Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Christmas on the Home Front
Christmas in 1939 was in many ways like the pre-war Christmas. There were emergency restrictions that affected the celebrations, in particular the blackout, which meant Christmas trees glimpsed through street windows were no longer seen. "As dusk falls, the fairy lights on Christmas Day outside St Paul's Cathedral will go out.... We must await victory to again see them at night in all their colours."
In 1940 things had really changed. Many were surprised that Britain still survived. No church bells were rung – they were only to be rung as a signal that enemy forces were landing. Many people, particularly in London and the bigger towns, took the Christmas celebrations into the shelters. This was the distinguishing mark of Christmas 1940.
Christmas 1941 was a time of optimism; Britain was no longer alone. The USA and Russia have now joined the fight. It's hard to believe how little food was available – compare this to the mountain of goodies we buy today. "Four ounces bacon/ham; 7 ounces butter/margarine; 2 ounces tea; 12 ounces sugar; 3ounces of cooking fat; 3 ounces cheese; one pound a month of jam and preserves; and meat to the value of one shillings and two pence. Eggs were also rationed, depending on their availability, but around three a months or 12 for children and expectant mothers and invalids. Milk was also rationed on this basis and at that time about 2 pints a week, with 14 pints for children under 12 months old, seven pints for children under 3 1/2 pints for adolescents. The National wheat meal loaf was now standard.
The last wartime Christmas the Archbishop of York gave a very upbeat message.
"This is the sixth Christmas of the war. But it will be happier for most of us than the preceding five. The danger of invasion has passed, and the worst of the air raids are over. With quiet confidence we see the end in sight. We hope that by next Christmas some of those that are absent from us will have returned to their homes and though we know that there will be a hard struggle both in Europe and the Far East before victory is won, we begin to plan for the new and better world."
Amen to that.
Happy Christmas to everyone and I wish you all a prosperous and peaceful New Year.