Britain in 1939
At school, children learned about the British Empire, now the Commonwealth. But in 1939 few British children had ever travelled outside Britain. If they had a holiday, most went to the seaside or the country. In a typical family, dad worked while mum looked after the home. Most young people left school at 14, and started work.
Not many people had cars. Most people travelled by bus, train or bike, or walked. Television started in 1936, but very few people had a TV set. Instead families listened to the radio or 'wireless'.
Children at war
Thousands of children left home for the first time as evacuees. School lessons and exams went on more or less as usual, though children also learned 'air raid drill' and how to put on a gas mask. At night, many children slept in air raid shelters.
There were fewer toys for Christmas or birthdays, and not many sweets either. Many seaside beaches were closed. However, children found new playgrounds on 'bombsites' - waste ground where buildings had been flattened by bombs.
How did the war change things?
Many families were split up. Fathers, uncles and brothers left home to join the Forces (army, navy or air force). People travelled more, to do war work and to fight overseas. Mothers and older sisters went to work in factories.
There was rationing of food, clothes and other goods. Air raids made it hard to get a good night's sleep. Bomb damage often meant no gas or electricity. Train and bus journeys took longer. Going to school or work often meant walking over bricks and broken glass in the streets. At night, the blackout made towns and cities dark.
Civilians in danger
The government expected civilians to face air attacks from enemy planes. So air raid shelters were built. Plans were made to evacuate women and children to the countryside. Gas masks were given out, to protect people from poison gas. Fortunately, poison gas bombs were not dropped on Britain.
During World War 2 more than 60,000 people in Britain were killed in bombing raids. Houses, factories and schools were destroyed. Many people lost homes and possessions. However, people were thankful that Britain was not occupied like other countries - such as France, Norway, China and the Philippines.
Occupied countries (like France and Norway) were invaded and taken over by the enemy. Occupation was hard for the people. It meant the end of freedom: you had to work and do what you were told, or be punished.
For children, occupation meant being hungry (enemy soldiers took the best food) and scared (the enemy sometimes took away or killed your family and friends). Anyone who fought back, by joining the Resistance, risked jail or death. Jews from all over occupied Europe, including thousands of children, were rounded up, and sent to die in prison camps.