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




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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