Put that light out!

Blackout regulations were imposed on 1 September 1939, two days before the declaration of war on Germany. The regulations required that all windows and doors should be covered at night with suitable material such as heavy curtains, cardboard or paint, to prevent the escape of any glimmer of light that might aid enemy aircraft. They endured until 23 April 1945 when the allies had the upper hand in the war and there was no longer a risk of bombing raids.

Blackout was enforced in the first instance by Air Raid Precautions (A.R.P.) Wardens, and by the local police. Those infringing the regulations might be simply told-off, but could be summoned to appear in court and if found guilty fined for their failure to comply. A typical offender was Elizabeth Edge, whose case, among others, was reported in the Manchester Evening News on Thursday 18 Jan 1940:

"Elizabeth Edge, of Albert-street. Newton Heath, was fined 20s. for not screening a light in her shop premises. It was stated that there were no curtains and that an electric light inside the shop had a 100-watt bulb covered with brown paper. Mrs. Edge denied in a letter that the light was shining through the window.

Ernest Robinson, a florist, of Alexandra Road, Moss Side, was fined 10s. for a similar offence. He said that the lights in the shop were shaded and screened, and he thought he was complying with the regulations.

Even the enforcers might fall foul of the regulations they were supposed to enforce:

An A.R.P. warden, Richard Maskell, of Alexandra Road, Moss Side, who did not appear, was fined 5s, for a similar offence. A police officer said the shop was a blaze of light. Maskell told the court in a letter that it was an oversight by one of his assistants.

Most cases, however, are not reported in such detail. The minimal details are, however, informative:

BLACK-OUT SUMMONSES Gorton is the latest district to figure in the Manchester police campaign against people who fail to observe the black-out regulation. At Manchester City Police Court to-day 42 householders were summoned for allowing light to show from their windows. In one case fairy lights on a Christmas tree had reflected through a curtainless window. In another a woman said her house was opposite an A.R.P. depot, and the lighting had remained the same for two months before a police officer told her,she would be reported. Fines of ss. were imposed on Herbert Fone (35), Darley-street; William O’Brien (56), Lord-street; Hannah Shaw (55). Beyer-street; Ernest Lawton (56), Church Lane; Minnie Loxley (26), Furnival Road; Harold Grimshaw (25), Rowsley-street; William Knape (46). High-street; Archie Langley (30), High-street; Leonard Mills (40), Wellersley Avenue; James Williams (35), Gorton Lane; James Shaw (30), Brook House, West Gorton. Rose Wilcock (40). Gorton Lane; Thomas Bamber (45). Park Avenue; Ellen Livesey (55). Park Avenue; Arthur McLelland (45), Bakewell-street ; Alfred Burrows (40), Gloucester- Street; Arthur Jackson (40) Gloucester-street; Harold Smith (30), Gloucester. street; Charles Souter (40). Midwoodstreet ; Esther Lowe (40). Church Lane ; (two summonses ss. each) Louie Ravenscroft (55), Beyer-street; Margaret Maddocks (50), Peacock-street; Lilian Peace (25). Casson-street; James Peace (56), her father-in-law. of Casson-street ; Minnie Lancaster (40). Casson street; Ada Morris (40). Burton-street; and Harold Amos (30), of Great Jackson-street. Fines of 10s. were imposed on Lily Wright (40), Chapman-street, Gorton; Herbert Fox (30), Church Lane; Frederick Jones (27), Goring Avenue (two summonses. 10s. and 5s.); and John Sivori (25), of Hyde Road (two summonses. 10s. each).[Manchester Evening News 31 Jan 1940]

So, did your ancestors fall foul of the regulations? Reports in the local press may well be worth a look!

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