Before World War II

Three fireman photographed in Birmingham, England in 1938 donned in gas masks.
Three fireman photographed in Birmingham, England in 1938 donned in gas masks.

For nearly my entire married life Britain has been at war. First with Iraq, latterly in Afghanistan. This has been a far cry from the world that my grandparents and parents grew up in and were born into.  (My Mum was born in 1939 at the start of World War II; my dad at the end, in 1945.)

The decade before the outbreak of WWII was one of great trouble across the world: The Great Depression (1929-approx. 1938), nationalism sweeping through Germany, the war between Japan and China (fighting start in 1931, war declared in 1937), the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

The photograph above shows three firemen involved in a drill in Birmingham, England on 16 March 1938. Two-thousand volunteers donned gas masks and went through an elaborate drill to prepare for the event of a gas attack on the city.

I can’t imagine living in a time where the fear of such an event was a very real one.

Britain is a very different place now. Our country is at war but you’d never know it from our everyday activities. No drills, no gas masks, no air raid shelters in our gardens.

Live television broadcasts has changed how we are in touch with global news (my Mum remembers visiting the cinema to watch news reels). Social media, especially Twitter, has changed even that: I can’t count the number of major news stories that I’ve seen break on Twitter and photo-sharing sites like TwitPic, sometimes 30-60 minutes, before they are announced on official news channels like the BBC.

I’m thankful that we live in a relatively peaceful country, but sad that the world is still far from peaceful and the economy so unsettled once again. Much to pray about.

The photograph was taken from a collection on The Atlantic called: World War II: Before the War; part of a 20-part series.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Former Scrum master at Safeguard Global, Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

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