The Home Front Project Part 8 – Goodnight Mr Tom

From the film Goodnight Mr. Tom you can get a view of life on the Home Front.

goodnight mr tom

The village featured relied heavily on radio. This shows that this was a main way for the Government to send messages to the masses as in the beginning of the film, a group from the village gather around a radio in church to hear the news that Britain was at war with Germany.

It also shows that going to church was an important part of rural life as all the villagers are shown going frequently to church to listen to services and sing. This shows that villages were very communal and everybody was quite close.

Men from all over are seen passing through the village in army gear in army trucks. This shows that people from all over the country went into the army, and it was also younger and older men who went willingly at first.

The film portrays some of the people in the village being reluctant to take in evacuated children. They were forced into it and had no choice even if they didn’t want the child at first. This suggests that because of the war, a lot of personal freedoms could be taken away from you.

Religion is shown as an important way of life at that time because William’s mother wrote a letter insisting he was with a religious person or was placed near the church. The letter also stated that it didn’t matter who that person was showing some parents had more concern about their child’s beliefs in there upbringing rather than the suitability of the person taking care of them.

Evacuees are shown to be scared, confused and upset from being separated from their parents as they don’t all look happy leaving on the train to the village, and seem confused by the different way of life when they get there.

Some food is seen to be similar as for diner they often are seen to have some version of a fry up and for breakfast they have toast or cereal which is what we often have nowadays.

The house where Tom lives has lots of old furniture, there are many decorative plates and other items on display in cabinets or on the walls, the house is basically a cottage with lots of beaming showing, the style of windows are different from those we often have in modern buildings.  This shows our ways of life have changed a lot in 60 years.

The film suggests a lot of children in the larger towns and cities have never seen certain animals in real life before because when William first goes to the new village, he is scared of a dog there and runs away. This shows that unlike today, where a lot of people have some kind of pet, and where most young people have been to a zoo before, it wasn’t like that in those days.

The way we dress has also dramatically changed in the last 2-3 generations. For example, young boys are seen wearing shirts, a pullover, shorts and long socks with boots, but nowadays, young boys would definitely not be seen wearing that sort of clothing in that combination outside of re-enactments of ww2.

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The Home Front Project Part 7 – Women

We_can_do_it

The role of women before World War 2 was that they were supposed to be ‘good housewives’, or if they had a career it should be either something like nursing, being a domestic servant or being a shop assistant.

During the war, many of men went away to fight, and those left behind had important jobs that kept the country running which they needed to keep.

This meant that women had to take up the jobs the men away fighting would have done. Women took jobs amongst other things as mechanics, engineers, builders, ambulance drivers and air-raid wardens. Many volunteered for the home guard and real army even though they did not have to, unlike their male counterparts. Perhaps most famously women worked as Land Girls in the Women’s Land Army, with over 80,000 women, thanks to publicity, volunteers then later conscription, leaving the cities and taking on the vital role of farmers in the countryside. (To find out more about the WLA you could read Land Girls by Angela Huth.

Land_Girls

Women did want to work during the war because they wanted to do whatever they could to help win the war, and help bring home their husbands and sons safely. They also wanted to prove to the men that women are just as good as men for doing any sort of job and those women can and should be trusted.

This helped change the views of many men about women and the type of work they could do, as women showed that they could do the same jobs just as well as the men and their effort in the war was invaluable.

Make_do_and_mend

Women also adapted to the rationing of clothes by embracing the make-do-and-mend culture, for example a new dress could be sewn from old curtains or even cloth potato sacks, and instead of stockings or tights a black line could be drawn up the leg to create a fake seam so it appeared that she was wearing some, and therefore she would have more coupons to spend on other items of clothing.

The Home Front Project Part 6 – Propoganda

winston_churchill

Propaganda was the use of cleverly designed posters by the government to influence people’s thoughts and behaviors to get them to do what the Government thought was needed during the war.

The British Government used it in world war two by creating series of posters and leaflets to get people to help in the war effort.

They used a variety of slogans to help with different aspects of the war (pictures below):

–         ‘careless talk costs lives’ *

–         ‘dig for victory’

–         ‘lend a hand on the land’

–         ‘look out in the blackout’

–         ‘put that light OUT’

–         ‘make do and mend’

–         ‘v for victory’

–         ‘Hitler will send no warning’

–         ‘Britain shall not burn’

–         ‘the army isn’t all work’

–         ‘save kitchen waste for the pigs’

–         ‘coughs and sneezes spread diseases’

–         ‘mothers, send them out of London’

The posters were about many things, like not talking about any information you have on the whereabouts of soldiers and missions, or letting your children be evacuated for their own safety, or how to cope in a blackout.

I think the government used posters as they can be put in many places, be easily seen and because they are eye-catching people are more likely to stop and read them, and by having them in many places and seeing them many times a day, the message would hopefully sink in and people would do as they were asked.

careless_talk_costs_lives

This poster is telling people not to discuss any information they have about the army encase it is put into the wrong hands and ends up costing lives of hundreds of service personal.

It is effective because it is quite simple n design but is very eye-catching, and the two images highlight and emphasize what the poster is trying to communicate, meaning many people would take this advice.

ww2_posters

The Home Front Project Part 5 – Evacuees

evacuees

Evacuation was when children in target cities such as London, were moved to homes considered safe by train or road, often in the countryside, where they were temporarily fostered and looked after until they could go home safely.

There were three main evacuations during the war. The first beginning two days before the declaration of war on September 1st 1939, although for months later more than half had returned as the feared German attacks had not happened. The second main evacuation effort begun on the `13th June 1940 when the Germans had taken over parts of France, and again when the Blitz began in September that year. The final main evacuation effort happened in 1944 when over 1,000,000 people, more than in previous attempts, were moved from London because of the threat of German V1 and V2 rockets.

The 3.5 million people who were evacuated were school children and their teachers, mothers with young children under 5, pregnant women, and some elderly or disabled people.

People were moved because there was a very real threat of violent bombings so the Government moved the children to keep them safe as they are the country’s future. They were moved to many places all over Britain, in particular small towns and villages in the countryside away from large targeted cities and ports.

evacuees_working

It was confusing and scary to be an evacuee. At the station they were labelled just like a parcel, and were lined up not knowing whether they would be able to stay with their brothers and sisters or where they would be going to.  They were apprehensive and worried about leaving their families to live with complete strangers, but at the same they were slightly looking forward to seeing a place they had never seen before and perhaps only read about in books. After a long journey by train or road they would arrive tired and hungry in the countryside, uncertain that they would see their families again.  They were bundled into village halls, where a picking session for the families taking the children in began, and brothers and sisters would be split apart, and the ‘less presentable’ children would be left until last, upset and alone.   Although they were often very homesick, the enjoyed the fresh air and those who were put on farms were happy to be around animals they had only seen in pictures at school. When they were sent back to their families they were filled with joy and love.

To find out more about life as an evacuee you could read these books:

  • Kisses On A Postcard by Terence Frisby: The playwrigth recounts his ‘other life’ in Cornwall with his foster parents Auntie Rose and Uncle Jack
  • When The Children Came Home by Julie Summers: a collection of memoirs about life as an evacuee, from departure to trying to adjust to returnin home.
  • Far From The East End by Iris Jones: a fictional story about a young girl who has difficult relationships with her parents but discovers an idylic life when she is evacuated to Wales.

The Home Front Project Part 4 – The Home Guard

LDV

Originally called Local Defence Volunteers (LDV’s), the home guard was made up of volunteers, often men who were not able to join the army, who in their free time protected the 5,000 miles of British coastline in preparation for a German attack.

The jobs the home guard mainly did were to defend key targets such as factories, explosive stores or sea fronts.  During the night some patrolled fields where it was thought German paratroopers may land, and although not expected to defeat the Germans, their aim was to slow them down so the army had time to arrive.  They also captured shot down German air-men who landed over Britain and checked people’s identity cards.

home_guard

The type of people who joined the home guard ranged widely from the young to the old, and from any background or job, such as a baker or a farmer or a banker.

Britain needed a Home Guard because while most of the army was abroad they needed some protection encase of an attack. Places such as munitions factories also needed guarding so it was vital a group were there to do that job. This was very important because if there was a German attack, if the home guard were not their to delay them, the army wouldn’t be able to prepare a strong front line to defend with, and the Germans could more easily invade.

The Home Front Project Part 3 – The Blitz

blitz

The Blitz was when for two years Germans mounted an air attack on British cities, main ports and any other important industrial areas with heavy bombings.

The Blitz was taken from the German word ‘Blitzkreig’ meaning “lightening war”

The Blitz began on the 7th September 1940 and ended in May 1941.

It started because in August 1940 the first German bombs were dropped on Central London. In retaliation the RAF started to attack Berlin. The Germans responded to this by attacking our industrial areas and large civilian populations. The main German aim was to ‘soften up’ the British population and destroys it’s morale before their planned invasion.

The warning system the British Government used was Air Raid Sirens. When lookouts spotted an oncoming attack, they would send messages to the people, often police, who were by the air raid siren and tell them to sound it. The siren was very loud, so all those in the area would hit it and know they had to get cover.

underground_during_blitz

The protection people had from the bombings were Morrison shelters in their homes, Anderson shelters in their gardens, public shelters in some streets, the London underground stations, evacuation, sandbags and taped windows.

The effect this had on people was that the blackout was introduced, and many died or were injured in car accidents or fell over in the dark. They also had to build shelter, and make sure they blacked out all their windows and doors properly. It made it hard for them to get to sleep and made them constantly frightened for their lives, and parents had to put on brave faces for their children’s sakes. People became confused and anxious as the Government restricted information about the Blitz to try to prevent panic.

It affected the cities as many important services were destroyed or needed repair, with vast amounts of their populations being decimated.

The Home Front Project Part 2 – Wartime Homes

sandbagged_homes

Homes during the war had to change to compensate for the new ways of life that were emerging.

Some of the things that changed in many homes were;

–         Windows were sandbagged against bomb blasts to stop fragments of glass going everywhere.

–         Bedding was downstairs or in shelters if that was what was used instead of a shelter.

–         First aid kits were easily accessible encase of injury from blasts etc

–         Gum and paper was used for sealing cracks and gaps in homes in preparation for gas attacks. For this reason vents were also blocked.

–         Stirrup pumps and water in buckets were placed for fire fighting encase they were needed after a blast.

–         Gas marks were kept nearby in occupied rooms.

–         Sand in buckets with a shovel were placed encase there was an incendiary bomb was dropped.

–         Wireless sets were kept close for updates and entertainment.

–         Tinned food was more common as fresh food became more rationed.

–         Fireplaces, and sometimes doors were also blocked/sealed against poison gas attacks.

–         Ceilings were supported with wooden props so as to strengthen them against blasts.

–         Windows were taped so that if the glass breaks, it didn’t go everywhere.

–         blackout curtains were used

–         Pole fencing and earth filled soap boxes were put in place to shield doorways.

–         Street lighting wasn’t used in the blackout so that German bombers couldn’t easily identify target towns and cities by their light. For this reason bike lights were taped up, and car lights dimmed.

–         Homes often had a “victory garden” where they would grow vegetables and fruit in their gardens or allotments. Soil could be placed on roofs of Anderson shelters and extra plants could be grown on this.

–         To keep warm in their Anderson shelters, people used oil lamps to see and a flower pot heater (a candle under an upturned flowerpot.)

–         Iron railings were taken away from garden boundaries to salvage as scrap metal to melt down and use in munitions factories.

The two types of shelters people had in their homes were Anderson shelters (pictured below) and Morrison shelters. Anderson shelters were shelters made of corregated steel or iron that were half buried in gardens. They were 6 and a half feet long and by 4 and half feet wide.  Many were given away free but those with a big enough income had to pay £7.  Morrison shelters were shelters made from heavy steel, and were cage-like in appearance. If people didn’t have a garden, they could shelter under them during air raids. They were 6 and half feet long, 4 feet wide and 2 and half feet high.  These were often used as tables.

anderson_shelters

Morrison shelters in a way were better as Anderson shelters were cramped, cold, dark, often flooded and all the noise from outside could still be heard. Whereas Morrison shelters were inside so it was quieter, warmer and more comforting, especially as you didn’t have to run outside in the middle of the night. However, Morrison shelters could be more dangerous because if the house had a direct hit from a bomb, the occupants of the house could be buried inside their shelter and no-one would know.

Blackout curtains were heavy black pieces of material used in the war. They were important because at night they blocked out all light coming out from a house into its surroundings. It was important to do this so German bombers couldn’t be aided in their aiming by light being emitted and highlighting their target.

A wireless was an early radio that many people had in their homes. It was important because it gave updates on news events of the war, but also entertained people during the long nights or days and helped to keep up moral.