Saturday 29 November 2014

The Blackout

In our story, Renate does not see a stone in the road. It would not have been all that dark in July 194, but it would have been difficult to see and it is likely that she would not have had a battery for her cycle lamp. Notice that the local Policeman was more worried about the family having a door open letting light out than that an “enemy alien” had been out after curfew.        
The Blackout started on 1 September 1939, though was quickly revised in November 1939 because of the many accidents that happened. Accidents included people falling into rivers or being hit by cars.   
As well as streetlights being turned off, road signs and railway signs were removed. People had to put dark black curtains up to their windows. This cost a lot or money and didn’t always work. Sometimes windows were painted black or covered in card. This shut out daylight as well and caused low morale. Firms that had glass roofs had to paint them black. This was very costly.   
As early as 9 September 1939 an article in the Telegraph  claimed that the Blackout was too severe. A slightly impractical request was made by shop workers that shops should shut one hour before dusk.  An even less practical request was for the Blackout to start one hour after sunset.     
It’s rare in the 21st century in built-up places to experience just how black the Blackout made things. Occasionally in the countryside on a moonless-night you can wake up and convince yourself you have gone blind. In the city that is almost impossible. Streetlights and non-blacked-out windows prevent that in the town. It is difficult for us to understand exactly what the Blackout felt like. 
Travelling at night was extremely difficult. The speed limit was reduced to twenty miles an hour. Low-level glimmer light was introduced. People could carry torches covered with tissue paper but it was difficult to get batteries. White lines were painted on the road and the kerbs. Even tree trunks had white bands painted on them. Cars and bikes were allowed covered headlights and car bumpers were painted white.       
The Police and the ARP wardens enforced the blackout rigorously. Even striking a match was forbidden. Heavy fines were quickly imposed. Blackout times were given in newspapers.
In 1944 it was replaced with the dim-out, where a little light was allowed. It was supposed to be the equivalent of moonlight.          
The Blackout / Dim-out finished on 30 April 1945. There was an immediate improvement in morale.

Food for thought:

Apart from serious accidents, in which other ways could a Blackout be inconvenient?
How would it affect you today?
Dim-out was eventually introduced. Does this suggest that the rules had been too strict earlier?
Why do you think the rules were so strict?  
Why do you think the government was able relax them?

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