Hut 2 – The Home Front
The Home Guard
On 13th May 1940, just 3 days after becoming Britain’s wartime leader, Winston Churchill made one of his most famous speeches. In it, he told the people, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” It was characteristic of the British that when, on the following day, Anthony Eden, Secretary for War, announced the formation of the Local Defence Volunteers, 250,000 of them volunteered within 24 hours.
The whole country was divided into areas: evacuation areas, neutral areas and reception areas. The idea was to move children over five years of age, pregnant mothers, mothers with children under five and disabled people away from evacuation areas such as London. They would be safe, and the big cities would have fewer mouths to feed and fewer casualties to deal with, which was expected in the terrible bombing to come.
Germany had started rationing in 1939. Each family had seven food cards. The blue one was for meat, the green for eggs and so on. Extra rations went to workers in heavy industry, expectant and nursing mothers, blood and milk donors, sick people and vegetarians. Because of the Nazi party’s attitude to the Jews, Jewish people had lower rations.
The Need for Rationing
There were shortages of food in Britain during WWII. Much of the food the British people ate came from abroad and was brought to Britain in ships. During the war, these food supplies were destroyed because many ships were sunk by German submarines. Other ships were used to bring guns to Britain instead of food.
As the war continued, everything was in short supply. Clothes, material and footwear were rationed from 1st June 1941.
Under The Counter: The Black Market
With rising prices and tight controls on trade there developed speculation and profiteering. Paradoxically, many people were earning more money than they had during the Depression through compulsory drafting into the services or factory war work, but with rationing and shortages they had only a limited amount of spending power. The government encouraged people to save with War Bonds, a system to invest money in the war effort and prevent speculation, to be repaid after the war. But if people chose not to invest there was a certain amount of money about.
In November 1941, the government introduced a points rationing system, as well as the ordinary rationing. Everyone was allowed sixteen points a month. The points ration book was pink. A person could spend their points on anything they liked – the whole lot on one tin of salmon or, more thriftily, on a few tins of pilchards.
From the outbreak of war and for the next six years, many people learnt to drink watery beer. Pubs were crowded and glasses were in short supply – often you had to wait to pounce on an empty one and hand it back at the bar.