To commemorate VE Day on Friday 8 May, the Museum of London Docklands has released a number of images from its ‘Docklands at War’ gallery with additional exclusive content from the collection rarely on display.
Many of the photographs illustrate that the London docks and the riverside factories in the East End of London bore the brunt of enemy attack and were targeted by enemy aircraft, with over 25,000 German bombs falling on the Docklands over the course of the war.
Tin of dried eggs. Fresh eggs were rationed in World War II. Although many people kept chickens, eggs were in short supply for most Londoners. In May 1941 the first imported dried egg powder arrived from America. The initial allowance for a family was one packet, equivalent to twelve eggs, every eight weeks. This allowance later increased to a packet every four weeks. The Ministry of Food issued recipe leaflets instructing © Museum of London
The photographs also illustrates some of the stranger aspects of the war like powdered eggs and tinned whalemeat.
Part of a German bomb, dropped on London by German bombers during World War II. © Museum of London
Air Raid Precautions rattle. During World War II, Air Raid Precautions wardens were employed to help members of the public during bombing raids. During training, wardens were instructed on how to respond to a gas attack. If poisonous gas were released over London, wardens were told to sound a hand rattle to alert people to stay indoors or put on their gas masks. Fortunately London never did experience any enemy gas attacks during the war. © Museum of London
Superintendent’s Office, Royal Albert Dock, October 1938. Port of London Authority (PLA) buildings were reinforced with sandbags so they could be used as air-raid shelters. Photography: John H. Avery & Co © PLA Collection / Museum of London
The Prime Minister and Mrs Churchill, with the Flag Officer, London, and J Douglas Ritchie (on left), touring London’s dock in Sept 1940, seen with a group of auxiliary firemen © PLA Collection / Museum of London
Tin of whalemeat steak for use in casseroles. Produced by ‘Taistbest’ the tin contains 16 ounces of whalemeat. A blue and white paper label surrounding the tin describes the contents and gives details of the manufacture. Whale meat was one of many unfamiliar food products imported to the UK during World War II. The government encouraged housewives to use whale meat as a substitute for meat and fish, both of which were in short supply. This tin provides a ready-made casserole meal of whale meat, but the Ministry of Food also issued information on how to fry, stew and mince this unrationed food © Museum of London
Royal Docks air raid precautions. Completed concrete shelter covered with earth. Entrance shown on the right. An emergency exit was allowed for the left hand end. Date: 11/07/1939 © PLA Collection / Museum of London
Night Raid over London Docklands. This is a dramatic view of a night time raid on the city, during the Second World War, by Wimbledon-born ‘fireman artist’ Wilfred Stanley Haines. From Rotherhithe on the south bank, the scene looks towards Wapping and depicts parachute flares, deployed by German bombers, illuminating the sky. They fall towards the Wapping entrance of the London Docks, seen in the background on the far left, as searchlights criss-cross the night sky.
If you would like to see more photographs from the period, Con Maloney has made a wonderful video which uses images from the Island History Trust’s photographic collection. Many thanks to Debbie Levett from the FOIHT for sending the link, to watch press here
The video was made on behalf of the Massey Shaw Education Trust and Friends of Island History Trust to mark the 75th Anniversary of VE Day but to also recognise what we are going through today.
If you are interested in Docklands at War, you will find plenty of information and photographs at the Museum of London Docklands and their online collections.