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During the Second World War, Londoners lived through some of the most challenging and harrowing experiences of their lives. The war had a profound impact on every aspect of life in the city, from work and food rationing to air raids and bombing.

One of the most notable changes was the evacuation of over a million children and their families from London to the countryside, which was done to protect them from bombing raids. This left many Londoners without loved ones and caused significant disruption to family life.

The city was also subject to frequent air raids and bombings, with the most significant and sustained period of bombing known as the Blitz occurring between September 1940 and May 1941. During this time, Londoners had to endure almost daily bombings and were forced to take shelter in underground stations and other makeshift shelters to avoid the bombs.

Food rationing was also introduced during the war, which affected the diet and nutrition of Londoners. The government introduced a system of rationing that limited the amount of food each person could buy, including staples such as bread, meat, and sugar.

Despite the hardships and challenges of living through the war, Londoners showed remarkable resilience and solidarity. Communities came together to support each other, and there are many stories of bravery and heroism from this time. Ultimately, the determination and strength of the people of London helped the city to survive and recover from the war.

Document / archive

  • At the outbreak of war, railway companies evacuated 1.3 million children and some adults from big towns and cities. Today, a statue commemorates the Kindertransport mission.
  • The railways also played a huge part in the evacuation of Dunkirk in May and June 1940, when more than 338,000 Allied troops were rescued from the shores of northern France. A total of 620 trains moved more than 319,000 troops from their landing points to locations all over the country.
  • Railway restaurant cars were withdrawn from service on 5 April 1944 as part of the build-up to Operation Overlord (D-Day), the Allied invasion of Europe, for the rest of the war.
  • Just like in WWI, the number of women working on the railway rose substantially during WWII. By the end of WWII, the number of women in railway jobs had increased from 635 in 1939 to 10,899 in 1945. More than 1.6 million women took on traditionally male jobs, with more than 100,000 working in various forms of transport, particularly as engineers.
  • Perhaps one of the most famous stories of the railway during WWII is its role in providing shelter and food for servicemen and civilians.


  • Aerial bombing
  • Air-raid shelter
  • Blitz
  • Ration coupons
  • Penury
  • Home Front
  • Forbearance
  • Searchlights
  • Barrage balloons