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Lessons from the 1940s – Don’t Lose Heart

British poster, 1942

British poster, 1942

In 1940, things looked bleak in the United Kingdom. Hitler had swallowed up Poland, Norway, Denmark, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. In July, the Battle of Britain began as the Luftwaffe began attacking British shipping. In August the target shifted to the RAF, and by September 6, the British had lost 466 planes. Then the Blitz began in September, and London bore fifty-seven straight nights of bombing.

By the end of the Blitz in May 1941, only one house in ten was undamaged in central London, and 43,000 civilians had died. Invasion loomed as an ever-present threat. Extreme rationing and shortages, blackouts and air raid shelters, fires, and gas masks – this was life for the British.

British poster, WWII

British poster, WWII

Living in England eighty years ago, it would have been easy to lose heart. Yet for the most part, the British kept their famous stiff upper lip and “muddled through.” What Hitler meant to break them made them stronger, more determined, and more unified. They kept to their work and cranked out the ships and planes and tanks they needed for victory.

British poster, WWII

British poster, WWII

In addition, the senseless raids turned the tide of public opinion in the United States, allowing passage of the crucial Lend-Lease program in March 1941 to provide arms to the United Kingdom, and paving the way to America’s alliance with Britain.

By 1942, light could be seen. Hitler had greedily and foolishly invaded his ally, the Soviet Union in July 1941. Freed from harassment, Britain grew in strength and became the staging area for Allied troops and for Allied bombers. The ground was laid for D-day in 1944 and Victory in Europe in 1945.

Churchill waving to crowds at Whitehall, London, on the day the war with Germany was won, 8 May 1945 (Imperial War Museum: 4700-37 H 41849)

Churchill waving to crowds at Whitehall, London, on the day the war with Germany was won, 8 May 1945 (Imperial War Museum: 4700-37 H 41849)

Things may look dark, but there is always hope. Follow the British example, don’t lose heart, and let adversity make you stronger and more determined.