October 24th, 1939


FROM THE ARCHIVES:When the second World War began, the government ordered a blackout of cities and larger towns, which was greeted with much grumbling, as in these comments by Motoring Correspondent Harold C Brown.

HAVING SPENT more money than I really could afford upon curtains that comply with the contemplated “black-out” regulations, I am opposed to any complete abandonment of that part of the A.R.P. scheme. Curtains apart, I am against Dublin being lit like a beacon to lead the German ’planes to Liverpool or Belfast.

However, we don’t want to overdo the “black-out”. In Britain it has cost as many lives, through road accidents, as have the operations in a corresponding period on the Western Front.

A friend who drove from Newry to Belfast in the Northern blackness, and with side lamps complying with the black North’s regulation, took over three hours for the journey, and promised that she would not do it again for all the fur coats in Ulster.

One hears stories about the effects upon the nerves of the Northern “black-out”. Those who don’t like Belfast paint a picture of nerve-racked people in blue-windowed tram cars, which can be found after nightfall only by the noise of their progress. Still, the people I know in Belfast seem to be having as much fun as ever . . .

All that provincialism apart, I commend to the regulators of our A.R.P. blackness an article entitled “A Tale of Two Cities”, in the current issue of The Autocar. It refers to London and Paris.

“Would you,” it asks of the Londoner, “like to be able to drive a hundred miles whenever you wished and fill up your tank on returning? Would you like to have street lighting once more? Would you like to be able to use your head lights freely on the open road? Would you like to be able to get on with your business unfettered by hampering transport restrictions?

“It is not impossible in Paris. France, like Britain, is at war. Paris, like London, is liable to air raids. But none of our “essential” restrictions applies in Paris. The Parisian listens with tolerant amusement to tales of the London “black-out”. He does not believe them. “The black-out, he argues, is purely a military precaution. If General Gamelin is satisfied with the measures taken in Paris, who shall know better than he?”

Belfast is part of the British system, and also contains military objectives. If Dublin is bombed at any stage of the war it will be as a result of an accident. The complete blacking out of the city is not necessary. As long as we don’t provide a guide to other bombing objectives we should be black enough.

And the traffic lights really are not all they should be with those little crosses of light which cannot be seen at all times. If the sun is in your favour you can see them, but at Westland Row the other day a whole stream of impatient drivers remained stationary, without one hoot out of it, because no one the green cross was lit.