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A.R.P. Air raid precautions. A.R.P. became the name of the organisation that was in charge of air raid precautions
ADGB Air Defences of Great Britain
ATS Auxiliary Territorial Service (women's army service)
Aerodrome Place where aircraft land and take off. See also Air station
Aerial attack See air raid
Air raid Bombing raids by enemy aircraft upon towns, cities, factories, railways, bridges and military targets
Air raid shelter A place that offered protection against bombs. Although shelters saved many lives during the War, very few of them could withstand a direct hit from a large bomb.See also Anderson and Morrison Shelters, Public Shelters
Air raid warden Official person in charge of local arrangements for air raids - running air raid shelters, giving advice, keeping lists of people living in local houses, helping with rescue work, warning about blackout
Air station Military air base
Air Vice-Marshal One of the most senior officers of the Royal Air Force
Alert Warning of an air raid - usually given by special sirens in the Second World War
All clear Special notes on siren to signal that an air raid had finished and that it was safe to leave shelters
Anderson Shelter Small air raid shelter that was put up in people's gardens during the War
Anti-aircraft gun A quick-firing gun used to fire at enemy aircraft overhead. In the war, these guns were set up around air fields, docks and military bases, and also in towns and cities where they were often placed in parks and playing fields away from houses. They made a tremendous noise and the shells that they fired burst into fragments in the air, called flak or flack. The guns had a nickname - 'ack-ack'
Anti-aircraft rockets In 1943, Britain developed a new weapon which fired a salvo of sixty rockets at enemy aircraft overhead. This was known as a 'Z' battery. The rockets were grouped together to be fired at one go, and made a very loud roar as they went up into the sky
Auxiliary An additional person who gives help or support to the regular staff of an organisation like the army or air force
Barrage balloon A very large balloon flown above towns, cities, factories, gun emplacements and other important sites, to prevent attacks by low-flying aircraft. The balloons were tethered by cables, so that they could be winched up or down. Often they had netting hanging down. They were flown in groups
Battery A unit of guns or rocket launchers
Billeting Providing someone with a place to stay
Billeting officer Person in charge of billeting arrangements
Black market Illegal trade, operating outside the law
Blackout At night in Britain, during the War, all outside lights were switched off and people had to make sure that no lights could be seen from within their houses - hence people put up 'blackout curtains'. This was done to make it harder for enemy planes to find targets. The police and air raid wardens warned people if they hadn't made their houses dark, or if they flashed torches around. Even car and other vehicle lights had to be made very dim. Often people had accidents in the blackout because they couldn't see very well at night
Bletchley Park Top secret code breaking centre in Buckinghamshire that tried to read messages sent by the enemy
Blitz A sudden and intensive attack, especially by air, that is meant to overwhelm the enemy. An abbreviation of the German word, blitzkrieg. The Blitz is the term used to describe the heavy bombing of London in 1940/1941. (Note that other British towns and cities were also heavily bombed at this time, but London was hit hardest and longest)
Broadcast A radio programme. During this war, the government used radio broadcasts to give information to people and to ask them to work hard to win the war
CORB Children's Overseas Reception Board - the organisation that made the arrangements for children to be evacuated overseas
CORS Children's Overseas Reception Scheme - the official government scheme that was developed to evacuate children overseas
Call-up See conscription
Camouflage Using disguise to hide something. In the war, ships, planes, tanks, guns, and buildings were camouflaged by using special painting patterns, or covering them, so that they blended in with their surroundings. Camouflage nets were used to drape over guns, tanks and planes, when they needed to be hidden from the enemy
Casualties Persons killed or injured in a war or an accident
Chaplain A member of the clergy, such as a vicar or priest, who works in the Armed Services or a hospital or a prison
Citizen A person living in a nation like Britain
Civil Defence The organisation and training of civilians to protect lives and property during wartime
Civilian In wartime, someone who is not in the armed forces or the police force
Code, Codes Hiding the meaning of what is written by changing the letters around, or using symbols or numbers instead of the letters. If you don't have the code that shows how to change the message back to its' proper meaning, it is necessary to work out how the code works to break it. This can be very difficult and may require special machines to make millions of calculations.This is what happened at Bletchley Park where very clever people worked out enemy codes
Colonial Empire The group of colonies and dominions that were subject to British authority or rule
Colonies Countries controlled by another more powerful and often distant country
Commenced Started; begun
Concentration camp Camps used by Hitler to imprison people who were considered to be enemies of Germany. Many people died in concentration camps in the Second World War
Concerned Worried; showing much interest in
Conscription; conscripted Compulsory service for the state, especially in the armed forces, or in vital industry like the making of airplanes. People spoke of being 'called-up', or receiving their 'call-up papers'
Convoy A group of ships travelling together. Some convoys had warships acting as escorts, to defend them against air and submarine attack
Coupon A token or voucher
Counterplan A plan that is drawn up to try to stop or defeat the plan of the enemy
Defeated To lose or be beaten
Detraining Getting off a train
Dominions The self-governing territories within the British Empire (as it was known until after the war). These countries included Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Many soldiers, sailors and airmen from these countries joined the British Armed Forces at the start of the war. Later, these countries joined in the war against Germany, Italy and Japan
Double agent A spy working for one side whilst pretending to work for the other enemy side. Many German spies captured by the British became double agents and passed on German secrets
Effectiveness How good something is; does it do what it should
Encouraged To urge, persuade or advise
Entraining Getting on a train
Environmentally Taking notice or care of the environment and the planet
  1. Warships that guarded some convoys - usually destroyers that were very fast ships that could attack submarines with depth charges
  2. The adults who accompanied children when they were being evacuated. Escorts travelled with parties of children on the ships and looked after them until they arrived at their new home
Essential Needed, cannot do without
Evacuation Remove people from a place of danger to stay elsewhere until it was safe to return
Evacuee Person removed from a place of danger
Fascist The name given to people or political parties with extreme right-wing views. Britain's European enemies in the War, Germany and Italy, were described as Fascist nations
Factory; factories A building or buildings containing special machinery for making things. In the War, factories were very important for producing aircraft, guns, tanks and other equipment needed to fight the enemy. In Britain, many women worked in factories, allowing men to be released to serve in the armed forces. It was hard, dangerous work as some factories were bombed. See also industrial activity and war production
Fifth Column A group of people living in one country but secretly working or spying for the enemy. Some people thought that there was a Fifth Column in Britain during the Second World War but the government did not agree
Fighter command The senior officers of the Royal Air Force who controlled the British fighter planes
Fighter screen Formation of fighter aircraft protecting a group of bomber planes from enemy fighters
Fighter station See air station
First World War A war that took place between 1914 and 1918 between Germany and the Allied powers (including Britain, France and the United States of America). Germany and her allies lost this war
Flying bomb A pilotless aircraft with an explosive warhead. The ones used by Germany during this war were slow flying and could be shot down sometimes. This type of bomb was called the V1. Also see Rocket Bombs
Flying suit The special suit worn by pilots in the air force; the suits were insulated against the cold (for flying at great heights) and had special pockets for escape equipment
Forged False, as in to produce false documents
Frequent Taking place on a regular basis, ie daily, weekly, monthly
GAF Abbreviation of German Air Force
George Cross An award given by the King or Queen to civilians for bravery
Guarantee Promising that something will happen or that an article is of certain quality and reliability
Handicapped Disabled; unable to walk properly or do other physical activities. This can also mean people with learning disability who need help and care
Headquarters The main offices of an organisation like the army or air force, from where orders were given
Identity card A card that proves that a person is a citizen of a nation or country like Britain. In the Second World War, all British citizens had to carry an identity card with them at all times. The Home Guard could stop people to check their identity cards. They did this to search for enemy spies
Import; imported Bring in food or goods from overseas
Industrial activity The measurement of manufacturing output. In a modern war it is very important for a country to be able to produce tanks, planes and guns. Bombing attacks are one way of trying to lower industrial activity - that is why factories were targets for bombing. See also factories and war production
Inquiry An investigation, especially an official one
Internee In wartime Britain, people from other countries that were at war with Britain were rounded up and put in prison or special camps - this was called internment and an internee was someone who was interned in this way. This action was taken in case such people acted as spies or took other action against the British war effort. Some internees were sent abroad, to countries like Canada, so that they were out of the way. Among the internees were people who had fled from Germany before the war because of persecution, and some of them were released later and helped Britain in the war. Other countries also interned foreigners when the war broke out
Invasion Forced occupation of a country or nation by the armed forces of another county. The Second World War began when the German army and air force attacked and took over Poland. Later, Germany invaded Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France and, in the summer of 1940, looked likely to invade Britain. In fact, the only parts of Britain invaded by the Germans were the Channel Islands
Island fortress A phrase used to describe Britain during 1940 and after, when it faced Germany alone. The idea was to make it extremely difficult for Germany to invade by making Britain like a fort. Beaches were guarded and covered with mines and fences and tank traps; blockhouses were built across the country; defensive ditches were dug; and the Home Guard was formed. Airfields and ports were guarded too. Plans were made to fight the Germans in the fields and streets if they landed in Britain. See also siege
Jewish From the word 'Jew' meaning a person whose religion is Judaism, or who is of Hebrew descent. Before the War started, many Jewish people fled from persecution in Germany, and some came to Britain as refugees
Khaki Dust-coloured; dull brownish-yellow - used as the main colour of uniform material for British soldiers in the war
Local authority The local form of government in Britain - County Councils and Borough Councils. They were responsible for making the evacuation plan work
Luftwaffe The German Air Force from the German words Lufte meaning "air" and Waffe meaning "weapon"
Manpower The number of people available for work (it can also mean the power of a man working)
Military discipline In the armed forces, having to obey orders given by people who are of higher rank than you, and having to follow a certain code of conduct about how to behave - such as wearing uniform, saluting officers, having short hair, etc.
Minerals Naturally occurring substances usually obtained from the ground, for example, copper
Ministry of Information A government department responsible for issuing useful information and propaganda during the War
Morale The mood of the people. Government tried to increase people's confidence and boldness during the war to keep morale high
Morrison Shelter Steel cage-like shelter invented for use inside people's houses during the War
Munich crisis In 1938 Germany wanted to take over Czechoslovakia and there was a serious danger of war in Europe as other countries did not want this to happen. Everyone was worried but, after meetings in Germany at a place called Munich, it was agreed by Hitler and Britain's prime minister that there would not be war. After Munich, Britain made much more effort to get ready for a future war
Munitions Weapons or parts for weapons
Night fighter A fighter plane adapted for night-time use. In the Second World War Britain mainly used Blenheim and Beaufighter planes for this task. At the time of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, radar was not able to find bombers in the dark, and night fighters were of limited use
Officials People representing the United Kingdom government
Orphans Children whose parents have died
Panic; panicked Sudden uncontrolled fear or alarm. In crowds, panic can often spread rapidly so that large numbers of people lose control of themselves
Parachute mine A large explosive device that was dropped from a plane by parachute to float down onto a target. Some were designed to explode on contact. Others had timing devices set to delay the explosion. The mines were very powerful, containing more explosive than most bombs, and did much damage. As the parachutes drifted with the wind, these mines could land anywhere
Passenger ships Large ships built for the purpose of carrying passengers rather than cargo. Some of these ships were very big and very fast and were allowed to sail alone because it was believed that they could outrun any threat of danger from submarines
Patrolled To march up and down streets keeping an eye out for danger or making sure that people were following rules
Phase A period of time in a process or plan
Plimsolls Sports shoes made of a rubber sole and canvas. Now we have gym shoes or very expensive trainers
Precautions An action taken in advance to prevent or reduce risk or danger
Priority What should come first; what is most important
Propaganda Information designed to make you accept one point of view
Public shelter A large air raid shelter that was stronger than the small shelters people used in their houses or gardens. Public shelters were made available in a number of places - some were converted from existing places like basements, railway arches and Tube stations; others were specially built. In heavy bombing during the Blitz, many people moved to public shelters for long periods of time
Public support When the majority of people in a country appear to support something - such as overseas evacuation. Public support is often developed by newspaper campaigns. In the case of overseas evacuation, the government had to persuade people that it was not the most sensible policy
RAF Abbreviation of Royal Air Force
RDF Abbreviation for Radio Direction Finding - see radar
Radar A system used to trace moving ships or aircraft. In wartime, radar warns of an approaching attack by the enemy. Britain used radar in the Second World War to detect approaching German aircraft. Fighter planes were then sent up to attack the German planes as they flew in over the coast of Britain. Radar was still new at this time, and work was going on to improve it
Ration book A book of coupons which set out how much food and clothing you were allowed to buy
Rations; rationing Government fixes the amount of food and clothing that each person is allowed to have. In the war rationing was necessary because it was difficult to bring in enough food and clothes by ships when there were enemy submarines at sea. Rationing went on after the war because there were still shortages
Raw materials Goods before they are made into the finished article, ie rubber before it is made into tyres
Receiving areas Those parts of the country to which evacuated children and adults were sent to live
Recruit Someone who has just joined an organisation such as the army, and is not fully trained
Recruitment Persuading people to join an organisation like the Women's Land Army - perhaps by putting up lots of attractive posters
Reduced To lessen or make smaller
Refugee A person fleeing from danger by moving to a different country
Reported To tell someone what you think
Resources Basic materials needed to do something
Retaliate Attack in return for being attacked
Rocket; rocket bomb Germany invented a powerful, fast rocket to use against Britain in the later stages of the war, in 1944 and 1945. Known as the V2, this rocket contained an explosive warhead and could hit targets up to 200 miles away. It was a very dreadful weapon. At one stage the British government drew up plans to evacuate everybody from London
Salvo Firing lots of guns or rockets together
Scramble Sending fighter aircraft into immediate take-off to meet an enemy attack
Security Service The government department responsible for catching and interrogating enemy spies and running the British spy system
Self sufficient Not having to rely on others
Shillings Money in use in Britain before decimal currency was introduced. There were twenty shillings in the pound
Siege Enemy attack on a fort or stronghold, surrounding it and cutting off supplies. Britain felt it was under siege in 1940, when Germany had occupied most of Western Europe and was bombing towns and cities and destroying ships at sea. See also island fortress
Siren A special device for making a very loud and long signal or warning sound
Spivs People who worked in the black market. Often portrayed as shady or suspicious characters
Strategy Planning how the army, air force and navy should be used in a war
Substitute In place of, ie margarine was used instead of butter
Sudeten German A person who lived in part of Czechoslovakia before it was taken over by Nazi Germany in 1938
Suffocation Choking or dying through being unable to breathe
Surrender Give up fighting; hand over control to the enemy
Suspicious Behaving in a way that makes people think you are lying or trying to deceive
Tactics The ways in which the armed forces are used once they are fighting the enemy
Torpedo; torpedoed A missile that is fired from a ship or submarine, or is dropped by aircraft, and travels underwater to explode when it hits the side of a ship. Most torpedo attacks are carried out by submarines. When a ship is torpedoed, it may explode or sink quickly if it is hit in a vital area like the engine rooms or fuel tanks. In other cases, a ship may be crippled but stay afloat, or sink very slowly, giving passengers and crew time to escape
Transmitter A machine that is capable of sending a signal or message to another machine
Transporting Moving goods or people by road, rail, sea or air
U-boat A German submarine. (From the German word Unterseeboot meaning undersea boat)
Voluntary To do something by your own choice; not something that you have to do. Evacuation was voluntary in Britain in the war
Volunteer A person who does unpaid work by choice
WAAF Women's Auxiliary Air Force
WRNS (WRENs) Women's Royal Navy Service
WVS Women's Voluntary Service (today known as the WRVS - Women's Royal Voluntary Service)
Warden See air raid warden
War production Making equipment with which to fight a war while also keeping people fed and housed. Britain, facing Germany alone for much of 1940 and all of 1941, had to struggle to survive because of the bombing, and the sinking of many of its ships carrying supplies from other parts of the world. America, although not in the War at this time, helped Britain by agreeing to supply lots of military equipment and ships. Despite the bombing, British war production increased. See also factories and industrial activity
Weakened To suffer losses or not be as strong
Wireless beams The German air force built special transmitters that sent out radio signals into an enemy country like Britain, so that its bombers could find their way to a target by following the radio beam. Britain tried to prevent this happening by jamming or diverting the radio beam with other radio signals, to confuse the German pilots, and by bombing the buildings which beamed out the signals