During one week spanning February and March in 2018 the UK had a period of cold weather with snow falling on most days causing sub-zero temperatures. The newspapers promptly named this as, ‘The Beast from the East.’

Many schools were closed; the privately run railways cut back their train schedules and some lines just did not operate; airline traffic was disrupted and motorists were advised not to travel  unless their journey was really necessary. Thousands of houses had their heating cut off for many days; congestion on the roads obliged some drivers to spend nights sleeping in their vehicles and there were a dozen fatalities caused by the weather.

Flash back to 1941 :-

Britain was at war and on any particular winter’s day  one would wake up in a freezing house if  snow had fallen and the temperature was sub zero outside. There was no central heating in those days. The coke burning boiler had to be lit if someone was remaining in the house during the day, otherwise, as it heated only the water and the kitchen it would remain unlit because of the cost involved. People kept warm by dressing in many layers of woollen clothing both indoors and outside. The breakfast was eaten under these conditions and with rationing of foodstuffs the choice and amount was severely limited. The children left for school either by bus, if the road conditions permitted, or walked , often several miles- snow or no snow. Adults would make their ways to shops, factories, mines, offices while housewives with young children or the elderly would  need to go out for the essential shopping, walking to the neighbouring shops carrying baskets and more than once  a day if having large families.

This was a time when the enemy was bombing towns, ports, and infrastructure night after night, non-stop for three months to try and break the peoples’ morale before their invasion army across the Channel could be launched. This was the now famous Blitz.

In London, any direct hits on railway lines meant that commuters were blocked from reaching their places of work and large gangs of  labourers were employed, working day and night with only picks and shovels to fill in the craters so the rails could be relaid.. A commuter train would run up to where the work was being done, passengers would alight and walk around the bomb crater seeing the work activity all about them. At the London side a train would be waiting to complete the journey if one could be found, otherwise the commuters carried on walking along the track into London.

Once in London they would see the new damage caused by the previous night’s bombing ; firemen struggling with ladders and hoses to extinguish the fires still raging, Ambulances removing the living, injured and dead from demolished buildings

This or similar was the daily routine of civilians all around the country – Life had to go on – there was no loss of morale. People struggled to adapt to the privations all around them, seeing the bombing, the rationing, the shortages, the cold and the snow just more privations to overcome.

Whereas in 1941 the government had done all it possibly could to facilitate the people to  follow the injunction they, the government had set, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON whereas, seventy years on we have seen how a cold winter snap can paralyse the whole country, with the government unprepared and playing a passive role, the media coverage little more than incitement not to carry on normally, stay put in your well stocked, centrally heated homes. What are we to make of this contrast?

The question I ask myself is, would the present generation be able to stand up to the rigours of a wartime Britain were they ever be called upon to do so?


March 4 2018