IT has been said quite often recently that we haven't faced a crisis like the one we're in now since the Second World War.

The nature of the challenge is very different, of course. Then, for those left behind on the home front, it was all about rationing, 'digging for victory', and remaining plucky and resolute in the face of a looming threat.

Several of the city's factories were converted to manufacturing munitions, and young women found employment in those factories or else queued up to register for National Service or to join the WAAF or the WAAC, where they could work as chauffeurs, clerks, telephonists, waitresses, cooks, instructors, fitters, drivers, or store keepers.

For many, there was also the agony of separation - not only separation from the menfolk off at war, but also, for some, separation from children evacuated from major cities to places considered more safe.

Today's crisis is very different: it is all about staying at home, following strict new rules on hygiene and social distancing - and finding new and innovative ways to work from home or to keep businesses going online.

But we, too, have our frontline fighters in the war against the virus - the doctors, nurses, paramedics, technicians, cleaners and others need to keep our hospitals functioning in the face of what will be enormous demands placed upon them.

The much-vaunted 'wartime spirit' was all about trying as far as possible to carry on as normal in very abnormal times.

To a certain extent, that's what we have to do today - just without going out or getting too close to other people.

During the war, few people summed up that 'wartime spirit' better than Edna Annie Crichton.

York's first-ever woman Lord Mayor, Mrs Crichton led York through its greatest wartime crisis, the Baedeker Raid of April 1942. In the aftermath of that raid, when for the people of York it must have seemed as though their world had fallen in, she visited bombed-out homes, toured the city, and kept spirits up.

The Yorkshire Evening Press of April 30, 1942, said of Mrs Crichton that in the wake of the bombings she had been 'an inspiration to the citizens, working untiringly for about 18 hours, superintending ARP arrangements, visiting hospitals and first-aid posts and generally alleviating distress among the victims.'

We have dug out a photo of Mrs Crichton touring bomb-damaged homes in the city with Princess Mary and the Earl of Harewood - and another of her calmly playing bowls. That latter was taken in 1942, at the height of the war. It was almost as if she was saying to the people of the city: 'Look, let's just carry on as normal, shall we?'

And so the people of York did, as far as was possible. Our photos today, all from out own archive, include a view of a busy Coney Street - the only slightly odd thing being the number of people in uniform. There's also a great picture of an ARP warden giving a demonstration to a crowd of onlookers about how to deal with an incendiary bomb.

We came through the war, of course. Victory in Europe on May 8, 1945, was marked by celebrations across the country - in York no less than anywhere else. Bunting came out after years in storage, flags were flown and street parties were thrown across the city. Rations that had been saved were brought out, and there were sandwiches and cakes galore, especially for children who had been starved of treats.

Who knows, maybe by May 8 this year we'll be celebrating victory over the coronavirus and a return to a life that is something like normal? Just as after the war, it will probably never be exactly the same again. But just as after the war, given a bit of time, it might just be better than ever.

There's a thought to hold onto...

Stephen Lewis