on 15 August 2007
Channel 4 couldn't have picked a better family to live through the 1940s house experience than the delightful Hymers of Otley. Representing a typical WW2 household, the family comprised of a middle aged couple, their daughter and two small grandsons, and they threw themselves into the programme with infectious enthusiasm and lived through the war experience to their best ability, taking the rough with the smooth, laughing and crying and somehow drawing the viewer right into their front room in the process.
This year 2000 family was dropped into a 1939 furnished house, complete with thirties hairdos and clothes. Over the next nine weeks they were put through a simulated but of necessity fastforwarded wartime experience.
With rationing, shortages, disturbed nights in their self-built Anderson shelter (the house and shelter was wired for sound to simulate bombing raids), the misery of blackouts, 'Digging for Victory', Women's Voluntary Service Work, British Restaurant food, homespun entertainment, homemade hair dye, no TV but just a radio for company, no central heating, a V2 raid which left the house without water and power, contributions from the marvellous Marguerite Patten and several other real home front veterans, application to stringent wartime demands of recycling which would put today's average green supporter in the shade, this documentary brought to bear many of the experiences of those war years.
Not only is it a tremedously entertaining fly on the wall documentary, it is educational but also the sort of programme that makes one think a great deal after one has seen it. It has allowed me to understand my parents' generation a lot better, i.e. those who actually lived through those years of fear and austerity. As I think Lyn Hymers commented (the grandmother in the series), the war cast a long shadow.
The family returned to the year 2000 healthier, slimmer, wealthier (Lynne found that her newfound daily shopping routine at the local shops 'à la 1940s', as opposed to once a week at the supermarket, saved her over £100 a week!), happier and less argumentative. In short, it seems that less is more - we have too much today. It makes one want to throw one's TV out of the window and live through a self-imposed 1940s diet regime.
Of course the full misery of air raids and losing loved ones - that could not be replicated but I felt that the family made a point of trying to do their best to honour those who really did suffer such hardships. This was handled with great sensitivity.
This UK version is unabbridged (unlike the shorter USA version for DVD) and also has a most wonderful soundtrack if you like 40s music, also cut out for the most part in the US version.
I think every child in Britain should watch it - with granny nearby.
on 12 June 2011
For once I'm not sure how to begin my review, only by stating that I cannot rate it highly enough. The item centers around the adorable Hymers family from Yorkshire and their authentic wartime experience in the year 2000. And as you see from the title of my review, it truly did change my life.
When Channel 4 came up with the genius idea of converting a semi detached property in West Wickham into a middle class home of the 1930's, the project seemed quite a challenge. To recreate the civilian's experience of life on the home front the house had to be completely stripped bare and fitted out as it would have been in the year 1939 at the start of WW2. No car, no fridge, no television or central heating, this was not a museum or film set, everything had to work, the Hymers family were going to live in the property for 2 months to experience a real taste of life on the home front. Not the bombs that fell or the fear they inspired, but the every day restrictions felt by the British public living in the second world war.
The family consists of:
Micheal Hymers (Grammpy Mick)- head of production at an engineering firm
Lynne Hymers - Grandmother and former tax inspector
Kirstie Hymers- single parent daughter of Lynne and Michael
Ben and Thomas- aged 10 and 7, Kirstie's little boys
The family's wartime experience is controlled from the bomb proof bunker in Churchill's war rooms by the 1940's house war cabinet, a group of historian's and scientists, conrtolling everything from the amount of food they eat, the amount of coal they burn on their fire and the amount they are fined should they breach wartime regulations.
Once dropped into the year 1939 the family must learn to live as they would have during the second world war. Here they must learn to live on rations, blackout their new home and build themselves an Anderson Shelter in the back garden and troop out into the garden as the air raid sirens sound.
My own story from at the end of 2006 is as follows:
I'd reached 21 and been raised my entire life by my father. I worked full time and was looking forward to Christmas. Sadly 2 weeks before Christmas my father suddenly died, leaving me alone in our 3 bedroom home to carry on without him. I'd never lived apart from him and with no family in the city to rely on I was naturally shell shocked. I muddled along until 6 months later when I was made redundant and my partner left me. It wasn't long before my supply of money ran out and despite my desperate attempts to find a new job, it didn't happen for a long time and I began to run out of food as well as money. As the cupboards became bare and the bills began to pile up, I despaired of my situation. One night I couldn't sleep and came downstairs to make a cup of tea and discovering that I had no milk I searched for something to watch to keep me occupied until I fell asleep. It was then that I stumbled upon the 1940's house. I stayed up all night and watched the DVD.
I thought about it for days afterwards and watched it again several times that week. Something struck a chord with me and I decided that I would adopt the wartime attitude to help me live through difficult times. I began to feel more positive and secretly name my situation 'My War' My food was 'rationed' due to lack of money and over time I learned to be inventive with limited food choices by watching Lynne and Kirstie learning to cook using authentic wartime recipes. I even planted up my own dig for victory plot in the back garden but obviously stopped short of building an Anderson!
The family really adopted the spirit that made England great. They went in almost blind and adapted so well to their new and constantly changing wartime lives.The children thrived in the Hymer's war, they appeared to have such a wonderful time, never complained and became so resourceful. I feel that they taught me that there is too much choice in modern life and most of the material things we have, we don't really need.The DVD helped me cope when things like washing powder ran out and I relied on just water, the family helped me to just get on with it.
I Would advise anybody reading this review, please buy this DVD, it's worth every penny. I feel the entire family deserve the highest praise.Even now that my life has turned around and I'm in a much happier situation I still watch it when I need cheering up. Especially in these times of recession it's wonderful to look back on how the wartime generation lived and remember just how lucky we really are.
on 22 April 2009
I absolutely love this Channel 4 production and I watch the dvd quite often. There is something quite fascinating about survival through the war years and what made the 1940s arguably Britain's finest era.
Our men went off to war, women stayed at home and did 'war work' outside the home if they were able. Every person did their bit and what's more - was expected to do so. This production is a fast-moving yet comprehensive snapshot of what it must have been like on the 'Home Front', with interesting archives and news footage on all other aspects of war time.
The family were certainly well-selected, comprising of an older Mother and Father, with their single daughter in her mid-twenties with her two young boys. The Father, who was the most keen to undertake the project, was not a fundamental part of the filming as he 'went off to work' as wartime husbands did - whilst the REAL work was done at home by the Mother and her daughter, who had to learn how to work together to make the home run smoothly, without the labour-saving devices available nowadays and no 'takeaways' available.
An excellent inclusion is the visit to the ladies by Marguerite Patten, an advisor to the Ministry of Food during the war, who calls at the house for afternoon tea... a series of culinary delights.
I loved the authenticity of the air raid sirens, the sleepless nights in the air raid shelter, the drudgery and the need for the ladies' 'red badge of courage (lipstick)' to get them through the days. The boys' performance is magical, of their childlike acceptance without full understanding of what was happening, but a willingness to participate regardless.
You can't watch this programme without stopping to think what life must have been like for the family - and for the real wartime familities who also had to combat real loneliness and the never-ending waiting for news of loved ones. No programme could adequately convey how awful this must have been but this production gives, in my view, an excellent perspective and real sense of history of how things were, in addition to an unavoidable realisation of the sacrifices that were made by the men, women and children of Great Britain during those war years.
We Shall Not Forget.
on 23 April 2009
Excellent DVD detailling the trials of being in the second world war from the prospective view of the home - chronicles all different aspects from food to air raids,blackouts, women working out of the house - both informative and amusing at times, myself and my daughters aged 16 and 12 enjoyed it - would definately recommend it.
This entry in the PBS "House" series is outstanding. Here, a modern British family (husband and wife, their daughter, and two grandsons) experience life during WWII with all of its hard work, deprivation, and fear. Costumed and coiffed in wartime styles, the family certainly looked the part, and their home was outfitted for the period in every detail. They received daily original radio war broadcasts and vintage newspapers and so were able to follow the "progress" of the war. Air raids and rationing contributed to making their nine weeks in the house a sobering and unforgettable experience.
The women of the family worked around the clock but never resorted to cheating or actually quitting, as was the case in other "House" programmes. The two little boys were adorable and kept everyone's spirits up. An excellent epilogue filmed six months later showed how much the family learned from their time in the 1940s house and how they had grown and become happier as a result.
This is a wonderful programme; it really recreates the British war experience and is one of the best reality shows. I was often moved to tears by the radio broadcasts, war statistics, and haunting music; they made it all seem very real. Highly recommended.
on 21 November 2010
i am so pleased to finally catch up with this amazing show on dvd.
this modern day family soon found out that surviving in Britain during the war years was hard yakka.
the best thing about the show was how the family saw their lives in the modern world after living for a good stretch of time in the wartime world.
food was scarce and they learned to use what they had, and learn they did.
sudddenly the need to fill the shopping trolley to full seemed unnecessary because they had learned to use a limited amount of food and use it well.
you have to love the youngest son in the show because he sailed through it no matter what. such a positive view of things. guess he was too young to be pessimistic about life.
watch this show. it is great viewing for a different look at your day to day existence.
on 16 January 2011
I am so pleased to find a dvd of this programme. I watched it when it was first on tv in 2001 and unlike the 1900 house it has rarely been repeated since.
The 1940's house is located in West Wickham, Kent and is furbished for a middle class family just before the war. It has a gas cooker, electric lighting, radio but no TV.
The family living in the house will have to live the life of a 1940's family with very little input from the real world. Unlike the 1900 house where life was very hard but stable, the 1940's house residents will suffer the increasing deprivation of World War 2. This will include a shortage of fresh fruit, rationing, coupons, much lower food intake and air raids.
We meet the 1940's family (the Hymers) who were chosen out of 300 families wanting to take part. There are Lyn and Michael, their daughter Kirstie (who is a single parent) and her 2 boys Ben and Thomas (aged 10 and 7).
Michael is really into the 1940's life and is an avid collector of memorabilia. He is very keen to play out the scenario. They come from Otley in Yorkshire and have a very comfortable lifestyle. In fact too comfortable. Mother and daughter throw away 75% of the contents of their fridge each week before each shop because the food is uneaten or has gone off. The programme goes onto contrast the abundance of food in 2000 compared with the austerity of the 1940's.
They are expected to prepare for air raids, live on meagre rations and dig their Anderson shelter. If they don't comply with these requirements they will be penalised by having their already meagre food supply reduced even more.
It is a real eye opener to see how families suffered and survived during the 2nd world war.
on 1 November 2009
Fantastic DVD for all ages giving a good insight into all aspects of life in the 1940s. Ideal for entertainment or Reference.
on 17 April 2009
brilliant, worth watching, i have watched it several times over and still enjoy it. very interesting how the family coped especially with the rationing and how they all pulled together, it even made me feel sad as to how familys coped during the real war.
No sense of playacting here.
This invigorating series gets an airing in our house every year. The way the family get stuck-in to the 40s lifestyle with its many strenuous duties is fascinating and inspiring. This revealing series can't fail to give you a new perspective on what was internationally a dreadful period but on the home front an often happy and life affirming one.
The experience in the 1940s house is transforming for its occupants when they come to return to their real lives. It may be for you too.