During the course of the Second World War the lives of civilians were changed in a number of ways. In this essay I will be mainly concentrating on how the lives of people living in Britain were altered. In order to answer the question ‘How was Civilian Life Affected During the War?’, I will look at how daily life changed due to evacuation, bombing and rationing and the role of the woman changed. The lives of British civilians were affected immediately with the beginning of the war. Fearing air raid attacks from the German Luftwaffe black outs began. The idea of blackouts was to make it difficult for German bombers to find their target. Main cities which were considered to be most vulnerable to attacks were, literally ‘blacked out’ at night. Street lights were turned off, car headlights were masked and windows were covered with thick curtains. This caused many inconveniences for people, because it meant that it was very hard to travel at night. On top of this the amount of road accidents steeply inclined. In one month of blackout over 1000 people were killed on the roads. However, blackouts did not stop the threat from the air.
Even though the Germans could not see what they were bombing didn’t necessarily mean that the bombs didn’t find their target. From September 1940 to May 1941 the Blitz became a part of life for many British people. Nearly every night people living in towns and cities would be awoken by the loud droning of the air raid siren. This told people that a German raid was impending. These people only had minutes to reach the safety of their air raid shelters before the bombing began. Once in the shelter they would have to sit out the falling bombs, praying they wouldn’t be hit. This would have been a terrifying experience, spending sleepless nights laying huddled in a dark air raid shelter. German bombing resulted in thousands being left homeless and thousands being killed. Children would be orphaned whilst an entire road of houses would be reduced to rubble living people to face the rest of the war homeless. During the Blitz, the evacuation of children to the country began. People living in the country were not as vulnerable to air raids as people in the cities.
Therefore the country was considered to be a much safer place to live. During the Blitz roughly two million children were moved to villages in the country. Here they lived with the villagers. For every child moving from a big city to the country was a new experience. Many saw sheep and cows for the first time in their lives. Many poor evacuees it was a better change in lifestyle. Bathing for these children became a regular occurrence, so did eating at the table. For these children evacuation had bought them a more healthier life and in some cases a more well mannered up bringing. For other children it was the opposite. They left comfortable homes in the city for old farms and their animals. ‘No indoor toilets no bathrooms, no electric. It was like going back to the olden days. I never imagined someone could live like that.’ This was the opinion of one evacuee. It shows that for evacuation didn’t affect life for better, but for worse. There was one aspect of the war that affected all the civilians of Britain, whether they lived in big cities or the country, rationing.
As most of the food being brought to Britain in ships were intercepted by German submarines, supplies began to run short. This meant that certain foods had to be rationed. People were given ration books with coupons, which they then used to buy food. As the war continued soap and clothes were also rationed. People were even told to monitor how much hot what they used. If food supplies were good then an adult could expect the following for one week; 100g jam 50g magerine 350g meat 3 eggs (dried powder) 50g cooking fat 50g butter 100g cheese 225g sugar 50g tea Rationing affected everyone. It caused them to be more careful and conservative. Rationing also meant some hardship, because they were forced to cut down. However, people were not led to complete starvation. For people living in upper classes rationing would have had a bigger affect on them. They would have been used to more food than rationioning provided. Also they would not be used to not washing in hot water. Richer people would have suffered more where poorer people would have still been affected but not as much. The war probably affected civilian women the most.
When the fighting began millions of men left their jobs and joined the army. This left many vacancies in many different jobs. These were filled by women. Three hundred thousand women left their jobs in the clothing industry to help in the war effort. They were joined by many other women and anyone who wasn’t fighting. Women worked in shipyards, aircraft factories, engineering work, chemical factories and arms factories. They also became bus conductors, railway workers and labourers. By 1943 about 80% of women were contributing towards the war effort. The contribution of women during the war aided Britain greatly and was probably a factor of its eventual success. With women working and doing the jobs men normally did men were able to go and fight inthe war. In conclusion and in answer to the question, ‘How was Civilian Life Affected During World War 2?’, it can be said that civilian life was greatly affected.
For everyone living in big cities there was the risk of being made homeless or killed by German bombing. This may have caused people not to take their lives for granted. People were put in increased danger when they travelled at night due to the blackouts. Children were separated from their parents when they were evacuated to the country. However, many children enjoyed the country way of life. Rationing meant that everyone had to cut down on food. Maybe the biggest change in civilian life happened to the role of the woman. During the war she became a much more needed and respected member of society. This evidence shows that, for many people that war brought hard times and much work was needed to pull through. Overall, the war brought many changes on civilian life, some were good, others bad.