History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. ~Winston Churchill

12 February, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Wartime Housewife

A series from the Imperial War Museum following an 'average' woman through a day in 1941-- 'average', in wartime, meaning amazing (and 'housewife' meaning 'in addition to working full-time'). I don't think many of us can complain about our days after this!

An eloquent demonstration of the impact of war on everyday life, and the strength and resilience of those involved. 


Our heroine, Olive Day, with her cat Little One. The cat wears a special identification collar that will ensure he is returned to his owner if lost in an air raid. Source



Olive Day wakes up at 7 am in her house in South Kensington, London, with her gas-mask, torch (flashlight) and a book ready at the bedside in case of a nighttime air raid. Source



Breakfast in the sitting room. The windows are alternately boarded and tapes because of air raids. Source



Before work, she does about half an hour of cleaning. Here she clears the vent of her fireplace, sorting the cinders and ash. The cinders can be re-used in the fireplace and the ash used as fertiliser. Source



Polishing the banisters, with plaster missing off the ceiling due to a nearby air raid. Source



She rolls away a rug from the stairs. The upstairs rugs have been replaced with asbestos to combat fire bombs. The windows on the stairs are boarded and taped. Source



The top floor of the house is no longer in use. A bowl catches drips from the bomb-damaged ceiling. Source



A hole in the ceiling where a firebomb recently came through. Source



Making the bunk in the basement air raid shelter, in case of nighttime raids. Source



She collects the milk and newspapers from the top of the stairs (the buckets on the street contain sand and water in case of fire bombs). Source



She separates the cardboard and tin from her rubbish, for salvage purposes. Source



She hurries to catch the bus to work, to a background of air raid damage. Source



A female conductor helps her aboard. Source



At work as a clerk in a 'wartime organization'. Monday to Friday she works 10 am to 6 pm; today, Saturday, she only works until 2 (when it's very busy, she works Sunday as well). Source



After work, she goes out for her weekly shopping trip in Chelsea. Source



Looking into a shop window. Source



She takes her gas mask along with her basket (the gas mask case is made to double as a handbag). Source



She says goodbye to the butcher after buying her week's meat ration. The window is boarded over after the glass was knocked out in an air raid. Source



The ration book is stamped,  with the week's rations of tea, sugar, margarine, butter, cooking fats, and bacon in the foreground. Source



After work and shopping, she joins the neighbours in learning how to use a stirrup pump as a preventative measure against incendiary bombs. Source




Putting dinner in the oven. People were encourage to cook their whole meal in the oven as a way to save fuel. Source



While dinner is cooking, she reads the paper and does some sewing, accompanied by her cat Little One. Source



A happy ending to this day: she runs to greet her husband, Lieutenant Kenneth Day, home on leave. Source

1 comment:

stair step basket said...

Love those photos! Your blog is amazing!

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