1940 was the first full year of the Second World War. By the end of that year, at least 24,000 British civilians had died as a result of the Blitzkrieg, with more than 450 being killed in Liverpool alone, especially during the Durning Road bombing and the Christmas Blitz. Thousands in the city and hundreds of thousands nationwide were made homeless.
For almost every family Christmas 1940 was a frugal affair, with festivities often celebrated in the air raid shelters. But, Scouse and British mums and families are nothing if not inventive. Meat rations didn’t even stretch to a modest chicken. But, home produced vegetables and conserves would have graced the tables, with hand-coloured streamers for decoration.
Presents would have been in short supply, too. Instead, households were encouraged to give to the War effort. Where children did receive gifts – often through ‘toy exchanges’ – these would usually be ‘make-do-and-mend’, even stretching to functional toys such as ‘dolly gas masks’ or War-themed bath battleships.
There would have been little travelling to relatives because of the shortage of fuel, the blackouts, air raids, as well as the need to keep the roads clear for troop deployments. And entertainment would have been home-grown games, such as the popular ‘Hitler dart board’, alongside listening to “Children’s Hour” or the King’s Speech. All-in-all Christmas 1940 would have harked-back to the Victorian era. But, many families fully expected the War to be over very soon – it lasted for another four Christmases, during which time many children were evacuated.