Blue street lamps during blackout
November 22, 2005 2:26 PM   Subscribe

WWII London Blackout question -- blue streetlights?

In books by for example Graham Greene and Alan Furst, I come across the occasional reference to blue streetlamps, as a characteristic of the city under black-out rules. London mostly, but also Paris, probably German cities too. Was this for real? How was it done? Blue glass lenses, maybe just blue paint? And once blued, how effective? Can't imagine a blue streetlight offering much useful illumination.

The only light fixture I've actually seen modified for wartime blackout use was automobile headlights, augmented with a solid metal cover with a little rectangular cut-out slot in the middle -- I think I saw this in "Danger UXB."
posted by Rash to Grab Bag (4 answers total)
Torches, streetlights, cars etc all used Blue Bulbs
posted by brautigan at 2:39 PM on November 22, 2005

Here are some American blackout bulbs, a German one and a little more info on the British blackout measures.

Regarding the initial ban on headlights:
Car accidents increased and the number of people killed on the roads almost doubled. The king's surgeon, Wilfed Trotter, wrote an article for the British Medical Journal where he pointed out that by "frightening the nation into blackout regulations, the Luftwaffe was able to kill 600 British citizens a month without ever taking to the air, at a cost to itself of exactly nothing."
posted by teg at 7:59 PM on November 23, 2005

I'm fascinated by the answers here.
All I can add is that Blue lights (untraviolet nowadays,) make it difficult for addicts to find a vein for shooting up, so lots of public places use them (bus stations etc,) I wonder if this was discovered during the war years??
posted by Wilder at 3:08 PM on November 24, 2005

I'd mark brautigan's answer the best, but I'm not sure his eBay link will last very long. I like that link because you can actually see how it's not tinted like they do nowadays, but has a thick coating -- I bet those bulbs burned hot!

I'm wondering if anybody's produced a color WWII British-homefront movie with accurate night-time street scenes. (Every one I know is so old, they're black-and-white.)

And Wilder, another new use for ultraviolet is in the desert -- somebody noticed that scorpions glow bright green, so portable UV lamps are used inside the tent when bedding down there, to insure a scorpion-free environment.
posted by Rash at 10:40 AM on November 25, 2005

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