Press Release ...


News Release



The wartime diary of a woman living in the Norfolk countryside during world war two, in the same area that the BBC wartime comedy series "Dads Army" was filmed, has been saved from certain destruction by rats and the elements. Following ten years of rescue work, it is to be published this year.

Written by Betty Armitage, who lived among service personnel in East Anglia during WW2, the diary is a detailed account of life from the first day of the war to the last. It relates the day-to-day lives of people from all walks of life; those of the folk in the "big house" to the local black marketeer and poacher.

Historian and journalist Nick Webley was pursuing routine research about wartime Norfolk, when he stumbled upon boxes of papers that had been seriously damaged by rats, mice and weather. "Had the diary not been found when it was it is certain to have been beyond rescue within weeks", he said, detailed diaries like these, which are complete records of a time and place of interest to us all, are very rare, the keeping of personal diaries was frowned upon by the government of the day. Betty, not being a native of Norfolk, brings a fresh eye to the effect of war, and the influx of thousands of service personnel, on a small community. In my opinion, and that of most of those who have had access to the diary, Betty's observations are priceless. This diary, in its own small way, is a masterpiece of historical observation. As Pepys recorded the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London, so Betty has given us a rare insight into the Second World War."

Although witty, there is a darker side to the diary. For periods during the War Betty was in London at the height of the Blitz; her accounts of those experiences are graphic and chilling.

Many of the young men whom Betty befriended and cooked for simply vanish from the pages. A stark reality of what war is really about: winning and loss. In addition a certain resentment is apparent from those outside Betty's "inner circle". Having no family of her own, other than her half-brother, she looked after that close circle of people and they looked after her. Her years on touring the halls meant that Betty was used to looking after people, it came easy to her. But to those in Norfolk, not in her circle, she appeared elitist, which was far from the truth.

Background notes: Betty Armitage was born in the 1880s and for most of her working life was a theatrical seamstress and occasional cook. Shortly after moving to East Anglia in the 1930s she was widowed and had many part time jobs in villages local to her. Her diary is therefore one of an "outsider" and as such gives a special insight into life in that area at that time.


Betty's Wartime Diary 1939 - 1945
To be published by Thorogood, June 2002 at GB£9.99, paperback ISBN: 185418 221 8

For copies of the book or for further information contact:
Catherine Howard
10-12 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3DU

Tel: +44(0)20 7749 4748


Reprint release - 29th August 2002




David Croft
(Co-creator of BBC’s “DAD’S ARMY”

The phenomenon that is “Betty’s Wartime Diary” (aka the “Dad’s Army Diary”) continues as the first edition sells out within three days of its official launch. The second edition is to carry cover notes by the creator, director and producer of “Dad’s Army” David Croft OBE. Mr Croft is said to be fascinated by the diary and, as he lived through the era, can vouch for the truth of it. Copies of the second edition are expected to be available in the first week of September from ALL bookshops and Internet retailers including Amazon, Waterstone’s, W. H. Smith and Tesco.

The Diary, which was written by Betty Armitage during WW2, is about the “life and times of country folk” - as the saying goes – who lived in the Dereham, Watton, Attleborough, Wymondham and Thetford area.

The response to this unique book has been enormous – heavy coverage in all the media – including weekly readings on radio. This is made more remarkable by the fact that the diary was almost certain to have been lost forever but for the intervention of historian and writer Nicholas Webley. The story of its discovery has been told countless times since news of the diary’s publication was first released; in a nutshell: the diary had lain in a Norfolk shed for more than fifty years and had been seriously damaged by rats and rain. Such was the condition of the various pieces of paper, upon which Betty had written, it took ten years of work to fully transcribe. The result is a complete record of war in Norfolk from the first day to the last.

Having read Betty’s Wartime Diary here is what David Croft, the co-creator, writer, producer and director of the classic BBC comedy series “DAD’S ARMY” has to say:

“People like Betty don’t write books. They live their life helping and “Doing” for people. Betty’s day by day struggle through the boredom and trivia and danger of an ordinary small-town war time life makes unique reading. I lived through the era and can vouch for the truth of it all. I am finding it fascinating.”

David Croft spent much time filming Dad’s Army in the very area where Betty, and the colourful characters who people her diary, lived. Many of the locations used in the series are as they were not only during the filming of the series, but also as Betty would have known them. There is a good case for saying that this area of Norfolk is a unique piece of “living history” visible today.

The editor of Betty’s Wartime diary, Nicholas Webley said that he was sure Betty would have been delighted with the response her diary has received from readers all over the world.

Betty’s Wartime Diary 1939 – 1945
Published by Thorogood, £9.99, paperback ISBN: 185418 221 8

For copies of the book or for further information contact:

Catherine Howard
10-12 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3DU

T: +44 (0) 20 7749 4748


Editor’s Website:

Images available if required