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Wartime Cumbria 1939-1945

Aspects of Life and Work

Patricia and RobertMalcolmson


This is a book that reconstructs the realities of social life during the war years. It is a wide-ranging portrait of the great diversity of wartime experiences in a beautiful county.

Each English county experienced the Second World War differently. Aside from Barrow-in-Furness, which was heavily bombed in April and May of 1941, Cumbria was largely safe from attack, and was always expected to be relatively safe.

Consequently, it became home to thousands of refugees – schoolchildren and mothers with young children from endangered urban areas, mainly Tyneside. Tens of thousands of these evacuees arrived in Cumbria at different times up to mid-1944 and were billeted in local homes, some for only a few weeks, others for months or even years. They were at times a major presence in the county.

There were other changes to the social landscape, including more foreigners in Cumbria (Czechs, Poles, Italian POWs); many men in uniform, among them Americans later in the war; munitions workers and war-related factories in abundance; new domestic tasks such as knitting comforts for the troops and seamen; the Women’s Land Army at work on farms; and almost everywhere a lot more women active in useful public work, much of it voluntary and vital to sustaining morale.

‘Normal life’ did not fade away in wartime. Film-going remained a major diversion, and among the other distractions were concerts, amateur theatre productions, and, in particular, dances – these were virtually ubiquitous. Most Cumbrians experienced disruptions of some sort to their lives. Many were readily coped with, albeit unhappily (e.g., the blackout). Some ruptures were serious or, for the families of young men killed away from home, heart-wrenching. And while peace was universally welcomed, almost everyone in 1945 acknowledged the challenges of rebuilding life in the post-war world.





Publication Date:

2017 April


Paperback; 245 x 174mm




Some black and white photographs