During the Second World War (1939-1945) civilian life went through a great many changes. This was due to a variety of factors like rationing which meant people had limited food and diets. Also changes like the evacuation of children from towns to the countryside broke up families. One of the ways civilian life changed was the British diet. Foods were in shortages and imports were hard to receive, as Source 1 shows due to German U-Boats sinking merchant ships. Certain foods became more prominent in the British diet, like bread or potatoes. These foods were easier to obtain.
Foods like eggs or meat were rare, meaning protein was deficient in most diets. This made British diets very monotonous, though as Source 1 shows the government tried to give pregnant women and children more nutrients, by giving them extras of certain foods. The view of food was altered as people were encouraged to grow their own produce. Even in 1941 the rations were still basic with little variety, though this could change poorer civilian lives to be healthier. We know stocks got worse in 1942 as Source 1 states. Lots of children were evacuated from cities to the countryside due to the heavy bombing.
This created problems for both the evacuees and hosts. Children were split from their parents, often upsetting the child. Bernard Kops in Source 6 said it felt like being auctioned off and there was a worry of being separated from his sister. Lots of children would have been nervous and billeted into separate homes. This would often lead to children bed-wetting. Evacuees from upper class homes often found their lifestyle changed for the worse. Eleanor Stoddart in Source 8 said some people were put into dirty homes, with perhaps only a single bed with no running water to wash. The hosts also had problems with evacuation.
The Women’s Institute made reports (Source 4) which shows how the hosts had to tidy up children because they had problems like scabies and how they might have to clothes them because their clothes were worn. The hosts would have to feed the children as well. Source 4 could be reliable as the WI was very active and involved during the war, with a first-hand experience of evacuation. The source only says during the war, so we have no exact date for example in a particularly frequent time of evacuation or near the end etc. The source may be exaggerated, due to the WI being middle-upper class, not used to city lifestyle.
Lifestyle was a big change for hosts and evacuees. Towyn Mason in Source 7 describes how in the early years of war it was exciting, but how they soon became suspicious of their strange ways like sleeping in the same room. He explains how the evacuees were just forced on them, common in evacuation. This often led to conflict, were the evacuees went home due to a different lifestyles/class. The Blitz was the heavy bombing of British cities by the Germans in an attempt to lower morale. Source 15 is a letter from Humphrey Jennings to his wife. The letter would be private, therefore reliable to some extent.
Some points may be exaggerated as she isn’t experiencing the bombing, so he could be reassuring his evacuated and worried wife. He mentions that everyone was in high spirits and were even singing in public shelters. The source mentions how people have volunteered to help, handing out hot drinks. So they still had hot water, suggesting the Blitz wasn’t as bad as people thought if they still had heating and water. Source 16 on the other hand, a report to the government, shows that the raids were causing unexpected chaos. It mentions the newspaper claims to try and convince people of normality were false.
The source says there were no bread, no electricity, no milk and no telephones, showing that supplies had been severed. It claims that the morale was low. The sources differ for a few reasons. Source 15 was written in October 1940, whilst source 16 was earlier in September 1940. There could have been periods of heavier bombing. Another reason could be the placing of the sources. Source 15’s origin of place is unknown; it could have been in a quieter location, whilst source 16 was a report of the East-End of London, one of the worst bombed cities. Finally the purpose the sources were written for could indicate why there is contradiction.
Source 15 is a letter from Humphrey Jennings to his wife. There letter would be private and therefore reliable to an extent, but he may have exaggerated the situation to reassure his probably evacuated wife that spirits were high. Source 16 is a report by local officials on the damages to the East-End of London. It wasn’t for civilian eyes, so it wouldn’t include any censorship or propaganda, only detail of damage in a plea for help. However the source could be exaggerated due to the local officials being of an upper class and may look distastefully on lower class life. It is hard to tell how difficult civilian life was in the Blitz.
One of the reasons is the fact people had different backgrounds/classes and would have different experiences of the raid. For example Alice Bridges in Source 12 appears to be middle-upper class and doesn’t appear to have as bad an experience. She can afford her own secure shelter with the comfort of a divan bed. On the other hand there are views from poorer families like in Source 13 were they have to use a public shelter and are forced to live in one after no place to go after their house is destroyed. Another reason is the propaganda and censorship with different purposes and different screening countries.
The British Newsreel in Source 17, made in April 1941 shows Coventry after a raid. There are clips of food being handed out with cheery music, but any footage of destruction or dead bodies is censored. Instead it focuses more on the efforts of volunteers. However a USA clip called Why We Fight made in 1943 showed a different side to the Coventry raid. With dramatic music it shows explosion and destruction. Then switching to sad music it shows the grief of families at funerals. A German Newsreel on the Coventry raid in 1940 makes a point of bombing Britain, showing the cities, explosions and fires. All you can hear is the bombing going on.
Neighbours Under Fire made in 1940, by the British for the USA aggress with the point that people were now homeless due to the wreckages. However it also shows volunteers helping and still gives the view of high morale. The British Newsreel has real footage. The raid was in 1940, so they’ve had time to research and gather clips. However it is unreliable due to it focusing on only the good points, censoring wreckage and using propaganda to keep morale up. Why We Fight is giving researched reasons to highlight why USA is fighting in the war. Also the fact it is real footage of British civilians makes it more reliable.
It is not as reliable as the USA is using the clip to rally support/justify the war. This could lead to exaggeration on grief to motivate people to join the war, support it or do their bit to help. The German Newsreel is reliable as it is the action and footage of the Germans as they raided the cities. However the Germans would be exaggerating the point of victory in the raids and be using propaganda to show just the heavy bombing. Neighbours Under Fire is also real footage of British life in the Blitz. It is unreliable because it focuses only on the bad images in an attempt to persuade USA to join the war.
None of the clips in Source 17 are completely reliable due to the amount of propaganda and censorship in each one. However if we cross-referenced the sources it would give us different views which we could use to make a more reliable outlook. One of the changes involved women. With men out at war women took on the jobs like driving trucks or welding. They were encouraged to work in the armed services (mostly helping out). Source 20 is useful for telling us how women’s lives changed, as it tells us how women were no longer doing housework, but instead skilled jobs. It also showed that many wished to stay in these ‘worthwhile’ jobs.
However it isn’t useful as it doesn’t tell us what job she did, for instance she could have had an easier job like driving buses. Others may be operating heavy machinery and may have a not so keen view on their new role. The source was written by a housewife in 1942. This is useful as it is a first-hand experience of change in women’s lives. The date is useful as it is mid-war, so she’s been working for a few years meaning the novelty has worn off, producing a truthful source.
However the date is also not so useful as it is before the end of the war, so we can’t get the end result of the change i. e. id the women go back to housework or stay in the skilled jobs? Source 20 was written in a diary for the writer only. This proves useful as it is private there will be no propaganda or censorship to try to exaggerate how good working in skilled jobs is. It is for her to reflect back on. The fact the source was written in a diary could prove it to be not as useful as it only gives us one point of view and experience. Others may vary, or in fact support it. Therefore in conclusion, source 20 is useful for telling us how her experience was good and how her life changed were she was in a more worthwhile job.
However it would be more useful if cross-reference with other sources, to get insight into how other women’s lives changed and their views. As well as women, men’s lives also changed in World War II due to things like being conscripted into the army and how people who couldn’t go to war volunteered to help in organisations like the Home Guard. Source 21 is a memory of being called up. It shows us how many people would have mixed feelings of war, like the excitement at an adventure, but also the worry of dying.
In Source 21 it mentions how it was only for six months, which shows he has been reading propaganda and really believes in it. The source also tells us of the heartbreak of having loved ones who know how bad war is through their experiences. They would need to change their lifestyle to army life, whilst things back home might change by the time they return. Source 22 tells us about the efforts at home in Britain. It shows that even men who couldn’t go off fighting had their lives change in order to help their country.
Some men weren’t fit enough or had reserved occupations like mining, but decided to volunteer. During the war they helped out as fire-fighters, ambulance drivers and air-raid wardens. Another ay was people could join the Home Guard (like a reserve) in case of invasion. This was a form of keeping up morale. The source was from the book ‘The Era of the Second World War’ written in 1993. The writers N. Kelly and M. Whittock would have researched into the topic as it is for educational purposes. They’d need to look at a variety of sources and aim to keep it factual.
The writers were historians, so they would be giving balanced views of the whole period and being a specialist book it gives more detail. The date is reliable as it would not be for propaganda or censorship purposes, like other sources from the time of the war. This means it would not exaggerate points or hide facts. Source 22 might not be so reliable because it would have been edited for publishing. The date also means that the source is not a first-hand experience and is based on other sources. Every civilian experienced change in their daily routines in a variety of ways.
From the early years of World War II rationing was introduced due to food shortages. This meant the British diet changed, were some people got more to eat and some were now missing essential nutrients. Evacuation was often unnerving being away from home. It could often mean better lifestyle for poorer evacuees, but some were put in poorer households. The hosts had to put up with another person, very much forced on them, but some found it great company. Evacuation was a precaution due to the Blitz. The rural areas were sometimes still targeted, but cities were harder hit.
Civilians might have to adapt to living in a shelter or having no heating or water. The men were conscripted into war, an exciting yet scary experience, being broken away from family with the reality of death. This meant change for women, taking on the roles on handling machinery or driving trucks. The men who stayed behind often volunteered to join the Home Guard or to help with air-raid services. The changes were necessary, as precautions to sustain the country and keep its public safe. In some cases it was a bitter and harsh change; in others it gave them a positive change.