Breathtaking Color Photos Show What Life Was Like in Britain During the Second World War

When Britain went to war on 3 September 1939 there was none of the ‘flag-waving patriotism’ of August 1914. The British people were now resigned to the fact that Hitler had to be stopped by force.The first eight months of the war were a time of official unwarranted optimism and bureaucratic muddle. Many early wartime measures such as the blackout and evacuation proved highly unpopular. But this ‘Phoney War’ was soon followed by the ‘bracing defeat’ of Dunkirk and the fall of France in June 1940.For the next year, under Winston Churchill’s inspiring and resolute leadership, Britain with its Empire stood alone against Hitler, until they were joined by two powerful allies, the Soviet Union and the United States.But for the next five years the British had to endure the bombing of their towns and cities in the Blitz, as well as attacks from flying bombs and rockets. In all 60,595 civilians were killed and 86,182 seriously injured. Rationing of food began in January 1940 and clothes in June 1941. By 1943, virtually every household item was either in short supply and had to be queued for, or was unobtainable.The British were the most totally mobilized of all the major belligerents and there was a great and genuine community of spirit in wartime Britain which often transcended class and other barriers. But there was also an almost universal feeling, exemplified by the popularity of the 1942 Beveridge Report, that after victory the country could not go back to pre-war social conditions.VE Day found Britain exhausted, drab and in poor shape, but justly proud of its unique role in gaining the Allied victory.

 Wartime fashion, June 1943

 

Oxford Street, London, c.1942

 

 I C I plant Billingham

 

 Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, 1940

 

British school children, 1940

 

Anderson shelter, 1940

 

Comfortable Luv, 1940

 

Avranches, Normandy, August 1944

 

London window shopping, 1941

 

Henley- on- Thames, May 1944

 

Hambleden, May 1944

 

London, 1941

 

Stanstead, 1941

 

London, 1941

 

Marlow, Buckinghamshire, May 1944

 

London Park, 1941

 

London, 1941

 

Weekly rounds, 1944

 

Farmhands, 1945

 

White Cliffs of Dover, 1944

 

Cambridge street

 

London, July 1944

 

Horse power, 1945

 

Unknown river, 1944

 

Bomb damage, July 1944

 

Land army girls, 1944

 

Refugees

 

Two Guernsey boys, 1940

 

Unknown town in Kent, 1945

 

Stradford-upon-Avon, April 1944

 

Moreton – in – Marsh, May 1944

 

London, 1944

 

Hambleden, May 1944

 

Roadiside well, 1944

 

Stradford-upon-Avon, May 1944

 

High Street, Eye, Suffolk, May 1945

 

Royston station, 1944

 

Lower Regent street, 1945

 

Farmall tractor, Spring 1943

 

Oxford street, May 1944

 

The Queen at Buckingham Palace, 1945

 

Henley-on- Thames, 1944

 

Moreton-in- Marsh, May 1944

 

Trafalgar Square

 

Albert Memorial, April 1944

 

Stratford-upon-Avon, April 1944

 

Winston Churchill, 1943

 

Daffodil pickers, March 1943

 

Hyde Park, May 1944

 

River Avon, 1944

 

Bomb damage, September 1940

 

Colchester, 1942

 

Day nursery, Hatfield, June 1943

 

During the Blitz

 

You taking my snap Sir

 

Buckingham Palace, 1944

 

Wartime fasion, June 1943

 

Piccadilly Circus, 1945

 

Family Butcher, Luton, 1944

 

German Prisoners of War

 

Bomb damage in London, 1944

 

 Bishop’s Stortford, Essex, June 1944

(via Imperial War Museums)

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