Royal British Legion

Great Yarmouth

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Did You Know

Some interesting and quirky facts about Britain in general and Great Yarmouth in particular. Many are First and Second World War related but not all.

Blackout to dim-out

Recently, some councils have switched off street lights after a certain time to save money. This has been met by howls of protest as has the suggestion that lights should be dimmed in particular streets. When the government announced in September 1944 that a dim-out would be introduced, people didn't protest but celebrated! They had endured a total blackout with no street lighting at all since the outbreak of the Second World War. A dim-out for some built-up areas more than twenty-five miles from the east and south coasts - using starlight bulbs where the candle power was a tiny fraction of normal - was very welcome.

In 1939, during the first four months of the war, more people died as a result of the blackout than from enemy action. Safety measures were taken: white lines 18 inches long were painted at four feet intervals down the centres of roads. The line was continuous at bends. Traffic lights were a semi-circle during the day and a dim cross at night. Cycle lamps and torches had to be dimmed too but as the war progressed, batteries became almost impossible to get. Cars were allowed to use masked headlights but petrol rationing meant fewer vehicles on the roads and people took to public transport - something encouraged today but necessary then. Buses, however, stopped running by 9.30pm, partly because of the shortage of petrol and partly because of the blackout. Cinemas and dance halls also closed at that time, enabling staff and revellers alike to reach the safety of their blacked out homes before the nightime air raids began. All these measures helped to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from the blackout.

Shops too operated restricted hours. Many closed between 1.00 and 2.15pm due to a shortage of staff, and shut at 5.30pm in summer and 4.00pm in winter because of the blackout. Many smaller shops opened only two or three days a week because they couldn't get the stock to sell and some, such as jewellers, had to close altogether. Long queues formed whenever it was rumoured that a shop had just received a new supply - even if the hopeful customers didn't know what it was that was on offer!

Tuesday's Poppy
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