(h/t u/TheDrunkenChud)

After a discussion on r/todayilearned about balloons causing power outages in Germany during WW2 ( https://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/cdostj/til_that_during_wwii_the_british_launched_nearly/) I have decided to start a discussion on electricity during the Second World War.

Back in 2015, when I was working for a utilities company, I wrote an ultimately unpublished article on the electricity network during the Second World War in my country. I am planning to get a version of the article together for this sub, but in the meantime, I'd share the summary I wrote:

Back in 2015, when I was working for a utilities company, I wrote an ultimately unpublished article on the electricity network during the Second World War in my country. I am planning to get a version of the article together for this sub, but in the meantime, I'd share the summary I wrote:

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Key Facts

· 56% increase in sale of electricity from 1938/1939 to 1944/45

· Shortages of rubber, lead and steel led to use of paper and plastic insulation in cables

· 50 Mutual Aid Groups set up for operators to help each other in emergency street works

· Precautions proved worthwhile; maximum temporary loss of only 400 MW

· 42% of overhead line damage due to our own barrage balloons


Preparing for War

As international tensions increased, extensive preparation was made for the electricity grid system in the event of a war. Walls were thickened, windows were reinforced and supplies of reserve equipment stockpiled for emergency. RAF aerial photography of sites led to those more conspicuous being camouflaged by repainting, changing roof layouts and later removing company names from signs; once the war began, warning signs would themselves be removed for a time.

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When the Sirens Went

Generating stations would get up to 20 minutes of warning to prepare for massive drops in load as people took shelter. Larger substations were linked by telephone to the air raid system and got up to 10 minutes alert; smaller ones just had to rely on the air raid sirens.

In a period before automation, switchgear had to be manually operated on site; this entailed people having to stay at major substations ready to throw blade-style switches if lines came down. In order to provide some degree of protection, two-man individual air-raid shelters were provided which could cope with a large amount of falling masonry landing on them.


After the Raids

Direct raids on substations and facilities were rare; most of the reports show generally superficial damage to windows and doors. More common was the need to disconnect destroyed houses from the network and make safe exposed mains; something made more challenging by damaged water mains, rubble and potential further explosions.

Almost as common as damage by bombs was damage by barrage balloons or low-flying aircraft; the former were prone to breaking loose and drifting into wires, causing a short circuit.

However, the national network generally coped very well, with problems only emerging near the end of the war and after due to delays in maintenance, as well as bad winters.

Source: reddit post


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