This series of photos were released by the War Office in 1941 and show some of the grim realities of living in wartime Britain. The lovely Mrs Day admittedly lives in a 4 storey town-house in South Kensington, so her life is probably a lot smarter than most people actually experienced in wartime London. However, the realities she is having to face were probably the same for most Londoners: dealing with bomb damage, rationing, always having your gas mask to hand and your bomb shelter ready.
Perhaps the most poignant thing though is that she is doing all this completely alone – there is no husband in the picture because all the men had been called up to go to war (conscription started in 1939).
Above: Mrs Olive Day wakes up at 7am at her home in Drayton Gardens, South Kensington. On the bedside cabinet, her gas mask, torch and a book are ready, in case a quick dash to the air raid shelter is required in the night.
Mrs Olive Day opens the curtains of her bedroom in the basement of her South Kensington home. Unfortunately, as the glass has recently been knocked out of the windows by a nearby air raid, Mrs Day cannot see outside, as oiled linen has been stretched across the windw frame in place of the missing glass. Her cat ‘Little One’ watches her from the bed.
Mrs Olive Day opens her window to let some air, and light, into her South Kensington home. The window panes have been replaced by oiled linen stretched over the frame, as the glass was knocked out by a nearby bomb a short while ago.
Mrs Olive Day collects the milk and newspapers from the top of the steps leading down to the basement of her South Kensington home. The buckets that can be seen on the street at the top of the steps contain sand and water and are provided in case of fire bombs.
Mrs Olive Day enjoys tea, toast and the morning papers at the breakfast table in the centre of her South Kensington sitting room. Behind her, evidence of air raids can be seen in that two panes of glass are missing from the window and have been replaced with boards and the other panes have criss-crosses of tape on them to prevent the glass from shattering, should the area suffer another air raid.
Mrs Olive Day shakes her duster out of one of the back windows of her South Kensington home. Every visible window of her house, and of the houses alongside, bears witness to the air raids that have occured in the last few weeks. There is not one window that remains unaffected in someway and all are either fully or partly boarded, have had the broken glass replaced by oiled linen, or have existing glass criss-crossed with tape.
Mrs Olive Day spends half an hour or so on the housework before she leaves for work. Here we see her polishing the bannisters. Above her head, we can see a large patch of missing plaster on the ceiling, caused by a nearby air raid.
Mrs Olive Day rolls away a rug that was on the staircase of her South Kensington home. All carpets have been removed and asbestos laid in their place, in an attempt to combat fire bombs. Behind her, part of the window has been boarded up, with the rest of the panes have criss-crosses of tape across the glass.
This photograph shows how large sheets of asbestos have been laid on the landing at the top of Mrs Day’s home to try to prevent fires from incendiary bombs from spreading to other parts of the house.
Mrs Day points to a hole in the ceiling where a fire bomb recently came through into her South Kensington home. Scorch marks can be seen on the ceiling next to the hole.
Mrs Day stands alongside a hole in the floor which was made by a fire bomb before the fire was brought under control. This area of the house does not have asbestos sheeting on the floor.
The top floor of Mrs Day’s South Kensington home is no longer in use. Here we see an empty room with a bowl on the floor to catch any drips of rain water that may come in through the bomb-damaged ceiling.
Mrs Day clears the grate in the sitting room of her South Kensington home. She is careful to sort the cinders from the ash, so that the cinders can be re-used in the grate and so that the ash can be added to the garden as a fertiliser.
Mrs Day makes her bed in the basement of her South Kensington home before leaving for work. The top floor of her house is no longer in use.
Mrs Day makes up a bunk in the air raid shelter in the cellar of her South Kensington home. The bunks are kept ready in case any night raids force her to spend the night in the shelter. The bunk will hopefully mean that she spends the night in some comfort!
Image source and copyright: This artistic work created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain.
Fascinating insight into wartime Britain in the 40s. looks like Mrs Day’s husband was home on leave the day the fire changing pic was taken. Or is it a handsome stranger’s foot we can just see to the left of the shot?
Looking forward to part 2. helene@revivalvintage