The Phoney War: Benedicta Leigh

A quote about the beginning of The Second World War from my mother’s memoir, The Catch of Hands.


Benedicta Leigh 1922-2000 • Photographer: David Sim

‘Like a spider’s web over a pile of rocks, the war was making little contact with many of us, and it hadn’t yet begun to shave bits away from people’s lives. So in order to feel necessary to one another, everyone went to a great many parties and dances, cricket matches and picnics; the telephone rang a good deal and it was often someone called Gerald or Adrian. None of it was really my cup of tea, and if I came home rather late, my mother questioned me minutely, chattering with nerves as she put her copy of ‘The Warden’ down on her bedside table. I said of course, he hadn’t, didn’t, wasn’t, and kissed her goodnight. It was true. I was much too frightened to let anyone do anything.

Inexorably, the war set in. Like a small blaze in an empty house, it could be almost overlooked to start with, consisting as it did of minor drawbacks, the blackout, form-filling, rations and making one’s nightdresses out of butter muslin, dyed on the Aga. The words most likely to cause an affray were: ‘No, Madam, I’m afraid we haven’t any. It’s the war, you see.’ But we managed.’

Benedicta Leigh, The Catch of Hands

8 thoughts on “The Phoney War: Benedicta Leigh

  1. My father was twelve when WW2 ended and has often related to us what life was like in Oldham during that time. I have my grandparents ration books to remind me, too. Your mother put it so well, ‘The words most likely to cause an affray were: ‘No, Madam, I’m afraid we haven’t any. It’s the war, you see.’ But we managed.’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had to read this post again. It is so real, and well written. Americans have no idea what it is like to have a war fought on their own soil. The Civil War, our bloodiest and far worse than either of the World Wars (brother against brother) is the only one. Letters from that war are quite moving.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such evocative writing, capturing the feel of the period perfectly.
    ( “Like a small blaze in an empty house.” )
    And a lovely photo too. Wonderful memories of your mother to treasure.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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