Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Crime in the UK in WWII

An underworld at war - spivs deserters, racketeers and civilians in the second world war by Donald Thomas  ISBN 0-7197-5732-1

This is a fascinating book - if a little over long about crime in the UK in World War 2.  While there was undoubtedly a lot of sacrifices made by many people, other saw the war as an opportunity or reason to turn to crime.

Theft and fraud make up the biggest amount of crime - be it stealing or forging ration books, whole lorry loads of supplies disappearing or fraudulent claims for work or wages.

It is informative to find out how the Government tried to counter crime and how some relatively trivial matters were punished harshly while some more serious ones

Often the stories are almost incredible. In 1941 a Liverpool ship repairer cheated the Government out of £20 million (at today's prices).  Soliders and others would steal equipment needed for the war effort. 

Of course these are just the records of the crimes that were recorded, no doubt there were many more that weren't recorded.

Private Walker from the TV series Dads Army is most peoples idea of a spiv - before that there was Arthur English (are you being served) and Sid Field and a host of others who played to audiences who new spivs not just from 6 years of war but the years of rationing the continued after 1945.   This book shines a light on those that make Walker look like a boy scout.

After a while the accounts seems to blur and a few more statistics and a few less examples would have been a good idea, however for a topic that has been overlooked, it is a good read.

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