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February 3, 2019

World War II at Home in Britain Through Breathtaking Historical Photographs

When Britain went to war on 3 September 1939 there was none of the 'flag-waving patriotism' of August 1914. The British people were now resigned to the fact that Hitler had to be stopped by force.

The first eight months of the war were a time of official unwarranted optimism and bureaucratic muddle. Many early wartime measures such as the blackout and evacuation proved highly unpopular. But this 'Phoney War' was soon followed by the 'bracing defeat' of Dunkirk and the fall of France in June 1940.

For the next year, under Winston Churchill’s inspiring and resolute leadership, Britain with its Empire stood alone against Hitler, until they were joined by two powerful allies, the Soviet Union and the United States.

World War II at home in Britain

But for the next five years the British had to endure the bombing of their towns and cities in the Blitz, as well as attacks from flying bombs and rockets. In all 60,595 civilians were killed and 86,182 seriously injured. Rationing of food began in January 1940 and clothes in June 1941. By 1943, virtually every household item was either in short supply and had to be queued for, or was unobtainable.

The British were the most totally mobilised of all the major belligerents and there was a great and genuine community of spirit in wartime Britain which often transcended class and other barriers. But there was also an almost universal feeling, exemplified by the popularity of the 1942 Beveridge Report, that after victory the country could not go back to pre-war social conditions.

VE Day found Britain exhausted, drab and in poor shape, but justly proud of its unique role in gaining the Allied victory.

These historical photos from painting in light that show the way the British fought against this war, and stories behind each photo.

1940 - Coventry, the city centre

1940 - In the morning, work as usual. After a big raid, the way to the office is knee-deep in rubble. Londoners unemotionally pick their way through it

1940 - Portsmouth. 65,000 houses were damaged out of 70,000 in the city but services were restored and life went on - a mobile laundry

1940 - 'Tea, and telling about it'. From the youngest to the oldest. YMCA provided hot drinks not only for civil defence etc but for the civilians - some 'tea cars' were 'sponsored' by USA

1940 - Watching and waiting

3.45 am 11th November, 1940 - Elephant and Castle Tube Station. Those who went to shelters began a new kind of night-life. Some took over the Tubes, camping out in this fashion

7th September 1940 - After 300 bombers had attacked for over an hour and a half, the East End docklands were ablaze

8th September 1940 - Worcester House, a block of flats in Kensington Road, Lambeth, London

9th September 1940 - St. Thomas's Hospital torn by high explosive, three ward blocks were destroyed

12th December 1940 - High Street, Sheffield after a long night of bombing

15th October 1940 - Balham High Road, London. Civil defence on the scene

22nd December 1940 - Air raid, the corner of Deansgate, Manchester, in the centre of the city

29th December 1940 - After an unofficial lull in the Blitz attacks on London, for Christmas in 1940, the German bombers had returned with renewed vigour

29th December 1940 - After an unofficial lull in the Blitz attacks on London, for Christmas in 1940, the German bombers had returned with renewed vigour

29th December 1940 - Ave Maria Lane, London

30 December 1940 - The City of London. The never ending battle against the flames. Fire services and rescue workers put their lives on the line

30 December 1940 - The City of London. The raids are over and civil defence and rescue workers survey the devastation caused by fire and bomb

December 1940 - Sheffield High Street. The aftermath of the night raid of 12th-13th

October 1940 - One by one the trapped are released. The victim of a daylight raid on central London, is lifted gently from a shattered basement

October 1940 - One by one they are carried to safety, London. The wife of a school caretaker was trapped in a shelter beneath the school. She was rescued after 13 hours of continuous digging, able to still grasp the hand of the man who reached her

1940 propaganda - The family must eat. After the raids on the East End, there was no panic exodus; people preferred to cling to what was left and help neighbours who had suffered worse. The woman on the right lived in the ruined houses across the road. Dinner was cooked over a fire made gipsy-fashion in the basement

1941 - Amid the devastation and rubble life goes on - the milk is delivered and the post collected. It was people like these who, after a day's work, put on their civil defence uniforms

1941 - Between the beginning of Sept 1940 and the end of July 1941 millions of fire bombs rained on London but they did not all fall on roads

1941 - Both G.P.O. and Control Centre telephonists were called upon to do their ordinary jobs coolly and patiently in the presence of danger

1941 - Coventry. After the raid, it is still washing day. In the shadow of Coventry Cathedral, now an empty shell

1941 - Fifty thousand incidents were reported to London Control Centre during the blitz. Against each, according to its size, the forces of defence and rescue were marshalled; each was met by planned response

1941 - Fire was everywhere. Incendiaries fell in Whitehall, around the Cenotaph

1941 - Front line unit. It is not only the man on the branch whose job takes him to the forefront of danger. The whole fire brigade is in it together. Here are women members in charge of a mobile canteen, serving tea to men who have come straight from fighting a fire nearby

1941 - It was her business to get there. The girl ambulance driver sets out through the blitz

1941 - Liverpool panoramic view of Lord Street; South Castle Street; Customs House in the background

1941 - London wrecked stations. One of the main-line termini; the trains still run

1941 - London. If you could, you carried on. If the gas still worked, you cooked the dinner; it seemed the right thing to do

1941 - London. Little but their lives. This family got out of its house only just in time and dashed through the blitz to shelter

1941 - Plymouth from the Guildhall tower

1941 - The good neighbour. Besides their function as the eyes and ears of the Control Centre in the field the wardens had another, equally important, that of the 'good neighbour' in the blitz, earning and keeping the people's confidence. In this role the work of the women wardens was outstanding. One warden in every six was a woman

1941 - The men, woman and children, the very heart and citadel of the city's strength, were the care of the wardens and rescue workers

1941 - They took what the ambulance brought them. In a first-aid post, doctor and nurses examine a casualty

1941 - Thousands were suddenly made homeless. The aftermath of last night's raid - civil defence, rescue workers help the victims. By the end of May, 1,150,000 houses in the London Region were damaged

1941 - Underground chaos after the raid. Rescue and repair men at work, London

1941 - Westminster Hospital, Dean Ryle Street, Horseferry Road, Westminster. With the blitz still at its height, casualties are attended to in Westminster Hospital. The patient is a woman driver

10th May 1941 - The façade of the Salvation Army International H.Q. collapsing, 23-25, Queen Victoria Street, London

11th January 1941 - Out in the blitz, silhouetted against the light of fires, rescue men climb into a building in St. Leonard Street, Shoreditch, London to reach people trapped in the upper floors

11th January 1941 - The City of London. Regular and auxiliary fire fighters tackle the blazes caused by fire bombs at Eastcheap

11th January 1941 - Through the long night the rescue men are at work, searching, helping to safety. St Leonard's Street, Shoreditch, London

12th January 1941 - The search goes on. Throughout the night and all the next day wardens, rescue men and ambulances men burrowed into the wreckage of this house, looking for its occupant an old lady. She was under the stairs

12th May 1941 - Enormous craters at The Bank, where the road collapsed into the subway beneath. A temporary bridge was thrown right across it by civil defence

14th March 1941 - Knightswood, Glasgow, Scotland. No time is lost when neighbours may be buried in the ruins. Glasgow rescue civil defence workers dig by the light of floodlights

16th April 1941 - Holborn Circus, City of London ablaze as civil defence rescue and fire fighters appear on the scene - the statue of Prince Albert is silhouetted by the flames

16th April 1941 - Southwark Street, London. The fire and rescue services fight an never ending battle

21st February 1941 - Swansea had three heavy raids on successive nights in the middle of February, and the centre of the city was levelled to the ground by bombs and fire

March 1941 - The homeless leave, their spirits high. More than 50,000 houses were damaged, but emergency homes were found and life went on

3rd January 1942 - Merchant's Road, Clifton, Bristol. A never ending job for the civil defence and volunteer fire brigade




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