The most dif­fi­cult of all decades

Sunday Sun - - News - Dave Mor­ton david.mor­ton.ed­i­to­[email protected]­me­

Nos­tal­gia Editor FOR those of us who weren’t around in the 1940s, it cer­tainly comes across as one of the most dif­fi­cult of eras.

The decade be­gan with Bri­tain en­gulfed in the most de­struc­tive war in his­tory and ended with the coun­try still mired in aus­ter­ity - al­though a brighter fu­ture awaited on a dis­tant mid-50s hori­zon.

Our pho­to­graph se­lec­tion re­calls the life and times of the North East dur­ing those of­ten dark days.

The early 1940s saw the re­gion’s three ma­jor conur­ba­tions, Ty­ne­side, Wearside and Teesside feel the full force of Hitler’s Luft­waffe.

Ger­man bombs reg­u­larly tried to ham­per the re­gion’s in­dus­trial con­tri­bu­tion to the war ef­fort.

News­pa­per re­ports of the time were usu­ally cir­cum­spect with air raid de­tails.

The Sun­day Sun, for ex­am­ple, would only re­port that “a North East town” had been bombed. We didn’t want to give too much in­for­ma­tion to the en­emy.

At home, Bri­tons were asked to bathe in no more than five inches of wa­ter and ex­ist on sub­sis­tence ra­tions, while sons, fa­thers and hus­bands were away fight­ing in lo­ca­tions around the globe. It was a grim time. But with America en­ter­ing the fray in 1941, the hand of the Al­lies was strength­ened.

1943 saw the RAF’s au­da­cious “Dam­busters” squadron score a ma­jor vic­tory and, in 1944, the tide slowly be­gan to turn.

The mo­men­tous D-Day land­ings were the be­gin­ning of the Al­lies’ fi­nal en­cir­clement of Hitler’s forces.

The en­emy re­mained dan­ger­ous, how­ever. As new V1 and V2 rock­ets be­gan to pound Lon­don to­wards the end of the war, the North East, as least, was out of range of these new weapons.

With the New­cas­tle Home Guard be­ing stood down in De­cem­ber 1944, it seemed VE Day cel­e­bra­tions and ‘Vic­tory Tea’ in New­cas­tle, May 12, 1945 that dan­ger on the home front was sub­sid­ing.

In 1945 the war was won, but the peace would also bring its own chal­lenges, with ra­tioning and aus­ter­ity last­ing well into the 1950s.

Bri­tain would no longer be a ma­jor global power, with the op­pos­ing mighty su­per­pow­ers, the USA and USSR, de­scend­ing into a new ‘cold war’.

Mean­while, at home, Cle­ment At­tlee’s new Labour govern­ment in­tro­duced the NHS and ‘wel­fare state’ which did much to im­prove the day-to-day life of many Bri­tons.

Folk in the North East flocked to the cin­ema, foot­ball matches and the sea­side (in sum­mer any­way) as ev­ery­one tried to for­get about the war.

As the end of the 1940s ap­proached, ab­so­lute poverty had al­most dis­ap­peared from Bri­tain, and un­em­ploy­ment was very low.

Things were slowly on the mend. The 1950s would be a much brighter age.

Bombed Queen Alexan­dra Road, North Shields, 1943

South Shields chil­dren set for evac­u­a­tion to the coun­try­side, 1941

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