THEY were some of the darkest days Southampton has ever seen - when a rain of bombs was unleashed by swarm after swarm of Nazi raiders, destroying schools, houses, shops, offices, churches and more. Worse still - they destroyed families and claimed lives.

The people of the town had found themselves on the front line of battle as German bombers targeted the area and cruelly delivered death and destruction to the local communities.

But despite these testing times of grief and hardship, the people remained unbowed.

Determination, courage, and – above all – an obstinate will to carry on and see the war through, helped the town to carry on.

And, if relaxing was difficult during those times, sleeping would surely have been almost impossible.

The government issued instructions and advice to families trying to do just that.

In a special article that appeared in the Daily Echo in August 1942 – almost 80 years ago – a Whitehall medical officer offered some tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.

This came at a time when hardly a night went passed in undisturbed slumber when parents had to gather up their children to disappear into the garden air raid shelter as enemy bombers did their worst.

“Sleep – it is a blessed thing,’’ the medical officer told Daily Echo readers. “It repairs the wear and tear of today and restores us for the job of tomorrow.

“When you are settling down, try to think of something pleasant, a treat to come or a pleasure enjoyed.

“Lie flat with a pillow just high enough to keep you head level with your body.


Heritage: Blitz Northumberland Road, Newtown Nov 1940

Blitz damage in Northumberland Road, Newtown, Southampton.

“Lie on your right side. Think of something nice and go limp. You will soon be asleep.

“Children need at least ten hours’ sleep. Grown-ups need less sleep, they can manage with sleep at odd times. They can lose a whole night’s sleep, or even two nights, and then make it up with a few hours extra on the third night.

“Remember those brave men of Dunkirk who came back unshaven, hungry and tired. One long sleep and they were fit again.’’ Southampton families were told that even under the “present difficulties’’ it was possible to have a good night’s rest.


Above Bar, Southampton.

“We can sleep in a noise, if it is a regular noise, even if it is the noise of guns,’’ said the medical officer. “But we cannot sleep if we are cold, if our feet are cold. We cannot sleep if we are hungry. We cannot sleep if our room is badly ventilated and we are hot and sticky.’’ Daily Echo readers were then given practical advice from the medical officer to ensure complete rest to prepare for the next day, even if the air raid sirens sounded “Get off to sleep early. The first sleep is the best sleep.

Get in two or three hours before Wailing Annie can disturb you. Make sure you are warm. If you sleep in a shelter take a hot water bottle with you even on a summer’s night.

“If you are hungry nibble a piece of bread or biscuit before turning in. Whether you sleep in your bedroom, in a shelter or downstairs, you cannot do anything about the danger overhead.

If you have no ARP (Air Raid Precautions) or fire-watching to do, go to sleep. The Fire Guards’ whistle will wake you if a spot of fire-extinguishing needs to be done.’’

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