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1917 lighting restrictions under DORA


Bernard_Lewis

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Anyone know why domestic and business lights had to be dimmed (a bit like the WW2 blackout, methinks) in 1916, under a Defence of the Realm regulation?

Was it a fear of Zeppelins? (could they reach Swansea, Wales?) Or was it energy saving? (not sure how widespread electricity was at the time; suppose lamp oil or gas might be in short supply or needed for military purposes).

Bernard (sorry, got wrong year in heading...its 1916 I am looking at)

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Yes it was fear of Zeppelins.

Here in Kenilworth when there was an intimation of Zeppelins about, the local Volunteer Training Corps had to go round every house and get them to dim their lights. They had to do this as sirens and church bells being used as warnings had been banned.

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Lancashire Fusilier

Bernard,

Here is an extract from an article relating to the impact the DORA lighting restrictions had the population of Lincolnshire, which was probably typical of the rest of Britain at that time.

Regards,

LF

" AIR RAID PRECAUTIONS
Civilians were asked to take their own anti-aircraft precautions. In practice this meant acceding to Police, Admiralty or Military requests. The Home Secretary made Provincial Orders to certain areas in the Thames Estuary to extinguish lights at 10.00 p.m. each night; similar orders were made shortly afterwards for Grimsby and Cleethorpes. During the next few months inland Orders were made for Grantham, Newark, Sleaford and Stamford. Superintendant Barton could see Spalding lights at Sutton Bridge and Councillor Stapleton said the glare could be seen nearly at Skegness. On 10 September it was announced that the Admiralty wanted Spalding lights to go out after 11.00 p.m. On 10 October the street lights at Sutton Bridge were turned off. Shops and other premises were required to reduce their lighting because it could be seen 25 miles away. Once the buzzer sounded to warn of an aerial attack, lights had to be turned off. If driving, the car’s headlights must be put out.
From Monday, 5 April 1915, official lighting restrictions came into force for whole country. Lights visible from the sea or estuary must be extinguished. Indoor lights were to be obscured from outdoor vision. Lighting restrictions meant from September 1915 Kirton-in-Lindsey Church Evensong began at 6.00 p.m. Trains had to obscure carriage lights by drawing down blinds, and the locomotives' fireboxes had to be screened. Sometimes it was difficult to know whose orders to follow and the Police were advised that the over-riding authority was Northern Command at York.
In February 1916 a notice was posted in the Grantham newspapers that implied people would be fired on if they flashed torches when an air raid was expected. The sale of fireworks was prohibited. In October 1917 the Rev. J.M.F. Humphreys was summonsed for contravening the Defence of the Realm Lighting Regulations. Mitchell-Innes said 'his excitable demeanour towards the Bench during the hearing of the case attracted general attention.'
On 15 September 1916 the Chief Constable of Lincoln, Mr F.J. Crawley, issued instructions concerning action to be taken if enemy aircraft were signalled in the city vicinity. The engineering firm, Ruston, Proctor & Co. Ltd, would blow blasts on their buzzer for two minutes with stops every ten seconds. All lights must be extinguished and citizens must shelter in their cellars or lower parts of the house. Special Constables were to assemble at their respective Police Stations. If aircraft were not detected prior to their arrival over the city, and the buzzer therefore was not blown, as soon as they realised the danger people were expected to act in the same way. The ‘all clear’ would be one minute’s continuous blast on the buzzer. People were not allowed to ring bells. The Vicar of Barton on Humber, Mr Varah, wanted to ring bells in the half hour after sunset. He was not allowed to do this. However, in November 1917 permission was given in certain areas but not in Lincolnshire. In March 1916 Mr Varah was served with a summons for the defective lighting of his church and fined £2.0.0. "
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Susan and LF - many thanks for the info.

Bernard

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DORA did not impose any such conditions over the whole of the country. Under regulation 12 of the Defence of the Realm Regulations it was open (but not absolutely required) for the local military authorities to impose some form of blackout. Different parts of the country responded differently and different people took (or did not take) the initiative. So for example the Chief Constable of Middlesbrough brought together the commanders of the garrisons at Tees and Hartlepool and the local Ironmasters to look at some means of controlling ordinary domestic and municipal lighting and the brighter glare of blast furnaces should an air raid occur. Any attempt to come up with a full WW2 style blackout was fiercly opposed by much of the public and by local watch committees (who feared an increase in crime - and in WW2 their predictions were borne out) The scheme approved required all lights and glare to be dowsed within 12 minutes of a warning of the approach of enemy aircraft. This could then be enforced with legal sanctions for non compliance. London, Norfolk, Suffolk and the Home Counties had much stricter lighting controls effectively applying a dimming of lights and later a complete blackout during "sleeping hours" and in 1916 these were extended to cover much of the Midlands and the West. There was never a comprehensive and standardised country wide scheme. Indeed there was significant public opposition to the measures, headed by the Manchester Guardian. The government lost a seat in a by election to an anti blackout candidate. One effect was to support the idea of daylight saving and the introduction of BST to reduce productive time lost to nightime darkness.

One ludicrous national regulation was applied - the banning of clocks chiming as it was erroneously thought that these could be heard by airships and used as navigation aids.

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Lancashire Fusilier

Thanks for posting this LF.

squirrel,

My pleasure, and as a Lincolnshire man, I am sure you know the various places mentioned.

Regards,

LF

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Thank you too, Centurion.

I think I actually have documents which initially say 'we're OK, black-out not required' but later a black-out is imposed. I then have a court meeting which prosecutes 20+ offenders, the regulations being described as 'as clear as mud'!

I can now write up the info kindly provided by all with the necessary qualifications.

Bernard

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There were lighting restrictions in coastal areas ; from reading local newspapers of the time, it seems that there were a number of prosecutions for those who breached them.

An interesting thread, I am always intrigued by topics that deal with everyday at during the Great War.

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There were lighting restrictions in coastal areas ; from reading local newspapers of the time, it seems that there were a number of prosecutions for those who breached them.

An interesting thread, I am always intrigued by topics that deal with everyday at during the Great War.

I think that this was probably due to fears of assisting German naval surface operations. Let me come back on this tomorrow.
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Yes would be interested to read more Centurion, had assumed that the Sussex restrictions were more to do with the danger from the sea.

I also recall from 'Testament of Youth' that Vera Brittain recalled her fiance Roland Leighton's family living on the coast near Lowestoft, and the lighting restrictions being very strict in Autumn 1914, so suspect that the east coast would also have similar regulations.

The Leighton family moved in 1915 to Keymer in Sussex, but away from the coast.

Regards

Michael Bully

I think that this was probably due to fears of assisting German naval surface operations. Let me come back on this tomorrow.

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From the outbreak of war all coastal lights were extinguished and it was an offence to show a light visible from the sea. This applied all over the British Isles and both Australia and New Zealand applied the same restriction at the same time. Initially this does not appear to have been under DORA but through a Royal Proclamation applying martial law. I suspect that later it was put under DORA with a less blanket application (in Australia and New Zealand legislation to control coastal lights was applied in 1915). The objective appears to have been to make navigation difficult for any attacking war ships. However one result was a series of British wrecks. The steamer Hawnby was wrecked at Johnshaven, near Montrose on the 11th Septmber 1914 due to the absence of coastal lights and worse happened on October 30th when HMHS Rohilla ran aground just a mile south of the entrance to Whitby harbour on the northeast coast again, at least in part, due to coastal lights being extinguished. A gale was blowing and 85 lives were lost. New Zealand and Australia also experienced shipping accidents due to the lack of lights.

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Indeed, The lack of coast lights would be a danger to all shipping.... and including the merchant fleet. Thanks for the information Centurion, Much Appreciated. Regards. Michael Bully

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Cheers gents!

Bernard

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Lancashire Fusilier

worse happened on October 30th when HMHS Rohilla ran aground just a mile south of the entrance to Whitby harbour on the northeast coast again, at least in part, due to coastal lights being extinguished. A gale was blowing and 85 lives were lost.

centurion,

Here is a period photograph of the HMHS Rohilla rescue attempt, and a link to a very good website detailing the HMHS incident, with some excellent photographs.

Regards,

LF

post-63666-0-99817000-1379453747_thumb.j

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Indeed, The lack of coast lights would be a danger to all shipping.... and including the merchant fleet.

Yes I'm reminded of some WW2 over reactions (such as removing sign posts) although these would probably have had less tragic consequences.

Not only were British (and French?) lights extinguished but attempts were made to "persuade" neutral countries to follow suit. Significant pressure was applied to get Danish and Norwegian lights extinguished apparently because it was thought that these would allow German shipping (especially U boats) to plot their positions vis a vis the minefields that the RN had laid in the North. However it was not until 1918 that these began to go out (one assumes because the relevant governments had decided that Germany was not going to win and various threats made by same were not credible any more).

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Hadn't realised that neutral shipping were also caught up in the restrictions. Thanks, must see if Dutch ships were also caught up in this.

I recall now reading somewhere that 'The Lusitania ' dimmed its lights, once the ship got with a certain distance of the Irish coast.

Regards

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