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Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Blackout

Everyone pulled together for the war effort. There was a great fear of air raids and people had to ensure that no light escaped from windows or doors. Blackout curtains were fitted to doors and windows. The door curtains had to be closed when an outside door was opened and even then a pencil beam of light would sure enough attract the attention of an Air Raid Patrol (ARP) Warden!

One of the main jobs ARP Wardens did was to patrol the streets during blackout to ensure that no light was visible. If a light was spotted, the warden would alert the person/people responsible by shouting something like "Put that light out!" or "Cover that window!"

There were no illuminated street lights so lamp posts (and roadside trees) were painted with a band of white to reduce the risk to pedestrians. Kerbs were painted white. Rear mudguards on bikes had a section painted white to minimize the risk of being knocked into. Car headlights were fitted with beam deflectors to cast the beam downwards close to the vehicle. 

A torch became an essential piece of kit but batteries (usually ‘Number 8’ batteries) were scarce. Number 8 batteries were about half as big again as the modern AA size, were 3 volts, and were used in most small torches. However, they didn't last long.

Using a wartime photo of an ARP warden adjusting a blackout clock, we constructed our own to be used as a feature in the 1940s garden.


Questions and Answers

When did The Blackout begin?
Britain was blacked out on 1st September 1939; two days before the outbreak of war.

What was The Blackout?

During the war, everyone had to cover their windows and doors at night (before sunset) with heavy blackout curtains, cardboard or paint.

Why did people have to cover their windows and doors?

They needed to prevent any glimmer of light from escaping and aiding enemy aircraft during the bombing raids.

What about other sources of light during the blackout. Were they covered too?

Street lights were switched off or dimmed and shielded to deflect the light downward. Traffic lights and vehicle headlights were fitted with slotted covers to deflect the beam down to the floor.

What effect did the Blackout have on people's lives ?

Thousands of people died in road accidents. The number of road accidents increased because of the lack of street lighting and the dimmed traffic lights. To help prevent accidents white stripes were painted on the roads and on lamp-posts. People were encouraged to walk facing the traffic and men were advised to leave their shirt-tails hanging out so that they could be seen by cars with dimmed headlights. 


Other people were injured during the Blackout because they could not see in the darkness. Many people were injured tripping up, falling down steps, or bumping into things.

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