Socks for the Boys!

My Great Aunt Norah's wartime diaries, 1938-1948

A letter from Danny

The Guardian this weekend carried a short article about a new book based on 500 letters sent between a young couple who met on a training course in London during … Continue reading

February 25, 2015 · Leave a comment

Same old, same old: the struggle for representation

I spent a couple of days in London at the end of last week. Socks for the Boys! was shortlisted for the Tony Lothian Prize for an unpublished first-time biography … Continue reading

December 1, 2014 · 1 Comment

Wakes Weekend and walks over Daleacre

24th October 1938: Went down to the Wakes with Florence. Lovely time. Coldish. Saw Colin. This weekend is Wakes Weekend in Castle Donington, the village where Norah (and I) grew … Continue reading

October 25, 2014 · 2 Comments

Norah’s 1941 photograph

  20th September 1941: Photos from Winter’s arrived. Sent Danny one.  Norah’s visit to W.W. Winter, a professional photographer on Midland Road, Derby, was her second attempt to acquire a … Continue reading

October 7, 2014 · 2 Comments

Kernels of Truth: historians and the imagination

This blog post is a departure from my usual in that it is concerned with the process of writing rather than with Norah’s story itself.  It addresses issues to do … Continue reading

September 9, 2014 · 7 Comments

September 1, 1939: 75th Anniversary of the Start of World War II

Originally posted on Home Front Girl:
September 1, 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland, conventionally has been called the day World War II began.  Of course, the roots of the…

September 2, 2014 · Leave a comment

I’m in love with him & I don’t care a scrap

19th September 1941: Went to Derby & bought blue dress material & fed swans in river gardens. I’m in love with him & I don’t care a scrap. I can’t … Continue reading

August 27, 2014 · 2 Comments

Danny wins the day

‘I’m still in love with’: the certainty of it, petering out into a teasing, secretive dash. As the tension between the brothers builds in early September 1941, Norah’s affections still lie with … Continue reading

August 12, 2014 · Leave a comment

Between brothers

Jim’s requests for schoolgirl photos go unnoticed or at least unremarked upon by Norah and they settle into a fun and flirtatious correspondence through the summer of 1941. For now, there are no more … Continue reading

August 2, 2014 · 5 Comments

‘If single, drop me a line’: a message in a kilt in WW1

On the BBC News today is an item about another young woman who slipped her name and address inside the garment she was making for a man fighting in a war. … Continue reading

July 25, 2014 · 1 Comment

A dodgy sailor?

And back to my story… So here we are with Norah in the summer of 1941 as she enjoys increasingly romantic exchanges with her penpal, Sailor Jim. She is getting to … Continue reading

July 16, 2014 · 6 Comments

Julie-Marie Strange, ‘Historicising the comfort of “things” in late-Victorian and Edwardian working-class culture’

Originally posted on the many-headed monster:
[This is the seventeenth piece in ‘The Future of History from Below’ online symposium (#historyfrombelow). Julie-Marie Strange is Senior Lecturer in Victorian Studies at…

July 14, 2014 · Leave a comment

The extraordinary adventures of ordinary girls: blog relaunch

After a difficult few months with very little time in which to write, I now have space ahead of me in which Norah’s story can unfold at the pace it … Continue reading

July 4, 2014 · 4 Comments

Still no news so had a good old weep

When Jim’s letters fail to arrive at the end of April 1941, Norah’s disappointment soon spirals into high anxiety. She hears on the wireless that his ship, HMS Elgin, has been … Continue reading

May 5, 2014 · 4 Comments

Dearest Dimples: letters from a saucy sailor

‘Dearest Norah’: as March runs into April, Jim takes the lead in stepping up the level of intimacy with his sixteen year-old correspondent. He teases her with his suggestion that … Continue reading

March 15, 2014 · 4 Comments

‘Wrote back to my minesweeper’: introducing sailor Jim

J. Lowman 2 Mess HMS Elgin GPO London 26.2.1941 Dear Friend, I have just received a lovely pair of hand knitted socks, from our Naval Base comfort fund.  Seeing your … Continue reading

March 2, 2014 · 4 Comments

‘I even remember going to the cinema and knitting in the dark!’ Socks for the Comfort Fund

As I was preparing this post on knitting socks for the war effort, a 1941 Charles Letts’ Girl Guides’ Diary dropped through my letterbox. I’ll say more about this and … Continue reading

February 16, 2014 · 3 Comments

Dancing with Frank: January 1941

 1st January 1941: Went to Hemington with Ma.  2nd: Snowed  9th: Bombs dropped at Diseworth and Wilson. 10th: Helen, Ma and I went to Long Eaton to buy coat for … Continue reading

January 26, 2014 · 7 Comments

‘Germans bombed Royces’: history, stories and the senses

Perhaps my biggest regret about the missing 1940 diary is the absence of Norah’s report on the string of bombs that dropped on her home village of Castle Donington in … Continue reading

November 24, 2013 · 11 Comments

‘Wading about in a welter of wool’: Derby 1940

With Norah’s 1940 diary missing, I decided to survey the local newspaper in a bid to get a flavour of her year. Norah was a regular reader of both the Daily Herald and the … Continue reading

November 4, 2013 · 3 Comments

The missing diary

After that uneventful end to 1939, I was looking forward to the New Year and some action.  Afterall, 1940 was the year the war really began. But as it turns out, … Continue reading

September 30, 2013 · 13 Comments

Hitler Trouble

31st August 1939: Ma & I went down for tea to Helen’s. Came back early. Went down to Hills & post. Started to read ‘In Search of England’ by HV … Continue reading

August 21, 2013 · 6 Comments

Norah’s American twin

‘Got my hair set today. In my opinion, if I had hollower cheeks, I’d be a perfect double for Garbo.’ This is not Norah Hodgkinson writing, but fourteen year-old Joan Wehlen … Continue reading

August 6, 2013 · 2 Comments

Twice a bridesmaid…

When Norah writes in her diary that ‘nothing much happened’, she means that the day hasn’t quite ‘delivered’ in terms of meeting her feelings of excitement, anxiety or anticipation. When she expects an … Continue reading

July 18, 2013 · 9 Comments

Norah and the Ashes, 1938

As England defend the Ashes at Trent Bridge and we all delight in the debut of nineteen year-old Ashton Agar, I am reminded of Norah’s cricket summer during the Australian Tour … Continue reading

July 12, 2013 · 3 Comments

Scraps of stories: ‘The New Umpire’, 1929

I was delighted to receive this little gift via email: ‘my’ missing poster from Labour’s 1929 election campaign (see Setting the Scene). Thank you John Baxendale! ‘The New Umpire’ acknowledges the recent enfranchisement … Continue reading

July 8, 2013 · Leave a comment

The ancestral home

Arthur the removal man appears mid-table on thirteen year-old Norah’s list of school-girl crushes. He was present in her life for one day only: the Saturday in June 1938 when he drove the … Continue reading

June 28, 2013 · 5 Comments

The scholarship girl (continued)

If I am honest, I expected Norah to find life difficult as a working-class scholarship girl in a posh grammar school. I scoured her early diaries for any suggestion that she felt … Continue reading

June 20, 2013 · 4 Comments

The scholarship girl and the 1938 Letts’s School-Girl’s Diary

The Charles Letts’s School-Girl’s Diary for 1938, at 5×3 inches, is slightly bigger than a standard pocket diary. The rusty-red leather fabric cover is now brittle and crinkly to the touch, but the … Continue reading

June 11, 2013 · Leave a comment

Storying Norah’s diaries

It became clear early on in this project that I can’t just present Norah’s diaries to the world as they are. They are pocket diaries – Letts’s School-Girl’s, Railway Clerks’ Association – which … Continue reading

June 6, 2013 · 13 Comments
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