The blitz had a huge effect on the people of Britain, changing their way of life of the citizens in a massive way and in a very sudden time frame. Changes happened in the way they ate, their jobs, the way they travelled and what times they travelled the shelter they inevitably had to seek and even what hours they could sleep (or not) at.
First and Foremost – it was essential that the people of Britain could continue to function basically during attacks – and it was for this reason that the British government ensured that adequate shelter was provided for the public, in mass sheltered accommodation and in more private, smaller shelters for individual families.
On a larger scale, Underground stations could be used, but conditions here were cramped, often unsanitary and dangerous, on one occasion several people died in a stampede on the stairs of an underground station; however the government worked hard to ensure that the underground stations were a safe and organised place to shelter.
Away from Central London – and in places where mass shelter was not perhaps practical or available, private shelter could be used:
There were two types of shelter that were available to the public for personal use. The Anderson shelter, which was used outside in peoples back gardens and the Morrison shelter, used in peoples homes.
The Anderson shelter was designed by William Paterson and Oscar Carl Kerrison in 1938 however it was named after Sir John Anderson who was the minister for civil defence and was responsible for ensuring that
2,250,000 were supplied free to people on incomes less than ï¿½150 a year.
Anderson shelters were ideal for families as they could shelter up to 6 people, and could be covered by soil and plants to attempt to camouflage it from attack.
The second type of shelter was the Morrison shelter. This shelter was again not named after its designers but after the Minister for Home Security at the time. An indoor shelter, shaped like a box could be used as a table when covered with a table-cloth (or so was the idea) and when required could be quickly and easily be accessed, without the need of going into a garden where in some places this was impossible (inner city London) or would have taken too long. However, the Morrison shelter would not have been usable by more than 4 people and would have been incredibly claustrophobic. And so this is the initial change in the civilian’s lives – the requirement on the sound of an Air-Raid siren to seek shelter.
Some people living in London’s East End didn’t feel safe sleeping in their own homes at night and so undertook a practise called “Trekking”. East Enders would leave their homes at night to sleep in the forests, preferring to sleep under the stars in safety at the start of the Blitz’. Those living in the East End of London were most badly affected as they lived close to London’s docks and shipyards which were targeted heavily by the Luftwaffe. It was the Governments concern however, that the East Enders who often worked in the shipyards would not return to their homes and work after leaving, however, after some time they realised that their concerns were unfounded and that civilians trekking were in fact returning to their important jobs working in Britain’s Shipping industry.
A Blackout was ordered, to stop the enemy planes from seeking out large towns by looking for the hundreds of electrical lights. Blackouts meant that during times of darkness, all indoor lights had to be turned off unless crucial and windows had to be covered over to stop light escaping – air raid patrol Wardens were very strict on ensuring that no light was escaping from cracks in curtains.
Car headlights could only be used when absolutely necessary – and could only then be used at a lowered level to pre-war time. This restricted greatly the hours that people could work resulting in those who had night shifts or twilight shifts being made redundant.
Otherwise however, everyday life had to continue as normally as possible, for most adults this meant going to work as usual. As much as possible people continued just as they had done before blackout restrictions and bombs disrupting travel arrangements, however during this war time community spirit was surprisingly high and resulted in more people helping out when they could, vans transporting people to work and picking up total strangers to give them lifts to work.
Many people volunteered themselves to organisations like the Fire Department, some were men who were unable or unwilling to fight in the war because of their age or beliefs, but were able to help in other ways. Fire fighting was only one of these ways, other citizens cleared up after air attacks on cities, clearing bodies from the rubble and starting clean up operations as well as providing refreshment for others through institutes like the W.I.
The people of Britain wanted to keep socialising but curfews and blackout meant that this was harder and it was during this time that Tea Dances were introduced, dances at around 4 in the afternoon to replace those previously held in the later evening. Special Concerts with singers like Gracie Fields singing songs that became “war hits” and helped raise morale by helping people take their minds off the reality for a while. Often these concerts were held and attended with extreme effort on all parts, for example it would have been difficult or impossible to attend concerts when transport links were down or there was an attack on during or just prior a concert.
The British politeness perhaps had an effect on how people responded to the way their everyday lives had changed. People acknowledged immediately that whilst tragedy may have struck them, it may well have hit someone else just as bad or worse, or may do in the future and so this quiet acceptance meant that people did not tend to complain or discuss their hardships. This also added to the high levels of pride and morale that became part of everyday life in Britain. It is often said that the media coverage of the Blitz is very different to the sort of coverage received today – however, I feel that the Blitz spirit is comparable to the spirit in London after the terrorist attacks on the Underground. The images the press reported were of people helping each other from the wreckage, and of Ambulance crews responding. Not of dead bodies. The spirit of the Londoners at both times was to continue regardless.
Everyday life changed abruptly with the arrival of the Blitz,but everyday life was changed by many other things, not only the Blitz, for example rationing, which continued after the war. But, it is certain to say that one of the effects that the Blitz did NOT have – was to dampen the morale of the British people.