The blackout was imposed on 1 September 1939 and extended throughout the United Kingdom (with the exception of Northern Ireland). For most people in the Great Britain this was the first tangible effect of the war and it had wide ranging effects. For many months nothing actually happened but when the London Blitz began people were happy they had stocked up with various items.
These photos of the era are fascinating since they show only well-to-do middle and upper middle class people shopping for blackout items at Selfridge’s. This was a high end department store with its flagship London store on Oxford Street where these posed photographs were taken.
It is difficult for us to picture what it would be like to live in a urban area such as London and once night fell, it was almost impossible to see anything. Literally. Unless there was moonlight, you could barely see your hand in front of your face. People tripped and fell constantly. While the street curbs (kerbs to the Brits) were eventually painted white that didn’t help a lot.
The blackout was enforced by ubiquitous ARP (Air Raid Precaution) wardens who would issue you at summons if you were violating the very strict blackout regulations. This included the smallest chink of light from a blackout curtain improperly closed. 300,000 people throughout the UK were taken to court for committing blackout offenses. (source: Wartime: Britain 1939-1945 by Juliet Gardiner)
Writes Gardiner, “Shopkeepers who transgressed the lighting regulations were made an axample of, and fines of
In the early 1930s Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin declared “the bomber will always get through.” This turned out to be a statement as stupid as Stanley Baldwin. There was great fear among the authorities that the bombing of London, for instance, would reduce the citizens to panic, lunacy or lethargy. The government theorized that 600,000 people in London would have nervous breakdowns after one or two bombing raids and the city would be filled with gibbering idiots. It was though that even a small tonnage of bombs dropped by the Nazis would wreck London.
The price of 14/6 translates for us Americans as 14 shillings, six pence. Until 1971, British currency was not on the decimal system. Instead it was based on 240 pence to one British pound. Twelve pence made a shilling and twenty shillings made a pound. There were a number of coins such as farthing, half a crown etc which were worth a certain number of pence.
The walking stick would cost about 40 pounds today which would be approximately US$51.00 dollars based on the exchange rate of of May 2017.
Slang for pound is “quid,” thought to come from the Latin phrase “quid pro quo” defined by Merriam-Webster as “something given or received for something else.”
“The derivation is interesting. According to Merriam-Webster, “In the early 16th century, a quid pro quo was something obtained from an apothecary. That’s because when quid pro quo was first used in English, it referred to the process of substituting one medicine for another—whether intentionally (and sometimes fraudulently) or accidentally.”