During the years of the Second World War the British Isles were a hub of activity; factories churning out munitions and people working the land for a ‘better more efficient’ Britain. But was this new found patriotism just a faï¿½ade to cover up more unlawful activities. Statistics show a significant increase in crime during the war years but this does not necessarily reflect the British people as a whole.
Looting was allegedly a big problem in large towns or cities where possessions were taken from bombed out buildings. Source G conveys this point as it focuses on the subject of looting during a bomb raids by AFS officers. The officers are shown to have stolen a number of valuables from a bombed out house including jewellery. This source is useful and reliable as detailed research into war crime had been undertaken before making the source. However it is an entertainment film so some details must have been dramatized.
Other evidence supports Source G. For example records of the time that describes twenty cases of looting of which ‘ten involved members of the Auxiliary Fire Service’. There were also reports of a ‘black market’ trade in fake AFS uniforms where looters would pose as officers so that they could loot homes. ‘Our Sergeant says loot as much as you like as long as you’re not found out’ said one auxiliary officer to Mass Observation (Source C).
It would seem from Source G that as far as many AFS officers were concerned looting small possessions was acceptable. As described by one officer looting often only consisted of a ‘tin of peaches’. It was nothing but petty crime and the public largely turned a blind eye. The officers in Source G seem to agree that what they were doing was wrong but that it was their right for risking their lives in a bomb raid.
Because of exceptional circumstances during the war many other people broke the law by buying and selling goods on the black market. Source I supports this as it describes housewives queuing to buy black market meat from their butcher. The man seems to have done well out of trade; seemingly because of a ‘tip of three shillings’. This Source is useful and reliable as it comes from first hand accounts of a young women in 1970. Similarly references in the East Grinstead Observer in 1944, to court cases involving black market trade seems to support an increasingly widespread black market dealings.
It would appear from this source that as far as most law abiding Britons were concerned trade in the black market was acceptable if it meant getting a ‘fairer’ deal for their families. In spite of this the mother featured in the source seems to feel that during rationing such behaviour is dishonest and wonder how they are going to bring their children up with good morals if they behave like this.