'Air Raids and Ration Books' – the Real Era of Austerity
The phrase “Home Front” evokes images of WWII, air raid shelters and rationing. Yet the concept of civilians being placed ‘at the front’ of warfare was born in WWI. When the Second World War came to fruition in 1939, the legacy of the WWI home front was put into play. Measures against enemy aerial raiders, devised and perfected in WWI, were reintroduced as ‘Air Raid Precautions’. The Ministry of Food, first created in WWI, was reborn. Amid much public opposition, rationing was introduced as ‘Limitation of Supply Orders’. On 29 September, 1939, every householder in Britain was obliged to register all residents of their house as part of ‘National Registration Day’. Official involvement in everyday life increased.
Contrary to Hollywood-style romanticism, the Second World War in Britain involved much more than battlefield courage, plucky defiance and doomed love affairs. Family and civilian life had to continue. In the midst of blackouts, roadblocks, rubber gasmasks, air raid shelters and searchlights, people had to feed and clothe themselves, furnish their homes and find enough fuel to travel.
Indeed, suburban life really did go on and the ‘wartime spirit’ was born. A sense of stalwart humour remained evident in the advertising world, with consumers being urged to adapt what they had with messages such as ‘you mustn’t let wartime get you down’ and ‘don’t let blackout spoil lovely windows’.
Meticulously researched by its authors, ‘Air Raids and Ration Books’ gives an authoritative, entertaining and sometimes amusing account of life in the shadow of a potential invasion. Lavishly illustrated, it features many fascinating reproductions of posters and advertisements from the WWII era, including: depictions of gas masks, what to do in an air raid emergency, how to heat your air-raid shelter, how to search for incendiary bombs, and suggestions for creative recipes using available rations. The book is ideal for vintage-lovers and those with an interest in the Second World War and the history and fashions of the era.
Mike Brown says: “People currently think the government’s austerity measures are bad. However, we don’t have to search for an incendiary bomb in our home after an air raid, eat powdered egg or take our family out of their warm beds to sleep in a corrugated iron shelter in the back garden.”
He adds: “The resourcefulness of citizens during the WWII years and their willingness to adapt and ‘make do and mend’ was commendable, especially considering that the shortages and rationing continued past the end of the war and into the mid-50s. The experience of the Home Front was gruelling for those who lived through it but it also brought out the best of British spirit.”
‘Air Raids and Ration Books’ is the latest in a growing series of vintage revivals from Sabrestorm, which also offers titles on 1940s and ’50s fashion and a range of wartime and post-war history. Priced GBP £20 and available from all good bookshops and online retailers it is a valuable insight into the strength of British morale during a difficult period.
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Notes for editors
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