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50 Facts About Britain's War Effort

For more than five years, military security prevented Britain from revealing anything like a full picture of her war effort. To have given away detailed figures on manpower, production, food and other matters might have enable~ the enemy to piece together some of the secrets of Britain's survival, and to use this information in preparing further attacks on the island which had defied ·the Nazi plan for world conquest. Britain is still subject to attacks; but the Allied position is now secure, and many facts and figures of Britain at war can be neither of aid nor of comfort to the enemy. On November 28; 1944, the British Government lifted ,the curtain. For the first time, the world was able to look into the military camps, the factories and the homes of Britain.

The picture revealed is, in a sense, only a working diagram. Tables of statistics and pages of charts do not normally convey a living picture. Yet in these tables and charts there are overtones of pride, enterprise and courage. Here is the Britain which, in our own way, fought on in the fields, the streets and the hills, and never surrendered. It is strange that dry statistics should have this power. The reason may lie in the unusual character of Britain's war effort. For Britain, this has not been a war of soldiers only. Every man  woman and child in the island has felt the force of the war, and there are very few for whom it has not meant a 
drastic·or complete change in the life they lead, the work they do, the food they eat, the clothes they wear. Indeed, it goes deeper than this. To Britain, the war has brought about, for all its people, a change in their approach to life. In the grim years which followed Nazi Germany's .first triumphs, the ordinary men and women of Britain learnt what it meant to face the imminent possibility of an invader setting foot on their soil and destroying their life and liberty. At such a moment, a people knows what it is fighting for; and it knows that every personal sacrifice it makes to keep up the .fight is a thousand times worthwhile.

This is, therefore, a record of a whole people at war. It starts with manpower, for the fighters have not been only those in uniform. Every man and woman of Britain has been fitted into the right war job. The record of those in uniform - given here in brief figures - speaks for itself. The record of the remainder is no less dramatic.

Next comes production, and here, behind the charts and tables, the reader sees not the normality of a production line, but the relentless struggle to keep the wheels rolling against all the obstacles of bombing, blackout and fatigue; the constant search for new methods of achieving the impossible; the patching-up of old machines; the tireless initiative in using substitute buildings - tiny workshops, huge underground caves.  And side by side with the old industrial Britain is the new Britain: the vast new plants established during the war itself; the spacious hostels for war workers in the heart of the country; the intense interest  in human welfare; the integration of education and culture, music and literature into the lives of the men and women who have been mobilized, under strict discipline, into a vast production army.

The figures relating to civilian life are the obverse of the medal. No one could have foreseen how a whole people could lower its living-standards, give up so much of the comforts of food, clothing and home life, and yet  remain cheerful and optimistic. These are the same people who, returning from long hours at the war plants, waiting in line for a crowded bus, and shopping for goods that are almost impossible to find have faced over and over again a renewed bombing, a further evacuation, a home destroyed. It was no false promise that Mr. Churchill made in 1941:

"We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire.
Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials
of vigilance and excertion will wear us down.''

Finally, there is the cost of the war to Britain. Measured in terms of human lives lost, it is grim enough; but there is in addition the cost to those who remain. How is Britain to evaluate the physical devastation at home the loss of her resources abroad, or, in another field, the permanent effects on the·children: who  have grown up for nearly six years under the privations of war?

Yet, in the final analysis, this is not how the war will be evaluated in Britain. It has been a struggle in which a whole people gave everything needed in terms of possessions and comfort to defend the one thing they would not sacrifice - their freedom. Set over against tragedy and devastation is the triumph of achievement, the fulfillment of purpose. It is with renewed confidence in herself and her future that Britain faces the rebuilding of a new world.


1. As early as mid-1941:, ninety-four out of every hundred males in Britain aged 14 to 64 had been mobilized in the Services or industry. The remaining six per cent are almost elderly,schoolboys, students,
war invalids, sick and retired persons.

2. Out of 16,000,000 women in Britain aged 14 to 59, more than 7,000,000 were ,in the Services or industry by mid-1944. The remainder were almost all married women with domestic responsibilities.

3. Britain has made all men aged 18 to 51-married or single subject to drafting for the Forces. Women can be drafted to the Forces or directed into industry. Out of 32,000,000 men and women  of working age in mid-1944, 22,000,000 - that is, more than two out of every three - were in the Forces or industry.

4. Britain has put into her Armed Forces more than one out of every three men aged 14 to 64. The number of men actually serving in June, 1944, was 4,500,000. If the number of killed, missing, prisoners of war, and discharged persons are included, the total who are serving or who have served is more than 5,500,000 more than one out of nine of the entire population of Britain.

5. Fifty-seven per cent of all men in Britain aged 18 to 40 have served or are serving in the Armed Forces.

6. Britam's total of 4,500,000 men in the Armed Forces in June, 1944 - almost one-tenth of the entire population - does not include the men in the Merchant Navy; 225,000 men in whole-time Civil Defense; 1,000,000 men of the Armed Forces killed, missing, prisoner or discharged; and 1, 750,000 men in the  Home Guard.

7, As early as 1943, more than half of all British women aged 18 to 40 were in the Services or industry. By mid-1944, 900,000 British women were doing part-time work in industry and 350,000 were doing part-time  Civil Defense work.

8. Three out of every four persons employed in British manufacturing industries (excluding mining) in mid-1944 were on Government work. Almost all the remainder were on essential work for the home market. Only fqur per cent of this labor force was engaged in production for export.

9. Between mid-1943 and mid-1944, personnel employed in British munitions industries was reduced by 181,000. In the same period personnel in the Forces increased by 224,000 in spite of heavy military casualties.

10. Casualties to Britain's Armed Forces totaled more than one out of every ten men in the first five years of the war. One out of every twenty-six men enlisted in the Forces has been killed or is missing.

I1. More than 57,000 British civilians were killed and almost 79,000 injured by enemy action up to the end of August, 1944. Of the total killed, 23,757 were women and 7,250 were children.


12. Britain has herself produced seven-tenths of all the munitions and merchant vessels produced or used by the British Commonwealth and Empire since the outbreak of the war. Of the balance, one-tenth has come from the rest of the Commonwealth and Empire and two tenths from the United States.
13. Between September, 1939, and June, 1944, Britain built 722 major naval vessels, with a displacement of 1,333,961 tons; 1,386 Mosquito naval craft; and 3,636 other naval vessels. Output in this last category, which  includes landing craft, increased from 200 in 1940 to an annual rate of 1,814 in the first half of 1944.
14, In 1940, Britain produced 1,486 naval guns; in 1941, almost 4,000; in 1943, more than 20,000. Torpedo output was almost 1,000 in 1940; in 1943, it was more than 7,000.
15, By June, 1944, Britain had produced more than 25,000 tanks and nearly 1,000,000 wheeled vehicles for the Services. Artillery equipmerits totaled 13,512; anti-aircraft equipments, 21,618. More than 2,000,000 rifles and nearly 4,000,000 machine guns and sub-machine guns were made by Britain in this period.
16, Britain's output of rockets increased from 14,000 in 1940 to 3,138,000 as early as 1942. Output of ammunition up to June, 1944, included 161,000,000 rounds of gun ammunition; 388,000,090 rounds
of 22 mm. ammunition; and 8,285,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition.
17. British factories delivered 102,609 new aircraft between September, 
​​1939, and June, 1944, including 27,720 bombers, 38,025 fighters, and 6,208 naval planes. For every six aircraft delivered in 1942, four additional aircraft were put back into action through repairs. British workers have done more than 60,000  major repair jobs to aircraft and more than 113,000 to,aero engines.
18. In the first six months of 1944, Britain was delivering heavy bombers at the rate of 5,778 a year, and fighters at the rate of 11,310 a year.
19. Britain produced more than 200,000 .aero engines and almost 1,000,000 tons of bombs between September, 1939, and June, 1944.
20. Output of iron ore in Britain in 1943 was fifty per cent above the pre-war average;. timber output was eight times as great; magnesium production was almost twelve times as great. Almost 6,000,000 more tons of metal scrap were 

collected in the years 1939 to 1943 than would have been collected at the pre-war rate.
21. Britain has plowed up fifty per cent more land during the war an increase of 6,500,000 acres. The net output of human food has increased by at least seventy per cent in terms of both calories and protein. Production of wheat, barley, and potatoes has increased in every case by more than one hundred per cent. 

22. In maintaining vital supply routes, Britain, up to me end of 1943, lost 2,921 merchant ships totaling 11,643,000 gross tons, a loss equal to two-thirds of her entire merchant fleet tonnage at the outbreak of the war. 29,629 merchant seamen in United Kingdom shjps have lost their lives and 4,173 have been interned by the enemy.
23. By the end of 1943, Britain had produced 4,717,000 gross tons of new merchant ships. In addition, a vast repair program has absorbed more than half of the manpower available for merchant shipping. At one period, more than 2,500,000 tons of merchant ships were in hand for repairs.
24. As part of Britain's Reverse Lend-Lease to the United States, British ships transported to the United Kingdom, in one year alone, about 865,000 uniformed Americans, including 320,000 carried in the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary.
25. To meet the shipping shortage, Britain cut down her imports of dry cargo to less than half of the pre-war figure. Imports of food and raw materials in 1943 were down to fifty per cent. Imports of "finished
goods" - averaging 1,150,000 tons a year up to 1943 instead of a prewar 7,000,000 tons - were almost exclusively munitions.
26. British imports of dairy produce in the first half of 1944 were only sixty-five per cent of the pre-war average for six months; sugar imports were down to forty-six per cent; fruit and vegetables to twenty-eight per cent. Imports of maize and other animal feeding-stuffs which totaled 5,000,000 tons a year before the war, fell to one and one half per cent of the pre-war figure.
27, British imports of steel ingots in 1942-urgendy needed for war production and economical of shipping space were almost thirty times the pre-war figure: On the other hand, imports of iron ore were cut down to one-third, and metal scrap to almost nothing. Timber imports were cut from almost 10,900,000 tons to less than 2,000,000 tons. Raw cotton imports were cut to less than three-quarters; newsprint to less than one-quarter.
28. British exports in 1943 were less than half the pre-war amount by value, and less than one-third by quantity.
29. By mid-1944 only four per cent of all persons in British 
manufacturing industries (excluding mining)  were engaged in production for export, as compared with fifteen per cent before the war. Exports of spirits were sixty per cent of the 1938 figure; woolen and worsted goods, fifty per cent. Pottery exports were cut to forty-three per cent; cotton piece goods to seventy-seven per cent. Iron and steel exports had virtually vanished.


30. One out of. every three houses in Britain has been damaged or destroyed by enemy action. Out of 13,000,000 houses, 4,073,000 were damaged, 255,000 rendered uninhabitable, and 202,000 totally estroyecl up to the end of September, 1944.
31. One-quarter of the 4,500,000 houses in Britain damaged or desuoyed by enemy action were damaged in the robot attacks after D-Day.
32. By 1940, the quantity of foods and services purchased by civilians in Britain, including food, rent, fuel and travel, had fallen to eighty-eight per cent of the 1938 figure; by 1941, it had fallen to eighty-two per cent; by 1943, to seventy-nine per cent. The goods still supplied have largely deteriorated in quality.
33. The only staple foodstuffs in Britain in unrestricted supply are potatoes, other vegetables, and bread. Except during the home season, fresh fruit is very scarce. Ordinary consumers received an average of two and one-half eggs a month in 1943.
34. Total consumption of meat per head in Britain in 1943 was twenty-two ounces per week - a fall of twenty-seven per cent from the pre-war average. Fresh fruit averaged twelve ounces a week - a fall of fifty-six per cent; butter, two and one-third ounces a week-a fall of seventy per cent.
35. Landings of fish in Britain during the war have averaged less than one-third of the pre-war figure, because two-thirds of the British deep-sea trawler fleet and nearly three-quarters of her steam-drifter fleet have been requisitioned for naval purposes.
36. The milk allowance to non-priority consumers in Britain has averaged two pints a week during the last three winters. Special allowances of milk for children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and invalids have helped to maintain minimum nutrition standards. Children have been given basic supplies of orange  juice, and canteens have received special allowances of food for workers in heavy industries.
37. British clothes rationing-introduced in 1941 - allows each only one pair of boots, shoes or slippers in about thirteen months; and each housewife, one pair in eight months.A woman can buy five or six pairs of stockings a year - none fully fashioned, and all inferior in quality.
38. Pottery, glass, kitchen goods and other hardware purchases in Britain in 1943 were down to one-third of the 1938 quantity; furniture and furnishings to less than one-quarter. Supplies available in 1943 would allow only one civilian in eight to spoon or fork a year, or one in twelve to buy a table-knife.
39. The average load carried by British passenger trains is two-and-a-quarter times as great as before the war. Despite rigid curtailment of the use of trains for normal passenger use, congestion has increased because of evacuation and dispersal, the special services provided for industrial workers, and the extensive traveling by British and Allied Forces.
40. The net ton-miles of freight trains in Britain have risen by forty per cent since the outbreak of the war; for merchandise alone the figure has almost doubled. In addition to the immense services provided in advance of D-Day, British freight trains have had to carry loads diverted from coastal shipping. Women have replaced men to a great extent throughout the railroad system.
41. Busses in Britain had their mileage reduced by forty per cent as early as 1941, yet passengers carried have increased in some cases by as much as fifty per cent. The number of automobiles licensed fell from 2,000,000 before the war to 700,000 at the beginning of 1944. No gas is allowed except on proof of essential need.


​                              THE COST OF THE WAR

42. In five war years, total Government expenditure in Britain has been about $93,000,000,000. Expenditure in 1943 was nearly six times the expenditure in 1938.
43. In meeting the cost of the war in 1943 - $23,000,000,00 –Britain raised half the sum needed by taxation and other revenue; almost one-third - $7,000,000,000 - by private savings; and almost all the remainder - $3,238,000,000 - by the sale of assets abroad and disinvestment at home.
44. The number of income tax payers in Britain rose from 4,000,000 in 1938-9 to 13,000,000 in 1943-4.  Income tax is at a standard rate of fifty per cent.
45. In Income Tax alone, a married man with two children in Britain pays $304 out of an income of $2,000 a year, or $1,204 out of $4,000 a year. In the higher brackets, Iricome Tax and Surtax take $5,528 out of an income of $12,000, or $27,128 out of an income of $40,000. In the case of incomes over $80,000, Income Tax· and Surtax rise to ninety-seven and one-half per cent on the part in excess of $80,000.
46. In addition to Income Tax, all businesses in Britain pay an Excess Profits Tax of one hundred per cent. Indirect taxes in Britain have more

than doubled. On a pint of beer, the duty is twelve and a half cents. A pack of twenty cigarettes costs forty-seven cents, of which thirty-five cents is tax. Purchase tax on a wide range of goods varies from sixteen per cent to one hundred per cent.

47. Private savings in Britain have totaled about $30,000,000,000 in five war years, equivalent to $630 per head of population. By far...

50 Facts About Great Britain runs out of facts at 47 – no explanation given. Perhaps due to war shortages, 50 Fact books were cut by six percent to 47 facts.