How to explain VE Day and WW2 to children - about the Blitz

As celebrations for the seventy-fifth anniversary of VE day get underway, here are some answers to questions children might ask about World War Two, spotlighting the Blitz and the roles of women;

What was the Blitz?

In 1940, Hitler attacked Britain. The German air force, known as the ‘Luftwaffe’, began dropping bombs on Britain’s cities. These attacks were called air raids.

The first bombing took place on September 7, 1940, when around 350 bombers flew across London. For eleven weeks, Britain was bombed every day by the Germans, bar from one night.

The Luftwaffe targeted docks, factories and railways, to bring Britain to a standstill.  The word ‘Blitz’ comes from the German word ‘Blitzkrieg’ which means ‘Lightning War’.

How did people stay safe during the Blitz?

Many measures were taken to protect people from the bombs;

Shelters: People were told to build shelters in their homes and gardens to protect themselves during air raids. A popular one was the Anderson shelter, made from corrugated iron sheets and dug halfway into the ground.

The Underground: In London, people used the Underground as shelter. Hundreds of families would squeeze on to the platforms to try and keep safe from the bombs.

The Blackout: During the Blitz, the government told everyone to block out light from their windows and doors using heavy blackout curtains, cardboard or anything else that would block the light. This was to confuse the German bomber planes as they flew overhead. People were not allowed to use street lamps or car headlights.

How many people died in the Blitz?

One third of London’s buildings were destroyed during the Blitz. By the end of it, around 60,000 people had died, and 87,000 more had been injured.

What was evacuation?

Evacuation was introduced by the government in 1939 because they were concerned about people’s safety in the big cities that were under attack.

Evacuation was mainly for children but some other groups of people were included,  such as school teachers, some disabled people and mothers with very young children.

Evacuees were sent out of the cities to live with new families out in the countryside towns and villages. These host families were given some money each week to care for evacuees.

Caring for evacuees was considered a national service – you could be fined if you refused to take in evacuees with no good reason.

What did women do during WW2?

With so many men away at war, women had to step in and do the jobs that men had previously done, just like they did during the First World War.

They also had to carry on running their households, looking after children, growing food, and much more.

From 1941, women were called up for war work, such as working in weapons factories, driving buses or being air raid wardens. They also worked on the land, doing farm work.

There were more than 640,000 women in the armed forces during WW2. These women had jobs such as driving ambulances in war zones, being nurses at army hospitals or flying aircraft.

Find out more information about VE Day, the Second World War and other topics at the PlanBee website, which offers free resources, online sessions and ideas for parents and teachers during lockdown.