In these three countries, other shortages made life shabby and grim. Civilians in Germany, for example, cut off from the outside world by blockade, found clothing difficult to come by. The lack of cotton and leather meant paper garments and wooden shoes. Soap as well became a precious commodity for Germans. Shortages of coal meant that cities were increasingly dark at earlier and earlier hours, and private homes were barely heated. Both Germany and France felt this bite acutely. Most elementary schools in Berlin had to close during the harsh winter of 1916-1917 because they could not be heated. Even in Britain, with its vast coal resources, the shortage of manpower for the mines meant a pinch followed by rationing at the close of 1917.