Allied military authorities' first priority was to return DPs as quickly as possible to their native countries, and by the end of July 1945 more than 4 million had repatriated. The most populous of Britain's remaining colonies, Hong Kong, was only handed over to China in 1997. The People wondered what would happen when “browned off-warriors – lauded to the skies in war – returned home if jobs and support were not provided”. However does it mean Britain really was in economic decline? Britain was also a founder member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949, and sent a contingent of troops to take part in the Korean War (1950 - 1953) against Communist North Korea. Victory is assured for us and our allies in the European war. In the 1990s, a peaceful end to the 'Troubles' was negotiated, but tension continues. Save over 50% on a gift subscription to their favourite history magazine. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so. Social Impact of WWII in Britain During World War Two the government became involved in people’s lives. The cinema was the mass entertainment of wartime, particularly for women who enjoyed Hollywood escapism. Severe food shortages, caused by naval blockades, had hardly lightened the mood – and had transformed home-grown produce from something that was merely desirable to an absolute necessity. The News of the World ran regular stories of the violence that would ensue if men discovered that their wives had been unfaithful. In the 1960s, pop music - not least that of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones - gave Britain a very different feel in the world to that it had enjoyed as the world's predominant empire. The devastation that the Luftwaffe had wrought would, however, take a long time to repair. But there were also major contrasts, particularly between 1979 and 1990 when Margaret Thatcher held power as the country's first female prime minister. However, the spirit of the labor movements did not blossom in Britain as it did elsewhere, and the socialist goal of nationalization of industry was put on hold. Given its inability to defend Australia and New Zealand during the war, there were questions about how much Britain had to offer the Dominions in return. There seems to be a problem, please try again. But though the Radio Times was moved to announce that “This Christmas after a year of momentous victories we chart The Journey Home,” it was to be more than eight months before the war finally ended. The 1944 Butler Education Act had, meanwhile, guaranteed the introduction of secondary education for all children. Great Day paid tribute to Women’s Institutes’ war efforts and followed a village institute preparing for a visit from Mrs Roosevelt, wife of the American president, Franklin. Factories owned by the government were sold off, and soon practically no businesses remained in government hands. A healthy family life must be fully ensured and parenthood must not be penalised if the population of Britain is to be prevented from dwindling." Post-1945, Britain quickly relinquished its status as the world's largest imperial power, but it was the massive cultural and social changes at home that truly transformed British society. Thank you for subscribing to HistoryExtra, you now have unlimited access. Stockwell, A. British Documents on the end of Empire, Series B Volume 3: Malaya – Part 3: The Alliance Route to Independence 1953-1957 (London, Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1995). More generally, the authority of age and experience were overthrown and, in their place, came an emphasis on youth and novelty. The Liverpool Sound, the Swinging Sixties, and the London of Carnaby Street created an image far removed from that of 1956 when, in a last major flourish of imperial power, Britain had unsuccessfully sought to intimidate Egypt in the Suez Crisis. “At about 11.30pm I heard dad come home and asked mum, who had just gone to bed, if she wanted a cup of tea, as he was going to make one and have a sandwich. Jeremy Black is Professor of History at the University of Exeter. The Forces Service played light music for audiences at home, in the forces and the factories. After the Second World War, the disintegration of Britain's empire transformed global politics. Feeling threatened 'You wondered whether you'd go bush' From early in 1940, New Zealanders began to live in fear of attack or invasion, first by the Germans and later by the Japanese. This empire had largely been granted independence by 1964, beginning with independence for India and Pakistan in 1947. Post-1945, Britain quickly relinquished its status as the world's largest imperial power, but it was the massive cultural and social changes at home that truly transformed British society. I remember thinking I must still be asleep and thought if I shouted I would wake myself up, so I did. Spending became a major expression of identity and indeed a significant activity in leisure time. The moral code that prevailed in 1945 broke down, a process formalised by legal changes in the 1960s. Thayer. Increased foreign travel and intermarriage were other aspects of a relatively un-xenophobic and continually-changing society - trends that continue to this day. It was a rare and marvellous treat to us after years of saving food in case…. The composition of the population has undergone a marked transformation, due primarily to advances in medicine. On 6 August 1945, the debate over which party was most fit to lead Britain in the postwar world momentarily took a back seat as news filtered through that American forces had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Many British films in 1945 used the war as a backdrop. In May 1945, there were millions of displaced persons(DPs) in Germany and Austria who had been brought to the Third Reich as forced laborers or imprisoned in concentration camps. C. ‘The Five Power Defence Arrangements: The Quiet Achiever’, Security Challenges, 3 (2007) pp. The Essex Newsman assured its readers: “You will enjoy it, and you will be fascinated by the haunting Cornish rhapsody.”. The next few days were rife with speculation. By 1945, however, colonies were an expensive liability for Clement Attlee's newly elected Labour government. Most, in turn, were denationalised again under the Conservatives between 1979 and 1997. To make matters worse, within a few weeks of the surrender of Japan, on September 2, 1945, U.S. President Harry S. Truman, as he was required to do by law, ended lend-lease, upon which Britain had … Victory may have been within touching distance but there was no sense of things winding down – as the 150,000 men who entered the armed forces in the first half of 1945 would have attested. On 6 August 1945, the debate over which party was most fit to lead Britain in the postwar world momentarily took a back seat as news filtered through that American forces had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Britain became an active member of international organisations, not least the United Nations, of which it was a founder member and held a permanent seat on the Security Council. One of the key challenges facing the UK in 1945 was the economic position of the country. This was particularly evident in Labour 's support for the nationalisation of major parts of the economy during their pre-1979 governments. For many people, Churchill was too strongly identified with fighting the war while Labour was more widely associated with domestic policies. One such recalled: “Meat was rationed, butter was rationed, eggs, milk and so on and we accepted that rationing was just part of the facts of life. At the national level, government was controlled by the Labour Party (1945 - 1951, 1964 - 1970, 1974 - 1979 and 1997 onwards) and its Conservative rival (1951 - 1964, 1970 - 1974, 1979 - 1997), with no coalition ministries. As one woman recalled: “We didn’t do anything else except listen to the wireless and knitting.” After D-Day the audience tuned-in for news of the Allied armies’ progress in Europe. The Labour and Conservative parties shared major overlaps in policy. If this leaves you a little spare time, remember the job that’s still as important as ever – growing your own foodstuffs in garden and allotment. On 27 March Ivy Millichamp of Orpington, south-east London became the last civilian to be killed in a V2 attack – and, by the end of the month, the all-too familiar wail of air-raid sirens would be heard over the capital no more. She is a historical consultant for the BBC Radio 4 drama series Home Front.  ©. Some large-hearted resident had allowed his piano to be dragged out onto the pavement and before I knew where I was I was seated before it playing Annie Lurie on as many notes as it felt like sounding…”, Britons celebrated victory just as they had endured war – with their friends and family, but also by expressing their emotions in public places. Defence in the post-war era largely consisted of the protection of Western Europe against the threat of Soviet invasion, and Britain played a key role in this confrontation which became known as the Cold War. One recalled: “When the coach arrived to take us to the station and home I did not even wait to say goodbye, but just ran and jumped onto the coach.”. In contrast to the situation in Northern Ireland, Welsh and Scottish nationalism remained essentially non-violent, and in 1997 each gained a devolved assembly exercising a considerable amount of local control. Furthermore, large-scale immigration, particularly from the West Indies and South Asia, but also from other areas such as Eastern Europe, has made the population ethnically far more diverse, with important cultural consequences. Over 3 million children, some accompanied by their mothers, had been evacuated to places of safety during the war. To begin with, we will assess the state of Britain in 1945 both at home and abroad as it faced the challenges of post-war reconstruction. Large-scale immigration has made the population ethnically far more diverse, with important cultural consequences. Find out more about how the BBC is covering the. His new book, Dig for Victory, was an all-year guide to domestic food production with adverts for Clay’s Fertilizer, which apparently would ensure: “Vim and Vigour on the Vegetable Front.”, Others had to rely upon their ingenuity, resilience and willingness to adapt their tastes. But VE Day did not signal an end to the Second World War.Allied servicemen who had fought their way through Europe prepared for their transfer to the Far East and the Pacific, where fighting would continue for three more months.The possibility of redeployment was a stark reality for many soldiers. Britain and the British have changed profoundly since 1945. 2014: How did the Jarrow March (1936) illustrate the social and economic problems facing Britain during the inter-war period? Life-size models of the nuclear Polaris A3 missile, 1968. Others had no choice – the authorities were unable to trace the families of more than 5,000 children. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Nella Last, then on holiday in the Cumbrian village of Spark Bridge, recorded how a neighbour ‘Old Joe’ had brandished the Daily Mail and shouted: ‘“Look at this,’ – and it was the article about the atomic bombs. At times, Britain itself appeared to be going the same way, as entry into the European Economic Community (EEC) - later European Union (EU) - in 1973 led to a marked erosion of national sovereignty and to a transfer of powers to Europe. By 1945, Britain lost the capacity to rule India … Thanks! The size of the Labour majority in the 1945 election (146 seats) gave it a mandate for the first time to carry out its election manifesto 'Let Us Face the Future'. By 26 July it was clear that the Labour party had won a landslide victory in the general election (it would secure a majority of 146) and that Clement Attlee would be Britain’s next prime minister. Naomi Mitchinson recorded in her diary on 5 May: “Again not V Day, dull and cold.” On the 7th she wrote: “Everyone waiting for the announcement that the war had ended and in the evening the newsreader announced, tomorrow would be VE [Victory in Europe] Day and Churchill would speak at 3pm.”, While some towns and villages had carefully laid plans to celebrate the end of hostilities, for others VE day was a more impromptu affair. The 1945 United Kingdom general election was a national election held on 5 July 1945, but polling in some constituencies was delayed by some days, and the counting of votes was delayed until 26 July to provide time for overseas votes to be brought to Britain. As soon as I opened my mouth it filled up with dust and grit and I started coughing and spat it out. “I went off to a dance and it was riotous –flags draped around the hall and lights full on, every one kissing every one else. Nationalisation was the Labour party’s idea of putting the control of the main industries in the hands of the people, instead of a small group or shareholders. Britain had millions of men and women in uniform in 1945, scattered over Europe, the far east, and elsewhere. In cinemas, the cheering that had greeted images of the prime minister on newsreels in wartime was suddenly replaced by booing. Finally, on 14 August, President Harry Truman announced that Tokyo had surrendered and that, for Britons, the long, tortuous journey to victory was finally at an end. Demands for mobility (cars) and space (houses) have ensured the transfer of land from agriculture and natural landscape to roads and housing, with multiple consequences for the environment and for the human experience. Two days later Frances Partridge, a pacifist, wrote in her diary: “I feel happier and more conscious of peace than ever I expected. By entering your details, you are agreeing to HistoryExtra terms and conditions and privacy policy. Mum had dug out a large tin of Del Monte Peaches with a hidden tin of Carnation Milk possibly saved from our last box from New Zealand. After VE Day the process of reuniting families and communities began in earnest. Uncertain public policy in the post-war period played a role in the marked relative decline of the British economy, which was particularly pronounced in the field of manufacturing. “We got a real shock when we heard our Conservative member had been beaten by 12,000 – we simply could not believe it,” said Nella Last of the Women’s Voluntary Service Centre in Barrow-on-Furness. This was seen in politics with, for example, the lowering of the voting age to 18; in the economy, with the rise of the youth consumer; and in culture, with marked changes in popular music. Britain became an active member of international organisations, not least the United Nations. The legacy of empire brought nearly half a million blacks and Asians to Britain in the fifties in search of a better life. This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. Read more. The following day, 15 August 1945, will go down in history as VJ (Victory over Japan) Day. Last updated 2011-03-03. From 1945 to 1990, some economic problems of Britain were never solved and remained. His recent publications include The European Question and the National Interest (Social Affairs Unit, 2006) and War and the New Disorder in the 21st-century (Continuum, 2005). Before the war, Britain maintained colonies all over the world, which provided valuable raw materials, manpower and strategic bases. BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Dynamo Moscow's 1945 tour saw the Russians impress against supposedly superior British sides, at a time of growing suspicion. In 1970 there were about 375,000 Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs in Britain. But for most believers, formal expressions of faith became less important. The Labour party, meanwhile, was in high spirits at its Blackpool conference in early June. Everything you ever wanted to know about... Christmas carols: the history behind 9 festive favourites, Fishing for gold: how eels powered the medieval economy, 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Second World War. As discussions of how to build the people’s peace became more heated, the foundations were laid to shake up the political landscape. Not only did British cloth provide for British uniforms, it clothed the allies as well and indeed the French soldiers too. “They returned about dawn so we knew they were going much further.” On 13 and 14 February, such bombers headed for Dresden, killing more people in that one German town in 24 hours than had died in the whole of the London Blitz. Labour will work specially for the care of Britain's mothers and their children - children's allowances and school medical and feeding services, better maternity and child welfare services. The Conservatives tended to favour individual liberties and low taxation, while Labour preferred collectivist solutions and were therefore happier to advocate a major role for the state. Though an army of 130,000 men had repaired 800,000 London homes by the end of March, many families were still living in temporary and inadequate accommodation or huts. A principal driver of change has been a major growth in population, matched by rapidly rising expectations about lifestyle. But as an entry in Naomi Mitchinson’s diary reveals, even at the moment of triumph, the celebrations were tinged with anxiety. These changes were linked to shifts in religious practice. Read more. I’ve rarely seen him so excited – or upset. By 1993 the figure was about 1,620,000, with the rise in the number of Muslims being particularly pronounced. This page has been archived and is no longer updated. In 1945, Britain still had the largest empire in the world. The official website for BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and BBC World Histories Magazine, Save over 50% on a BBC History Magazine or BBC History Revealed gift subscription. Reginald Walsh remembers being lined up with 26 other evacuees in his school in Staffordshire and the teacher saying: “‘You’re all going back apart from the Walshes’ – that was me and my sister.” His father had jumped ship and the authorities could not find his mother, who had thought he would be better cared for in the countryside, without her. Britain since the Seventies by Jeremy Black (Reaktion Books, 2004), British Economic Development since 1945 by Alan Booth (Manchester University Press, 1995), Religion in Britain Since 1945: Believing Without Belonging by Grace Davie (Blackwell Publishers, 1994), British Society Since 1945: The Penguin Social History of Britain by Arthur Marwick (Penguin Books Ltd, 2003), The European Question and the National Interest by Jeremy Black (Social Affairs Unit, 2006). More than 10,000 of them died from the effects of malnutrition or disease within a few weeks of liberation. The war in the East goes the same way. Post-war Britain, as many contemporary observers noted, did not seem like a country that had just experienced a great military triumph. We sang we danced and we joined hands singing all the Songs we could think of. By Professor Jeremy Black By the 1990s, only one in seven Britons was an active member of a Christian church, although more claimed to be believers. “Finally tipped out of there we walked home in groups feeling as if a huge cloud had lifted off our shoulders and I must admit I never once thought of the war in the far east still going on as we sang and danced in the streets.”. British forces liberated concentration camps in northern Germany, including Neuengamme and Bergen-Belsen. Its most immediate legacies were death, devastation, and misery. It’s hardly surprising, then, that in an interview with the magazine Picture Post in April, the philosopher Bertrand Russell intoned: “Making good the enormous destruction and deterioration of goods and industrial capital will be a stupendous task.”. By the end of 1944, victory over Germany seemed certain. On 8 May 1945 millions of people across the world celebrated Allied victory in Europe. For all the euphoria, Britain was virtually bankrupt – massively in debt to the United States. The 1960s destroyed a cultural continuity that had lasted since the Victorian period. You're now subscribed to our newsletter. In this spirit, newspapers carried advice on how to turn dried eggs imported from America into omelettes, scotch eggs and Yorkshire puddings. With rationing exerting an ever-tightening grip on the nation’s food supplies, only the most ingenious cooks thrived. However, the joyous mood was short-lived. Abortion and homosexuality became legal, capital punishment was abolished, and measures were taken to improve the position of women. He said: ‘Read it – why, this will change all t’world. Postwar planning had been much discussed across a wide range of groups in the country and the armed forces since the publication of the Beveridge Report (1942), which outlined plans for a new national insurance scheme and the foundations of the postwar state. He then walked down to the kitchen at the back of the house. Change from wartime to peacetime economy. The national debt had risen from £760 million to £3500 million. Britain after the war; Vast crowds gathered in London's Trafalgar Square to celebrate the victorious end of the First World War on 11 November 1918. Five years of rationing, of making-do and mending, had enveloped the nation in a certain dreary drabness. 2013: What were the challenges facing Britain in peace and war, 1920-1945? April – Sybil Campbell is appointed a stipendiary magistrate in London, the first woman to become a professional judge in the UK. Mr Middleton, whose reputation as a radio and TV gardener had been established before the war, urged the nation to “Dig for dear life” and to force rhubarb, plant potatoes and sow peas. Yet in Britain, it marked another august occasion: the state opening of parliament. Bergen-Belsen was liberated by British forces on 15 April 1945. Six of the 20 members of Attlee's cabinet were union sponsored. Thousands of unburied bodies lay strewn around the camp, while in the barracks some 60,000 starving and mortally ill … With nothing to export, Britain had no way to pay for imports or even for food. Timeline: the countdown to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In January 1945 an advert appeared in a number of newspapers, which read: “Some of the sterner war-time duties are relaxing – Home guard, Fire Guard, Civil Defense. “I know we are going to have hell trying to work the peace – trying to give people a worthwhile-ness in their peace time lives comparable with the worthwhile-ness of working together during the war.”, From dancing the night away to turning dried eggs into Yorkshire pudding, how Britons lived their lives in 1945…. The Third Labour Government 1945-1951. He works on post-1500 military history, 18th-century British history, international relations, cartographic history and newspaper history. But why? It’s one of the great ironies of the home front in 1945 that austerity actually deepened  after VE Day, with the government reducing bacon and lard rations three weeks later, and introducing bread rations in 1946. With Congress gone, control of provinces that later formed Pakistan, the Northwest Frontier, the Sindh, and Bengal fell under League control. Ee I wish I were 30 years younger and could see it aw.’” Nella’s diary, however, notes that she “felt sick”. This rise was linked to a growth in consumerism that also owed something to an extension of borrowing to more of the population. The radio became a national obsession in wartime. But what sort of Britain would emerge from the rubble? Events were evolving apace at Westminster too. Her morale was not irredeemably dented, however, and she resolved “just because I am frightened I must go”. Were an expensive liability for Clement Attlee 's newly elected Labour government enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury uniform 1945... 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