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Fotos Peter Grafton
This gallery contains 74 photos.
One Day (Oh what a day) in Paris, Nov. 18, 2009. (Algérie 1 – Egypte 0) photos Pete Grafton _______________________________ I had three cameras with me. A pre-1939 camera for black and white, and two for colour, one of which … Continue reading →
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Tuesday, 6 June, 1944. D Day.
Bénouville Beach & Bénouville (Pegasus) Bridge.
Posted on 6 June, 2019, the 75th Anniversary of D Day.
British Army Royal Engineer:
I was in the first wave on D Day. It was supposed to be half past six in the morning, but we was late again! The British Army was late again! Eight o’ clock we got there.
We went from Gosport. We was kept up there for six weeks in the “cages” – a big white camp, all under canvas, and you had all your last minute secret training in there, but no-one knew when it was going to be. They was all over England these camps. The preparation was so strict, and intense, from the time we got to Gosport. You kept doing the same thing over and over again. Once a week we had to all put on our battle order – we had special assault jackets, different to the Army uniform, and we got on the lorries, took us to Gosport harbour. We embarked on our tank landing craft and they took you out into the Channel. Maybe four hours. The next week you thought: hello, what’s going on here. We were away, so we thought. But they brought you back. Back to the routine.
In the camp we couldn’t get to the pub. We couldn’t get out because of the perimeter wire – they had guards on it, Redcaps and dogs. As I say, they brought you back, back to the routine. Of course the last time they took us out I thought to myself “We’re out here a fucking long while”. And the blokes are saying “What the hell’s going on today? We want to get back”. Course they came round, the Captain, this naval officer, whatever he was, who was driving the fucking boat, he came round and gave you the word, that this was the real thing. The old Padre came at us – cor fucking hell. “I wish I’d known this, they wouldn’t have got me out”, but you were in the routine, you was taking orders all the time.
On the boat you was all split up into your little groups. They split everybody up into small groups so that in case of casualties – in case a whole lot got wiped out – you still had a unit. There was only me and a Tosh, a mate of mine – us two engineers on that one boat. Then we had an anti-aircraft gun, bren carrier, few infantrymen, few ambulance men – all mixed, so whoever got there, you had something of each.
When we were getting near France and I realised this was it I was like a jelly – nerves. I wasn’t no hero. I don’t think nobody was. Well, some were.
Where we landed was a narrow beach and the tide had started to go out. We were supposed to have got the full tide, but as we were late it was on its way out. We were about fifty yards out, but the Captain of the boat said “You’ll be alright, I’ll run you right up to the beach”, which he did. They were all doing that – banging them right up onto the beach. I hung on the barrel of the anti-aircraft gun so I wouldn’t get a wet arse. I wasn’t going into the water for no fucker.
When you landed you had all your colours – gold, red – and your boats went for that. We were getting shells. The Beachmasters landed first – blokes on the beach with flags, waving them in. They were fucking heroes – all them blokes. Them and the MPs I think. They talk about the MPs being bastards, well the Corps of MPs might have been, because they was a different branch, but you had your own MPs attached to your unit, they was alright. They’d stand on point duty, if they was putting in an attack, and the transport had to move up. They’d be standing on point duty on a branch road in the country, and they’d be getting knocked out right, left and centre. About six in one day we got killed. As soon as one got killed, they’d say to another one: You – point duty, and as they were going up there: Bang!
You had a map reference when you landed, where to go. If you were interested. Course, some went that way, and some went the other way! But where could you desert to? You took a chance whatever way you went. Everybody was on the beach. It was jammed up. They had a casualty clearing station up one end, dug in some cliffs, they was taking the casualties in there. There was a little stone wall – a parapet wall along the front and we was behind that, crouching. All of us. No fucker would move. They was all piling up behind there. It was Bénouville beach we’d landed on. Our objective was Bénouville Bridge. We had to meet up with the 6th Airborne who’d landed in front of us and captured the bridge. But we didn’t know whether they’d captured it or not! No one knew how to get to where they were supposed to go. You’d say “Where you going mate?” You walked, run or got a lift up there. We were like a load of kids on an outing.
As soon as they realised the first attack had gone in and it was serious they started slinging a few shells back. It was everyman for himself.
There was a bit of an opening where the road came down to the beach and they were all making for that. And the first thing I see, laying in the middle of the road was a green beret and a blown up bike. All smoking. Bits of rag. He got a direct hit with a mortar, this commando. They landed with them folding bikes. That was the first one I saw. I thought: Oh no. I didn’t want to know much, so me and my mate Tosh thought: Let’s fuck off and get out of it. We shot up the road into a churchyard. We sat there for a couple of hours. Had a fag. Thought: Fuck it, what are we going to do now? We gradually worked our way up.
As we were going up they came over and dropped another load of airborne troops. The 6th Airborne went in first – the old Flying Horse Pegasus. They called it Pegasus Bridge afterwards.
I was in the forward area all the time. It was a three mile area, which wasn’t very nice because you was getting the short distance shells, and you went up with the infantry.
Some of the infantry wouldn’t move without us, and we wouldn’t move without the infantry – that’s how you used to argue. It’s unbelievable. If they had to go out on a night patrol and they came up against a minefield they’d send back for us. “Fuck you”, we’d say, “We’re not going up there to get shot” – and you’re standing there arguing. That’s how the army was running. The officers would sort it out. A sapper in the RE’s was equal to an infantry lieutenant. When the poor infantry used to quake in their shoes at a lieutenant, we used to tell them to fuck off.
After a couple of days at D Day the next wave landed and they went up to take over from our division, but they ran into a counter-attack. They got there but got knocked back again. They got knocked back to where we were, on the Bénouville Bridge, River Orme, it was. We was stuck there. Our division, our infantry, had to hold on where they were. It was six weeks before we got a break, we got a rest. Our objective was Caen. First thing we had to do was to lay 2000 mines, right across our area. This was all night work. Couldn’t do it by day – they’d see you.
When we did move forwards, you had no time that was your own. You lived from day to night, day to night. Working and sleeping, working and sleeping. Sleeping in holes. I’d be sleeping in my hole and a Corporal or one of your mates would say “Come on Spot, we’ve got a job to do”. They called me “Spot” from the poem, because my name was Thorpe: “Under the Thorpe, There’s a little Town, Half a Hundred Bridges” – Tennyson’s Brook.
They’d say, we’ve got a job to do, a minefield to lay. You’d go back and get your boxes of mines on your lorry – take them as near as you could, then you’d hump them across the fields in the middle of the night. But the thing was, months afterwards, when everyone had moved forwards, you was the only who had a map of the mines, so you had to leave the forward area to come back and clear your minefields. We lost one!
I was a nervous wreck on mine clearing. You had to keep your wits about you. We didn’t use the mine detector for the simple reason that they were useless. For the simple reason, once you put those earphones on you couldn’t hear the shells, so we slung them around our necks. They was cumbersome too, they was big. They issued us with a three foot long steel knitting needle. That’s what we had. Probes they called them. With an ordinary mine you wouldn’t set it off, wouldn’t be enough weight. But they surrounded them with little shoe mines, little wooden box shoe mines. If you touched those – they was away. But you could, if you was clever, get your point in ’em and throw ’em up in the air, and they’d go off! That’s how you got, how we all got. “Get out of the fucking way!”, and they’d sling them and bang, off they’d go. They was catching quite a few with them. A half track or a small vehicle would pull up in a field, the bloke would jump out and step on one of these little shoe mines – Bang! They was all losing ankles, and it used to split your bone up your shin. They used to issue us with wellies! Wellington boots to stop ’em – wellington boots and a long bit of wire. When you found a standard mine, you didn’t know whether to lift it or to drag it. To drag it you had a grappling hook and rope and you’d hook it on the handle and drag ’em.
I didn’t get any leave until we was well in Germany, at the Dormund-Ems canal. We were supposed to put a bridge across there, but we was under fire from the other side. It was a rota system – getting leave – one at a time, two weeks. I got to see my wife and kiddies. A lot of blokes on active service was glad to get away from London when they were on leave, they couldn’t stand it, because they hadn’t experienced air-raids, being on army service, and they were getting the doodle-bugs in London. They’d say “I don’t want to know this, I want to get back to my unit”. Same as our infantry used to say to us, if they came back for a rest, they weren’t comfortable, they used to say “We don’t like it here. We want to get back to the front. All we we got to face up there is rifle and machine gun bullets”, they used to say “Back here you get shells and mortars. Up there we can keep our head down, we can dodge them little bullets”.
You see some weird things in a war. Once you get involved in a war, I don’t care who you are, if you’re up in the forward area, where there’s any action, I say everyman turned into an animal. The conversion was gradual. From the time you got there you started living like an animal, you got involved in casualties, in dead bodies and living in holes in the ground , or old bombed houses – you gradually changed, didn’t matter how timid, or what sort of person you was, you became an animal. When you first arrived at D day and you see a couple of bodies blown to bits , it turns you up, and you’re looking to see if you can do anything. Three weeks later bodies are lying there, and you just walk past them. It’s a sensation I can’t explain. After a couple of days you’re starting to get used to it. Someone’s slinging shells at you and it goes Bang, Bang, and you’re diving in holes, it becomes a matter of – like a rabbit, you come out to feed and do something, Every time the noise starts you’re down your hole. I was the fastest one of the lot!
In memory of John Thorpe, workmate in 1973 at Plashet Park, East Ham, London.
John’s experiences are recorded in You, You & You! The People out of Step with World Two. London, 1981. Print copies are usually available on Abebooks and on Amazon.
The extended online version is at youyouandyourestored.wordpress.com
Bertrand Russell – “A Wild Beast in Philosopher’s Robes”
In a weekend spanning the end of June and the beginning of July in Oxford 1951 the philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell gave a talk as part of a British Foreign Office symposium on Communism at Jesus College. Speakers over that week-end also included Isaiah Berlin and the biologist and geneticist C.D. Darlington who was to talk on “Science in the Soviet Union”.
The context was the subjugation by the Russian Soviet Union of the people of eastern Germany, of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Albania and Rumania. Meanwhile the Labour Government of the time had secretly committed millions to developing a British atomic bomb, the American’s were already working on the hydrogen bomb, whilst the Soviet Union exploded their first atomic bomb in 1949. In 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea with the support of the Soviet Union and Communist China. Also attending that weekend was Robert Bruce Lockhart.
The former head of the wartime British Political Warfare Executive and liaison office to the Czechoslovak Government in Exile during the Second World War Robert Bruce Lockhart had already had an interesting past.
Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Diaries, published in two volumes after his death, give an extraordinarily intimate insight into men and women who were prominent on the world stage from the time of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution through to the immediate post Second World War period. They include writers and dramatists – H.G.Welles, Arnold Bennett, Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward – politicians: Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Ramsay Macdonald, Oswald Mosley, Nye Bevan, Anthony Eden, the Czech President Tomáš Masaryk, his son Jan Masaryk, Edward Beneš and Klement Gottwald; Bolshevik revolutionaries Lenin and Trotsky, Menshevik exile Kerensky, the newspaper proprietor Beaverbrook, owner of the Daily Express, (the largest selling daily in Britain in the 1930s), Kaiser Wilhelm II in Dutch exile, and many, many others.
He came to prominence when as a young man representing the British Government in revolutionary Bolshevik Russia he was arrested in September 1918 for allegedly being involved in an “Allied Plot” against the Bolshevik Government. His background was Scottish: Highlander and Lowlander and he had a love for many aspects of the Russian character, particularly their gypsy music and heavy drinking. He was clear-sighted about the stupidity of allied intervention and allied support of the White Russians during the Civil War.
Imprisoned in Moscow for a month he was released in an exchange deal involving Maxim Litvinov, the unofficial Bolshevik ambassador in London. He was politically insightful, occupying a centre ground. When asked by the British Foreign Office he usually gave startlingly (in hindsight) good summaries of the political situation in the Soviet Union and Central European countries, even though the Foreign Office rarely acted on them. Besides aspects of Russian culture he had a love of Czechs and the Czech nation. He somehow balanced his keen, clear, informed political insights and predictions and his prolific diary writing and work for the London Evening Standard in the 1930s with lunchtimes and evenings of heavy drinking, and was usually in debt. He wrote fourteen books, including a standard work on Scottish Whisky, Scotch, which is still in print. He also loved fly fishing, and wrote My Rod My Comfort. He was sympathetic to the 1940s Scottish Covenant movement for devolution.
In his Diary for Sunday, 1 July, 1951, Robert Bruce Lockhart wrote:
“…. In the evening about 5.30 p.m. arrived Bertrand Russell by train from London and was taken to his room in Staircase No. XIII where John Richard Green, the historian and writer, and T.E.Lawrence, Jesus’s most famous alumnus, lived.
At 6 p.m I took the chair at his lecture on ‘Democracy’s Defence Against Communism’. All members of the course had expected this to be the highlight and, indeed, I had led them to believe so. The old gentlemen however was not at his brilliant best. He had tried to do something that was not quite in his line; viz. to give a Foreign Office tour d’horizon. He had, too, a script to which he referred occasionally. (Script is perhaps the wrong word; the document was, in fact, two pages of closely typed notes.) Nearly always he had to make an awkward pause before he found his place.
The material was good enough. He was violently, or shall I say strongly, anti-communist: insisted that on our side military strength and rearmament took precedence over all other matters including schemes of world government, etc. He was quite confident that Communism could not and would not last and that things would change in Russian where he believed the regime was more deeply detested than we realised. Made a strong case for anti-Russian sentiment in satellite countries. On our side he said we must do more for the underprivileged and backward races in the East which was fertile ground for communism. We must abandon all imperialism and, above all, we must get rid of the colour bar. He made a strong attack on the policy of the Malan (1) government in South Africa and expressed the hope that South Africa would leave the Commonwealth as soon as possible – the sooner the better, in fact!...(1. Dr.D.F.Malan (1874 – 1959) was Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, South Africa 1948 – 1954. Footnote by Editor Kenneth Young.)
He was fairly, but not very, good in answering questions and was handicapped by the stupidity of some of the questioners, some of whom wanted to know how soon the changes which Russell expected in the U.S.S.R would take place and just what form world government would take and how soon it could be expected. However he stood up fairly well to a long ordeal which began at 6 p.m. and with an hour’s break for dinner, lasted till 10 p.m.
I had two long talks with him alone, and then he was at his best, his eyes twinkling, his huge head resting rather heavily as it seemed on his lean, spare, lithe figure, and his smile lighting up his face. When you ask what is a superior man, the answer is not a Churchill or a Beaverbrook but men like Bertie Russell, Thomas Masaryk and Charles Richet. (2. Charles Richet, French physiologist (1850 – 1935) and Nobel prizewinner. Footnote by editor Kenneth Young.)
Russell very human, had two sherries plus half a pint of beer at dinner, laughed heartily when I asked him what was the secret of his perennial youth. ‘Glands, I suppose, glands. But I hope I’ll live till ninety so that I can say all the wrong things.Shaw had a field day when he was ninety. Ascribed his great age to vegetarianism, teetotalism, non-smoking and goodness knows what other forms of self-discipline. I shall say that I have done everything that doctors think wrong: I’ve drunk, I’ve smoked (he is a great pipe-smoker), I’ve eaten what I liked and I’ve enjoyed myself in every way….’
…… He was also to my surprise anti-Labour – at least he predicted with great assurance that they would be heavily beaten at the next election and seemed to desire this defeat. (The Labour Government called a snap election later that year, in October. They lost the election but were not heavily beaten. They won more individual votes than the Conservative Party but lost parliamentary constituency seats to the Conservatives, who ended up with a majority of 20 seats. Footnote Pete Grafton). Indeed, he wanted to make a bet with me there and then. Told me with great glee how he had won a bet off Culbertson, the U.S. bridge expert who also considered himself an authority on foreign affairs. (3. Ely Culbertson (1891 – 1955) author and pacifist, who created the Culbertson System for bridge in 1930. Footnote by editor Kenneth Younger). Russell bet him early in 1941 that Japan would be in the war before the end of the year and that this would bring the U.S. in. Russell had a narrow squeak – 7 December – but he won.
He was also very interesting on Darlington’s view on Lysenko. (Bruce Lockhart had already written in his diary the previous day about the talk by Darlington: “Lysenko’s theory. Heredity is merely development. enviroment can change development. Therefore environment can change heredity. In Darlington’s opinion Lysenko is a charlatan. His experiments have produced no results. The Russian scientists know this… Under Stalin no room for argument.. The Russian scientists who were prepared to argue have been ‘liquidated’. ) He told me that the whole theory of heredity and that character could be changed by environment (the Lysenko and Stalin theory) was started by Samuel Butler, in hatred of Darwin who he detested. The theory was carried on by Bernard Shaw. (Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and polemicist, who was an early admirer of the Italian fascist Mussolini, and then the Communist dictator Joseph Stalin. He was an advocate of the cleansing of class enemies, amongst others, suggesting in 1934 a “humane killing gas”. Footnote by Pete Grafton.)
His saddest story was his loneliness after his return from his first visit (probably only visit) to Russia in 1921. He disliked the Communist regime very much after he had seen it. He was then very much to the Left himself, and his comment on his return from the Bolshevik paradise displeased very much his left-wing friends who had not seen Russia and therefore loved it. As during the First World War he had been a pacifist, he not only lost his Cambridge fellowship but also his right-wing and indeed centre friends. After his return from Russia he was, therefore, completely friendless.
Saddest thing of all was when I took him after our longish talk after the lecture to his rooms to go to bed. I knew he had a weak bladder, because I had been forced to take him to the ‘loo’ both before and immediately after his lecture. When I took him to the John Richard Green staircase, I found that his rooms were on the ground floor, that they had no running water and that the nearest ‘loo’ was three floors of steep stairs up, and then along a winding corridor which few young men could have found at night, let alone an octogenarian. (Russell was not in his 80s in June/July 1951, he was 79. Footnote Pete Grafton). He was in quite a fuss and suddenly looked old and tired and I felt sorry for him. He wanted a chamber pot and, above all, a cup of tea first thing in the morning without which he said he was lost. I saw that there was a chamber pot for him and I was lucky enough to catch the head steward by knocking at the locked buttery door and arranged for a cup of tea to be sent to the old boy – tea without sugar or milk!
When I returned from my rounds to see if he was all right, I found him quite quiet, sitting in an easy chair, smoking his pipe and reading his book. He was most grateful.
Later I ran into a member of the course who told me that the room he was occupying belonged to a Communist undergraduate, for the shelves were filled with copies of the Daily Worker and Communist books published by Lawrence and Wishart.
– from The Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, 1939 – 1965, edited by Kenneth Young, Macmillan, London, 1980.
Two and a half years before Russel’s talk at Oxford the writer George Orwell was reading his Human Knowledge: It’s Scope and Limits, at the Cotswold Sanatorium in Gloucestershire. Often in poor health he had been diagnosed with tuberculosis at Hairmyers Hospital, East Kilbride in Lanarkshire, in December, 1947. Despite this he was to write Ninety Eighty Four on Jura, in the Inner Hebrides during 1948. His tuberculosis became worse and he had been helped to travel to the Cotswold Sanatorium by his friend Richard Rees, in January, 1949. Richard Rees had encouraged Orwell’s writing since the early 1930s, and was to be his literary executor. Orwell was writing to him in early February, 1949.
The Cotswold Sanatorium, Cranham, Glos.
4 February 1949
“…. I am reading B.Russell’s latest book, about human knowledge. He quotes Shakespeare, ‘Doubt that the stars are fire, Doubt that the earth doth move’ (it goes on I think ‘Doubt truth be a liar , But never doubt I love.’) But he makes it ‘Doubt that the sun doth move’, and uses this as an instance of S’s ignorance. Is that right? I had an idea it was ‘the earth’. But I haven’t got a Shakespeare here and I can’t even remember where the lines come from (must be one of his comedies I think). I wish you’d verify this for me if you can remember where it comes. I see by the way that the Russian press has just described B.R. as a wolf in a dinner-jacket and a wild beast in philosopher’s robes.”
– Source: The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Volume 4, edited by Sonia Orwell, and Ian Angus. The editors footnote that Russell was right, and that the quotation is from Hamlet.
It was be a further 38 years of Soviet Communist occupation before Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and East Germany had a freedom that West European countries took for granted. During that time the USSR, directly and then under the umbrella of the “Warsaw Pact” crushed, usually with tanks, all demonstrations against Communist rule. The USSR itself lasted until 1992.
East Germany 1953
In a scenario that even George Orwell hadn’t thought of for his Animal Farm, the Communist dictatorship of East Germany (DDR) demanded in 1953 that the already over-worked and undernourished workers increase production.
Poland, December, 1970.
Bertrand Russell outlived George Bernard Shaw by 3 years, dying at the age of 97 in February 1970. Robert Bruce Lockhart, curiously, died on the same month and the same year, February 1970 aged 82. George Orwell died from a burst TB lung on 21 January, 1950 at the age of 46. His novel Animal Farm was banned by the Soviet Communists from its 1945 publication until 1988. His Ninety Eighty Four was banned in the USSR from 1950 until 1990. It is not clear if any works of Bertrand Russell were also banned in the USSR.
At present, Marxist Communism still imprisons, in the name of “The People”, the populations of Vietnam, North Korea and China.
21st century: London, May Day, 2019, British Labour Party Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell with banner of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Marxist mass killers Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong.
George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, four volumes, London 1968.
Robert Bruce Lockhart, The Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, 1915 – 1938, London, 1973; The Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, 1939 – 1965, London, 1980.
John Wheeler-Bennett and Anthony Nicholls, The Semblance of Peace: The Political Settlement after the Second World War, London, 1972.
Colour Photos of 1950s France
A collection of Kodachrome slides from the Pete Grafton Collection.
What follows are Kodachrome slides taken by an American couple on holiday in France circa 1956. The year is a guess, based on clothes and cars. The photos are no later than 1957 as Kodak did not start dating the mounts of their Kodachrome slides (when processed) until 1958. The first group of photos including the two above were taken in the Marseilles, Arles and Avignon area in early Spring.
All these Kodachrome slides were bought on ebay by Pete Grafton in 2008, from a vendor who regularly sold slides on the ebay site.
It seems the American visitors above took a trip on the Chateau D’If tourist boat around the old port (Vieux Port), besides taking a couple of snaps of local youngsters fishing.
C’est la vie!
1950s Paris in Colour
Now showing at petegraftonphotos.com
Rationing, Schiaparelli, Washboards & No Sex (by order of the Churches)
Woman was the most successful ever British magazine for women. (1) Edited by Glaswegian Mary Grieve – the first woman, bizarrely, to edit a women’s magazine (before then it was a mans’ job) – she was the editor from 1937 until 1962. Under her tenure and direction the annual sales income of Woman reached £12 million by 1962. The magazine had continual problems with the established churches, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. She was born in Hyndland, Glasgow.
The dust jacket of her 1964 Gollanz published autobiography – Millions Made My Story – reads:
“During the last war, and specially during the post-war years when the British social revolution was being wrought, one of the principle signposts and the most popular mentor of the female population of the United Kingdom was Woman, the magazine that is now read by eleven million people each week, including, rather surprisingly, two and a half million men.”
Mary Grieve’s letter to readers, December 23, 1950.
Above, a variation of “Make Do and Mend” and below, post-war rationing still in place in 1950. In 1945 Britain was near bankrupt at the end of the Second World War. Bread, which was not rationed during the war was rationed by the Labour Government in the peacetime 1940s. Unknown to the British public, the Labour Prime Minster Major Clement Atlee had secretly started the costly development of the British Atom Bomb, despite being opposed by his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Hugh Dalton, on the reasonable grounds that Britain could not afford it. Attlee pushed ahead anyway, excluding Dalton from an inner Cabinet group when the decision was secretly taken. By 1950 £100,000,000 had been spent on developing the British Bomb – in today’s value £3¼ billion. One of the first things that Minister of Food and lapsed Marxist Stafford Cripps did in 1946 was to bring in bread rationing. A case of bombs before bread. Bread rationing stayed in place until 1948. Sweets (‘confectionary”) rationing was ended in early 1953 by the Conservative government.
Note the washboard in the Pacquins advertisement below, besides the cigarette. Twin tub washing machines were, in the UK, still a few years away. Washboards, boilers and mangles were how clothes were cleaned, and semi-dried in 1950.
Mary Grieve, editor of Woman from 1937 – 1962, highlights in her Millions Made My Story, how careful the magazine had to be about mentioning birth control, and the powerful institutional religious forces against it, and also against other areas of women’s sexual well-being. (On the whole, the same lack of information effected men too). Evelyn Home received hundreds of letters a week, amongst which were a significant number touching on sexual health worries and family planning, and she had to tread carefully (as did Mary Grieve as editor) with what letters were used and how they were answered.
The background to this was partly the social times when the magazine started (although the caution was still being exercised in 1963), but also very much the force of the established churches and obscenity laws. In 1942 the then Church of England Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple had been alarmed by an explanatory article on birth control in Everywoman, a sister Odhams magazine. Temple made representations to the owner of Odhams, Lord Southwood, who as a Labour Party member, Julius Elias, had been bumped up to a Lord, to sit on the Labour seats in the undemocratic House of Lords. Lord Southwood sympathised with Temple’s views. “While we must be up-to-date, and if anything in advance of the times,” Southwood reportedly said, “we must not be too much in advance… When the schools put this subject in their curriculum, it will then be time for us to deal with it in our paper.” (Quoted in Millions Made My Story.) Mary Grieve went on to write, in 1962 (the book was published 1964)
“I don’t know how the schools have got on with the subject since then, but the women’s magazines, with other means of communication, have proceeded with caution. This may seem curious, because family planning has become an accepted factor in many marriages, and the Royal Commission on Population gave a clear recommendation that contraceptive advice should be included in the National Health Service. One would think, therefore, that the women’s presses would feel free now, twenty years after the Everywoman incident, to be frank.” Mary Grieve, Millions Made My Story.
The situation for Woman mentioning, even indirectly, “family planning” with their readership in Eire was forbidden by the Irish State, with it written into the 1937 constitution of the right of the Irish Roman Catholic Church to have a say in all areas of family life: adoption, divorce, contraception, and the seemingly innocent area of introducing clinics for mothers and children (which they successfully opposed in 1951 on the grounds that such a scheme was “anti-family”). Meanwhile, single mothers and their babies were put into the notorious Catholic run Mothers and Babies Homes. The opposition of the Irish Roman Catholic Church led to the resignation of Irish Minister of Health Dr. Nöel Browne, who had tried to introduce the scheme against a background, amongst other concerns, of the high infant deaths in the Irish Republic, 26,000 in 1950 for example.
“…. The reason for the continuing reticence about (family planning) is political. A minority religion here (the UK), the Roman Catholic, has such deeply held convictions against the use of contraceptives that it is hard to see any political party embracing with enthusiasm the cause of family planning by this method.
In Eire the subject is completely taboo. Magazines risk, and have experienced, being banned from the country by ignoring the taboo… Woman’s sale in Eire is very small beer in relation to the total sale of three and a quarter million. But at no time in our fight did I find management willing to sacrifice this sale to keep up with the British Joneses…. We ran, as did other magazines, a special slip page for Eire free of comments or information which could offend. Our human problems page, conducted by Evelyn Home, was our chief source of danger. This is the page that is remade every week for Ireland” – Mary Grieve, Millions Made My Story, 1964.
The British Labour Party has had a close relationship with the Roman Catholic hierarchy on mainland Britain since before 1914, where in areas of high numbers of Roman Catholics with an Irish background they made concessions to get their vote. These included the pledge to build Roman Catholic schools. In Glasgow the cry of the opposition to this was “No Popery on the rates”. Besides Liverpool in England, in Scotland, Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, Glasgow, and parts of the Lothians were solid Labour areas because of these concessions and accommodation with the Roman Catholic Church, even were there were also protestant Labour voting Scots in constituencies such as Monklands and Airdrie, and elsewhere. The joke in Scotland was that a prospective non Roman Catholic Labour candidate in some constituencies couldn’t get selected unless he had an overnight conversion to Rome.
The Labour Party Roman Catholic voting electorate had a direct effect on the Labour Party’s attitude to family planning and sexual health. When the Catholic Church was suspicious with mooted ideas about such things Labour Prime Minister (and Presbyterian) Ramsay MacDonald as early as 1924 helped to “diffuse Catholic suspicions by appointing the Clydeside Catholic, John Wheatley, as Minister for Health in which capacity he maintained the ban on the provision of advice on birth control by local authority clinics” – Speak for Britain!: a New History of the Labour Party, Martin Pugh, 2010.
Below, the Evelyn Home page for Christmas, 1950, and beneath it, typical letters that were selected to print.
Tampons had been developed in America during the 1930s and were starting to be marketed in Europe in the post-war 1940s. Prior to their introduction bulky sanitary towels were available, and continued to be available. The Irish parliament under pressure and persuaded by the Irish Roman Catholic Church banned their sale in 1947 “lest they cause harm (or sexual pleasure) to women”. The Irish Catholic Church opposition was led by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, who was to lead the successful pressure on the Irish Government in 1951 over their intended introduction of Clinics for Mothers and Children.
N O T E S
Mary Grieve: This writer can find no online photograph of Mary Grieve, nor is there any online encyclopedic entry about her.
- In 2018 the best selling women’s weekly magazine in the UK is Take a Break, with nearly half a million print sales.
Copy of Woman magazine December 23, 1950, and cover of Millions Made My Story: Pete Grafton Collection.