The end of World War Two: a time of hope in Britain
Fortunately my family had no members taken as prisoners in the Second World War, nor any who suffered casualties. I knew that others had not been so lucky, but to me at the time these seemed fairly remote consequences. However, although my immediate family had come through unscathed, we learned later that my father had been on the Nazi 'hit list' because of his political affiliations. Fortunately the 'hit' never came to pass.
What we had now was hope - hope for a better future.
The campaign for a better political future
I remember the excitement of helping my father in his activities during the general election which followed on almost immediately after the end of the war.
During the 1945 election campaign, the chant of us children in Edmonton was:
Evan Durbin was the Oxford lecturer who my father introduced to the local labour party as their prospective candidate.
Similar chants must have echoed throughout the land as the election was a landslide victory for the Labour Party. People had valued Churchill, but they wanted to forget war.
Hope and achievement
Most of all I recall the feeling of hope for the working classes - that the new Government cared for them - that they mattered - that there would be job creation - that schools would no longer need to operate a 'boot fund' to prevent children having to go to school barefoot. I remember that even during my time at Silver Street School this fund operated and was sometimes needed. Years later in about 1967, the reality was brought home more forcefully to me when I visited Belfast on business and saw children running round barefoot there in the middle of winter.
The National Health Service (NHS)
Another major reason for hope was the National Health Service. No longer would people have to pay for medical care - or, as often as not, go without because they couldn't afford to pay.
Although the NHS wasn't launched until three years after the war, everyone knew it was coming because it was part of the Labour Party manifesto. The National Health Service Act itself was published in 1946 and the launch was July 5th 1948.
No more bombs - the bomb dump
It was just after the war in late 1945 that I went with my parents to see the 'bomb dump'. This was somewhere in Epping Forest, near Chingford, and was a large fenced-off compound where all of the locally collected unexploded bombs had been brought after being defused. Having wrought so much havoc, they were a source of awe, but I remember being rather disappointed. They seemed so ordinary and flimsy - not at all what I had expected!
Post war credits
Men who had been in the armed forces had often worked 12 hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week. The result was that they had earned big wages. As there was little to spend this money on, the government introduced Post War Credits. This meant the men paid large amounts of income tax into the system from their wage packets, with the promise that it would be paid back after the war. The government kept this promise and some people were getting re-paid as late as the 1960s.