During the blitz, one standard ruse for thieves was to kit themselves out with an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) warden's helmet and armband and smash their way into shops when no one was looking. Such was the power of the armband that the public would dutifully help load up a car, believing that the goods were being removed for safe keeping...More at the Guardian link.
Juliet Gardiner, the social historian and author of Wartime: Britain 1939-1945, says that, while most people found looting despicable, examples differentiated between stealing someone's property and spotting a wireless or jewellery lying on the pavement after an air raid and reckoning that, if you didn't take it, someone else would. "Looting can be a rather elastic term," says Gardiner...
One trader in east London at the beginning of 1941 reckoned that shopkeepers lost more from crime than they ever did from German bombs. When the Café de Paris, which had a supposedly secure underground ballroom, suffered a direct hit in 1941, rescuers were shocked to find that looters were among them, yanking brooches and rings from the bodies of the revellers...
However, while the "spivs and drones", as the BBC described them at the time, may have had their "finest hour" and the crime rate increased by 57% from 1939 to 1945, there was never the descent into the kind of civilian lawlessness that has characterised so many other wars over the past half century.
29 August 2010
Crime in London during the Blitz
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