- Information - Entertainment - Remembrance - Respect
Here, Digger talks to
John at Homefront
to keeping alive the spirit of remembrance for the wartime
generation. This relatively new business has already made a
big impact and a lot of friends on the forties scene.
and John talk about the business and compare the WWII
years with today. They also discuss the World War II magazine
that John publishes.
Can you please tell us a little bit about your background and
the background to Home Front History?
I began re-enacting about 22 years ago. I bought a Jeep for no
other purpose than to have fun, I began attending shows and
events to display the Jeep and within one year I bought kit so
I could dress the part. I was 'hooked'
Digger: And something about the ethos of the venture?
Quite simply, to carry forward the spirit of remembrance to
new generations and to ensure that those who made the ultimate
sacrifice are never forgotten
The forties community, support for and interest in it is huge.
Why are The Forties and Vintage so enduringly popular?
Life today seems to be hectic, too complicated and demanding.
Through films and TV programmes the public is engaged by the
pace of life in the 40's, the camaraderie amongst neighbours
and communities, the stylish fashions (a hang over from the
late 1930's), most of all the music and song which has seen a
remarkable revival in popularity over the past decade
Digger: What sort of feedback and comments are you getting
We are but a 'new kid on the block' with only 6 months on line
so far, but we are getting some extremely favourable comments
not only about the period design and layout of the site, but
also about the fact that we have promoted an ethos that people
can understand and identify with
What do you most enjoy about running the Home Front History
Linking up with so many like minded people, being invited to
support a range of events, especially charity events, having
unrivalled opportunities to pursue our fascination with the
What are your own Retro and Vintage passions?
Many and varied including film, dance and song, magazines and
books, collecting, architecture, the list is endless
What does The Internet mean to the Home Front History
Almost everything, we could not spread the word without it!!
Do you think being British these days is similar to how it was
in the forties when you strip away social and technological
With a little imagination, yes. Its surprising how by being a
re-enactor you discover core values.
Where do you see the future for Home Front History and what
would you like to accomplish with it?
The site is still evolving, we are about to sell NAAFI tea and
a range of merchandise which will all raise money for donation
to Services and other charities including the Dame Vera Lynn
Trust and we have a number of ideas which we are exploring,
all of which will give H F H a higher profile and make it a
must visit website as well as a valuable resource for
The World War II Magazine's looking great John.
John: I'm pleased that you like it. We've been going for two
years now. 1940s re-enacting is so vast and it grows so
rapidly year-on-year that it's almost impossible to keep
up with it. What we try to do is to give a spread of
stories and features about individuals and groups and then
other aspects as well. We'll include a veteran’s story
or we'll include an event or something else that's relevant. I
think overall we tick most of the boxes most of the
time. It's inevitable that we're not going to please everybody
all of the time, but what we do is to look at presenting the
story for the whole community of re-enacting. We take it with
a fresh view and certainly within the last six to eight
months we've noticed that when we run a story, some
other titles pick up on that and do a twist on that and
publish it themselves.
Digger: Ah! Imitation the sincerest form of flattery and all
are flattered, what we try to do is not stereotype or
pigeon-hole the re-enactor and we try to look at re-enacting
from completely different angles. I think we do that
quite well. Like any industry, it's constantly moving,
evolving and changing and we have to do the same.
Digger: Ironic for a 'movement' that focuses on a specific
period in history, isn't it?
Yes, it is. It would be very easy to get into a rut and just
to produce similar stories and variations on a theme. What we
don’t want is for our readers to pick up the magazine and
see stories rehashed and recycled. We're very lucky in that
we've got a big catalogue of non time-sensitive material so
we've always got stories to tell. But I appreciate a comment
like that from yourself - somebody who has got an interest,
but who is independent. We obviously get feedback from
re-enactors, but it's industry outsiders like you and like our
advertisers Airfix and the charities we support that
give us the most accurate feedback. They can take a more
Digger: I was just wondering if you've got much German
readership? You've got an article in one issue about the
Kompanie re-enactors and also one about the German Red Cross
and the nurses.
John: Over the past couple of years we have featured Germans
frequently. We have to be very sensitive to the fact that a
German re-enactor may cause upset to certain individuals.
However, what we try to do is find stories that are quite
relevant and pertinent and are based around a group or an
individual. With the nurse, for example, people are
generally quite well-informed and accept that the German rank
and file field military no more wanted to fight than did
the British Tommy. It's quite interesting when you look at
some of the field gear that some of these guys had. You listen
to veterans - their stories are so similar to the British
Digger: I saw a very moving piece on TV the other day about
the Normandy landings. A German defender and a British and American
participant in the landings went back to where they were on
6th June recalled their experiences
and then met each other. It was fascinating and deeply moving that this German gunner would have been trying to mow them
down all those years ago and now they were shaking hands and
comparing experiences, all having survived when so many
of their friends and comrades didn't. It went from them
being polite to friendly because they'd all gone through a shared
experience. A real insight into the human condition.
John: Time is a great healer, but you've only got to go back
to all the war graves and it makes it so real and horrendous.
Digger: All the stupid mistakes that were made on D-Day that
resulted in more unnecessary loss of life. All the
floating tanks sinking because they were released too far
out from the shore, troops not finding any cover on the beach
because the navy had bombarded short and hit the sea rather
than the sand. That was fascinating that when there
were the German plans to come over here and invade and
the Home Guard had lots of little independent cells organised
who were basically going to be terrorists.
John: The Home Guard Auxiliary.
Yes, they reckoned that it would only be a couple of weeks
before they were killed but they'd do as much damage as they
could to slow the Germans down and they reckoned that they
could beat them back. The Second World War was a direct
consequence of the First, wasn't it? And a lot of people would
say because there was so much unfinished business from the First.
It wasn't tidied up was it? There were just frayed ends but I
think the point is that everybody had had so much and it had
killed so many millions of people that they were just
running out of energy, money, food, men, equipment and if they
hadn't have signed a peace treaty then people would just have
annihilated one another.
Hitler revelled in the fact that he could get The French to
capitulate in the same railway carriage that The Germans were
made to do in the First World War.
This is all the posturing and you can see a thread there. It
was just a publicity stunt more than anything else and to
make sure his people thought what a great leader he was.
Digger: Their rocket scientists got us to the moon and beyond,
but that's not to say that the war was worth the inventions
and developments it brought about.
No, I think also America developed the Atom Bomb with Britain
so although Germany had developed the rocket and
obviously Stalin was aware of that and had the capability of
creating his own rockets. But then subsequently, as
history has told us, he was aware of The Atom Bomb and had the
capability of getting involved in that as well.
Digger: Thanks John. I think we’ve put the world to rights!
Homefront History is a
not for profit UK Social Enterprise dedicated to keeping alive
the spirit of remembrance for the wartime generation.
We are the UK’s popular
resource for all things Home Front (Britain 1939 – 1945)
We achieve this through
Education, Talks, Archive and Research Services and
interactive Living History Displays. We can bring together a
wide mix of experienced re-enactors including Allied Service
personnel, Emergency Services personnel and civilians
We provide re-enactors for
staff, public and private events, Mess and Formal dinners,
educational projects, TV, Film and Photography, Museums and
Visitor Destinations. All enquiries welcome.
Preferred providers to Bramshill Police College and Highclere
Castle (Downton Abbey). We have PLI cover and References are
available upon request.
You can email us using
Telephone Free call ( UK
Dial 0844 991 0084
Mobile, please dial 077 483 10996
SKYPE Call ‘Radiomusichall’
Facebook.com/Home Front History