How did the British prepare for the Second World War?

To quickly rearm and prepare for war, the lives of civilians at home were disrupted, from cutting down railings to melt down for munitions, to implementing rationing and evacuation plans.

Between 1938 and 1939, the government began to encourage people to prepare the Home Front for the dangers of war with various programmes, such as planting vegetables on spare land, joining the team of Air Raid Wardens and the Home Guard, and learning the steps to take during air raids or gas attacks.

Evacuation plans had been prepared before the War began, with some small-scale evacuation of women and children taking place in September 1938, but it was a few hours after war was declared on the 3rd of September 1939 where one million people were evacuated and relocated to rural ‘reception’ areas.

(See an image of mass evacuations to the reception areas on the right)

These evacuations proved critical as Air Raids proved to be the biggest danger for the Home Front, taking the lives of 60,595 civilians. To make it more difficult for the German bombers to target occupied areas, ‘blackouts’ were implemented, contributing to a rise in car accidents.

People constructed bunkers to hide in during bombings. In Urban London, many civilians would head to train stations for shelter from the air raids. (See the image on the left)

Civilians were taught how to protect themselves from potential gas attacks through the use of gas masks which were issued to all civilians for them to carry everywhere. 

Men aged between 18 and 41 were recruited into the army and navy, meaning once again, women were recruited into the factories to construct weapons, and into the Land Army to work on farms. 

In the 1940s, the potential of an invasion had come into the minds of the British people after the Channel Isles fell under German control. As the Royal Air Force was suffering tremendous losses and looked to be losing the Battle of Britain, the government began recruiting volunteers to join the Home Guard to defend Britain in the event of an invasion.

The upkeep of the agricultural industry was critical during the war, as much of the food, clothes and fuel used by the British came from abroad. During the War, these supply routes were disrupted, so it was necessary for these goods to be rationed through the use of a ration book for each person, in order to ensure fair distribution of the essentials.

Like the First World War, the Second World War wreaked havoc on the world, and changed much in people’s daily lives.