Review: Voices of Scotswomen in Peace and War

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The sub-title of this book is ‘spoken recollections of home life, employment and 1939-45 war service’.

It is the latest in an impressive series of oral histories by Ian MacDougall.
It chronicles the experiences of 19 women, born between 1918 and 1926, who joined the ATS, WAAF, WRNS and the Timber Corps during the Second World War.

Their unique stories make for fascinating reading. Many in Argyll will have known the redoubtable Margaret Harris, née Campbell, from Taynuilt, who died in 2014.

She gained a commission in the WRNS and eventually sailed as a cipher operator on the requisitioned liner Ile de France to New York. She probably speaks for the other women when she says that ‘these years were the central experience of my life’.

Like Margaret, all faced the subsequent challenges and tribulations of post-war life and their stories tell us much about the history of Scotland in these years.

The stories describe the trauma of near-death wartime experiences, the loss of close friends and the excitement offered by new challenges.

The lives described in the book also represent a valuable contribution to the history of work, education, housing and family life in a changing Scotland.

Ian MacDougall has done a splendid job in making such stories readable for us all as if they had been written by family members which, of course, all the women ultimately were.