3.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

There are lots of Second World War based history books that remember the heroism, battles and losses of the Second World War, just walk into any bookshop and you can pick from subjects as diverse as spies, naval battles, the D Day landings and so it goes on. There is very little around on those people that took the moral high ground and decided that they would not or could not fight. This book concerns a group of pacifists who in 1943 took possession of a vacant farm in Frating, a hamlet on the Essex Tendring Peninsula and it was here that they set about making a community farm.

Their inspiration was a number of writers who were associated with the Adelphi Journal such as Orwell and Lawrence who were thinking about radical ideas for society. It became a livelihood for individuals and families who wanted to do something different and came to support and help other refugees and even some prisoners of war. It was hard work, but it did manage to earn the respect of other farms in the area with its successes in arable and livestock farming.

Worpole tells how it began with a small community of 30 people, but by the time it had got to 1948, there were considerably more people living there and numbers swelled at harvest time too. It was never a utopia though, the work was hard and relentless and there always seemed to be some conflicting opinions between some of the main people on the farm in the book. The children who lived on the farm all seems to go on to do a whole variety of careers in educational or artistic positions. The farm was making a profit by the end of its tenure, but they still had to service its debt and those obligations meant the end of the venture.

I thought that this was a fascinating insight into a part of society in World War 2 that is very rarely written about. The research is meticulous and there are lots of photos of the people that are in the book as well as some of the activities that took place on the farm. I thought that Worpole has managed to make this a useful historical reference document as well as a series of personal stories about some of the characters that were at the farm. If you like history books with a different spin then this is well worth reading.

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