Bringing Home World War Two’s ‘Awkward Lot’

The April 2018 issue of The Psychologist, the magazine of the British Psychological Society, includes a piece on “Bringing home World War Two’s ‘awkward lot’.” In this article, Clare Makepeace explores the use of Civil Resettlement Units to address the return of prisoners of war to Britain following World War Two. As Makepeace writes,

In February 1944 Lieutenant-Colonel Tommy Wilson, an army psychiatrist recruited from the Tavistock Clinic, submitted a nine-page report to the War Office. It focused upon the plight of tens of thousands of servicemen overseas who had, in recent times, become labelled by administrators in the British government as the ‘awkward lot’. The other term they were known by was ‘prisoners of war’.

Wilson’s report set out a series of recommendations on how to handle these men upon their return home at the end of the Second World War. The eventual result was to be far-reaching: a programme of Civil Resettlement Units (CRUs). Largely forgotten about, this programme was one of the first controlled experiments in social psychology, an early example of ‘therapeutic communities’ and is notable for its humane treatment of returning service personnel.

The full article can be read online here.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.