Celebrations as the war ended - but tough times not over
THE war against Nazi Germany ended on Tuesday May 8, 1945 with a heady mixture of elation and relief.
There was dancing and street parties, schools staged fancy dress celebrations and despite acute shortages, communities managed to beg, borrow, or steal enough food to feast.
But the joy was short lived. With Britain bankrupt, the end of the war presaged a long decade of austerity.
Queuing remained a fact of life. Ahead lay a lot more mending and making do.
Rationing continued. First introduced in January 1940, food rationing didn’t end completely until nine years after Victory in Europe (VE Day).
In contrast British Restaurants, set up to offer wholesome meals at low cost, disappeared in 1946.
There was one in Southgate Street, Gloucester and another in Bedford Street, Stroud, where main meals were priced at 3d (just over 1p).
The food ration per week for an adult was four ounces (100g) of bacon, or ham, two ounces (50g) of butter, two
ounces of cheese, four ounces each of margarine and lard, three pints of milk, half a pound (225g) of sugar, two ounces of tea and one egg.
In addition there was a monthly points system that allowed the purchase of such luxuries as a tin of fish, two pounds (900g) of dried fruit or eight pounds (3.6kg) of split peas.
Frugal though this may sound to present day ears, the diet resulted in a marked improvement in the nation’s health.
For many in the poorer sections of the community rationing ensured more protein and vitamins.
Free school milk was introduced for children, followed later by orange juice, cod liver oil and vitamins pills.
Factory workers were given free access to medical and welfare services to assist war production.
Infant mortality declined during the war years, while the average age of death from natural causes became higher.
Wartime children grew up having never seen a banana.
But potatoes and vegetables were not on ration, so people ate their five a day, consumed little red meat and hardly any saturated fats.
In fact it was a diet closely resembling the ideal today’s nutritionists tell us we should aspire to.
The Citizen and Echo in February 1941 carried the shock announcement that the price of milk was being increased to 7d (3p) a quart (two pints). So as well as being on ration, fresh milk was a luxury.
Powdered milk and eggs appeared in wartime shops, but were not as good as the real thing.
Expectant mothers could obtain free supplies of fresh milk, but to do so had to apply to the Gloucestershire Food Controller’s Office.
A staff member of this office kept a log of the letters received, amusing extracts from which were published in the Citizen and Echo after the war.
Among the gems were “This is my eighth child. What are you going to do about it?”
“I require extra milk as I am stagnant.”
“Please send me a form for cheap milk as I am expecting mother”.
“I have posted the form by mistake before my child was filled in.”
“Please send me a form for a supply of milk for having children at reduced prices.”
“Sorry to be so long filling in the form but I have been in bed with my baby for two weeks and did not know it was running out until the milkman told me”.
Not only food was rationed. Getting clean required coupons too. One coupon would allow you to buy a four ounce bar of household soap, a three ounce bar of toilet soap, or a box of soap flakes.
There was also clothes rationing, based on a points system. Everyone had a basic allowance of 66 clothing coupons which had to be handed over, along with the price of the item, at the shop where the purchase was made.
A dress or a pair of trousers required 11 coupons. A jacket was 132 coupons and two handkerchiefs one coupon.
The constraints imposed by rationing encouraged people not only to mend and make do, but also to grow their own vegetables, keep chickens and recycle as much as possible.
Pig clubs were formed. A group of neighbours would buy a young pig or two and fatten them up on scraps of vegetable peelings and food leftovers.
Some local companies introduced pig clubs too. Gloster Aircraft Company ran one and fed its porkers on scraps from the works’ canteen.
Wartime soap rations
A wartime recipe
A VE Day party in Waterloo Street
How the Citizen broke the news that the war in Europe was over
Joyous scenes in Russell Street, Stroud
Dried eggs and milk
A clothing coupon