Object of the month – November 2018
With the onset of winter and the nights drawing in, it’s important that your vehicle is prepared for the changing driving conditions. But spare a thought for those drivers during the Second World War who also had to contend with the blackout regulations. Initially the blackout had an alarming effect; the number of accidents increased and the number of deaths on the road doubled!
The regulations were changed, and cars were permitted to drive with dipped headlights provided they had a headlight mask such as this one from the NIWM collection (NIWM:2016.2172). The three-slot headlight mask was released towards the end of September 1939 and was eventually made compulsory on 22nd January 1940. It was to be placed over the headlight, replacing the glass and limiting the light that could be seen from above.
Despite being introduced to help ensure people’s safety, there are many examples of the blackout and other Air Raid Precautions being treated with indifference in Northern Ireland. Some dismissed the blackout as ‘a political stunt’ and stated they would rather ‘run the risk of bombs falling nearby rather than live for the duration [of the war] in rooms that remind [her] of a dungeon’. It was even highlighted on 10th April, 1941 (two days after the first raid on Belfast and five days before the Easter Tuesday Raid) that the lighthouses in Belfast Lough were still functioning as in peacetime.
There was a widespread belief that Belfast would not be bombed by the Luftwaffe which was sadly to be disproved over the course of April and May 1941.