Prisoners of War, Prisoners of Peace: Captivity, Homecoming, and Memory in World War II

By Bob Moore; Barbara Hately-Broad | Go to book overview

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Coping in Britain and France: A Comparison
of Family Issues affecting the Homecoming of
Prisoners of War following World War II

Barbara Hately-Broad

Since the end of World War II, the experience of women on the home front during periods of war has been recognized as an important factor affecting the successful reintegration of servicemen into family life after the cessation of hostilities. However, few systematic studies have been carried out to quantify or categorize these experiences for service families in general, let alone for prisoner of war families as a discrete group with particular problems. Apart from the work of Rueben Hill in 1949, little systematic study has been carried out into the effects of these factors on reintegration, with the small amount of work that has been carried out in this field having come largely as a result of the American experience in Vietnam.1 Although from a later period this research nevertheless provides us with models of coping strategies employed by POW wives, which can be utilized retrospectively when looking at the experience of similar families during World War II.

Generally, the strategies identified fall into six major categories: seeking resolution and expressing feelings; maintaining family integrity; establishing autonomy whilst maintaining family ties; reducing anxiety; establishing independence through self-development and maintaining the past and dependence on religion.2 Whilst it is not possible from research findings currently available to apply all these criteria to the experience of POW families during World War II, it is possible to use them as a broad framework within which to consider the wartime experiences of POW wives in the only two countries where research into their particular experience does currently exist, namely Britain and France.3 This chapter sets out to compare the circumstances of these POW wives in Britain and France in three general areas: financial concerns; public perceptions of the conduct of POW wives; and communications between husbands and wives during periods of captivity. Finally, the chapter considers the ways in which these issues influenced both coping strategies during the period of separation and later reintegration. However, before constructing this comparison, it is important to

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