Holidays on the Home Front

In the final post for this year’s holidays, here are some images of the holidays as celebrated on the home front.

December 1940, UK — A young girls sleeps under Christmas decorations and stockings stuffed with treats in 1940. Santa Claus has visited this British home, but World War II means Christmas must be celebrated in a bomb shelter.
08 Jan 1946, Frankfort, Germany — In their one room home in a Frankfort cellar, this German family celebrates Christmas with tree and trimmings. Ornaments survived where buildings didn’t.
Christmas 1944 — a crowd of shoppers pauses to watch Santa in the window of W. G. Swartz Co.
During World War II, Norfolk’s Fairfax Hotel became the “U.S.S. Fairfax” Residential Club. Here, gifts are handed out at a Christmas party in 1944.
The Last Round Up…23rd December 1944: Land girls on an Essex turkey farm round up the turkeys for the last time. These turkeys are bound for a London market and then Christmas Dinner.
Children at the Sweet Shop at Christmas during World War Two

[Images courtesy of the Corbis Images and Getty Images.]

World War II Aftermath Christmas Crib

In many Eastern European countries a common tradition is building Christmas cribs. The first one is said to be credited to St. Francis of Assisi who, according to a tale, set it in a forest clearing. The crib contained the figurines of the Christmas Eve characters and living animals. Later on the venture found its followers who transformed it into a sophisticated art. One such follower built a Christmas Crib that opted to show Christmas life in post-war Germany instead of the traditional subjects. Here are some pics of the crib scenes and the description that accompanied them.

A Christmas crib in the central station in Cologne, Germany, Monday, Dec. 15, 2008, depicts a scene in the city after the end of World War II in 1945, when the city was heavily damaged by Allied bombing. The sign in the first picture reads ‘Christmas sale’.(AP Photo/Hermann J. Knippertz)

[Images courtesy of the Sulekha.com.]

Christmas in Iceland

Iceland occupied an interesting position during World War II due to its geography. Its location along the North Atlantic sealanes was much prized by both the Allies and the Axis and led eventually to the British invasion on 10 May 1940. The British, and subsequently from 7 July 1941 onward, the Americans, quickly set-up naval and air bases to help protect the beleaguered convoys during the height of the Battle of the North Atlantic. The 25,000 British and 40,000 American troops stationed there outnumbered all adult men in Iceland at the time. Obviously, the forces stationed there celebrated the holidays in the same fashion as those elsewhere. Gathered below are a few pictures of this.

US Soldiers Sing Carols. The Christmas spirit is universal, the traditions unchanging even in the midst of war. Where ever our American troops are to be found throughout the world Christmas Carols will be heard in joyful hymns on the eve of the Nativity of Christ. In Iceland – “O, Come Ye, O Come Ye, To Bethlehem”. 1942.
One of the most successful Christmas decorations set up was this ward of the hospital. Together with the help of nurses, patients not tied down to bed designed and put up the trimmings. Note the home made Christmas tree. Iceland, Dec. 25, 1942.
Christmas Eve these soldiers perched atop their hut embankment and serenaded all passers by with Christmas Carols. Iceland, Dec. 24, 1942. Camp Hickham, Iceland.

[Images courtesy of the US Army Center of Military History.]

Russian World War Two Holiday Post Cards

Tad found a collection of Russian Holiday posters for me. The site provided the following description which appears to sum it all up.

“During the World War 2 Russian soldiers had their special Christmas and New Year postcards.

On some of such Santa looked not very peaceful in his solidarity attempt to defeat the “malicious attacker”. So probably those are the only ones where Santa can hold a machine gun or be in some other furious acts.”

[Images courtesy of English Russia.]

The British Airgraph

The British Airgraph system was utilized to reduce the weight of mail being transported and secure the mail against accidental loss or destruction. The V-Mail system used by the US forces during the war was based on this. Below you’ll find an example of a holiday card sent in this fashion and the text used to explain the system.

[Images courtesy of the Kitchener-Waterloo Philatelic Society.]

The Joys of Christmas – Celebrating the Holiday

Of the the two joys most commonly represented in World War Two holiday photographs of the troops, pictures of troops celebrating (decorating, singing, etc.) is by far the more numerous and the one most filled with the “spirit” of the holidays. A major part of this is that troops could use a variety of home-made items located in the field to decorate whereas they were limited in their access to the mail (the other joy most commonly represented.

37th Infantry Division soldiers celebrating Christmas, probably at Bougainville, Solomon Islands, December, 1943. The 37th served in the Pacific Theater during World War II under the command of Major General Robert Beightler.
A 1942 Santa arriving by tank instead of outdated sleigh. Sgt. Hiram Prouty playing Santa for British children. Dec 5, 1942. Perham Downs, England. M.3. Tank of 1st Tank Group. Sgt. Prouty, member of 175th Inf.
25 Dec 1944. Sgt. Edward F. Good feeds his buddy a leg of Christmas turkey, Pfc. Lloyd Deming. Both are casualties at the 2nd Field Hosp, (San Jose, Mindoro, PI)
Seated at a box in a storehouse for artillery shells, in Germany, Pvt. Walter E. Prsybyla, member of the 2nd Infantry Division, addresses Christmas cards to the folks back home. 11/30/44. B Btry, 37th FA, 2nd Inf. Div., FUSA, Heckhalenfeld, Germany.
Pfc. Lyle School and Pfc. Lawrence W. Miller made this bullet Christmas card for “Dear Adolph”, somewhere in England. December 5, 1942. Tidworth, England, 175th Inf.
General view of the speakers platform at the Christmas exercise, December 24, 1942, in the court of the Pentagon Bldg., Arlington, Virginia.
US Soldiers Caroleers Circle GlobeŁThe Christmas spirit is universal, the traditions unchanging even in the midst of war. Where ever our American troops are to be found throughout the world Christmas Carols will be heard in joyful hymns on the eve of the Nativity of Christ. In India – “Come and Behold Him, Born the King of Angels”. 1942.
A Christmas Eve congregation at Midnight Mass in a theatre in Trinidad, B.W.I. December 24, 1941. Docksite, Trinidad.
Fort Leonard Wood Chapel at Christmas time. Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

[Images courtesy of the US Army Center of Military History and Ohio History Central.]