If you are a little in the dark about blackouts (sorry, the puns stop here) then how about this: To make it easier for people to still get around in the darkness, well-meaning citizens took to painting everything from kerbs to railings in white to make them more visible.

You see, blackouts had been introduced in the hope of preventing enemy aircraft from navigating by city lights. But while the blackouts were beneficial in stopping some of the aerial bombardment, the enforced darkness created problems on the ground.

Traffic accidents increased hugely – In 1941, there were 9,000 fatalities on British roads. Meanwhile the cover of darkness also gave criminals a cloak of anonymity.

A woman paints her railings white in London, to make things easier during the blackout, during the Second World War.
Many people painted their railings, but was it in vain? (PA)

This woman was endeavouring to help solve the problem by painting the black iron railings outside her home white. And she was not the only one.

“Kerbstones, fences, and railings were often painted white in an attempt to help people see where they were going,” said Colin Hyde, from the East Midlands oral history archive, Centre for Urban History, at the University of Leicester.

London street with white kerbs to help pedestrians and drivers during the blackouts
White kerbs seen in a London street in September 1939 (AP/PA)

But sadly, her efforts might not have been all that helpful.

“The lady in the photograph may have been wasting her time painting the railings as many iron railings were subsequently removed to be melted down for the war effort,” said Hyde.

Well at least the railings went to use right? Not quite, explains Hyde.

“Unfortunately the iron wasn’t usable and many railings were eventually dumped at sea.”

During blackouts, people used heavy curtains to stop light escaping from their homes, car and bicycle lights had shutters to direct the light down and street lamps were dimmed or even turned off.