Review of ‘The Peak District at War’, by Peter Clowes

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 28th January 2002, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Peter Clowes
Published by Churnet Valley Books
ISBN 1-897949-76-6 (2002)

It is now more than 60 years since the last enemy bomber flew over Britain in the Second World War. From memories shared with local people for various articles, we know that very many people remember those days well.

Peter Clowes has succeeded in recreating the atmosphere of life on the Home Front in the Peak. Given the tight restrictions on newspaper reporting during the war, he has gathered a staggering amount of information. From the starting point of local air raids, for instance, the author has unearthed facts which would not have been general knowledge at the time.

Front Cover

The Second World War is a period which will become more difficult to research as people's memories die with them. This book brings together the experiences of former servicemen and women, and participants from the Home Guard to Land Girls (killing rats with pitchforks). There are GI's and POWs, schoolboys machine-gunned as they played cricket, and gamekeepers and farmers who went to the rescue of crashed airmen, sometimes witness to dreadful carnage.

How many people know about the dummy town built to divert the enemy away from vital industrial areas? Or the Dambusters who were assumed to be flying joy-riders? Or the house where top secret work on submarine warfare was being carried out?

There were wartime blizzards which left an inn cut off for a fortnight and snow on the ground at Whitsun. Worse still, the Bull i' Thorn became the pub with no beer. It was so cold at Flash that the vicar had to remove icicles from his ears after walking to church.

The Peak District at War is packed with evocative illustrations and photographs, with an excellent index for family history buffs.

Review by Julie Bunting

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