Why are people so obsessed with WW2?

  1. Montero

    Montero Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Messages:
    1,838
    Both my parents lived through WW2 and none of their stories were fun - extreme food shortages, school friend killed by a stray "friendly" bullet from an allied fighter plane that fell from the sky during a dog fight. There was just getting out the way of being strafed by a Stuka - it came up a railway line machine gunning the train and the station. My father managed to throw himself into the solid, stone built waiting room just in time - lying there on the floor, seeing heavy machine gun bullets tearing up the tarmac where he'd just been standing.
    However, he was very much into reading books like The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Montserrat, PoW escape stories, One of Our Submarines - true life on a submarine, watching black and white war movies and the later colour ones - mother watched them too - I grew up watching them. To him, the war was worth fighting despite the privations and dangers he'd experienced.
    In terms of why WW2 is so popular - I can't help wondering whether there are two reasons.
    1. The massive amount of still and movie photography available. (Previous wars were photographed but WW2 much more so.)
    2. How much everyone was involved due to the bombings and attacks on civilians. It wasn't troops sent abroad and life as fairly normal back at home, it was everyone.

    @Dave - for some people WW2 was the biggest challenge they'd ever had, biggest responsibility, life downhill after that. Read Nevil Shute's Requem for a Wren for example (but not if you are feeling low). Who Do You Think You Are series when they did Patrick Stewart - his father who was a postman, had been really difficult to live with, but through Who Do You Think You Are, Patrick Stewart learnt he'd been a sergeant major in the Parachute Regiment and the man trusted with restoring one of the regiments after heavy casualties. He also probably had PTSD from some of the pretty horrendous things he'd seen. But the guy had been truly challenged, and really risen to the challenge, and then after the war it was back to delivering letters.
     
    Dave and Amelia Faulkner like this.
  2. hitmouse

    hitmouse Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2011
    Messages:
    1,136
    WW2 was quite simply the defining event of my grandparents generation, whether in the services overseas or back at home in the UK. It involved every aspect of British society and the nation was profoundly changed afterwards. The trauma of multiple family deaths in the blitz was still with my grandmother when she died 10 years ago. My mother, who was born during that time, was bought up by other family members as a result: it undoubtedly affected her relationship with her family, and her choices in life. So, WW2 is not simply a historical period. Its effects continue to echo down the generations. It is also still living history. Up to the time of her death 5 years ago a great aunt was still pulling minute splinters of glass out of her back from a blown out window during the blitz. Another great aunt was awarded a medal a few years ago for working at Bletchley Park: the family were surprised as she had kept it a complete secret for 70 years.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
    Montero, Foxbat, Dave and 1 other person like this.
  3. Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2001
    Messages:
    17,226
    Location:
    Way on Down South, London Town
    I totally agree with that, but
    Women worked in men's professions for the first time and got the vote shortly afterwards. There was such a shortage of men that women either could never marry or else married below their class. Not just multiple family deaths, but the deaths of most of the men in entire villages and communities. Yet, it no longer has the same (not sure "obsession" is the right word, but that was the OP) obsession today.

    I don't dispute the "why" WW2 is remembered. Not sure about the "living memory" part being relevant, as it is not those who lived through it who are still celebrating it. There are 1940's dances in cellars in the centre of London, to which the average age of those attending must be mid-twenties. The part I don't understand is the celebrating of it.
     
  4. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2011
    Messages:
    574
    Location:
    Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales
    I don't think they are celebrating the War.

    They are celebrating, if anything, the Spirit of the People, how all classes and walks of life pulled together, they are celebrating the communal attitude, the Blitz Spirit, of banding together to fight through adversity.

    They are not celebrating people being killed, battles that were fought.

    Plus, a lot of people really like the music and fashion of the era.
     
    Montero likes this.
  5. Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2001
    Messages:
    17,226
    Location:
    Way on Down South, London Town
    Celebrating is probably not the right word either. Obsession isn't, but we can agree that there is a "thing?" A thing that gives people a warm and fuzzy feeling? I think they like the music and fashion because of the association, and not in spite of it. I'm happy for someone to prove me wrong though
     
  6. Overread

    Overread Direwolf of the chrons

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2007
    Messages:
    3,339
    Location:
    Hunting in the woods
    Dave the class point is a strong to raise for the UK; WW1 and 2 together basically was the deathnail to the old class system we had in the country up until that point. Some elements of it still remain and I suspect always will in any social structure (there's always some on top and others underneath); but the generations over which it had built up were very swiftly swept aside by the massive cross-class life loss in both wars
     
  7. Randy M.

    Randy M. Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2012
    Messages:
    1,039
    I think you can add to that nostalgia for a "simpler" time. We often look back to times that appear good/bad, black/white. We've gone through cycles of nostalgia for the 1950s (oblivious of "separate but equal" and the Jim Crow laws, systemic sexism, etc., etc., but weren't poodle skirts and pompadours cute?) and for the 1960s (focusing on the initial optimism, the fashion and music, and brushing aside that pesky war that wasn't a war, assassinations, civil unrest, and ... um ... oh, yeah, systemic sexism).

    And then, in the U.S., we add in the baby boomer generation. Oh, we were radical we were when we were young, what with our electric guitars and our wailing, croaky rock'n'rollers! And then about 1980, while we were still the number one group of consumers retailers wanted to appeal to, I started noticing music in commercials incorporating Louis Prima and Glen Miller, and it occurred to me that middle-aging baby boomers wanted some return to the comforts and safety of their childhood. So we elected Ronald Regan. And it just kept going after that.

    And Overread, I agree with you about how that period kicked the legs out from under the dominant class system. That was happening in the U.S., too.


    Randy M.
     
    Montero likes this.
  8. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2011
    Messages:
    574
    Location:
    Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales
    It's why Uncle Winston to his absolute shock found himself thrown out of Downing Street in the first election in 6 years.
    Many of the promises made in WW1 were not kept, and were made with no intention of being kept.

    People knew that, and they knew Winston C was exactly the sort of man to show ingratitude and not make the changes needed.
    Without Labour coming to power in that election in 1945, I doubt we would have a National Health Service, a Welfare system etc.

    A Sitcom show, Only Fools and Horses gave one of the best quotes regarding WW1 and promises I have ever seen - Grandad sadly remarks to Delboy and Rodney that "they promised us homes fit for heroes, they gave us heroes fit for homes"
     
  9. hitmouse

    hitmouse Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2011
    Messages:
    1,136
    I dont think my family has ever celbrated WW2 in any shape or form. It was simply something seismic that happened to them and they were never the same again.
     
    Montero and Caledfwlch like this.
  10. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2011
    Messages:
    574
    Location:
    Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales
    I suppose there may well be some who think like you suggest, but most of them, I suspect, it's just to do with Vintage/Retro being all cool. People don't dress like Flappers or go to see Burlesque shows for example, because they get a warm and fuzzy feeling about the Chaos and violence of the Weimar Republic in Germany (1919-1933) a place and time iirc, where Burlesque was very popular.
    And people arent dressing up in various aspects of Victorian Garb, because they have warm fuzzy feelings for Moustache & Lamb Chop Wearers teaching Johnny Native his place.
    Well, ok, people except for Daily Mail Readers! ;)

    I suspect the fact that WW2 has been such a staple of movies, books and TV Shows in the UK is also a factor, in that people recognise the style, and fashions of that period more easily than others.
    And I suppose, for those youngers going to Dance Hall type events, it's something that has a strong British image and Identity - they maybe feel more at home or look the part more, than they would at an evening based around early to mid fifties Rock and Roll. It's all very glamorous - The boys with their leather jackets and quiffs and Ted suits taking beautiful tanned bottle blondes with a huge gleaming rack of teeth to a retro Diner with black and white tiled floors, and a 50's jukebox, it's also a very American image.

    The other big Retro fad for years has been the 1970's, there is even a chain of Clubs called Flares, at which you can behind the bar even buy glittering purple whigs, and other fancy dress items. And goers are not glorifying or commemorating the 3 day week, the streets being filled with rats due to the millions of uncollected bin bags, and the Morgues filled with corpses due to the various Strikes, the power blackouts etc.

    Sadly, I have personal knowledge of the branch of Flares in Leeds City Centre :( as the ex fiance and her mates loved the place. Sob.
     
    Montero likes this.
  11. sknox

    sknox Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2013
    Messages:
    315
    Obsessed is a fairly slippery word. Posts here have explained why the participants were profoundly affected, how that in turn affected the next generation. They have pointed out that the war is heavily documented, which allows people to research and investigate to a degree unknown with earlier wars. Still others have romanticized the war or have enjoyed romanticizations of it (there are, after all, millions of dramatic stories to be told).

    Out of all those reactions and more, I'd say obsession forms only a sliver. People are fascinated. People are appalled and try to understand. People are inspired and make movies and write books. People let it stand for something personal (all wars have done that). I'd guess that if you found someone who was truly obsessed with the war, that last one would be the most likely explanation as to why.

    I'm a generation-and-a-half removed from that war. It touched me in odd ways. My step-father was a sergeant but never went overseas. Sixty years later I find out my mother still receives certain benefits from being sorta-kinda a soldier's widow. She gets a tax break on her property, of all things.

    My German teacher in college was born in Kiel, which was flattened in the war, being a major port. He told us of living in a ring of new housing built around the complete devastation of the old city.

    But the oddest was my dissertation. In the old days (1980s), you had to get your dissertation bound yourself, at your own cost. I was flat poor, but went looking (in Boise, Idaho!) for a book binder. Found one, an old guy who still did some bookbinding when he felt like it. All his equipment was in the basement and we sat to talk about what I needed. I handed him the manuscript with its title, "The Guilds of Early Modern Augsburg."

    He said, "Huh." Looked up at me and added, "I bombed Augsburg." Turned out he was a bombardier who helped pummel that city. It was such a strange, even ludicrous, confluence--the medieval historian and the WWII bombardier in Boise, Idaho coinciding over a German city.

    A world war, indeed.
     
    Randy M., Toby Frost, Montero and 2 others like this.
  12. Foxbat

    Foxbat None The Wiser

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2003
    Messages:
    6,386
    Location:
    Scotland
    My 'thing' for WW2 is simply trying to understand it and what it meant to those involved. I have always had a 'thing' for history so my points are not unbiased and, in many ways, I have the same fascination with WW1.

    But what we have to remember about WW2 is that a generation was decimated in the Great War only two decades previously. What determination must it have taken for the ordinary people - still mourning and remembering their losses in WW1 to once again answer the call of their country?

    Appeasement is often criticised unfairly because its origins lay in the fact that the horrors of the Great War were still fresh in the national memory. What was thought to be a glorious or perhaps exciting undertaking - all decorated with a bit of 'Boy's Own' derring do and home for Xmas eventually produced killing grounds like the Somme that could be a worthy depiction of Hell. I once visited Vimy Ridge where a section of the trench complexes of both sides have been preserved and was aghast at how close they were to each other so it doesn't seem to be an exagerration when you see movies depicting soldiers shouting to each other - they were that close. And these were young men!

    They were different times, of course, where Duty was expected and people knew their place and most who fought all had their own reasons for doing so but what they achieved collectively for us as a nation was the right to say no, regardless of our social standing or gender.

    Anybody with a warm and fuzzy feeling for WW2 should remember these numbers.

    Deaths totals (approx civilian and military)
    UK 450700
    USA 418500
    USSR 24000000 (yes that's right...24 million!)
    Germany 8800000
    France 567600
    China 20000000 (there are some researchers who think that civilian deaths in China alone could be as high as 50 million but it is unlikely ever to be proven).
    Japan 3100000
    Italy 457000

    There are many many more (including 6 million Jews and half a million gypsys)
     
    Montero likes this.
  13. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2011
    Messages:
    574
    Location:
    Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales
    I have to say, I loathe the phrase "People knew their Place"! :D
    It is correct, sadly, but the place that People knew to be theirs, was simply where those with wealth ordered them to be.
    I think a new phrase needs to be coined, as in its current form it makes it sound like the people chose to be there, treated like that, their lowly position in society etc.
     
  14. Foxbat

    Foxbat None The Wiser

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2003
    Messages:
    6,386
    Location:
    Scotland
    Totally agree with you. :)
     
    Caledfwlch likes this.
  15. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2011
    Messages:
    574
    Location:
    Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales

    Caledfwlch Tugs his forelock, "gawd bless 'is Majesty, where would I be without him and all them nobbles telling me my place"

    :D
     
    Foxbat likes this.
  16. Montero

    Montero Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Messages:
    1,838
    @Foxbat, @Caledfwlch
    Not entirely. My mother had really good grades at school, but her father made her leave at 16. We talked about it a couple of times and how she would have liked to go to University and what she would have studied. After she died, I was talking with her sister, my aunt and mentioned all of that. My aunt's reflex response "People like us didn't do that." To be fair, after a long moment she said, "But our best friend did." Then she was quiet for quite a time.
    Also, let's not forget that lovely old phrase "class traitor".
    It is the same sort of mental attitude as expecting women and men to behave differently purely because of their gender - and turning round and saying girls/boys don't do that to the girl/boy who is doing whatever it is.
    At least there are no longer clear dress codes for "the classes". You watch a film of a public event in the 1950s, and the women and men at the front or up on the stage are all in nice hats, and the back of the crowd is head scarves and flat caps. (Mind you, the queen wears head scarves when out riding - but that is different from wearing headscarves when dressed up.....) Gives me the grue seeing the clear distinction. I am glad I am alive now and not then. But "keeping people in their place" was not entirely top down - it was complicated.
    There was also a lot of social mobility - people getting more education, better jobs, moving away from their home area. Both sides of my family did it. However, one of the key things was to hide your origin or it didn't work. If you didn't speak BBC English and look the part, you didn't get the better job. It is relatively recent for BBC announcers to have regional accents and for people on the up not to alter their speech. Angela Rippon commented on how she totally laundered her voice from how she spoke as a child.
    So if you just judge by appearances, the "class system" would look static, because you are not seeing people with strong accents in white collar jobs - but they were there, they'd given themselves a make-over so you didn't know.

    Incidentally, mentioning clothes identifying your class. In the medieval period there were sumptuary laws laying out what rank could wear what sort of cloth and type of fur - and there was perpetual bitching about merchants dressing well above their station and how something should be done about it. Also, Anne Boleyn's great grandfather on her paternal line was a wealthy merchant - that was a family on the up.
     
  17. Overread

    Overread Direwolf of the chrons

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2007
    Messages:
    3,339
    Location:
    Hunting in the woods
    Aye lower classes would frown upon those who would aim to push themselves upward just as much as those in the upper classes would frown upon those trying to move up. You'd not even "talk" to some classes if you were in one class. Oh you might be polite and greet them if they were lower; or you'd give them a job or such. But you wouldn't go out and "talk" to them. You just "didn't do that sort of thing".

    Indeed I think there was a lot of "you just don't do that" thinking that was engrained into the youth and became so much a part of their lives that they did "just didn't do it" without really thinking much of the why; other than it was the normal thing to do.
     
  18. Vladd67

    Vladd67 Stake Holder

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    2,768
  19. Montero

    Montero Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Messages:
    1,838
    @ Overread - yes.
    @Vladd - blech, yes, poor crabs. They could build a pyramid and escape if they went in for teamwork.
     
Loading...

Share This Page

Loading...