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Waiting: 1940

England, 1940-41. "Battle of Britain. Children in an English bomb shelter." British Information Service/U.S. Office of War Information. View full size.

England, 1940-41. "Battle of Britain. Children in an English bomb shelter." British Information Service/U.S. Office of War Information. View full size.


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Hero's Return

Jesus, Jesus, what's it all about?
Trying to clout these little ingrates into shape.
When I was their age all the lights went out.
There was no time to whine or mope about.

-Roger Waters

British Kids in the War

My dad (b1928) has many stories of German bombing in Plymouth (UK) that show the mix of fear and excitement that children feel when exposed to danger beyond their understanding. With his friends he collected shrapnel, spent bullets and other souvenirs. He enjoyed the fires, explosions, sirens, searchlights, tracers, exploring bombed buildings, and plane spotting. He and his friends tried to set an unexploded incendiary bomb off by hitting it with bricks and then by putting it on a bonfire. Neither worked! He describes his class rushing as a mob to the windows of their school in Devonport to watch a Rescue Squad remove bodies and body parts from a large public air-raid shelter in the park opposite. Everyone in it, he thinks about 40 people, had been killed by a direct hit the night before. He was taken to see a dead German airman hanging by his parachute from a tree. He thought it was a laugh having all the windows at the back of his house blown out by a near miss. What wasn't funny was the winter nights in a wet unheated Anderson Shelter in the back garden. Or waiting 3 days for his father to come home after a raid (no-one knew where he was because he'd been trapped in a collapsed shelter, fortunately uninjured apart from being deafened in one ear). Nor did he enjoy being evacuated to live with strangers whilst his family stayed in danger. He was close enough to Plymouth to know when it was being raided. There was no telephone and he had to wait for a letter to know if they were OK; getting a telegram was feared because it meant death or injury. Almost no sweets and no imported fruit like oranges and bananas. Rationing didn't completely end in Britain until 1954 and dad still laughs at many WW2 Hollywood films because they get the details wrong by scattering the set with consumer goods that were extremely rare at the time due to U-Boats and a war economy. Incidentally, many thanks to the US for saving Europe then and for many good deeds since. Not the place here but it's sad that the nation that's been the biggest single force for good in the world since 1941 is so widely hated! (If you want to know the answer, it's because Uncle Sam is Homer Simpson. Kind, well-meaning, decent but ignorant, tactless, insensitive, greedy...)

Maybe they don't look scared

Maybe they don't look scared because this is a staged photo. They are all looking in different directions.

[There's no reason for them to be looking in one direction. - Dave]

Children of War

Nightly bombings of Britain were so numerous that they became expected, even by children. There aren't any "spoiled" kids in this trench.

Bomb shelter

I have seen this picture before. The children are looking at British Spitfires fighting German Messerschmitts. Still a dangerous place to be.


I find it interesting to look at the expressions on the kids' faces.

Some look amused, others curious, some worried, one scared. Some of the older kids are holding the younger ones. All are looking up to see if the planes are coming.

The trench itself looks awfully flimsy... makes me wonder how many people died in trench collapses instead of the falling bombs.

Great picture

"The next time I see some spoiled kid whine about having his xBox taken off for a month..."

My thoughts exactly.

And yes, this needs to be set to Pink Floyd music.

Those frightened faces

I just finished reading Judith Kerr's trilogy Out Of the Hitler Time- an autobiography of her childhood fleeing Germany, being a Jewish refugee in France and then England. Her description of the normalcy of life before the bombing, then what it was like to be in a building when the one next door was demolished, was one of the most vivid accounts I have read.

Judith Kerr would be about the age of the dark haired girl in the photo who is on the verge of becoming a young lady.

I wonder what happened to these children. I wonder if any are still alive and if they know they are on the Internet today.

Their eyes

To these kids, the bombs dropping was real. I'm trying to look in their eyes and see fear, but I hardly do. In fact, they seem to be almost amused.

I wonder how I, as a dad, would prepare my children to see the horrors of war. I honestly don't know how I would handle it. That's got to be one of the saddest and most difficult tasks a father must do.

Kids Today

The next time I see some spoiled kid whine about getting their stupid cell phone privileges taken away for a day…

Blue Sky

Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?


This is perhaps one of the most frightening photographs I've ever seen.

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