It is easy to forget how primitive location devices were in World War Two,
and of course in all the years previously. There were maps but it
was difficult not to get off course without landmarks to show where one was.
So, during the blitz of World War Two,
no household, no factory and no anything was allowed to show any light at all
at night because it might provide a landmark for enemy bombers.
There were no street lights, and it was not
possible to see from one side of the street to the other. Some people had torches.
Otherwise, if there was no moon, we felt our way with a stick like a blind
person. We lived in fear that should we show any light the Germans would
pick us out with a bomb.
Women were not allowed to leave washing on the line
after dark in case the white sheets were visible to the German Bombers.
Our family had a large tin full of candles which were
to light the Anderson shelter.
I was six when the first blitz started: it was home from school, something
to eat and then into the Anderson Shelter at the bottom of the garden.
My mother's kiss goodnight saved my life in the blackout.
I was a tiny baby in the early years of the war. My mother tucked me up
in my cot in the dark and bent down to kiss me goodnight, only to find that
she was kissing my feet because she hadn't been able to see which way round
I was. Without that kiss, my face would have stayed tucked over in blankets
and I would have suffocated. I was far too young to push them back myself.
As we weren't allowed to have the house lights on during the blackout, we made do with a tiny
paraffin lamp, like a miniature hurricane lamp. It was painted green and
its chimney had a 'mica' window through which the burning wick was visible. The lamp
gave off a strong smell of burning paraffin.
I was too young to remember much of the blackout, although I do vaguely recall
black linings or black curtains and someone coming to the front door to say
that we were showing a light. I later learnt that he was the
Poster about obeying blackout regulations for a bicycle. Photographed in
I was also too young to be out at night when the blackout would have been
most constraining. Fortunately there are others to pass on what it was like.
In 1939 a leaflet on how to set up blackout and why it was essential was distributed to the public.
However, as the next box shows, people developed their own ideas on how best to
How households made their blackout
Beaver Board was commonly used for blackout. It was
a sort of soft fibrous board which could almost be cut with a penknife.
It was used with a bar of wood which was thick enough to hold, and which
was screwed through the fibre board, so that it could all be lifted up,
and put into place. It wasn't too difficult to fit it into the windows,
as it was fairly soft and pliable, and quite light.
My mother made our blackout curtains from black material
that was made available to every household. [I understand that several thicknesses
were often required. Pat Cryer]
In our house the blackout was either black wooden boards
or wooden frames covered with several thickness of blackout material. I
can't remember which. When it got dark these were lifted up and hung from
hooks above the window. [This method required the window frames to take
hooks, but as they were always made of wood, there would have
been no problems. Pat Cryer]