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Who was the Spy Princess? What is Winkie the Scottish pigeon famous for? When did food rationing end?
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Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day (Great Britain) or V-E Day (North America), is a day celebrating the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender of its armed forces on May 8, 1945.
‘Victory Rolls' are one of the most iconic hairstyles from the 1940s. The hairstyle is often associated with manoeuvres performed by fighter planes in WW2. Planes would spin horizontally as a sign of victory or celebration, so this style is perfect to celebrate 75th VE Day.
As more women were enrolled in the workforce the victory roll was a practical style that was suitable for working in factories - it kept their hair out their faces and away from the dangerous machines. Long hair was considered unpatriotic and Hollywood stars such as Veronica Lake led campaigns to encourage women to wear their hair short.
Not all foods were rationed. Fruit and vegetables were never rationed but were often in short supply, especially tomatoes, onions and fruit shipped from overseas. The government encouraged people to grow vegetables in their own gardens and allotments. Many public parks were also used for this purpose.
The scheme became better known as ‘Dig For Victory!’. Professor John Raeburn (1912-2006), born in Aberdeen, set up the Dig for Victory campaign while he was head of the Agricultural Plans Branch of the Ministry of Food. It was not until the 1950's that some goods came off ration.
Loud sirens would let people know that a bomb might go off soon, and that they should run to the nearest Air Raid shelter. Bomb shelters were small, strong structures, sometimes put underground, that helped to protect people inside from being hurt during explosions.
On the nights of 13 and 14 March 1941, German bombers attacked the munitions factories and shipyards of Clydeside. There were 260 bombers on the first night - waves of high-explosive bombs, incendiary bombs and landmines were dropped over a nine-hour period. Streets were devastated, fires raged, and people were trapped in collapsed buildings.
The Polish destroyer ORP Piorun under Commander Eugeniusz Pławski was at John Brown’s Shipyard undergoing repairs. She joined the defence of Clydebank, firing a tremendous barrage at the Luftwaffe. A memorial to the ship’s crew can be seen in Solidarity Plaza, Clydebank.
On 14 March, with rescue work continuing, 200 bombers returned; their bombing raid lasted over seven and a half hours. Over the two days 528 civilians were killed, over 617 people were seriously injured, and several housing schemes were completely wiped out; 48,000 civilians lost their homes, many of them shipyard workers and their families, packed into Clydebank tenements.
On 14 March 2009 a monument commemorating the 528 Scots civilians killed during the Clydebank Blitz was unveiled in West Dunbartonshire. The names of the people who died are inscribed in a bronze plaque.
Generally referred to as 'land girls' The Women's Land Army numbered more than 80,000 women at its peak in 1944. With the outbreak of war many of the young men who worked on farms were enlisted but there was a need to ensure that Britain increased its food production.
Initially, volunteers were sought but by 1941 women could also be conscripted. The women often lived in hostels and could sometimes find themselves working alongside prisoners-of-war. It was finally disbanded in 1950.
During the war Walt Disney helped design a Mickey Mouse Gas mask for American children. It was hoped it would make wearing a gas masks less scary. British children aged between 18 months and 4 years were issued with Baby gas masks which totally enclosed the baby.
Air needed to be pumped into the mask by a hand pump. A serious responsibility for the adult holding the baby during an air raid! The British version did not look like Mickey Mouse, but it was red and blue to appeal to children.
The Olympic Games of 1936 were held in Berlin and there was a great deal of disquiet that they were hijacked to promote the propaganda of the fascist regime. The Games for 1940 had been awarded to Tokyo and there were similar concerns that again they would be used for political advantage.
In addition, many countries were considering boycotting the Games following the brutal invasion by Japan of China three years previously and the ongoing war. As it was, Japan called off the games citing the need to conserve resources because of its war with China.
In June of 1939 the International Olympic Committee had awarded the 1944 Olympics to London but with war being declared three months later the Games for 1944 were cancelled. It was not until after the war, in 1948, that the Games eventually came to London, although they lacked the lavish displays of previous games.
Sir Alexander Fleming was a Scottish biologist, physician, microbiologist, and pharmacologist, born in East Ayrshire. In 1928 he is attributed with the discovery of penicillin and the birth of modern antibiotics.
Penicillin was used on a large scale for the first-time during WW2. It helped reduce the number of amputations and deaths by preventing infections.
During WW2, children living in British cities were evacuated to protect them from the threat of German bombs. Moving away meant they were separated from their families for what became years.
The evacuees were sent to live with families in the country. Some were homesick and wanted to return to their families. Children mustered at their local primary school, carrying their gas mask, toothbrush, change of underwear, a name label and food for the journey.
They walked to the nearest railway station, to be evacuated to secret destinations – Glaswegians to Perthshire, Kintyre and Rothesay; Edinburgh children to the Borders or the Highlands.
The Red Cross did everything from nursing and air raid duty to searching for missing people and transporting the wounded. All members were trained in first aid and some trained in nursing, cookery, hygiene and sanitation.
The majority of female VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachment) volunteered as nurses, trained by the Red Cross. They were despatched throughout the UK and Europe during the conflict.
Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear (1958) is about an orphan bear found by a family at Paddington railway station in London, sitting on his suitcase with a label attached to his coat that reads, ‘Please look after this bear. Thank you.’
Bond has said that the character of the polite bear from ’darkest Peru’ was inspired by his childhood and watching newsreels of children being evacuated from London, "When I was small, I had memories of children being evacuated from London with a label around their necks and all their possessions in a suitcase, and this became part of Paddington as well."
The official end of the conflict in Europe was 8 May 1945. VE Day was celebrated in the streets of London with large crowds gathering at Buckingham Palace, calling for the King to come out onto the balcony.
In all, the Royal Family made eight balcony appearances during the day. The Princesses were allowed to walk unnoticed through the streets around the Palace. They were in the crowds when the King and Queen made a final appearance on the balcony.
Winston Churchill reads a newspaper on the platform at St Andrews railway station, during a tour of coastal defences.
Churchill inspected Polish troops who had taken over defending a section of the coast and a Naval Establishment in Scotland on 23 October 1940.
Before the war began, thousands of German children, mainly Jewish, were sent to Britain to save them from the danger of the Nazis. After the destruction of Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) in 1938, in which attacks took place on Jewish businesses and synagogues, it was clear that the children were in danger.
This evacuation was called the Kindertransport (children transport). In East Lothian, Kindertransport children arrived in 1939. Jewish children from Austria and Germany were welcomed at Whittingehame House which was turned into a school for the children, complete with a cobblers' workshop and a synagogue. Lessons included the teaching of vital skills for the workplace.
Noor Inayat Khan was known as the 'Spy Princess'. In WW2 she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and later was recruited as a spy. In 1943 Noor was the first female wireless operator sent from Britain to German-occupied France, to assist the French Resistance.
Betrayed to the Germans, she was executed at Dachau concentration camp in 1944. After the war she was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1949.
Children were encouraged to 'knit for victory' in schools with young boys and girls knitting socks, scarves, hats and gloves in Army colours as part of the war effort.
The term ‘D-Day’ has been used for many different operations, but in modern history it refers to what happened on 6 June 1944 - the day on which the Battle of Normandy began. On 6 June 1944, thousands of Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, in northern France, at the start of the battle to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation.
A total 75,215 British and Canadian troops and 57,500 US troops were landed by sea on D-Day. Another 23,400 were landed by air. By the end of 11 June, 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies had been landed on the beaches. According to the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation, 4,414 Allied soldiers died on D-Day and many more were wounded.
The total German casualties on D-Day are not known but are estimated as being between 4000 and 9000 men. When the Battle of Normandy was over, more than 425,000 Allied and German troops had been killed, wounded or were missing in action. Allied casualties totalled around 209,000, including 37,000 dead from the ground forces and almost 17,000 from the airborne forces.
In Paris, the popular WW1 song “It’s a long way to Tipperary” was sung on the Champs Elysees. Allied pilots took turns flying through the small opening under the Eiffel Tower before soaring up past the Arc de Triomphe.
It was the lack of food, not bombs, that posed the biggest threat to wartime pets. There was no food ration for cats and dogs. In 1939, in anticipation of war, the British Government published ‘Advice to Animal Owners’. It said: "If at all possible, send or take your household animals into the country in advance of an emergency." It concluded: "If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed."
In just one week, 750,000 pets were euthanised, either because their owners were going off to war, they were bombed, or they could not afford to keep them during rationing. The Duchess of Hamilton, an animal rights activist, was horrified and rushed from Scotland to London with her own statement to be broadcast on the BBC, offering to provide sanctuary at her estate in Ferne, Dorset. Hundreds of animals were taken there by her staff and the Ferne Animal Sanctuary still exists to this day.
By 1943 only one in ten families in Britain could afford a goose or turkey for Christmas dinner. Wrapping paper was not available and toys were very expensive. Most children received home-made gifts such as a doll made from stockings or knitted gloves and slippers.
The USA entered the war on 11 December 1941. Almost immediately American Forces started to arrive in Britain and were posted across the whole of the island. Over the course of the war an estimated 1.5 million Americans were posted or had passed through Britain.
To British girls who were suffering from the absence of their own young men fighting abroad and living under rationing, austerity and the threat of air raids, these G.I.s, who seemed to want for nothing, were an attractive distraction that brought a hint of Hollywood to their lives.
At the end of the war, around 70,000 young women travelled to the USA as brides of GIs.
Bamse, a St Bernard dog, was an official crew member on the Norwegian patrol vessel Thorodd, stationed in Montrose during WW2.
With his bravery and huge heart, Bamse became a global mascot for the Royal Norwegian Force as well as a local celebrity.
He had his own metal helmet which he always wore on duty, standing guard in the foremost gun tower even under heavy enemy fire. He provided security for the crew, rounding them up from various pubs, by taking the bus into Dundee, sniffing them out and getting them back on ship. The crew bought him his own bus pass, which hung from his collar. He enjoyed a pie and a pint, frequenting local pubs and bakeries in Montrose.
When Bamse died in 1944, his naval career ended but he will forever be in the hearts of the local community. He was buried with full military honours in Montrose, a statue erected in the Montrose Harbour and a Bamse Heritage Trail established.
Enigma was a device used by the German military command to encode strategic messages before and during WW2. The Enigma code was first broken by the Poles, under the leadership of mathematician Marian Rejewski, in the early 1930s.
The cracking of the Enigma was a 'game-changer' in the field of code-cracking as Rejewski’s “chains” method of cracking was the first time a purely mathematical approach had ever been taken in cryptanalysis.
The Polish Cipher Bureau was the first to design and build an electromechanical device to aid in the cracking process. When the Polish informed the British about their success, it completely transformed the way that the British hired codebreakers.
In short, the Enigma played an important role in history, and both the design of the machine and the way that it was cracked foreshadowed major changes in the field of cryptology, including increased automation and the importance of mathematics.
In 1943, Maria Dicken, founder of the animal charity People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), decided that an Award should be created to recognise the bravery and devotion shown by animals serving with the armed forces and with civil defence organisations.
By the end of WW2 the Dicken Medal had been awarded to dogs, horses and pigeons. To date, only one medal has been awarded to a cat.
Winkie a pigeon that hailed from Broughty Ferry, Dundee, saved the life of four men whose bomber plane crashed into the North Sea. Winkie flew 120 miles home to raise the alarm. Winkie's owner informed RAF Leuchars in Fife.