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Extraordinary, fascinating true stories
about life in the blackout of WW2

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My mother's kiss goodnight saved my life in the blackout

My mother's kiss goodnight saved my life in the blackout. I was a tiny baby in the early years of the Second World 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.

Hilary Thomas

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The very first war damage?

WW2 barrage balloons in the sky of UK

Barrage balloons, which were tethered, although unfortunately the tether doesn't show in the photo. Screen shot from an old film.

This screen shot uses dramatic licence in that it shows the barrage balloons flying misleadingly low. They were actually deployed at up to 1,524 metres, to forcing dive-bombers up to a greater height so that they couldn't bomb as accurately.

Alec Fry

My very first memory was of our chimney being broken down by the trailing steel cable of a break­away barrage balloon. These particular balloons were stationed on nearby Streatham Common, together with the searchlights. It was possibly the very first example of war damage. I remember vividly my rage at being kept indoors when such exciting things were going on outside!

Alec Fry

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A menacing monster looms out of the blackness

As a young boy in the Second World War I was living in a house with an outside lavatory. Late one evening, after dark, I went outside to this lavatory. Everywhere was very dark because of the blackout. Suddenly I saw a black shape in front of me. It was really huge, filling neighbours' back gardens as well as ours. It wasn't moving. Lurking would be the best description. I was really frightened; I screamed and burst into tears. My aunties heard and ran outside to bring me in.

Later I found out that it was a barrage balloon that had caught on the school spire. We lived at 29 Millfield Road, Edmonton, and our garden backed onto Silver Street School. So the barrage balloon had wafted into the gardens. Even after this was explained to me, I didn't like going out to the lavatory in the dark anymore.

Gerald Ladd

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Getting around out-of-doors in the blackout

There were no street lights on in the blackout, and it was not possible to see from one side of the road 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

Peter Johnson

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Washday worries in the blackout

Women were not allowed to leave washing on the line after dark in case the white sheets were visible to the German Bombers.

Peter Johnson

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Off-ration skirts

As blackout material was not rationed and clothes were, enterprising women made full, gypsy-style skirts out of blackout material, decorated with recycled scraps.

Alma Russell

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The smell of the blackout

The acrid smell of spent matches still conjures up the blackout and cold, dark nights spent in the dank discomfort of the Anderson shelter.

Alma Russell

As we weren't allowed to have the house lights on in non-blacked-out rooms, 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.

Richard Ouston

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The end of the blackout

On the night of VE Day, no blackout was put up at our windows and we saw the lights of the cottages in the village. We hadn't seen them for the last five years.

Alma Russell

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