The war effort
Everyone was asked to help win the war, by making extra efforts and working harder on the 'home front'. Children saved pennies, collected scrap metal and food waste, and knitted woolly hats for soldiers and refugees. BBC Children's Hour ran a scrap-collecting competition. The winners collected 9 tons of scrap.
With so many men away in the Forces, millions of women worked in factories, on buses and trains, and in hospitals and schools. Around 80,000 women joined the Women's Land Army to work on farms. By 1942, 400,000 British women were serving in the army, navy and air force. Women pilots flew planes from factories to RAF bases.
Posters and propaganda
Posters showed people how to put on a gas mask, how to plant vegetables, and how to collect scrap metal. A government information campaign told people what to do - and what not to do. 'Don'ts' included: don't burn too much coal on the fire, don't take a bus when you could walk, and don't gossip about work, because 'Careless Talk Costs Lives'. A spy might be listening!
Posters, radio, films and newspapers were used to keep up people's spirits, make the most of victories and make fun of the enemy. This was propaganda. Governments controlled what was written in newspapers and said on the radio. This was censorship.
You can see a selection of wartime posters in the picture section.
Pots and pans into planes
Scrap metal such as old cooking pans could be melted down and used again. Children with push-carts and old prams collected scrap metal from people's homes. They hoped old pots and pans would soon roar into the sky as a Spitfire plane!
Iron railings from parks and gardens were also melted down. In places, you may still see stumps of metal on old walls where railings were cut off. Paper, glass bottles, tins and silver wrapping paper were all 'salvaged' (saved) to be recycled.
What was Make Do and Mend?
This wartime slogan encouraged people not to waste anything. With clothes rationed, it was a good idea to reuse old clothes or make new ones yourself. Sewing classes and leaflets showed people how to make coats from blankets, or baby clothes from old pillowcases. A tip for making shoes last longer was to paint the soles with varnish.
If a chair broke, you mended it. If your sock had a hole, you got a needle and wool to 'darn' (repair) it. Clothes rationing lasted from 1941 until 1949.
Help from overseas
Wartime Britain was one huge military base, full of soldiers from many countries. There were Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, Africans, Indians and West Indians. There were also people from occupied countries: French, Poles, Czechs, Norwegians and others. City streets were crowded with people in military uniforms. There were overseas civilian workers too, in factories.
American planes flew from British airfields. The American airmen arranged children's parties, and many children got to like chewing gum and American 'candy' (sweets).