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© Barns Green - A Local History of The Great War 2014
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On The Home Front - Blackout When a “Blackout” is mentioned in the context of war, we immediately think of the Second World War, but a Blackout was imposed during World War One from January 1915. The German Navy had launched a devastating attack on the north east coast in December 1914, killing 137 people and injuring nearly 600 more. German Zeppelin airships had also carried out successful bombing raids over Kent and Essex, reaching as far as London, so in January 1915 the Government ordered a blackout over all coastal facing counties. There was much confusion over what the “blackout” meant. In 1915, public radio transmissions were still ten years away and telephones were a rare luxury, telegrams were the main means of quick communication. The confusion was reported in the West Sussex County Times. At   Horsham   there   was   on   Tuesday   much   uncertainty   as   to   what   was   really   required.   The   first   poster   issued   by   the   Police authorities   apparently   prohibited   vehicular   lights,   but   late   in   the   evening   it   was   accepted   that   motors   and   cycles   were   to   be allowed   lights   and   this   was   made   clear   by   Wednesday’s   notices.   At   midday   on   Thursday   later   instructions   were   received.   It appears   the   restrictions   put   in   force   on   the   two   previous   days   applied   to   places   within   fifteen   miles   of   the   coast,   and   that businesses   and   dwellings   could   be   lighted   as   usual.   The   only   restriction   related   to   lights   directly   showing   upwards,   so   that   the local authorities can illuminate the town as usual provided there is a screen above the light. (WSCT January 1915) Within months the blackout was extended and eventually was a true, no lights at all, blackout. Barns Green residents were not too concerned initially as there was no electricity in the village anyway (Horsham town had its own local power generator and Christ’s Hospital School and Marlands House had their own generators). As the war dragged on the blackout was rigorously enforced and local people found themselves appearing at the Horsham Petty Sessions for “showing a light”. The magistrates could impose fines or even a prison sentence! Later in the war a zeppelin did get as far as Horsham, it did no damage, but did give the local insurance agent a unique sales opportunity!