World War II was the darkest period of the 20th century. In fact, the battles fought between 1939 and 1945 caused more deaths than any other conflict in all of humanity. Day-to-day life was suddenly and irrevocably changed. And with the unimaginable horrors of war came a strange new normal, one where gas masks, air raid shelters, and living in constant fear became almost mundane. These extraordinary photographs reveal the lesser-seen, stranger side of the Second World War.
1. Zebra or cow?
Is this some kind of strange wartime art project? No, painting dairy cattle like this with large, white stripes served a very real purpose during the war. Remarkably, it was done to help reduce the number of car accidents at night. From the start of WW2, the British public were forced to have “blackouts,” where they would have to minimize artificial light at nighttime, including car headlights, in order to lower the risk of bombings. So, if a cow into the road, the painted stripes would hopefully help drivers slam on the brakes in the dark before it was too late.
2. Salvo the “paradog”
Yes, this photograph is entirely genuine. Meet Salvo, a fox terrier who, along with many other dogs like him, played a key part in World War II. As D-Day approached, infantries such as the 13th Lancashire Parachute Battalion began experimenting with the concept of parachuting dogs. Canines like Salvo would be trained to adapt to the sounds of airplane propellers and to identify the scent of explosives. Then, once they were fully up to speed, they were thrown out into the sky thousands of feet up in the air. According to reports, the dogs didn’t appear to be too distressed by the experience.
3. Dummy tank
At first glance, these six British soldiers look like they’re entering a World’s Strongest Man competition. Surely that’s not a real, massive tank they’re lifting on their shoulders across the training area in England known as Salisbury Plain? Well, no, it isn’t. It’s an inflatable one that’s made entirely out of rubber and designed for brilliantly deceptive reasons. In a stroke of tactical genius, these fake, dummy tanks were deployed at various parts of the battlefield to throw the opposition off the scent!
4. Cat nap
Animals really do the funniest things. This snap, taken at the end of 1941 on board HMS Hermione, shows a very relaxed-looking cat taking 40 winks in a small hammock, bringing the Royal Navy some much-needed respite from the horrors of the war in the process. But it wasn’t a stowaway. No, the moggy given the name of Convoy was actually the ship’s official mascot. By this point in the war, he’d already joined the servicemen on multiple duty patrols.