How effective were the preparations made for the onset of war by the British government between August 1938 and August 1939

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Last updated: November 14, 2019

Between August 1938 and August 1939 Britain were getting ready for the war against Germany. To protect the citizens and Britain as a whole, the British government made various types of preparations.

In this essay I will discuss those preparations in great depth and decide whether or not they were effective.Firstly I will discuss their preparation of blackouts. As a whole they weren’t very effective because of many reasons. Firstly, the blackouts caused many accidents as a result hospital emergency departments were the full of people who had broken bones from falling over kerbs, or had walked into walls, or were the victims of serious road traffic accidents. Secondly, it also caused crime in the cities because it would have been easy to rob things when it was very dark.

Also, the use of incendiary bombs meant that the blackouts were less effective.Secondly, there were air-raid shelters built as another preparation. ‘Anderson’ shelters which if properly erected and covered with earth were quite effective, but 65% of Londoners had no gardens. This was a major disadvantage. The shelter was issued free to those on low incomes, and over two million were put up, since 1938. It could withstand anything except a direct hit and would have probably saved many lives because it was cheap it was very helpful. However, the worst part was that they tended to fill up with water, and there was no light or heating. People tried to make them more comfortable by putting in a floor and building bunks inside, although they were always cold and damp.

Another kind of shelter was the ‘Morrison’ shelter. This new type of shelter was introduced for use in indoors, mainly. It was a large steel table with strong wire-mesh round the sides. It could hold upto two adults and two small children to sleep, and they were strong enough to protect the occupants until they could be dug out, if by chance their house was hit.

The only disadvantage I think is that it would have taken a lot of space. However, they were not very effective, mainly because a great number of people did not use it. In fact, Londoners preferred to sleep in the Underground stations: for instance, more than 6000 people every night sheltered at Liverpool Street. In all, 75 stations were built; they felt safer with more people around them.

Gas Masks were also another preparation for the war. Gas masks were distributed to the whole population of Britain. The British government thought that the Germans would launch out Gas Attacks, as they did in World War 1. However, they were not effective in the fact that there never was a gas attack. It created confusion because no gas attacks took place, but they never knew if the next day it would happen so they had to keep wearing the gas masks.

They were effective in the sense that they had gas masks, so there would be no gas attacks, it also boosted the morale. Another reason was that Germany did not want retaliation because Germany could not provide the entire German population with gas masks, while Britain had the rubber from the American coloniesFourthly, Rationing was another important preparation. The main purpose of rationing was to ensure that there were enough supplies of food for the British people. During the First World War the Germans had attempted to starve Britain through its U-boat campaign. By 1939 Britain imported over half of its food supply.

As consequence fewer ships were getting to Britain, and as space was needed on these ships for troops and war materials, less space could be given to food.

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