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New book about life in the 1940s

July 26th, 2016

Some years ago during a routine audit of the document collection a handwritten journal was discovered written by a local resident. The journal had been donated by a lady in Norfolk who had found it in the drawer of a piece of furniture she bought at auction. The museum is very grateful that she did not just throw it away, but thought to offer it for the collection.

The name of the journal’s writer was evident from the correspondence placed within the pages of the journal, and it matched the name of an author of a book in the museum’s library. The writer was Mabel Richmond Brailsford, a writer of historical biographies of religious personalities, such as William Penn and John Wesley.

Thanks to a research volunteer transcribing the journal and a volunteer typographer designing the book, this journal has now been published by the museum to enable everyone to learn at first-hand about life on the homefront during World War Two. Within the journal are 40,000 words of wonderful stories of Amersham residents, descriptions of war-torn London, tales of national personalities, the trials of providing a home for bombed-out Londoners and general uninformed gossip. The well-educated writer splatters her entries with French, Italian, German and Latin phrases. She writes with intelligence and wit, but still displays her prejudices, admiration for her favourites and an undercurrent of cultural snobbery. This lucid and entertaining account of her thoughts and descriptions of events and people give us a vivid account of life in Amersham during World War Two.

As well as the journal, the book includes a biography of the author, researched in archives in Manchester and Ilfracombe; a bibliography of her published work; and mini biographies of the 150 people and places contained within the journal. It is an exciting new addition to the understanding of the deprivations and conditions endured on the homefront during world war two.

Copies are available from the publisher, Amersham Museum, for £10 each. Proceeds will support the museum’s development project into the neighbouring building.