Historic site: London during WW2, 1939-45

Historic site: London during WW2, 1939-45

The London Blitz

  • The Blitz was a significant part of London’s World War II experience, a German bombing offensive against Britain in 1940 and 1941, lasting 267 days.
  • The city’s infrastructure faced massive destruction; more than a million houses were damaged or destroyed, causing major displacement of people.
  • Despite the constant bombings, civilian morale reportedly remained remarkably strong and resolute - embodied by the phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On”.
  • This steadfastness was largely due to the efforts of public services (like the ARP or Air Raid Precautions) and the government propaganda machine.

Shelters and Evacuation

  • Due to the heavy bombing, a range of shelters were made available. These ranged from Anderson and Morrison shelters in people’s homes to the use of tube stations as mass air raid shelters.
  • The British government planned and carried out the evacuation of children from urban areas to the countryside. This operation, known as Operation Pied Piper, was one of the biggest in history, moving over a million children from cities to safer rural areas.

Civil Defence and the Home Guard

  • Civil defence organisations like the ARP (Air Raid Precautions), the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS), and the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) played key roles, providing air raid warnings, fire fighting, and relief services.
  • The Home Guard, comprising 1.5 million local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, were charged with defending the home front in the event of invasion. They became an important part of Britain’s home defence.

Impact on Everyday Life

  • Food, clothes and other goods were rationed due to shortages caused by submarine attacks on supply ships. This led to a black market and innovation with limited resources.
  • Utility services were disrupted, leading to power blackouts and a lack of clean drinking water, contributing to public health crises.

Post-War Reconstruction

  • Large parts of London had to be rebuilt after the war. The destruction provided an opportunity for comprehensive urban redevelopment, which greatly transformed London’s landscape and infrastructure.

War and Memory

  • Today, London’s wartime experience is commemorated in many ways, from war memorials to museums, helping to keep the memory of this significant period in history alive. The Imperial War Museum and the Churchill War Rooms are two key sites which educate about London during WW2.