By 1941, The Second World War Had Brought Considerable Hardship And Disruption To The British Civilian Population. Was This Still The Case In The Last Twelve Months Of The War, 1944-45 Exp Essay, Research Paper
By 1941, the Second World War had brought considerable hardship and disruption to the British civilian population. Was this still the case in the last twelve months of the war, 1944-45 Explain your answer.
By 1941, many of Britain s cities were in ruins, and her population was seemingly demoralised. London was being bombed very frequently, although many British cities were bombed throughout the war. A notable example of this is the bombing of Coventry bombing, when in a single night German bombers destroyed 100 acres of the city centre, and killed over 500 people. In addition to coping with the effects of bombing, the population of Britain had to cope with the German threat of invasion. The invasion precautions which were taken were wide-ranging, and are described below:
Everyone expected bombing, and thus plans were made. Houses with back gardens received Anderson shelters. Brick shelters appeared in schools. The “Black Out” came into force at once. At night, there was no light. The near arrival of bombers produced the wail of the warning siren. Once the bombers had passed, there was an “All clear” siren.
All signposts were removed along with street names (these might assist invading troops). In the event of invasion, church bells were to ring. To fight the invaders, by 1st June 1940, 5 million had been recruited into the Home Guard. Around 70,000 Germans, Austrians, and later Italians were arrested and interned in camps on the Isle of Mann.
The war brought a huge change to women’s lives. Women were working on the land, in munitions factories and essentials industries. Much of the work was skilled-man’s work, but women were only paid at the rate of semi-skilled workers. Despite the discrimination, women were happy. Women were proving themselves. They enjoyed having their own money; enjoyed the social life of war. One woman said, “the war made me stand on my own two feet”.
Of course at the end of the war, men returned home and expected to restart their own job and for women to go back to the home. This to some degree happened, but women were now far more dependent and began to take a far more active role in the work place.
Many American soldiers took home to the USA so called “GI brides” after the war in late 1945. These were British women who had decided to accompany American soldiers and airmen back to the USA following the war
“Many women gained a great deal of personal satisfaction from their war work. They made new and lasting friendships, enjoyed newfound independence, and discovered new abilities and skills. But only in a few areas did women achieve any permanent improvement in lifestyle and social status. Overall there was more continuity than change.” a quotation from The Home Front, 1939-1945.
Common through all the classes prior to the war were the limited opportunities that were available to women in terms of employment. War gave women a chance to work in skilled jobs that they wouldn t have had access to before, work ranging from skilled engineering work to work as bus drivers and ticket collectors. In 1941 this transformation was still occurring, and by 1944-45 the transformation had taken place. The role of women in the war is one of the best examples of change in the Home Front during WW2.
By 1943 all women below the age of 50 were working, or part of the women s arms of the services. Such service included service in the WRNS (Women s Royal Naval Service). A certain amount of class levelling occurred, but there were still certain areas where women from different classes would work. Primarily middle-class women worked the WRNS, and generally the working class worked on the factory floors or the WVS (Women s Voluntary service)
The war for women was an opportunity.
The Blitz occurred between the years of 1940-1942. It involved the bombardment of many of Britain’s cities by the aircraft of the German Luftwaffe. However, upon invading the Soviet Union, Hitler had to divert his aircraft away from the now secondary objective of Britain, and the bombardment ceased. Only10 percent of bombs actually fell anywhere near their intended targets. Bombing, instead of causing chaos, merely strengthened people s resolve. The bombardment continued in a different form in the latter stages of the war with the bombardment of Britain by V1 and V2 rockets. V1 rockets were known as “Doodlebugs”, and although they did cause a substantial loss of life, there were countermeasures that could be taken. The supersonic V2 rockets however fell without warning. The V2 could not be heard until it exploded on impact.
Rationing was introduced on 8th January 1940. The rationing of meat followed on from this on March 11th. From this time different foods were gradually added to the list (at first only the very essential foods were rationed). Many people despaired at the fact that they could no longer obtain sufficient quantities of the food they needed, and that they had to spend many hours per month queuing for food.
Rationing improved people s health, as a direct consequence of the very carefully planned national diet that was drawn up by the Ministry of Food. Rationing ensured that everybody received the same diet. By 1945 the situation was similar to what it had been four years previously, and thus the rationing of food is an example of continuity.
Propaganda, in particular doctored newsreels, ensured that the atmosphere in Britain was always one of hope. A Portsmouth cinema that was bombed out was not shown on newsreels for the simple reason that people watching news at the cinema might feel very frightened. Early on in the war propaganda was used to prevent against mass panic in this way. This was especially important in 1941 when Britain was under risk of invasion from Nazi Germany. By 1942, Hitler s invasion plans had been postponed.
Rather than panic, people seemed to pull together, and cope. One good example of this is the success of the “make do and mend” campaign of the time. Images of the funerals of the people who died in Coventry were not shown for fear of turning people against the war. By the end of the war, the atmosphere in Britain was one of fierce jubilation, and not one contemplating the huge loss. This I believe was achieved through the use of propaganda by the British government during the war. The use of Propaganda ensured that the morale of the civilian population was upheld. As a result, at the end of the war many people looked forward into the future with real hope, and didn t dwell on the losses of war as much as they would have done if the British Ministry of Information had not been in existence.
Before the war life in Britain was deeply divided. This was still true in 1941, although the war was beginning to draw people together. There was high unemployment in the so-called “working class”, which lived in extremely bad conditions in the cities in slum housing. The middle class however enjoyed a far higher standard of living. Public air-raid shelters became a place where the different classes could mix with each other. Many people lost their initial reserve, and began to talk more. The shelters were an excellent class-leveller by 1945, the middle classes had begun to take notice of “the grinding poverty of the working classes”.
During the war, the unemployment problem was virtually eliminated from Britain.
To conclude, the last twelve months of the war were very different from the war up until 1941 in many ways. Much of the population was in a far more hopeful and forward thinking mood than it had been during Britain s “darkest hour”. The D-day landings took place, and the public frequently heard stories of Allied successes in Europe. For months before the landings in France took place, troops had been building up in Southeast England. Although the cities were still suffering under the German V1 and V2 rockets, they were suffering to a far less extent than in 1941. Although rationing was still in force, as many people could see that the end was in sight, they were able to bear this additional hardship with stoicism. Following the Blitz, many evacuees had returned home to the cities, thus there weren t nearly as many divided families as there had been in 1941 (although many children were to remain away from their families for the duration of the war).
Finally, at the end of the war there was a mood for change many people voted for a Labour government. Although the war had done much to make the middle classes aware of the poverty of the working classes, and had ensured more equality between the sexes – many people felt that a Conservative government would lead to a renewed decay of this new-found equality, and thus voted for a Labour government. Clement Atlee promised a more equal Britain, and amongst other things, he introduced the National Health Service, a Welfare system, and housing for the working classes.
Women in Wartime – The role of Women’s magazines 1939-1945
By Jane Waller and Michael Vaughan-Rees
By Ed Rayner and Ken Stapley
The Second World War – An Illustrated History
By AJP Taylor
The Home Front 1939-1945