When did the blackout begin in Britain?
The blackout began on September 1st 1939, two days before Britain declared war on Germany.
What was the aim of a blackout?
The aim of a blackout was to make it as difficult as possible for German pilots to see the land below and know where to drop their bombs. Because most air raids happened in the evening any light from the ground below would make it very easy for pilots to work out where they were. So it was very important that civilians played their part and helped to block out as much light as possible.
What happened during a blackout?
The authorities thought of lots of different ways for minimising the amount of light which was helping the enemy pilots. Doors and windows were covered in heavy blackout curtains, cardboard or dark paint. Street and traffic lights were often dimmed or switched off completely and cars were forced to do the same. The authorities were so serious about the blackout that they would often fine people who broke the rules.
What problems did it cause?
The blackouts caused a lot of injury and misery in Britain. At first it must have seemed quite exciting but the reality was quite different. Thousands of people died in car accidents because the roads were so poorly lit. Many injured themselves banging into things and some even drowned after falling into ponds and rivers in the dark. Shopkeepers were unsure of how to let their customers leave without exposing light, and families were tired of meeting the high standards set by the authorities.
How were these problems fixed?
The authorities soon realised that they had to make some of the restrictions easier. They gave people small pocket torches although paper tissue had to be placed over the beam and you could only point it downwards. They also painted white stripes on roads and lamp posts to try and make things a little clearer for people travelling about. During the blackout the speed limit was reduced to 20 mph in the hope of stopping road accidents.
When did it end?
The blackouts ended in 1945 when Germany was defeated.