On the night of 29 September 1939 details of civilians in England and Wales were entered on forms delivered to them earlier in the week.
The completed forms were ready and waiting for an enumerator to call back over the weekend and issue identity cards for everyone in the household. This was what actually happened in most cases, but there were some exceptions – there always are.
On the whole the operation went smoothly, as enumerators returned to all the households where they had delivered forms, checked through the details with the occupants and wrote out identity cards for each person there (they had a very busy weekend). Newspaper reports in the weeks and days following registration night portray an interesting picture of how the nation coped with this mammoth operation.
Most forms were collected without incident, but some enumerators reported difficulties finding the occupants at home, even after repeated visits. There could be extra problems in rural areas, with isolated houses, where the poor enumerator might have to climb over stiles and make their way along rough tracks and lanes. Fortunately the weather was generally good, so they did not have to contend with mud and rain, but no matter where they were, going around after dark brought its own hazards in the blackout.
Some responses were somewhat unexpected, such as the elderly lady in Leicester who said that she didn’t need to be registered because she was still on the books from National Registration in 1915, and produced her certificate of registration to prove it. A householder in Sheffield objected to completing the form:
‘This register is only an excuse to find out about other people’s business. I don’t believe there is a war on. And the blackout is only caused by the inefficiency of the lighting authorities.’