By June 1942, German U-boats were, on average, sinking an Allied ship every four hours, the result being chronic shortages of fuel, food and innumerable consumer goods. If the population could not bring itself to wash less frequently, it was urged that baths were taken in only 5in of water, and preferably shared. Soap was rationed to one tablet a month this year, and all sorts of substances were deployed ingeniously as cosmetics by British women: cooked beetroot juice for lipstick, soot for eye make- up, and a streak of gravy to simulate the seam of a silk stocking.
Victories away from the Home Front were proving less easy to come by in 1942. The pounds 50m impregnable fortress which the Allies had believed Singapore to be, fell to the Japanese in February.
Spring saw the Luftwaffe retaliate for the RAF devastation of Lubeck with a series of punitive raids on some of England's most picturesque towns. The Baedeker raids - so called because it is believed that Hitler selected the targets from the famous travel guides - struck Exeter first, followed swiftly by Bath, Norwich and York.
If the Allies were ever in any doubt as to the point of having declared war on Germany, news in January of the Nazis' "final solution" and the SS's horrific application of the plan to exterminate Europe's 11 million Jews in the Warsaw ghetto stiffened American and British resolve.
As the year progressed, Axis forces found in the Allies an increasingly obdurate enemy. Six months after their humiliation at Pearl Harbour, the US Navy avenged the 1941 fiasco that had stung America out of neutrality and routed the Japanese fleet in the Pacific's Battle of Midway.
On the Eastern Front, the German assault on Stalingrad had begun to weaken, in the face of bitter Russian resistance and the imminent onset of winter.
The news followed Montgomery's decisive October victory at El Alamein over a depleted Afrika Korps, demoralised by the absence of Rommel, their brilliant commander.Reuse content