'A very different city'

Photo:Booklet issued by the Home Office advising the public how to protect their homes against air raids

Booklet issued by the Home Office advising the public how to protect their homes against air raids

Mr Malcolm MacDonald, the Minister of Health, broadcast an appeal on 10 September 1940 asking householders in the London Civil Defence area to accommodate people made homeless by air raids. He asked the public to tell their Town Hallshowmany extra people they could house and for how long. For those who could not offer free hospitality there was provision for payments under the Government billeting scheme. He also asked for gifts or loans of furniture and bedding explaining that numbers of dwellings had been destroyed and there were many homeless people.  Although it was anticipated that in many cases people would be able to return to their homes after a few days, it was also acknowledged that the number without homes would steadily increase.

Immediate relief of acute distressIn the large boroughs there were centres where the homeless could get immediate shelter and bedding and boroughs were encouraged to help each other.  MacDonald was clear that ‘the task was one London must solve as a whole’ and that the need to offer a home to fellow citizens should only be temporary.  The role of the fledgling Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) and the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) was crucial in organising assistance and offering reassurance at this time.

The Lord Mayor of London opened a fund at the Mansion House for the immediate relief of acute distress among civilians ‘who are strongly advised to get the address of the nearest emergency rest centre from your air raid warden or the police before any emergency arises.  If, as the result of the disaster you need money-to buy clothing, for example, or to enable you to reach friends or relatives — you should apply to the local office of the assistance board’.

Responses to the difficulties caused by air raids

London rapidly became a very different city

London rapidly became a very different city with the large London stores taking drastic steps to meet the difficulties caused by air raid warnings. It was reported in the Daily Mirror of 11 September that ‘one of them has decided to close at 4 p.m. instead of6 p.m. Another has provided sleeping accommodation for those of the staff — numbering hundreds — who are unable to reach their homes’.

People were warned of the dangers of flying glass (the cause of one in every five cases of injury) and advised how to protect windows. Water usage was also an issue with Londoners being told:  ‘less water must be used for baths, washing-up and the garden.  Utmost economy in the use of water is urged on all consumers by the Metropolitan Water Board to enable essential work to be done, and the supply restored to its full quantity’.

The Ministry of Transport advised that ‘the violent and indiscriminate bombing of London during the past two or three days has naturally caused some temporary dislocation of travelling facilities...to enable the work of restoring the services to proceed with the least possible delay the public are asked to refrain from unnecessary travel to and from the London area.’

On 11 September 1940, it was announced that London cinemas would now close at 9 p.m.  Recommending this to its members ‘as a temporary measure in the interests of the general public and of cinema staff,’ the London and Home Counties branch of the Cinematograph Exhibitors stated:  ‘the area for which this recommendation is made covers Finchley to the north, Ilford to the east, Lewisham to the south, and Ealing to the west and where practicable the big picture shall begin the last programme so as to enable audiences to leave earlier if they wish.’

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 22/11/2011.

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