Britain: The effect of WWII

OCR How far did British Society Change 1939-1975

The effects of WWII

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Overall impact

  • It brought communities closer together
  • people experienced rationing
  • More racial tolerance
  • Children evacuated, they experienced things they hadn't before
  • Blitz spirit
  • Women had a more prominent role
  • Absence of men
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The Blitz

The Blitz lasted from 7th September 1940 until May 1941. It affected London, Liverpoll, Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow & Coventry. The first raid lasted 12 hours & affected terraced houses in the east end & was followed by 2 months of nightly bombing. In total 1 400 000 people were made homeless in London, & acroos the country 43 000 people were killed.

During an air raid, people relied on civil defense workers, many of whom were part time, upaid & women. These workers included the Auxiliary fire service & the first aid post. In London, people would buy platform tickets for the London Underground which the government didn't like but had to accept. The British knew that the Germans were trying to lower morale so worked hard to keep morale up, by censoring upsetting photos in newspapers & reporting acts of heroism.

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Britain had always imported food from overseas, but during the war food ships were torpedoed so food was in short supply. Rationing was introduced to make sure that everyone had a fair share of what was available. Everyone was given a ration book to record what they had received.

Only butter, sugar & bacon was rationed but by the middle of 1940 all meat, eggs, cheese, jam, tea & milk was also  rationed. From June 1941, clothes were rationed as well, due to shortages & to allow factories to make weapons.

Infants & mothers were given concentrated orange juice & cod liver oil from Welfare clinics together with priority milk, which was also available to invalids. School meals were started because mothers were working long hours to help the war effort.

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Children: Evacuation

Proposals were made for evacuation of cildren, teachers & pregnant women in 1938. The first ever evacuation programme happened in 1939, but when nothing happened for months evacuees were sent home. In 1940 when civillian bombing began a second evacuation occured & 3 million were evacuated in the 'Pied Piper' programme.

If parents had the money they made their own arrangements & private schools moved to large manor houses so they would be together. However 1.9 million children gathered at train stations not knowing what was going to happen.

It was strange & stressful for some & things didn't always go to plan. The government tried to make like a holiday but many may have experienced bad treatment with their new fmailies & they were chosen like cattle. However they got to experience country life & not everyone was evacuated.

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Children: Schooling

  • The country was divded into 3 areas: evacuation, neutral & reception
  • Most schools in cities & evacuation areas were closed down as pupils & teachers would be leaving
  • But as only 50% of children were evacuated, children were left schooless (1 milliuon) & engaged in acts of crime & vandalism.
  • Schools in rural areas remained open but a double shift system was introduced with locals in the morning & evacuees in the afternoon
  • In some areas authorities tried to provide a full time education & evacuated pupils & teachers would assemble in churchs & pubs etc.
  • There was a shortage of teachers as young men were conscripted and so class sizes became smaller
  • Universities remained open throughout the war but numbers were reduced
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Children: Health

Rationing had a big impact on health:

  • Children from poor areas were given more food
  • Many people ate less & generally diet greatly improved
  • Children were given lots of meat, cheese & milk as they were growing
  • The ministry of food wanted to give children good eating habits
  • Additionally, children saved up their sweet rations & brought sweets that would last for a long time!

The health of children left behind in cities worsened however. They lost free school meals & medical inspections. There was also an increase in head lice & scabies.

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Women in WWII

WWII was important for women as they showed what they could do. Women were conscripted in 1941 & had to register for work- by 1945 80% of married & 90% of single women were working.  By 1943 over 443000 women were in the armed forces, many were also in the women's volantary service who organised evacuations, shelters, clothing exchanges & mobile canteens. Trade Unions campaigned to make sure that women were treated the same as men. One challenge for women was juggling work & home, but flexible working hours were introduced, along with nurseries, shift work & job shares. Fashion changed drastically & women had much more freedom. There were many chanced to meet new men but this resulted in illeditimate babies & STIs. Knitting became popular, with schemes such as 'Make do & Mend'. By 1945 women were depicted as practical & capable, but were expected to give up their jobs fore the men returning home. But far into the future, their role in WWII helped them gain equality.

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During WWII these groops settled in the UK:

  • American GIs: Arrived from 1942, 3 million posted in rural areas. Mixed freely with all classes & were friendly, popular & well-paid. 80,000 became GI brides & there were a few tensions.
  • African American GIs: 130,000 came & many facilities became segregrated. Many had experienced harsh discrimination in the USA
  • Commenwealth troops: were warmly welcomed & joined in social activities. 40,000 marriages between canadians & british. Some felt used & experienced mixed treatment
  • Prisoners of War: Mainly germans & italians. Well treated & given good rations & healthcare. Mostly worked in agriculture when settled.
  • Polish: 14,000 served in air force. 120,000 settled in Britain after the war. Winston Churchill said he was frateful for their contribution & most found jobs or started their own businesses
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Brilliant, thanks!



what is a GI on slide 8?

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