How Much Do You Know About the Efforts on the British Homefront During WWII?


By: Mark Lichtenstein

6 Min Quiz

Image: YouTube

About This Quiz

They say it takes ten men in reserve to put one in the field - but that's just the military itself, with its engineers, logisticians, tacticians, quartermasters, medics, drivers, suppliers, and so on. Keeping an army in the field requires the mobilization of a great many resources from its homeland. 

This goes double when that army is fighting overseas, and it goes a hundred times over when you're talking about a war the size of World War Two. As the biggest conflict in human history, it required a level of involvement by the population that was unprecedented in human history.

World War Two turned British society completely upside down. People were encouraged to plant food in their gardens as rationing was introduced to account for German blockading and destroying of supply ships. Whole cities were "blacked out" at night to trick German bombers seeking civilian and military targets. Millions of children were sent out of the cities as evacuees to live with country families. 

Everything that was made of metal that wasn't essential was melted down to be turned into weapons. Meanwhile, codebreakers grappled with Nazi data at Bletchley Park, and spies trained at Beaulieu House on the south coast - and both groups included a great many women who would never have been considered for such employment previously. 

Over all of it hung the fear of Nazi invasion and the destruction of the whole nation. It was a time of great fear, significant change, and unquestioned camaraderie. How well do you remember it?

Why were laws passed to close the pubs early?

Britain needed its factories cranking out aircraft, bullets, and guns. To ensure they weren't staffed with hungover people working at low efficiency, the laws were written to close the pubs early so people weren't out drinking all night.


What was the name for people who stood on rooftops looking for fires during German bombardment?

Fire watchers were an essential part of the effort to limit the damage done by the war, dispatching firemen to bomb sites before the fires could spread.


Who had to "register" their occupations with the government in 1941?

British women had to register their occupations with the government so it could find work for them. Nearly full employment of women was necessary to free up men for military deployments.


What act resulted in the conscription of women?

The National Service Act resulted in the conscription of women, initially for assignments that were not dangerous, but eventually many women found their way in the line of fire.


What did the Women's Land Army train women to do?

The Women's Land Army trained women to do the agricultural work men were leaving to join the army.


What percentage of single women were employed by the war effort?

Ninety percent of single women and 80 percent of married women were employed by the domestic war effort.


How much of the total workforce did women make up?

Women made up a third of the workforce in Britain during WW2, "manning" the farms and factories needed to win the war.


Who built Waterloo Bridge in London?

Due to the lack of "manpower," it fell to women to build large projects, including Waterloo Bridge.


What was a "victory roll"?

During the war, the "Victory Roll" hairstyle became popular because it allowed women to have long hair (which people felt boosted morale) while keeping it out of the way so they could work.


What fashion accessory became popular during the war?

Large handbags were useful because they could fit all the things you needed if you had to be away from home for a night or two.


What style of hat became popular during the war?

Function hats, like functional handbags, became popular because working women needed practical objects to do their jobs.


What activity became a national obsession during the war?

Knitting became a national obsession during the war, mostly among women but also among some men because new items were hard to come by due to shortages.


What experienced a massive explosion during the war?

In the face of death, the existing social order was upended, allowing men and women to mingle in ways they had not before. Such fraternization resulted in a moral liberal society and the ailments that come with that.


What was The Auxiliary Territorial Service founded to do?

The Auxiliary Territorial Service was founded for domestic duty, but soon saw action in France, in the line of fire.


What duty were women in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry unexpectedly drafted into?

When the war came to "all hands on deck," even the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry was sent to France to support the fighting forces, using their skills to communicate in secret and conduct clandestine sabotage on the Nazis.


How long did the Women's Land Army continue to operate?

Due to food shortages, the need for the Women's Land Army kept the institution going until 1950.


What prompted the formation of the Air Raid Precautions (ARP)?

The Munich Crisis prompted the creation of the Air Raid Precautions, which people not enrolled in the military were encouraged to join. Its mission was to keep an eye out (literally) for enemy aircraft.


When did food rationing come into effect?

Ration books were issued in 1940, at the beginning of rationing. Rationing had to be instituted to keep Britain with enough food to sustain itself for the long war ahead.


What event precipitated the reorganization of labor mobilization in Britain?

The Battle of Britain saw the destruction of 458 British aircraft. This was way more than the British could produce at the time, so they diverted resources from most other industrial purposes to the building of aircraft.


Why did the British put up signs everywhere reminding people to eat their carrots?

The Allies didn't want the Germans to find out about RADAR technology, so they developed the pretense that British observers had superior visual acuity due to their consumption of carrots.


Where were children sent during the Blitz, other than the countryside?

Children were sent to Australia, Canada, and the USA during the war to keep them out of harm's way, especially during the Blitz.


What major British industrial city was hit by the Nazis outside of England, Scotland, Wales, and the Isle of Man?

Belfast was a major source of arms and munitions during the war, and after flying reconnaissance flights to determine targets, the Germans bombed its working class civilian population in an effort to retard its industrial capability.


What was not one of the three things they said about American soldiers in London?

"Overpaid, oversexed, and over here" was a common grumble about American soldiers in Britain during WW2. What else would you expect when you import thousands of young, mostly single men at a time of the liberalization of social norms?


Who was Vera Lynn?

Vera Lynn was a beautiful singer who sang war songs to pep up the troops, pioneering the USO model.


What popular BBC sitcom highlighted the role of older man in the defense of the homeland?

The 1968 BBC show, "Dad's Army," was about the old men who, despite not be able to help in combat, were enlisted to fight the war from home. Much of the comedy was derived from the characters' lack of involvement in the war, with their few close calls being along the lines of a downed Luftwaffe pilot being caught by his parachute on the local church tower.


How many people were named, personally, in Hitler's Black Book?

Hitler compiled a list of people he felt needed to die in order for his conquest of Britain to be complete. This included prominent Jews, politicians, and even entertainers, like Noel Coward.


To where would the Royal Family be evacuated if London fell?

The evacuation plan would start by mustering the Royal Family in Birmingham, and then setting sail for Canada, where many art objects and resources were stashed. Canada is, of course, a part of The Commonwealth.


Where did Churchill not say "we will fight them"?

Churchill's speech to the commons cited numerous places where fighting would take place, and while leaving out the forests seems like an oversight, the purpose of the speech was to raise spirits, not outline strategy.


What did Londoners do in their homes during the Blitz?

Blacking out windows by covering them with curtains removed the obvious night time visual landmarks that identified the parts of the city, an action that could stymie German bombardiers.


What was a doodlebug?

V-1 flying bombs, also known as "doodlebugs" were so named for the sound they made as they fell. These bombs were particularly terrifying because even if you could spot one, it was very difficult to tell where it would land, meaning you could try to run away but instead run right into the blast zone.


If you had to go to the bomb shelter, where were you likely to go?

The London Tube was used as an impromptu shelter and worked very well to that effect for the most part. Once, however, a nearby canal was breached by German bombs, flooding the Tube tunnels and killing many of the civilians hiding there.


What town was practically wiped off the map by German bombers?

The town of Coventry was bombed nearly into oblivion by the Germans. While never verified, it is rumored that the Allies knew the attack was coming, but did nothing so as not to betray that they had their finger on the pulse of secret German communication lines.


Why did then Queen Elizabeth (mother of the current Queen) say "At least now I can look the East End in the face?"

The Royal Family lived in relative safety while Hitler's forces concentrated their firepower on residential areas frequented by the people actually building the weapons used in the war. When Buckingham Palace was bombed by the Germans, the classes were finally leveled out.


What did Churchill supposedly mutter to his colleague after giving his "we will fight them on the beaches" speech?

According to a colleague in the House of Commons, he said this after giving his famous speech. Of course, this may not have been totally spontaneous, as he was known for "preparing [his] impromptu remarks."


What one building substance was not rationed during the war?

During the war, many a stately home was spruced up by simply plastering a room, rather than covering the walls with fresh wood.


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