Revision Diary

U-boats, rationing and

the role of women


Battle of the Atlantic and the effects of submarine warfare;

       Rationing; the role of women.





Hitler knew that Britain depended on raw materials which came from overseas.   If he cut this off, he would win.   SO he sent his U-boats - in 'Wolf Packs' - to destroy as much merchant shipping as they could.

     This was a great danger; Churchill said that the U-boat menace was the only thing that worried him during the war.

     Britain fought back by developing 'convoys' to protect shipping, and by developing new technology to hunt down and destroy U-boats.   By the end of the war, Britain was winning the Battle of the Atlantic.


One of the results of the U-boats was rationing.   People were given coupons to get rationed goods (although they might also buy them 'under the counter' on the 'Black market').  Many grew food on allotments in the

'Dig for Victory' campaign and a government campaign ('Potato Pete' and 'Dr Carrot') encouraged people to use food that was home-grown.  

'Utility clothing' used as little cloth as possible, and many women went to clothing swapshops.

     One of the strange effects of rationing was that the population in general were HEALTHIER during the war, because rationing shared food more equally.


Most of the burden of war on the home front fell on women (e.g. evacuation upset them, they had more work to do at home because the men were away fighting, coping with rationing and bombing raids, helping with Civil Defence and the Women's Voluntary Service).  

     After 1941, women could also be conscripted into war work - both into the armed services (WRNS/ WAAF/ ATS) or into essential industries.   It is interesting that these women were often NOT welcomed into industry by the men, because they 'diluted' men's wages.



Battle of the Atlantic

1.  British codebreakers at Bletchley Park were able to decode intercepted German messages (especially when Britain captured an Enigma code machine)

2.  The British developed HF/DF (‘huff-duff’), which let them work out U-boats’ positions from their radio transmissions.

3.  The turning point was Convoy ONS–5 (1943).   When the Nazi U-boats attacked, they were detected and six were sunk.  



1.  30 Jan 1940: national campaign to collect scrap metal, paper, and food waste (for pig-swill)

2.  3 Apr 1940: Lord Woolton appointed Minister of Food

3.  Key items put on ration were petrol, butter, sugar, bacon and meat.


The Role of Women

1.  In 1939: 25,000 women join the Women’s Land Army.

2.  Women conscripted to the women’s armed forces did not fight - they did jobs such as typist so that men could be sent to fight.

3.  At first the government did not conscript women with children to work away from home, but after 1943, this stopped.  


TOP TRICK: remind yourself of scenes of life on the home front from Dad's Army – you can use its details as 'for example, some...' facts in your answers.





Revision Focus

This is a Paper 1- World War Two  topic, so think about how you will USE the information to answer sourcework questions.  

You will need:

1.  A GENERAL UNDERSTANDING of 'what was going on', so you can make intelligent comments on the purpose of the sources.

2.  Some FACTUAL KNOWLEDGE so you can assess the factual accuracy of the sources.


This paper is ALL sourcework questions, so make sure you know how to do them.


NOTE PARTICULARLY that there is no choice of questions on this topic - so...





More key facts on the Revision Sheet.  



To find out more, read the e-book pages on the Battle of the Atlantic and Rationing.


It would be really useful to read the e-book page on Women in the War.