By Kristine A. Miller (auth.)
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Extra info for British Literature of the Blitz: Fighting the People’s War
Analyzing a sample of 300 women, a Mass-Observation report concludes that “72% of D [working] class women said they had never thought of joining a Service” (M-O A: FR 1083, 1942: 6). Of the 28 percent of the working-class women who did consider joining the services, most were drawn to the ATS, rather than to the primarily middle- and upper-middle-class WAAF Mobile Women in Elizabeth Bowen’s War Writing 35 and WRNS. Social perceptions of the different branches of women’s military service therefore enforced class divisions within the auxiliary armed forces.
Despite its qualitative approach, Mass-Observation frequently drew conclusions about the British population, and the MOI even employed the organization to report secretly on a variety of propaganda and morale issues during the war. A Top Secret report submitted by the Director of Naval Intelligence in April 1947 summarizes Mass-Observation’s work for the government: From the end of 1939, Mass Observation was employed by the Home Intelligence Section of the Ministry of Information, to report on a wide range of subjects connected with morale, rumour, war dislocation and 22 British Literature of the Blitz frustrations, industrial difficulties and general propaganda effects.
Confounded by the national imperative to protect the freedom of people who seem increasingly likely to be killed, Oakman articulates a conflicted view of the People’s War not uncommon among those working and fighting for their lives in the Blitz. A similar sense of internal conflict haunts this 70-year-old workingclass warden’s even more personal description of his wife’s death, which he communicates to a young man in the hope of recruiting him to join an ARP unit: He [Hitler] smashed up me home and me missus in the same night.