Crossing the world

Many families experiencing austerity in post-war Britain were tempted to emigrate – to seek pastures new. But there were many more who chose to stay, despite the hardship, relying on the comfort and familiarity of the life they knew…

Outset Publishing

After the Second World War Britain saw arrivals of folk from all across the globe – many from Commonwealth countries who were intrigued to discover what the ‘mother country’ was like. But it was also a time when some British people decided to leave – to emigrate.

The situation in Britain was dire. For some families, it seemed that everywhere they looked all they could see was hardship. Decent housing was difficult and sometimes impossible to achieve, rationing of basic foodstuffs was still in place, secure employment was often unattainable and with the war debt hanging over the economy it seemed that the situation would be unlikely to change any time soon.

No surprise then that in spring 1948 a Gallup poll indicated that around ’42 per cent of people wanted to emigrate’ (Austerity Britain by David Kynaston). Nevertheless, there was a big gap between wanting to leave and…

View original post 326 more words

Better than a tin bath

Imagine a time when queuing an hour for a bath was the only way to keep clean! That’s how it was for many families in 1940s Britain…

Outset Publishing

When I dig around in my tin of old photos I find a picture of my brother – just a toddler at the time – standing in the kitchen sink to be washed. In 1940s Britain this would have been a typical scene in many houses as few had indoor bathrooms, with the only running water being a cold supply to the kitchen sink. Perhaps an gas-fired Ascot water heater would provide a little hot water, but for many families the only way to heat a large amount of water – enough for a bath – would have been to put a large copper pan over a coal fire to heat it up. The water, once heated, would be poured into a tin bath that would be taken down from its hook on the outside wall of the house and placed into the middle of the kitchen. Imagine how much…

View original post 312 more words

All washed up!

Any thoughts of labour-saving devices, like an automatic washing machine, was as far in the future for most families in 1940s Britain as putting a man on the moon!

Outset Publishing

Imagine yourself in 1940s Britain, when it was more than likely you would be sharing an outside toilet with other houses in the street, or sharing one on the landing of your block of flats. The kitchen sink might have doubled up as a bath for the little ones in the family, and the luxury of an electric washing machine was yet to arrive in most homes.

Monday was washday for most people. And the popular choice for the weekly laundry was to tackle it by hand – using the kitchen sink or a copper pot and a wooden scrubbing board to scrub the clothes. Steam clogged up the windows and red-faced housewives used all their energy to tug at the clothes with wooden tongs, trying – sometimes in vain – to keep their hands out of the boiling hot water! It was really back-breaking work. Then it was a…

View original post 322 more words

What a ball!

With little or no sport being played during the Second World War years everything took off in the 1946-1947 season, with fans up and down the country flooding back into stadia and cricket grounds…

Outset Publishing

After the six years of the Second World War, when sport of any kind was certainly limited, and at times and in certain places, non-existent, the cessation of hostilities brought fans of every sport flooding back into stadia.

The archetypal English game of cricket saw its first full season in 1946, and even the weather didn’t keep fans away. In 1947 there was test cricket against the South Africans, who were touring the UK for the first time since 1935. 1948 saw a 4-0 defeat in test cricket against the Australians and the decade ended with a tour by the New Zealand cricket team, resulting in a draw of all four test matches.

Summer 1946 also saw the first Wimbledon tennis championships after the imposed six-year break and other much-loved annual sporting events, such as the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, the Grand National, and the British golf Open Championship…

View original post 212 more words

A new shopping experience

Thinking back to a time in 1940s Britain when self-service food shopping was considered to be nothing short of revolutionary…

Outset Publishing

The food shopping experience of the 1940s was very different from that of today.

Customer making a purchase in a grocery shop during the Second World War. Interior view of a grocer’s shop with goods piled high on and behind the counter. The grocer offers a product to a woman customer. Egg substitutes and mixtures requiring no eggs are much in evidence.

Housewives were used to having the butcher, baker and fishmonger deliver to the door. They would take receipt of their goods and then put in their order for the next week. Milk was delivered by the morning milkman, arriving with his horse-drawn or electric milk float. So it only left a short walk or bus ride to the local greengrocer’s shop for their seasonal fruit and vegetables.

Women were comfortable in the knowledge that the salesmen knew what they wanted. They often stopped for a chat or a…

View original post 227 more words

When will the snow melt?!

The terrible British winter of 1947 brought devastation to much of the country with far-reaching consequences…

Outset Publishing

Nowadays we are familiar with severe weather events – climate change has altered our seasons resulting in populations across the world experiencing forest fires, floods and droughts. But back in 1940s Britain such dramatic weather was unexpected. What’s more, there was little in the way of weather forecasting available for the average family – certainly not the extensive weather maps we see on our television screens nowadays.

And so, on 23rd January 1947, when heavy snow began to fall, with massive snowdrifts blocking roads and railways and causing problems with the transportation of coal to the electric power stations, families across Britain experienced harsh changes which affected every part of their daily life. It was the start of Britain’s most severe and protracted spell of bad weather during the twentieth century.

Winter 1947, snowbound bus, Castle Hill, Huddersfield. This was one of three single deck buses stranded for several weeks…

View original post 814 more words

What a show!

No surprise that people’s desire for escapism was as fervent as ever when the Second World War ended – theatres across Britain were packed out!

Outset Publishing

Perhaps it was the darkness of the war years that drew people to the lightness and creativity of British theatre. Although what some have called a period of ‘modernism’ started years before the 1940s – in fact, elements of modernist approaches to art, design and theatre can be traced to the period between the two world wars. The people of 1930s Britain experienced terrible hardship, with soaring unemployment and poverty. Yet a group known as The Workers’ Theatre Movement – founded in 1926 – was driven by a belief in the transformative potential of theatre. By 1936 it was integral to the establishment of the Unity Theatre, a group that staged plays on social and political issues to growing audiences. The Unity Theatre stated its aims as:

‘To foster and further the art of drama in accordance with the principle that true art, by effectively presenting and truthfully interpreting life…

View original post 643 more words

Dreaming of the ‘mother country’

Many of the passengers who arrived on the Empire Windrush in 1948 struggled with the realities of life in Britain…

Outset Publishing

In June 1948 the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury Docks bringing hundreds of passengers from the Caribbean who were hoping for a new life in Britain. During the Second World War, thousands of Caribbean men and women had been recruited to serve in the armed forces. Some had been to England during the war years and then returned home, only to find there was no work for them. So, when the Windrush stopped in Jamaica to pick up servicemen who were on leave from their units, many of their former comrades decided to make the trip, some wanting to rejoin the RAF, others keen to discover ‘the mother country’ they had heard so much about.

One man reported that he had to sell three cows to get the money together for the fare – £28 and ten shillings – before embarking on a journey of more than twenty days –…

View original post 670 more words

What’s in the charts?

The big band sound of Glenn Miller, smooth singer, Bing Crosby, and jazz greats like Charlie Parker and Ella Fitzgerald delighted listeners in the 1940s and then rhythm and blues really took off!

Outset Publishing

The 1940s brought many much-loved ‘crooners’ into the homes of millions, via gramophone records and via the wireless. Families put their 78rpm vinyl record on their turntable, or tuned in to the BBC Light Programme to listen to the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Perry Como.

Amazing to think that Bing Crosby’s White Christmas (recorded in 1942) still tops the charts of favourite Christmas songs, some seventy-five years on – having sold more than fifty million copies worldwide.

Of course, once the BBC Forces Programme came on air at the start of the war, Vera Lynn charmed listeners with her sentimental and uplifting songs.

The early part of the decade saw the popularity of the Big Band sound, led by the artists such as the wonderful Glenn Miller, and Benny Goodman, who accompanied crowds in the dance halls. But towards the end of the decade the sound of…

View original post 182 more words

Serving our country

The period of British National Service was a penance for some young men, but for others it meant the chance for friendships that would last a lifetime…

Outset Publishing

When the Second World War ended it didn’t mean the end to all hostilities. Britain still had a commitment to provide military support in Germany, Palestine and India. Opponents struggled with the idea that young men, just returning from six long years of a terrible war, should be called on to serve once more. And so when Clement Atlee’s Labour government presented the National Service Act to Parliament in 1947 it took some persuading to get it through.

However, despite the political disagreements, the Act came into force in January 1949, requiring all physically fit males between the ages of 17 and 21 to join and serve in one of the armed forces for an eighteen-month period.  National Service did not extend to women.

National Service government poster

Once the eighteen months were complete the men would remain on the reserve list for another four years, during which time they might…

View original post 396 more words