In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity; in peace, goodwill.


The Second World War

Morrison Sandwiches

Morrison Shelters were home-assembled air-raid shelters that were provided free to half a million poorer families during WW2. They were low cages kept inside the house, with a metal top and base and mesh sides, that you crawled into during a raid. They came flat-packed in 265 parts and could be a bit ramshackle. A direct blast could cause the thick roof to collapse onto the occupants – earning the macabre name 'Morrison sandwiches'.

The nickname was probably unfair. One study of 44 badly damaged houses showed that of 152 people in Morrison shelters, 120 had escaped without injury - 3 were killed, 13 seriously injured, and 16 slightly injured. The shelter’s shape had the additional advantage that it could be used as a table during the day and as a spare double bed at night.

The shelter was named after Herbert Morrison, then Minister for Home Security, and Peter Mandelson's grandfather.

More numerous, but less popular, were Anderson Shelters. Made from six curved sheets bolted together at the top with steel plates at either end, they were for outdoor use but prone to flooding and did not keep out the sound of the bombings. If there was a toilet at all, it was a bucket in the corner.

Hitler's Moustache

In his youth, Hitler sported a bushier, Prussian-style moustache. According to a recently discovered essay by Alexander Moritz Frey, a medic who was in the same regiment in WWI, Hitler trimmed it into the familiar ‘toothbrush’ style so it would fit under his gas mask.

Frey’s account is controversial (he went on to be a satirist and fantasy novelist). Some historians believe Hitler only adopted his toothbrush moustache in 1919, and his sister-in-law, Bridget Hitler, who lived in Liverpool, claimed it was her idea. In her memoirs, she said she told him to make it less bushy but, as in most things, he went ‘too far’.

The Hitler moustache was fashionable in the 1920s, particularly in Northern Europe. Walt Disney had one in 1925 to make himself look older in business negotiations. By the 30s & 40s it went out of style: Bavarians called it Rotzbremse, or ‘snot brake’. When Ernst 'Putzi' Hanfstaengl, one of Hitler’s close friends, urged him to abandon the 'ugly' moustache, Hitler responded, 'If it is not the fashion now, it will be later because I wear it'. 

HERBERT HOOVER (1874-1944)

Older men declare war. But it is youth who must fight and die.

JOHN F. KENNEDY (1917-63)

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.

Bat Bombs

During World War II the US considered using hundreds of tiny bats, each wearing a small napalm bomb strapped to its chest, to descend on Japanese cities before exploding and spreading uncontrollable fires. 

During one test, the direction of the wind changed, blowing the bats back into the U.S. Army's headquarters, which caught fire while in another, some bats hid under the car of a high-ranking U.S. officer causing it to explode. After that the project was cancelled.

Stinky Warfare

A stinky compound called ‘Who, me?’ was developed in the US during WWII and shipped over to France, where it was hoped French resistance fighters would be able to humiliate and embarrass German soldiers by making them smell horrific. The flaw in the plan was that Who Me's ingredients were extremely volatile and therefore hard to control: The person who did the spraying ended up smelling as bad as the sprayee. For two weeks, Paris reeked.

Pogo sticks were invented by the Russian military during  WWII, as a means of escape from German Tanks during the siege of Berlin.

Starfish Sites

During WWII, the British built great fires to simulate entire fake cities. They were known as Starfish sites. By January 1943, over 200 Starfish sites had been built; most effective was on the night of 17/18 April 1941, when the decoy for Portsmouth, Sinah Common, drew more than 200 bombs and parachute mines intended for the city. By June 1944, decoy sites had been attacked on 730 occasions.

Train spotting was invented by a man who couldn't enlist for World War II because he only had one leg.

After their early successes in WWII, the Germans found themselves saddled with 7 million POWs.

The most bombed town in England during WWII was Bootle.

Britain finished paying off US loans from the end of World War II on 31 December 2005.

During World War II, condoms were used to cover rifle barrels from being damaged by salt water as the soldiers swam to shore.

During World War II, Winston Churchill used to keep his morale up by watching the Disney cartoon Bambi.

During WWII, members of the public were asked to adopt an animal at London zoo: 6d/week for a dormouse, 30/- for a penguin.

During WW2, to save material; the hemline was officially set by Government.

The Allies considered dropping boxes of poisonous snakes onto enemy troops during WWII.

The allies considered dropping glue onto Nazi troops in WWII in an attempt to stick them to the ground.

Silk Maps

During World War II, more than three and a half million ‘escape’ maps made from silk were printed. The British secret service worked with Waddingtons to make them. Silk maps are more durable than paper, they don’t disintegrate in water, can be screwed up into a tiny ball or sewn into the lining of a jacket – and they don’t rustle when opened.

After the war, they were often made into underwear. 

Cartoon Interrupted

The BBC's TV service was shut down abruptly on 1 September 1939 on the outbreak of war, in the middle of Mickey Mouse's Gala Premiere. Service was resumed on 7 June 1946. There was some debate about restarting the cartoon at the point in the broadcast where it had ceased, but this was over-ruled as frivolous and the cartoon was re-run from the beginning. The first postwar continuity announcer began: ‘As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted ...’

In WWII, garlic-impregnated chocolate bars were given to men dropped behind enemy lines in France & Spain so that they’d smell like natives.

The Allies had a plan to smuggle oestrogen into Hitler's food during WWII to make him more feminine.