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The current time is: 4/25/2019 2:49:42 PM
 (1939-1945) WWII Battles
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 9033

How to Keep Well in Wartime
Posted on: 4/7/2019 7:21:20 AM
I wasn't sure where to put this item but I decided that the war was also fought on the home front when we consider the British experience.

The booklet that I have included below titled, How To Keep Well in Wartime was produced by the British Ministry of Information and distributed by the Ministry of Health. War had been raging since 1939 and for some reason, the government felt the need to implore the people to seek ways to maintain their health, in 1943.

It is a no nonsense guide to maintaining personal health and well being in wartime and while not wishing to accede to the standard stereotypical image of the Brit, it does strike me as something very British. The argument made to the people was that illness as a result of lack of personal care was costly to the war effort.

So was this document representative of the British way of war at home. Do your duty. There is a war on you know.

During the three years of total war the nation's stubborn good health has been invaluable to our war effort. Even so, as a nation we are losing 22 million weeks work each year through common and often preventable illnesses such as colds and influenza and dyspepsia, biliousness, neurasthenia, rheumatism, boils and other septic conditions.
This is calculated to be equivalent to the loss of 24,000 tanks, 6750 bombers, and 6,750,000 rifles a year, not to mention the pain and inconvenience we suffer as individuals.

The "pain and inconvenience" takes a secondary position to the effect of illness on production.

I wonder how the people responded to government issues of this sort. Did they laugh at the advice because some of it, like empty your bowels, is the stuff of mothers' advice, worldwide?
Did they even read these documents?

So here is the booklet. It is organized on this site by the page and your can click on any page to read it.

I am also wondering whether other countries produced similar advisories for their people during the war. I do know that we had directives on how to make a Victory garden here in Canada.

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brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major

Posts: 2337

Re: How to Keep Well in Wartime
Posted on: 4/7/2019 6:28:13 PM
George, haven't gone through the pamphlet in detail yet, but I would expect — in response to your first question — that it would have been received in various ways, if at all. Note that it was not free: the government wanted threepence per copy, so my bet is many wouldn't bother spending their money on it.

Worth exploring further is what is meant by the "stubborn good health" of the British between 1939 and 1942. It is an accepted fact that rationing (which I believe began as early as six months into the war on specific items) ultimately led to vast improvements in the general health of the British population. What is not as often discussed, and which received little attention I'm aware of during the war, is the inequitable access to safe water, functioning bathroom facilities and a general awareness of the importance of sanitation. From my quick peek, this pamphlet may have been addressing some of those types of issues.

IIRC, the British Ministry of Information produced heaps of information, inundating the public by pamphlet, signage, posters, and radio. Often, particularly in the early years, they were utterly out of touch. The governors and the governed were from two distinct worlds; I think Disraeli first noted that, but it was still the case in 1939. The Anderson Shelter, a home bomb shelter, was devised without realizing that more than 50% of the vulnerable homes in Britain didn't have enough land to erect one. Nevertheless, there was vital information that needed to be offered: why child relocation was sensible; how to build a bomb shelter; what to do if the enemy comes; where to go in times of need (i.e., where to go if you're bombed out) — all were vital in the first year of the war. In addition, there were the "do your bit" exhortations, which began early and changed during the years of the war, but were essential: dig for victory; don't drive if you don't need to; cover those windows; careless talk costs lives; and — as you mention — dig for victory. I could go on.

I don't think Canada was quite as inundated as Britain was. But we did get some great propaganda, and some great (and some utterly useless) war advice. It would be interesting to see if Canada's information/propaganda was regional, come to think about it. I don't remember any "Dig for Victory" posters or pamphlets, for instance, but my parents – like hosts of others – had been digging for survival during the Dirty Thirties. So maybe my parents didn't need to save those "Dig for Victory!" exhortations.

My father was rejected when he tried to enlist in 1939: heart murmer. They would have taken him in 1941, but by then he was in a protected war occupation: he was grading spars for Mosquito a/c. But he and my mother were both committed to civil defense paramedical assistance, and earned the highest qualification in the field. So I do remember pamphlets about wound treatment and devices that could be used for splints, bandages, pressure devices and the like. And I remember a booklet explaining how to tell a Jap from a Chinaman, because the Wet Coast had plenty of both. A lot was said about eyes: check the folds of skin about the eyes; check for apparent eye weakness ("Japs", of course, were considered deficient in eyesight! ) Whether such incisive medical wisdom was shared with the rest of Canada I honestly don't know.

Sorry, bit of a natter or a prattle. I don't think it is sufficiently interesting to qualify as a rant!

Brian G
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

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