Synopsis

Chapter 1

Recovery, Retrieval and Healing

This chapter documents the authors’ histories and explains how their academic and personal concerns have come to mesh in this book. It introduces their thinking about death, trauma and loss and shows why the concept of ‘recovery’ is important to them, both in terms of healing and recollection. It also provides a rationale for the form and style of the book, explaining the importance of reflexivity in areas of heightened emotional and political sensitivity, and the value of life-writing as a vehicle for participating in a reflexive turn. Finally, it sets up the notion of legacy and the requirements legacies can impose, whether they come in the form of oral histories or material inheritance. 

 

Chapter 2

Missing Persons

The nature of the authors’ legacies is both introduced and also scrutinised in this chapter, beginning with Jenny Hockey’s exploration of why the material items she inherited are important to her and the relationships she hopes to build via their scrutiny. The selectivity of memory and of what constitutes ‘family’ are then discussed, along with Carol Komaromy’s introduction of her family history and the very positive but also traumatic inheritance it has bequeathed on her. The authors ask what happens when there is little by way of material inheritance. Finally, Carol describes the impact on her of the deaths of close family members.

 

Chapter 3

Changing Perspectives on Death, Dying and Loss

The authors recall not only the deaths they experienced as children and young women but also their changing understandings of the meaning of death, from childhood versions of Christianity, resurrection and heaven, through to Marxist and cross-cultural perspectives and finally the lived realities of two women’s engagement with mortality towards the end of their lives. How their choice of and contribution to Death Studies during their academic careers has shaped but also been shaped by their personal ‘death histories’ is explored through these materials.

 

Chapter 4

World War One and Its Transformations

Bert Manning, Jenny’s paternal grandfather, is introduced in this chapter, starting with his birth into a farming family in south Devon in 1881, his life as the owner of a small-town draper’s shop, his conscription into the army in 1917 and his death in northern France in 1918. His story illustrates the fate of men wounded in this war, their burial and War Office communications with widows.  What was happening in Northern Ireland at the same time is then described, detailing the background of internal conflict about Ireland’s relationship with Britain and outlining the circumstances of Carol’s family, the Gilmores, in rural Coleraine at that time.

 

Chapter 5

Family Life Between the Wars: 1918-1931

The implications of a soldier’s death for a young family are explored in this chapter, with a particular focus on the provision of education for war orphans by charitable foundations linked with particular trades or professions, in this case the Warehouseman, Clerks and Drapers’ School in Purley, near London. Using the schoolboy diaries of Jenny Hockey’s father, it gives insight into his experiences. The differences between these educational opportunities and those afforded to children growing up in rural Northern Ireland are then explored using the example of Carol Komaromy’s father.

 

Chapter 6

War in Prospect: 1930-1939

This chapter sets out the story of the Manning family from 1930 to the beginning of World War Two in 1939. It covers the time when Jenny Hockey’s father left school at the age of 16, his return from School to a new home with his mother in Bristol and his early employment as an apprentice in the family trade at Baker Baker, a wholesale and retail drapers.  Arthur Manning, David’s older brother is working in a bank and moving to different branches. The chapter conveys the home life of her father, David, and the domestic life he shared with his mother, his hobbies and pastimes before the dramatic disruption of world war that impacted on the family, again.

 

Chapter 7

At Home and Abroad

Chapter 7 tells the story of the three men who go to war, Carol’s father Jim, Jenny’s father David and her uncle Arthur. It covers the key causes of  World War Two and the enlistment of these three men into the army and the RAF. Each took very different routes and had very different experiences of that war. David, served in the RAF – staying in England as part of the home defence and marrying Jenny’s mother in 1942; Arthur joined the army and served in the Middle East before being killed in Italy in 1943; while Jim joined the RAF in 1942 and began training in preparation for D-Day. He also married in wartime. The chapter includes the tragic event of Jenny’s father learning that Arthur had been killed in action while he was looking after his dying mother.  

Chapter 8

Experiencing the horror of war

Here the scene is set for war in Europe and the chapter tells the story of Jim Gilmore’s experiences from the D-day landings to the time of his end of service in 1946, a year after the end of the war. It is based on his oral history account and a journey Carol took to retrace his steps and provides a personal narrative of the extraordinary sights and horror of war. Jim was one of the first people to enter Belsen after its liberation and this affected him until the end of his life. The account of his experience provides shocking detail of what he saw.

 

Chapter 9

Growing up post war 1946: all over now?

 The authors describe their lives growing up in the shadow of war. They share similarities and differences as they capture the impact of war in the immediate aftermath, a time of looking forward and optimism. For Carol’s parents it was a time of unemployment and poverty, while for Jenny, an only child, a lonely childhood. Both authors were indoctrinated into the domestic routines of home life that dominated many women’s lives at that time. A rigid division of labour and the frustrations of their duty-bound mothers instilled a powerful need to break away from such a life. It explores the impact of war on the lives of two women growing up at a time of feminism and welfare reform.

 

Chapter 10

Personal reflections

 

In the final chapter, the authors reflect on the whole process of researching and writing this very personal memoir. They discuss its impact upon them and re-evaluate their relationships with the missing persons in their lives. They address key questions like, how far their quest has succeeded in doing justice to the lives of their deceased family members and how the legacy of war has contributed to who they are?