The Home Front Project Part 1 – Overview and Rationing

london_1940

The Home Front was the name that was given to Britain and all that was happening inside it during World War 2, while its soldiers fought over seas battles.

The home front lasted as long as the war did, from 1939, when troops first left, and people’s lives first changed, to 1945, when troops returned and people’s lives started to slowly become as they were before.

Some of the main changes that happened in Britain were that Rationing was introduced. This was because German u-boats and submarines were sinking British supply ships, and there started to be a shortage of food, so it was rationed so everyone could get a fair share of remaining supplies.  Women were entrusted with the more masculine jobs such as factory and farming jobs. This was because many of the men who had worked in those kinds of places had been sent off to war and these jobs had to fall to the women as jobs in munitions factories, for example, were vital for the war effort.  Young people were split from their families and evacuated to the countryside. This was because there was a huge threat of bombings in major towns and cities and the government wanted to keep the children safe.

Rationing

ration-book

Rationing was when everyone was given an identity card and ration book. These books contained coupons that had to be handed in and signed by a shopkeeper whenever rationed goods were bought meaning people could only buy the amount they were allocated. Although in some rural areas farmers were able to keep slightly more back for themselves if they wished.

Rationing was introduced in early 1940, and lasted for around 14 years until 1954, 9 years after the war ended.

Rationing was introduced because German submarines started attacking British supply ships. This meant many items started to run low as imports dropped dramatically by around 75%. Rationing was vital so that everyone got a fair share of items that were hard to get hold of during the war.

Some typical rations for an adult per week were; 50g of butter, 225g of sugar, 50g of cheese, 56g of jam, 100g of bacon/ham, 1s.2d worth of meat (6p today), 1 fresh egg a week, ¼ packet of dried egg, 100g of margarine, 2-3 pints of milk, 50g of tea, 88g of sweets. People were also given points (16 a month) to use on whatever other food they wanted. Foods such as fish, potatoes and fruit were not rationed so could be eaten regularly, but most other things would have to be savoured. 

It wasn’t only food that was rationed in the war. In 1941 clothes were also rationed. They were rationed in a similar way to food, as every item was worth a certain amount of coupons. Children (and adults alike) were originally given 60 coupons, though it was later reduced to 48 a year, so parents and guardians had to think carefully before buying new clothes. Most people had to “make do and mend” and just re-use and re-cycle old bits of clothing and either mend the old or use the old to make something new.

makedo_40s

There was an almost constant lack of food at times, so many people skipped lunch and had two main meals a day. People used dripping (a spread made of fat from a roasted joint of meat), and it could be used as butter. This saved some money and points. People also grew vegetables as extra food for themselves in their gardens, or if they had no garden, they would find an allotment (as many school playing fields and commons were used for this purpose in the war.)

When people needed new clothes they would perhaps trade with friends, family or neighbours, or in some stores younger children’s clothes could be swopped for bigger ones that fitted.  Many people mended or adjusted old clothes to fit, or used scrap material to make new clothes for the changing seasons.

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