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Twentieth Century


Peace celebrations
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Dartford's involvement in the two world wars brought new and often devastating experiences to its people. In previous centuries, wars had been fought by professional soldiers in far-off lands and did not have a direct impact on the daily lives of the townspeople. The Great War of 1914-18 brought, for the first time, the threat of death to the doorsteps of ordinary people as enemy aeroplanes and Zeppelins dropped their bombs and bullets on vulnerable exposed civilian targets. Young and old were expected to aid the war effort and obey government-enforced rules and regulations, including food rationing and local restrictions on travel.

Life was supposed to go on as normal, yet Dartford found itself in extraordinary circumstances. There was the constant threat of air raids. There were also food shortages and changes to the local economy as Dartford's leading companies took-on urgent war work. In-comers, Australians and American soldiers, German prisoners-of-war, Belgian refugees and thousands of munitions workers, had a profound impact on the local community.

As the town's men joined the armed forces, women played a new and dynamic role in many spheres of local life. They were required to take over hard manual jobs traditionally undertaken by men. Hundreds of Dartford's young men who joined the armed forces were killed or maimed in the fighting.

The Second World War (1939-45) brought even more trauma to Dartford as scores of ordinary people were killed and injured by bombs and bullets launched by the enemy. Daily life was disrupted on a scale hardly imagined during the First World War.

The technology of warfare had reached such an advanced stage of development that it was possible for the enemy to launch unmanned rockets packed with explosives from hundreds of miles of away. Death often came from an unseen source. The sufferings of ordinary people 1939-45 were much more serious than in 1914-18. Once again, many local men who volunteered or were conscripted to fight, were killed and maimed as they sought to secure victory for Britain and the allies.


Next topic: The first World War, 1914-18


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