German bomber insurance
If a house was bombed in the war and completely destroyed, was there any compensation for the property owner or was it just tough luck?
To grossly simplify a long story, the War Damage Act of 1941 set up a vast insurance scheme whereby property was taxed at ten shillings in the pound, usually payable over the duration of the war. It was administered by a War Damage Commission with regional offices and, at its peak, about 3,000 staff.
Then as now, normal commercial insurance policies wouldn’t cover war damage, and this way all property owners shared the burden of compensation for destruction caused by war.
In the case of homes, the commission paid ‘cost of repair’ bills for damage to homes in excess of £5. In the case of houses that were destroyed, payment was usually made at the war’s end, based on the value of the property on 31 March 1939, plus 2.5 per cent annual interest.
The business of submitting claims and assessing and processing them was often complex, and by the mid-1940s, the commission was often seen as another of those bureaucratic annoyances the war had created.
It was still at work in the 1960s. One story in The Times tells of a man whose house was destroyed in 1940; by 1947 he had given up hope of seeing the money, so when his cheque for £1,500 did arrive, he donated it all to the RAF Benevolent Fund.
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Answered by: Eugene Byrne, author and journalist
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