World War II

On September 1st 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Two days later, Britain declared war on Germany. Germany was trying to take over the whole of Europe and at the same time, Japan was trying to take control of Asia and the Pacific. Britain and many other countries wanted to stop that.

There were two groups of countries fighting one another. One was called the “Allies” - Britain, France, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, the Soviet Union (Russia) and China. The others were called the “Axis” – Germany, Italy and Japan.

Some countries were not involved (they were neutral) like Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and Ireland.

Many people had anticipated that there would be a war and had started to prepare for what to do if it started. By May 1939, over 10,000 Anderson Shelters had been built in Cardiff but it was thought that three times that many would be needed. 50 public air raid shelters had been built in Cardiff by June 1939 and 4200 people had signed up to become air raid wardens.

Cardiff was badly damaged by bombing on a number of occasions – the worst being on the 2nd of January 1941 when 165 people were killed and over 350 homes damaged in an air raid that had lasted for 10 hours. There were many more air raids to come.

Germany surrendered on May 7th 1945 but the war in the Pacific went on until Japan surrendered on August 14th 1945.

Use the 'Next' arrow to discover more about this historic period.
The Castle

The main difference in the way that Cardiff Castle changed during WWII was that holes were knocked in the outside walls of the Castle which were used as entrances to the air raid shelters. Because most of the shelters were above the level of the street which was unusual for a shelter, big wooden ramps were built for people to walk up to get in the shelters. 13 entrances were planned but we don’t know whether they were all built. We have pictures of a few of them but when they were blocked up, it was done so well that it’s impossible to tell by looking at the walls now where the entrances were.

There was a “Barrage Balloon” that was flown from inside the Castle Grounds. The idea of these huge inflatable balloons was that they would float high above a town or city and would be attached to the ground by big metal cables (wires). If any enemy aircraft was flying low it would get tangled up in the wires so if the enemy saw a barrage balloon, they would be put off attacking a place in case their aircraft was damaged.

See how the castle has changed over time

Use the 'Next' arrow to discover more about this historic period.
Who ruled at the time

George VI – 1936-1952

Use the 'Next' arrow to discover more about this historic period.

If you were walking around Cardiff during the Second World War, you would notice all of the precautions that were being taken in case of any air raids. Many people had air raid shelters at home such as “Anderson” and “Morrison” shelters. Some people sheltered in safe places at home - for example, under the stairs.

There were also “Public Shelters” which could be used if people could not shelter at home when the air raid siren went off. These shelters were marked with a large “S” sign. There were also signs to show how many people could fit into the shelters.

The shelters at Cardiff Castle would have been the largest public shelters in Cardiff. At least 1800 people could shelter there.

Windows would have tape on them to stop the glass shattering into small pieces if a bomb went off and some windows were filled up with bricks so that they could not be damaged.

Because it was important that lights could not be seen by enemy planes, the “Blackout” meant that street lights had to be turned off and that no light came from any houses or buildings. It was so dark that a lot of people hurt themselves by tripping or bumping into things so white lines were painted on the edges of the pavements to try to guide people.

Shops would have advertised what people could buy with their ration coupons. There were also lots of posters telling people how to behave during the war and encouraging them to grow their own vegetables and not to waste food.

Cardiff suffered badly from bombing during WWII but not as badly as many places in Britain. If you walked around some parts of Cardiff, including the Docks and places like Grangetown (between the Castle and the Docks) you would find many homes that had been totally destroyed.

Gwen Marcius Edmund Hywel Owain Clara Lady Mary Reginald
Romans & CeltsNorman/MedievalVictoriansWorld War ll