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Growing up in the Blitz

The 'Blitz' was the name given to the sustained bombing of London between September 1940 and May 1941.


Clearing bomb damaged buildings on South Molton Street

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Clearing bomb damaged buildings on South Molton Street
During the Blitz, 1.4 million Londoners were bombed out of their homes. This photograph shows two Civil Defence workers clearing the rubble from bomb damaged buildings on South Molton Street.

Inside a public shelter in Peckham

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Inside a public shelter in Peckham
As the night-time raids became more frequent people began to take shelter under ground. A census in 1940 suggested that in central London 4% of people were sheltering in the tube network, 9% in public shelters and 27% were sleeping in homemade Anderson shelters. The rest were either at work or were in their own homes.
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Children at a station platform during their evacuation

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Children at a station platform during their evacuation
Long before the Blitz, British cities had prepared for the destruction to come. In the first four days of the war, 3 million people were evacuated from towns to the countryside - biggest and most concentrated mass movement of people in Britain's history. Most of the evacuees were schoolchildren who had been labelled like pieces of luggage, separated from their parents and accompanied instead by 100,000 teachers.

Tea party for Bermondsey children evacuated to Worthing

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Tea party for Bermondsey children evacuated to Worthing
For many children, war-time evacuation was a life-enhancing, mind-broadening experience, leaving them with memories they treasure to this day. Others, however, were beaten, mistreated and abused by families who did not want them and did not care about them. Many of the hosts complained about having to house dirty and malnourished children from places like Deptford and Bermondsey.
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Ration book and clothing book

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Ration book and clothing book
Food rationing began in January 1940. Each person was allowed a specific amount of basic foods. Clothes rationing began in 1941 and a new kind of 'utility clothing' was introduced, using cheap materials and the minimum amount of cloth. People were encouraged to 'make do and mend' their worn out clothes.

Ration queue

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Ration queue
Goods such as bread, alcohol and tobacco were not rationed, in order to keep up morale. As the war went on, even bread became in short supply, and long queues would form outside shops. Rationing did not end with the war - bread rationing had to be introduced in July 1946 and many goods remained rationed until the mid-1950s.
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Con Shipton of the Deptford Light Rescue Service

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Con Shipton of the Deptford Light Rescue Service
At 16, children were considered too young to fight in the war but old enough to help with the war effort at home. Some joined the Light Rescue Service. All members were taught how to cut off supplies of gas, water and electricity to damaged buildings. They were also trained in putting out small fires, tackling incendiaries, giving first aid and resuscitation techniques.

The 'Little Blitz'

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The 'Little Blitz'
In 1944 Hitler launched a new campaign against London, conducted not by bombers, but by V1 Flying Bombs and V2 rockets. Over 9,200 people were killed during this 'Little Blitz'. Once again, the eastern and southeastern districts near the port bore the brunt of the German attacks.
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Find out more
StoriesDocklands and the Blitz
London in the firing line
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StoriesDefending the East End
Dealing with the Blitz
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Fact fileWinston Churchill
Wartime Prime Minister
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GalleriesVideoThe 20th-century port video gallery
From 1914 to the present day
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StoriesThe 20th-century port
The changing fortunes of Docklands and the port
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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