Extraordinary true stories from the WW2 blackout
These extraordinary stories from the WW2 blackout are true. They describe the mistakes, illusions, near misses and fears of ordinary people when they couldn’t see more than a metre or so ahead in the darkness outside.
Various firsthand contributions from people who lived through the WW2 blackout, edited by the webmaster
My mother's kiss goodnight saved my life
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.
The blackout helped clothes coupons to be eaked out
Clothes were rationed, but as the blackout was essential, blackout material was not rationed. So enterprising women made full, gypsy-style skirts out of blackout material, decorated with recycled fabric scraps.
The blackout genuinely smelt
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.
The acrid smell of spent matches still conjures up the blackout and cold, dark nights spent in the dank discomfort of the Anderson shelter.
Like blind people out-of-doors
No street lights were on in the blackout, and it was not possible to see from one side of the road to the other. Some people had masked torches. Otherwise, if there was no moon, we felt our way with a stick like a blind person. We lived in fear that if we showed any light, the Germans would pick us out with a bomb.
There is another extraordinary experience in the blackout on the page on barrage-balloons.