Demobbed: Coming Home After the Second World War

Susan Pedersen writes:

Whatever sort of welcome the former Eighth Army driver Maurice Merritt was hoping for when he walked out of the Second World War and in through his front door, it probably wasn’t the note on the kitchen table that greeted him: ‘Make a cup of cocoa if you like and there’s a tin of pilchards in the larder if you feel peckish. Joan.’ Of course, Merritt was luckier than thousands of his comrades: he didn’t find his home blown to bits or his wife sitting cosily by the fire with another man. But even those with loving arms awaiting them felt – as Merritt did – a chilly resentment from civilians when they wandered down to the pub or to the corner shop. No one lined up to buy them drinks or hear their stories; instead, pasty, tired faces appraised them and turned away. ‘Lucky bastard,’ Merritt overheard one bystander mutter, ‘look how brown he is, he’s had a bloody good time.’

(LRB 25 February 2010)

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