Chris, with so many men away it was mainly the women who had to manage.
Even in our village there were little yards with some cramped one up one down no yard of their own or garden, I knew a couple of families brought up in those houses, now they bring eye watering sums as people want to retire in the village.
I saw some of those children at the junior school suffer the indignity of having to be given the Lord Mayors boots, they were issued to the very poor children of the parish, massive leather boots full of segs and punched into the leather a code so the parents could not pawn them.
There were only my sister and I so we often saw our old clothes on the backs of some of those poor kids as my mother sorted them and politely asked if Mrs so and so could make any use of these as Son-Daughter had grown out of them, they will come in for dusters?? Mother had to be very diplomatic as you could not be seen to offer charity they were still proud people.
Dad would fill a small bag with coal, we had plenty as he hauled it on the truck to Steam boilers around the area, take that to Mrs H, who was bringing up two boys and a girl her husband in jail for poaching, tell her it is the sweepings off the truck and will just be thrown away. The kids passed the eleven plus as I did but my parents could afford the uniforms and kit needed so they missed out.
The one that pulled every one together was a wedding, usually a soldier going away wanted to marry his sweetheart and every one put in for the meal, I saw my mother alter the same dress more than once, dad would send some bacon or ham, people would donate butter sugar tea, fruit for the cake and one of the local women would make the cake, always a fruit one, every one would bake something or make sandwiches with home made bread. The village would turn out for the wedding with small gifts and the men would be gone. A lady next door to us never saw her husband for five years and yet they grew old together as did so many after what must have been trauma to them.
There would be dire poverty and want, the war pulled the people together and they helped each other, or most did, those that had the means helped where needed although great tact had to be shown whilst doing so, they had nothing but their windows gleamed pavement was washed and step holly stoned.
I ask what would they do today?