Wartime Rations – Day 2

It might only be my second day of rations but I couldn’t quite face porridge for breakfast again. After the recent excesses of the holiday season, my mindset saw it as shades of Oliver Twist in the workhouse begging for more gruel.  Give me a couple more days and I’ll be back in the swing of it. Instead, I enjoyed some toast with a meagre scraping of butter and precious jam with my morning cuppa.

For lunch I finished off the homemade soup and leftovers from last night’s dinner, so I’m not going to bore you with those repeated photos.

We’re probably going to have to eat at least one – maybe two – meatless evening meals per week, so I tried to ease ourselves gradually into it this evening with baked potatoes, with a bacon and cheese topping, and carrots on the side. For pudding, I made individual apple crumbles, using one (large) apple and half the crumble mix.  I was still left with 1/2 apple and plenty of topping, so guess what we’re having for pudding tomorrow!


Because I’m such a modern day TV addict,  I wondered what radio programmes – and the actual radio set itself – were like during wartime.  Also, I’d heard the newsreaders were supposed identify themselves – something to do with ensuring accurate news during an invasion, I think. I asked Anne, and here’s her reply.

anne2013Radio?  No. no – WIRELESS SET.  It sat on top of the coal bunker, was about 16″ across, 10-12″ high and 9-10″ deep.  Yes, it took a while for the valves to warm up, so you switched THE WIRELESS on a little before your programme was due to start.
Don’t know what it was made of – it wasn’t wood, though many wireless sets were.  It looked like a mottled brown plastic case but of course it couldn’t have been.  The speaker was behind a gold piece of cloth, and there were two knobs:  one for volume and one which changed the station, arrayed in a narrow arc at the bottom.  The foreign station names fascinated me and I used to switch from one to another whenever I could, to listen to the strange languages.  It arrived about 1937 as a gift from Alex to Mum, but of course everyone had use of it, and woe betide anyone who wanted to use it – or made any noise – if Dad was glued to it for a cricket match or a special football match.  It was treated by Mother as if it were sentient – no-one could talk if the wireless was on.  It was as rude as interrupting a person talking, Mum said.   Don’t remember a smell. 

Mary had a wireless in Kippen, but there was no power there and it needed two batteries to work, a solid one about 10x5x3″ deep, and a liquid one in a heavy glass container with a handle so you could carry it to a petrol station or other place to get it re-charged. Which reminds me that we lived by the light of oil lamps. 

The wireless was on most of the day – except during the frequent power cuts. Yes the newsreaders gave their names John Snagge, Bruce Belfridge, Alvar Liddell etc . Lots of b-i-g dance bands with half-hour programmes: Henry Hall, Geraldo, Jack Jackson (my favourite) et al. The biggest ones of around 25-30 instruments called themselves dance orchestras – but it still wasn’t as loud as today’s pop. One of Mother’s favourite wireless programmes was Sandy McPherson on a cinema organ.

Anne mentioning my Uncle Alex above made me decided to check out The Glasgow Herald to see what other programmes were on the WIRELESS on January 7th, 1942.  (Uncle Alex was a reporter with the newspaper before he joined the RAF.)  Here’s a selection.

7.30am: Exercises. 8.15: The Kitchen Front. 10.30: Music While You Work. 2.30: Billy Cotton and his Band. 9.20pm: Tamburlaine, a play by Christopher Marlowe.

What else was in the paper that day?

The blackout in Glasgow started at 5.32pm in the afternoon and ended at 9.15pm next morning.

The New Year Sales were coming to an end.  You could buy a pair of ladies’ shoes for 30 shillings, a nightdress for 8/11,  or a ‘Hampster’ fur coat  (Really?? I hope I read that wrong!) for 19 Guineas.  Even though you could afford the purchase, I think the points system was operating by this time, so I’d love to know how many points you needed for a fur coat.

It was still pantomime season in Glasgow, with Aladdin playing at the Pavilion Theatre and Dick Whittington at the Alhambra.The afore-mentioned Geraldo and his Orchestra were performing at the Glasgow Empire.

An enraged letter to the editor discussed a particular Glasgwegian’s fury at the proposal to plough up golf courses for agriculture while so much untilled land was still available in the countryside.

Women born in 1921, whether married or single, were to register for war-work on Saturday morning at their local Labour Exchange.

In the Situations Vacant, there was a call for a butcher – weekly wage of 6 pounds .  Also a hairdresser – wage not mentioned. And there was another advertisement inviting women – not liable for National Service – to apply for clerical positions in engineering works in the Glasgow Area.

A worker in Paisley was charged with failing to participate in his works fire duties and was fined 4 pounds – to be paid within 8 weeks – or face 6 weeks imprisonment.  His excuse was that he’d gone to a dance and ‘forgotten about the matter’.

But there was some tragic news in there, too. On January 6th, 6 miners were killed in a gas explosion in Lancashire. But that wasn’t the only catastrophic accident in the first week of the New Year. On New Year’s Day, there was an explosion at the Sneyd Colliery near Stoke-on-Trent where 57 miners lost their lives.

mine screen shot



2 thoughts on “Wartime Rations – Day 2

  1. You have done such an excellent job in researching that which many seem to ignore and take for granted. It is fascinating and I wonder if there was lots of complaining or just a stoic acceptance? Do you work these fascinating findings into your stories? Good luck on your diet. 🙂

    • Hi Mary. Thanks for your comment. The newspapers of the time are amazing and google has a lot from around the world archived. I just love the real little details they offer – completely different to what we read in the history books. I think it was a combination of complaining and stoicism – after all there wasn’t much else you could do, unless you had money. (Did you know that rationing in Britain lasted 14 years?) Britain was totally bankrupted by the war that it was 1954 before all h=the foods came off the ration. My WW2 writing is about army nurses, so most of what I’m researching here isn’t applicable to those stories – except for their visits home!

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