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The Black Market and Looting.

Discussion in 'History of Britain during World War II' started by Jim, Oct 17, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    In the post-war period the black market had come to be seen as a harmless game, typified by the antics of the roguish Private Walker in the popular television series Dads Army. Certain individuals could always obtain the odd bottle of Scotch, tank of petrol, a fine steak or even a spare ration book, for a price. It was generally the better-off who were able to take advantage of the black market, although they would normally have been horrified by the thought that some would steal from the many to provide for the few. In essence the black market did just that, but for many people the weary drudgery of wartime life soon overcame their finer principles. The rationing that made the best use of the nation’s resources, and attempted to ensure that all regardless of position or pocket were adequately fed and clothed, was what led to the rise of the black market. The shortages they endured tempted many to suppress the knowledge that their actions were criminal; but the fact that one person was able to buy it little extra from some backstreet ‘spiv’ probably meant that elsewhere someone went short.
    Many of the petty criminals living off the proceeds of the black market were avoiding service in the forces, having gone to ground before, or sometimes after, call-up. Not surprisingly, much effort was put into stamping out the black market; but demand ensures supply, and very few individuals were able to pass up the chance of a little something extra for themselves, or perhaps as often - for their children. The black market was stocked both by petty thieves and by highly organized gangs; many were ingenious and resourceful, often using ‘official’ vehicles to avoid notice.
    Looting from bombed buildings became chronic; in a generation which had grown up in times of desperate want, many genuinely convinced themselves that personal possessions from bombed homes were essentially “ownerless”. Less understandable was the macabre ruthlessness of, the many people who stole money and jewellers from air raid casualties. An official investigation in one large borough indicated that as much as 50 per cent of the looting was probably being undertaken by ARP and Auxiliary Fire Service personnel attending the scene; logically, this further indicated that the other half of the thefts were being committed by scavenging members of the public. Looting was only one illustration of how social values had been warped by war. During the latter part of the war, most crime rates spiralled; burglary and violent crime doubled, and murder became almost commonplace. It was easier to commit crimes and to avoid arrest due to the blackout, and the vast numbers of transient individuals passing through towns and cities.

    When buying petrol the driver handed over a coupon, upon the back of which the dealer had to enter the vehicle registration number and the quantity supplied. Fuel was a prime target for the black marketeer’s, leading to fuel for service use being colour-dyed so that it could be identified if stolen or illegally sold on.

    Elite: The British Home Front 1939-45
     
  2. Buford

    Buford New Member

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    The likes of Jack Spot and Frankie Fraser were so successful with the illicit profits obtained during the rationing, that then allowed them to expand their criminal enterprises.
     
  3. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    Seventy Jeeps A day...

    Mad Frankie Fraser – the nasty sometime henchman of the Kray twins ? : o

    Maybe he was a rifleman ? Check this passage from Max Hastings. Simply put, if criminals are recruited, then the result is a criminal army. Rifle units recruited more dodgy characters than any other in ’44.

    from Hastings' Armageddon, Chapter 7, Hell In The Hurtgen
     
  4. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Interesting statistics Dave, when i read that report i can see a little of me in it, well in some kind of way. If i would have been around in this era i would of hoped that i would have been a good soldier, thou for sure i would have defernitely been a bit of a spiv ... :wink:
     
  5. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    Lol yeah I'm sure I would have been no angel myself. :wink:

    At its worst though - deserting to take up a life of crime - this trend terrified high command it was so bad. Eisenhower apparently became the first US commander since the Civil War to order a soldier executed for desertion. Hundreds of thousands of men simply quit, and only a handful were ever brought to trial.
    : 0
     
  6. mikandrews

    mikandrews New Member

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    talking about the black market, although perhaps this warrants a thread of its own, it is well known nowadays that illegal abortions and the negative effects of them rose massively during and after the war. Many different methods where used. Sad as it is, its easy to see why it happened though.
     

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