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.

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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.

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.