Fighting Fit

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781474601986

Price: £9.99

Disclosure: If you buy products using the retailer buttons above, we may earn a commission from the retailers you visit.

At the beginning of the Second World War, medical experts predicted epidemics of physical and mental illness on the home front. Rationing would decimate the nation’s health, they warned; drugs, blood and medical resources would be in short supply; air raid shelters and evacuation would spread diseases; and the psychological effects of bombing raids would leave mental hospitals overflowing. Yet, astonishingly, Britain ended the war in better health than ever before.

Based on original archival research and written with wit and verve, FIGHTING FIT reveals an extraordinary, forgotten story of medical triumph against the odds. Through a combination of meticulous planning and last-minute scrambling, Britain succeeded in averting, in Churchill’s phrase, the ‘dark curse’ on the nation’s health. It was thanks to the pioneering efforts of countless individuals – doctors, nurses, social workers, boy scouts, tea ladies, Nobel Prize winners, air raid wardens, housewives, nutritionists and psychologists – who battled to keep the nation fit and well in wartime. As Laura Dawes shows, these men and women not only helped to win the war, they paved the way for the birth of the NHS and the development of the welfare state.


A fascinating account of a sickly nation at the beginning of World War Two.
Armed conflicts may on the face of it, mean spilled guts, gore, dismemberment, pain and death. But the great paradox of World War II, as described in Laura Dawes's well-researched book, is that the horrors, in significant measure, did the general population a lot of good.
Roger Lewis, DAILY MAIL Book of the Week
Well-researched and highly informative...Fighting Fit reveals both unfamiliar and well-known facts. Some of these are disturbing, others comical, all conveyed with gusto by Dawes.
Viviane Quirke, HISTORY TODAY
A fascinating mix of war stories and human triumph. An enjoyable overview of the pursuit of the population's health that arguably led to the formation of the NHS and the welfare state.
Laura Dawes...tells the remarkable story how ordinary people rose to the challenge of keeping Britain healthy. From ingenious schemes to store blood to Boy Scouts collecting seaweed for medicines, this is a highly readable tale of self-sacrifice, ingenuity and collaboration.
Chris Nancollas, THE TABLET
Historian Laura Dawes digs into that other victory of the Second World War: public health in Britain. There had been dire predictions, such as epidemics incubated in air-raid shelters. But by the war's end, UK rates of almost all infectious diseases had dropped, thanks to the Medical Research Council, Nobel laureates such as physiologist Andrew Huxley, hordes or researchers and a willing public. Dawes' sparky account demonstrates how that rare teamwork advanced emergency care, preventive medicine, the treatment of insect-borne disease and, ultimately, the formation of the National Health Service.
This well-researched book is an entertaining and informative read
Rebecca Wallersteiner, THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH
Dawes' research is prodigious. And as we have come to expect from this vein of wartime history, we encounter a case of characters and ideas that is both epic in scope and engagingly domestic in style.
Lucy Lethbridge, THE OLDIE
Thoroughly engrossing
Spirited and readable
Vanessa Berridge, SUNDAY EXPRESS
This beautifully written book is a gripping study of how keeping 'fighting fit' helped Britain win the war and paved the way for the NHS and the welfare state. Highly recommended for medics, history lovers and hypochondriacs alike.