New IWM book looks at celebrating Christmas during wartime
- Credit: Imperial War Museums
A new Imperial War Museums publication brings Christmas during wartime to life through photos, recipes and exceptional personal stories from the museum’s collection.
Wartime Christmas by Anthony Richards, IWM’s head of documents and sound, is out now.
Christmas is a time of tradition, when gifts are exchanged, meals are shared and when we look out for those less fortunate than ourselves.
But how was this time of great tradition celebrated during periods of devastating global conflict?
Wartime Christmas, a new publication from Imperial War Museums, which has a branch at Duxford in Cambridgeshire, tells the stories of those who faced the challenge of celebrating the festive period during wartime, drawing upon IWM’s rich archives.
Author Anthony Richards said: “Christmas is a time of celebration, to be with family and friends and to eat, drink and be merry.
“But for those living through the First and Second World Wars, Christmas could prove to be challenging, with shortages of food and goods, forced separation from loved ones and the chaos of war making it difficult to find cause for celebration.
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“Despite these difficulties, people adapted their Christmas to celebrate as best they could.
“Wartime Christmas shows the incredible determination and creativity of the wartime generations to pull together during times of national crisis and to celebrate in the best way possible.”
Highlights from the book include personal memories from the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, a surprising moment that saw soldiers from both sides put down their arms to exchange greetings and singing carols, tales from prisoners of war putting on dresses and makeup to entertain their cabaret audiences, and recollections of rationing on the home front.
It also incldues the challenges of scraping together a festive meal or braving the shops to find small luxuries as presents.
Illustrated with 100 objects, photographs and works of art from the IWM collection, Wartime Christmas also features tips and tricks to create recycled presents, and recipes to cook a delicious wartime Christmas meal, from a hearty swede soup to delicious potato piglets.
Anthony Richards is the author of The Sunday Times bestseller D-Day and Normandy: A Visual History (2019).
His other books include The Somme: A Visual History (2016) and The War on Paper: 20 Documents that Defined The Second World War (2018).
Wartime Christmas, published by IWM, is available to order at www.iwmshop.org.uk, priced £12.99.