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Call Up - see Conscription

Chain Home - see RDF

Civil Servant

A public official who is a member of the Civil Service, the body of persons employed by the civil branches of the British government.


Also known as Call up. On 27th April 1939, Parliament passed the Military Training Act, introducing conscription for men aged 20 and 21, who were required to undertake six months' military training. Some occupations were exempted and particular key workers in other occupations could be exempted on request of their employers. By end 1939 over one and a half million men had been recruited into the armed forces - 1,128,000 joined the British Army and the remainder were equally divided between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.

On the outbreak of WWII, Parliament passed the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, under which all men between 18 and 41 were made liable for conscription, single men to be called up before married men. By May 1940, registration had extended only as far as men aged 27 and did not reach those aged 40 until June 1941.

On 18th December 1941, the National Service Act was passed by Parliament, calling up unmarried women aged between 20 and 30. Later this was extended to married women, although pregnant women and mothers with young children were exempt from this work.

Provision was made in the conscription legislation for people to object to military service on moral grounds. See Conscientious Objectors.

Episode: A Lesson in Murder, Eagle Day

Conscientious Objectors

Also known as COs or Conchies/Conshies.
People who, on moral, religious or political grounds, objected to joining the army, bearing arms and going to war.

Provision was made in legislation for people to object to military service on moral grounds. Of the first batch of conscripted men aged 20 to 23, about 22 in every 1000 objected and went before local military tribunals. The tribunals varied greatly in their attitudes towards conscientious objection and the proportions totally rejected ranged from 6% to 41%. It was thought very difficult to get a fair hearing in London, especially during the Blitz. As the war progressed fewer and fewer men objected to serving in the armed forces. In March 1940 only 16 in a 1000 objected.

Of the 6000 people to go on the conscientious objectors register, around 2000 were women. About 500 women were prosecuted for a range of offences, and more than 200 of them were imprisoned. During both world wars, white feathers were handed out or sent anonymously as a mark of cowardice to men who refused to fight or avoided conscription, the belief being that a white feather in the plumage of a gamecock is the sign of a poor fighter. See also Conscription

Episode: A Lesson In Murder, Bad Blood

Crown Film Unit

During WWII, the Ministry of Information was responsible for news and press censorship, publicity and propaganda. The Crown Film Unit (formerly the General Post Office Film Unit) was transferred to the Ministry in April 1940 to produce documentaries and films publicising emergency measures and information on wartime events, including films for propaganda purposes. Pinewood Studios, situated near the town of Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire, approx 20 miles west of London, was requisitioned and used as a base for the CFU, the Army Film and Photographic Unit, the RAF Film Unit and the Polish Air Force Film Unit.

Two examples of CFU films:

Britons at War 3 - A Welcome to Britain. This information film was made to explain the British way of life to GIs newly stationed in war-time Britain. It starred Burgess Meredith, then a Lieutenant in the US Air Transport Command, and featured Bob Hope.

Fires Were Started. This propaganda film pays tribute to the men and women who served in the Auxiliary Fire Service during the London Blitz by giving a dramatic portrayal of 24 hours in the lives of several fire-fighters and using the fire-fighters themselves as the actors.

Link: British Film Institute

Episode: Eagle Day

Crystal Palace

A huge iron and glass building originally built to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. Relocated, rebuilt and expanded in 1854, it eventually burnt down in 1936, lighting up the city skyline for miles around - hence the expression, 'the whole lot went up like Crystal Palace'.

Link: Crystal Palace entry at Wikipedia

Episode: Invasion


Prior to Decimal Currency Day on 15th February, 1971, the English coinage system was based on the following relationships:

2 Farthings = 1 Halfpenny (ha'penny)
2 Halfpence = 1 Penny
2 Pence = Tuppence
6 Pence = Sixpence (often referred to as a tanner)
12 Pence = 1 Shilling (often referred to as bob, e.g. six bob)
2 shillings = 1 Florin (or two bob bit)
2 Shillings and 6 Pence = 1 Half Crown (rarely referred to as half a dollar)
5 shillings = 1 Crown
20 Shillings = 1 Pound (often referred to as a quid)
21 Shillings = 1 Guinea

The ten-shilling (or ten-bob) note, introduced in 1928, had only a short life. In 1971 it was replaced by the decimal equivalent, 50p.

Link: Coins of England and Great Britain
Link : Bank of England, ten-shilling note