Postscript Sunday 28 July 1940

Priestley had just met a young bomber pilot, at a party held for the latter’s safe return from ditching in the North Sea.  Priestley already knew him slightly as a carefree fun-loving youngster: the Postscript vividly evoked the sudden strangeness of this young man’s life: the difficulty and danger he and his crew faced, and the situation of his wife, lodging near the airfield, counting the returning planes to see if her husband had returned.

Cover of English Journey

Cover of English Journey

What, Priestley demanded, would society offer these young people after the war in return for their sacrifice and suffering now? He feared that the mistakes made after the Great War would be repeated.

Priestley had fought in that war, and been luckier than most in surviving and making a good career for himself.  However, many had not.  Priestley felt society had let them down.  As he explains in this Postscript, “After all the cheering and the flag-waving were over, and all the medals given out, somehow the young heroes disappeared, but after a year or two there were a lot of shabby young-oldish men who didn’t seem to have been lucky in the scramble for easy jobs and quick profits, and so tried to sell us second-hand cars or office supplies we did not want …”

In English Journey (1934), in one of his most memorable pieces of writing, Priestley shared his anger that many of his former comrades had been unable to attend a reunion dinner because they were too poor to acquire the proper clothes.

There was hope this time: he believed these young men cared about the future they were fighting for, and did not want to return to the world of business, competition not co-operation.

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