SIGNIFICANT NATIONAL INFLUENCES 1945 – 60 (3)

The Post WW2 element of Olney’s social history is presented in four time periods: 1: 1945 – 1960, 2: 1961 – 1980, 3: 1981 – 2000 and 4: 2001 – 2020. The later time periods have yet to be compiled and published.

Each period comprises four sections: 1 Social History, 2 Leisure Pursuits, 3 Significant National Influences and 4 Personal Recollections. Click the relevant link to see another published section of this time period. Section 4 is currently being compiled.

TIME PERIOD 1:  1945 – 1960 Significant National Influences Olney’s leisure pursuits during the immediate post WW2 years

Please be aware that the content is an ongoing development, as the author would like to include additional inputs and comments submitted by visitors to the site, and of course to complete any unfinished headings and to correct any errors found in the current text.

The Berlin Airlift 1948-9 an early confrontation during the Cold War

.

The contents of this section are :

Food Rationing 

The Education Act of 1944

The National Health Service

The Cold War

National Service

The M1 Motorway 

The Suez Crisis

.

    

Food Rationing:

After 14 years food rationing came to an end on 4 July 1954 when restrictions on the sale and purchase of meat and bacon were lifted.

Typical queues in London for food during the 1940s

.

.

The Education Act of 1944 

This act involved a thorough recasting of the educational system.

 

.

Butler Education Act & a little later Free School Milk

.

The National Health Service

The National Health Service was launched by Aneurin Bevan on 5 July 1948 ‘to meet the needs of everyone and to be free at the point of delivery’.

The National Health Service Act 1946 came into effect on 5 July 1948

.

The Cold War

The ‘Cold War’ started in 1947 shortly after the end of the Second World War and lasted until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December  1991.

Like the rest of the UK population, the residents of Olney were invariably made aware by the media of the status and threats that the continuation of the Cold War imposed on people’s general well being. In this regard it is important that we remind ourselves of some of the situations that the residents of Olney had to contend with whilst attending to their everyday business during difficult economic times.

After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union were the world’s strongest nations. They were called superpowers. They had different ideas about economics and government. They fought a war of ideas called the Cold War. The Soviet Union was a communist country. In communism,the government controls production and resources. It decides where people live and work. The United States is a capitalist country. In capitalism, people and businesses control the production of goods. People decide where they live and work.

.

Cold War Europe – Military Alliances – Click to enlarge

The Cold War began in Europe shortly after World War II. The Soviet Union won control of Eastern Europe. It controlled half of Germany and half of Germany’s capital, Berlin. The United States, Britain, and France controlled western Germany and West Berlin.

Winston Churchill had been the Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II. Churchill was staunchly anti-Nazi but also staunchly anti-communist. Even before the war ended, he was extremely concerned about Soviet expansion and aggression in Europe. He was right to be concerned. Through a variety of tactics, the Soviet Union was able to export its brand of communism throughout Eastern Europe. Countries like Poland, East Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, and others were more or less controlled by the Soviet Union. In May 1946, Churchill delivered a famous speech at Westminster College in Missouri. He had recently been defeated in his re-election bid, but he nonetheless continued to warn of the dangers of communism. Speaking to the crowd, Churchill warned: ‘From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.’ His use of the term ‘iron curtain’ stuck, and since then has taken on a profound symbolic meaning. We should understand one thing: the term ‘iron curtain’ itself had been used throughout history in various contexts. But, it was Winston Churchill who coined the term in reference to the Soviet Union and its allies.

German children wave to an Allies Dakota aircraft delivering provisions

In June 1948, the Soviet Union blocked roads and railroads that led to West Berlin. The United States, Great Britain, and France flew in massive quantities of supplies to sustain West Berlin’s two million citizens. This tremendous operation became known as the Berlin Airlift. On May 12, 1949, this crisis came to an end when the Soviet Union lifted its 11-month blockade against West Berlin.

British troops during the Korean War 1951

After World War II, Korea was divided into North and South Korea. North Korea became communist. South Korea was a capitalist country. North Korean army invaded South Korea. The United Nations sent soldiers to help South Korea. China, supported by Russian arms and aircraft, sent soldiers to help North Korea. The war ended in 1953. Neither side won and Korea is still divided (2020).

In the 1950s the United States (including the UK) and the Soviet Union became involved in a nuclear arms race, which became headline news  whenever an advanced nuclear bomb or the means of delivering it was announced to the media. This prospect of a nuclear war was the predominant fear of the people of all nations at this time. This fear was very real should not be underestimated of trivialised. 

RAF Canberra aircraft flying in front of a nuclear mushroom cloud

In 1959, Cuba became a communist country and agreed with Russia that they could site nuclear missiles there. On October 14, a U-2 spy plane overflight confirmed the presence of Soviet missiles on Cuba. For thirteen days, October 16 – 28, 1962, the U.S. and Soviet Union faced each other down in a confrontation that would be the closest the world came to nuclear annihilation during the Cold War. This conflict became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The fall of the Berlin Wall

The destruction of the Berlin Wall on 9th November 1989 symbolised the end of the ‘iron curtain’ and lasted until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December  1991.

.

National Service

National Service came into force in January 1949 and the last National Servicemen left the armed forces in May 1963

.

The M1 Motorway 

The first section of the M1 Motorway was opened on 2nd November 1959.

Earnest Marples opening the first section of the MI Motorway on 2nd November 1959

 .

The Suez crisis

The Suez Crisis, international crisis in the Middle East, was precipitated on July 26, 1956. 

On 30 October 1956, Gamal Abdel Nasser firmly shrugged a British and French ultimatum for an end to hostilities that had started almost a week earlier when Anthony Eden got the approval of his cabinet to start a military operation against Egypt for having nationalised the Suez Canal on 26 July. The French-British ultimatum was tabled less than 24 hours after Israeli forces invaded Sinai in what announced the beginning of the Tripartite War that was the climax of the Suez Crisis.  

.

The ODHS wishes to acknowledge the images on this particular web page from many different sources and ‘borrowed’ from Google Images to illustrate text for which the ODHS could not be expected to possess in its archive. 

.

Copyright © 2020 Olney & District Historical Society

Comments are closed.