Saturday, 16 April 2016

'With God on our side, we'll fight the good fight!'

Author John Broom
The work rate of my fellow Pen & Sword author John Broom never ceases to amaze me. A busy man at the best of times (PhD candidate, specialist autism teacher, runner - and that's just for starters!) he's also just had his second book published in the space of six months.

Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War follows on neatly from his first, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War which came out at the end of last year (you can read my review here) and is another thoroughly enjoyable read which provides the reader with much food for thought...

It's not often that you see God or faith mentioned in accounts about the 20th century world wars. Such matters are largely overlooked as we examine things from our own, modern perspective. As a result, writes John Broom, religion is often reduced to "an incidental footnote amongst the bombs, tanks, prison camps, ships, aircraft, rationing, evacuation..."

So in Fight the Good fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War, Broom seeks to redress the balance by allowing those who experienced the conflict "to explain their war as they perceived it".

Faith played an influential part in the everyday lives of those who lived through the Second World War. In Britain, for example, a 1943 Gallup survey revealed that only 4 per cent did not identify with a Christian denomination, and 68 per cent claimed to be regular or occasional churchgoers. The influence of religion is powerfully reflected in the book's 20 stories of people who used their belief to cope with the war as it affected them. And each story provides not only an insight into the individual, but a fascinating glimpse at the war from a different angle.

The cast list is wonderfully varied. Included is a Dutch woman, Corrie ten Boom, who becomes part of the Resistance when her country is occupied by the Nazis, and whose selflessness and courage shine like a beacon from the book. Equally inspiring is the tale of army chaplain Eric Cordingly, whose ministry among Japanese prisoners of war in the Far East turns their brutal experience into what, at times, is almost a blessing: "No priest could wish for a happier 'parish' or sphere of work," wrote Cordingly. "Work unfettered by what are sometimes tiresome parish organisations. We seem somehow to have got back to fundamentals and simple wholesome worship, and we all feel the need for religion."

Man of letters: John Broom Snr,
Others whose stories are told include Michael Benn - brother of MP Tony - a young RAF pilot who was killed in action in 1944; and the author's own father, John Broom, who served with the 'Desert Rats' in Africa, and whose letters (170 of them, written between 1940 and 1946) sparked his interest in religion and modern warfare.

This book is not only well-written and very readable, it ensures that the part played by faith in our ancestors' wars is not forgotten.

Fight the Good fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War is published by Pen and Sword Books.

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