portrayed on television. As jolly young women with headscarves doing their bit and making great lasting friendships and romances at the same time.

Instead it was hard labour and environments full of misogynists, chauvinists and sexist men, who were perhaps disappointed at their own homeland role instead of being overseas with their fellow brothers.

I really enjoyed this eye-opening look at an experience that is always made to look romantic, fun and something every girl would sign-up for - the propaganda worked I'd say. It's important the women played their part and proved equality isn't or wasn't a fictional prospect, although they had to return to secondary roles after the war ended, but it is equally important that their roles are portrayed and written about in a truthful manner.

Buy Green Hands at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Imperial War Museum; pub date 10 Sept. 2020. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my reviews of these Wartime ClassicsWarriors for the Working Day, Patrol, Eight Hours from England, Trial by Battle and From the City, From the Plough.
Buy Warriors for the Working Day by Peter Elstob
Buy Patrol by Fred Majdalany
Buy Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle.
Buy Trial by Battle by David Piper.
Buy From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron.

About the Imperial War Museums - IWM

'IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.

Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.

IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, IWM’s flagship branch that recently transformed with new, permanent and free First World War Galleries alongside new displays across the iconic Atrium to mark the Centenary of the First World War; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain's best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.'

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