The Characters

Audrey reading letters from Dai
Joan Armitage: Thirteen-year-old Joan likes to escape to her attic room and paint pictures, but when she is allowed, Joan also likes going to the cinema with her best friend, Doreen.

Audrey Armitage: Audrey is Joan’s older sister, and she wants to join the W.R.N.S. – the Women’s Royal Naval Service ‒ when she is old enough. Audrey is very interested in fashion, but because of rationing she has to make do with painting the back of her legs with gravy browning so that it looks like she is wearing expensive stockings. Audrey writes letters to her sweetheart, Dai who is away serving in the Merchant Navy.

Brian Armitage: Brian is Joan’s younger brother, who likes nothing more than speeding along on his bicycle. Brian hopes to join the Merchant Navy when he is old enough, just like his Dad.

Judy Armitage: Judy is the youngest of the Armitage family, and the only member who does not dislike Captain Ronnie Harper-Jones – although perhaps this is because he gives her lots of sweets!

Mrs Armitage: Mrs Armitage is  Joan, Audrey, Brian and Judy's mum. Her husband was killed whilst he was working in the Merchant Navy, and she tries her best to look after the four children.

Ronnie Harper-Jones: Mum is being courted by the pompous bore, Captain Ronnie Harper-Jones, who none of the family (except Judy) can stand.

Ania: Ania is the Polish refugee who has just joined Joan’s class at school. She has had a terrible experience in escaping from Nazi occupied Europe.

Dai Davies: Dai is a Welsh boy who has grown up locally, and now servers as a wireless operator in the Merchant Navy. All of the Armitage family like Dai, and they know that to Audrey he is very special.

A Note by Shirley Hughes

I was twelve when World War 2 was declared. We were all expected to help with the war effort. I joined the Women’s Junior Air force. We wore uniform, marched up and down, and learned how to spot and enemy aircraft. What we were meant to do if we actually saw one remained un-clear. 

My older sister Brenda was a war bride. When her husband was sent abroad she came back to live at home and worked as a V.A.D nurse in a local military convalescent home. She longed for air letters from him.

Here I am in uniform, holding the cat, with my older sister, Brenda in V.A.D uniform

Sometimes there would be long, frightening silences, then a whole lot would arrive in batches. She wrote back to him every day. Like Audrey in Whistling in the Dark she remained faithful until, happily, he returned.


 Cover artwork © 2015 Giordano Poloni, from an original sketch by Shirley Hughes. Photographs and illustrations © 2015 Shirley Hughes. Website text © 2015 Shirley Hughes and Walker Books. All rights reserved. Walker Books Limited, 87 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HJ. Registered in England under Company No .1378601