By Alex Jones
CHILLING photos show how Brits – including the Royal Family – prepared for the wrath of the Luftwaffe as war was declared eighty years ago.
Remarkable photos from 1939 show King George VI and Queen Elizabeth pictured behind a bank of sandbags two weeks after war was declared; a specially designed conical air raid shelter for the sentry on duty at St James’ Palace; and the cloisters of Westminster Abbey being sandbagged to attempt to protect the historic building from Nazi bombs.
Another striking image shows Winston Churchill entering Admiralty House after being re-instated as First Lord of the Admiralty London. He is pictured on 4 September, a day after the UK had officially declared war on the Third Reich and their allies after the illegal invasion of Poland. Less than a year later he would become Prime Minister and lead the country through the Second World War.
The negatives of these fascinating shots have recently been unearthed in the TopFoto photographic archive in Edenbridge, Kent, as part of their ongoing conservation and digitisation programme.
From blacking out cafes so they couldn’t be spotted from above, hastily painting lines on the road to help drivers with no streetlights at night, and filling countless sandbags to protect against shrapnel damage from an air raid, these photos show how seriously the UK government and populace took the threat of Nazi bombing raids.
Aeroplanes were first used in combat in the First World War with science and technology progressing rapidly as engineers across the globe strained to make the next big breakthrough. By the outbreak of the Second World War, the UK Government knew their enemies would be able to perform devastating, wide-scale bombing runs. In a bid to protect the country’s most vulnerable citizens, over 1.5 million children (rising to 2.5 million) were evacuated from big cities to the countryside.