Home Front Preparations timeline
1938 February

Women start to be recruited by London Fire Brigade volunteers. They will eventually become full-time on the outbreak of war. Other fire brigades gradually follow this example.


The 'Munich Crisis' prompts the start of preparations for war. Trenches are dug in London parks for use as air raid shelters; anti-aircraft guns are set up; Regional Commissioners are secretly put into post; 38 million gas marks are distributed; and an emergency evacuation scheme is prepared.

From this month until the outbreak of war, Britain steps up its military preparations. Armament production is increased; the radar defence system is extended around the southern and eastern coastlines to Scotland; staff talks are held between British and French armies; and Britain agrees to provide her Expeditionary Force to support the French army on left wing, as in 1914.

November Air raid precaution plans implemented by Sir John Anderson result in a big increase in expenditure.
1939 February A decision is made to expand Army to 32 divisions. Aircraft production is ordered to expand 'to the limit'.

The Ministry of Supply is established to provide materials for the Army. A crash programme to build anti-aircraft guns is started.

Further preparations are made with the establishment of Anti-Aircraft Command and the introduction of conscription for 20 and 21 year old men.

1 September

Germany invades Poland and it is clear that the war is imminent. As a result, blackout regulations are introduced and the evacuation scheme is put into action.

2 September The National Service Bill enables men of 18-41 to be called up.

By the end of the month petrol rationing has been introduced; Anderson shelters start to be delivered to householders; and all British citizens are required to be registered and carry identity cards.

Changes are also made to the government. The existing Cabinet is replaced by a smaller War Cabinet, New Ministries are established, including Economic Warfare; Food; Shipping; Information and Propaganda; and the Blockade of Germany.

1940 January

The lack of bombing raids on Britain prompts two fifths of the evacuees to return home. This month also sees the introduction of rationing.

22 May The Emergency Powers Act gives the government power over all British citizens and their property.
June As the war increases in intensity, anti-invasion measures are put into place. German subjects in Britain are interned; road signs and railway station names are removed; shop signs are painted out and more than 1,000,000 men enrol in the Home Guard by the summer.
July - September Further measures are taken. Anti-tank obstacles are placed across South East England and there is limited overseas evacuation of children.
October As the Blitz starts, manufacture of essential materials is dispersed as a defence against bombing.
1941 May The Fire Services are nationalized. In August it becomes known as the National Fire Service.
December In order to release men to fight on the front line and to ensure continued production of war materials, women are conscripted into the Services or into vital war work.