Hamburg Altona 1999 – 2020
21 Jahre in 12 Minuten
Hamburg Altona 1999 – 2020
21 Jahre in 12 Minuten
Subscribe to Pete Grafton on You Tube. Link to Edinbugh Fringe Festivals:
Subscribe to Pete Grafton at You Tube. Link to Agricultural Shows:
Paris When it Snows:Kisses and Fun, Janvier 2013, now on You Tube.
Subscribe to Pete Grafton on You Tube. Link to video:
Doggies – Love and Friendship, 1910 – 1960, photos from England, Germany, Scotland and USA is on You Tube.
Subscribe to Pete Grafton on You Tube. Link to the video:
Windows of Desire, a photo presentation by Pete Grafton is on You Tube. Leave Comments or get in touch via petegrafton.com or petegraftonphotos.com
Subscribe to Pete Grafton on You Tube. Link to the video:
16 videos are now on You Tube. At You Tube key in Pete Grafton, or, London Photos 1954.
For the introduction to the You Tube presentation by Pete Grafton and London Womens fashions in 1954, Click Below.
Dienstag, Dezember 10, 2019.
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 →
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Copy of Woman magazine December 23, 1950, and cover of Millions Made My Story: Pete Grafton Collection.
All above photos are by British photographer Bert Hardy, 1913 – 1995. He was almost to the year an exact contemporary of the marvellous French photographer Robert Doisneau, 1912 – 1994. A Channel on You Tube with examples of Robert Doisneau’s work has, at the time of writing, attracted 40,699 views. A Channel on You Tube with examples of Bert Hardy’s photos, posted in 2016, has attracted 111 views at the time of writing.
At present – October 2018 – there are over twenty books listed on Amazon UK of collections of photographs by Robert Doisneau. There is just one book currently in print that features some of Bert Hardy’s work Bert Hardy’s Britain available from Amazon UK. In fact, Bert Hardy’s Britain, published in 2013, is the only book in print available anywhere in the world, that features Bert’s photographs.
STOP PRESS October 19, 2018. Bert Hardy not listed on the Wikipedia entry for the ground-breaking The Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1955. He had three photos in the exhibition. See story further down.
Bert Hardy was born in May, 1913 a year and one month after Robert Doisneau. Robert’s Dad died when he was four, and his mother died when he was seven. He was brought up by an unloving aunt in the working class district of Gentilly, just the other side of the Paris city boundary. Bert was the first of seven children that his Mum and Dad had, and the family lived in one room with a scullery in Priory Buildings, Blackfriars, London, a stone’s throw from the Elephant & Castle district on the south side of the Thames.
Leaving school at the age of thirteen in 1926 he got a job at a place called the Central Photo Service, by chance rather than design. His aunt had seen a “Lad Wanted” sign when she was charring (cleaning) in the London Strand area. It turned out his job was to help a young Scottish girl develop and print rolls of film that he was to collect from some Chemists in central London. He and her were the total staff, the owner being elsewhere in the building.
” (Re. the chemists) I went round twice a day, walking or jumping on the back of carts to save my bus fares. In between rounds, the Scottish girl taught me how to develop and print, and also some other interesting activities you can get up to in a darkroom. I was a quick learner.”
He goes on to describe the primitive set-up and equipment in the darkroom, and then describes the photos that he and the Scottish girl processed.
“Apart from the usual ‘happy snaps’, an astonishing number of people sent in naughty pictures. There were one or two chemists in Soho from whom we expected that sort of thing: pictures of prostitutes for their clients, and we adjusted our rates accordingly. But there was a chemist’s at the top of Northumberland Avenue from which we quite regularly collected films sent in by a famous surgeon.
The surgeon’s pictures were always beautifully taken on a quarter-plate camera on roll film, six pictures in a roll. All the pictures were of popsies: beautiful creatures with nothing on doing the most terrible things, but always wearing marvellous hats. And the last picture on each roll of the film was always of the surgeon himself: a stout gentleman with no clothes on, and the tiniest little withered thing between his legs.
I don’t suppose he appreciated what an opportunity for blackmail he gave. Instead, we charged him double and printed up copies for ourselves.”
Working in the darkroom rubbed off on him and he bought in a pawn shop what he described as an old second hand plate camera – which would make it a turn of the century item. The first photograph he made money from, selling to friends and others, was taken of King George V and Queen Mary, resting the camera on the head of one his sister’s to steady it.
He also photographed his family.
As his self-taught photo skills developed so did his passion for competitive cycle racing. He began to sell photos to The Bicycle for a good rate.
Bert left the Central Photo Service in 1939 and started working for a professional photo agency that supplied photos to the national daily press. His camera skills and his eye for a photo story got noticed and he joined the top British photo news weekly Picture Post on 3 March 1940.
Bert was straight away involved in covering stories connected to the Second World War from the British perspective, getting front page coverage.
Whilst he was working for Picture Post he received his call-up papers in 1943 (war service in the armed services). His editor Tom Hopkinson tried to get him deferred, arguing that he was valuable as a war photographer with Picture Post. No luck. He had to go in the army and was assigned to the Photo Unit, and had the indignity of being taught as a beginner, and was issued with a sub-standard camera for war work.
Somehow during his time in the army he managed to supply photos to Picture Post. At that time British press and news magazine photographers did not get a credit byline next to their work, so his photos being anonymous, he could get away with it In France post-D Day, and still with the army, photographer George Silk of Life and Robert Capa were working as war correspondents.
“I met up with them. They both knew me and told me they liked my work. They stayed in some luxury at the billet obtained by the canny officer in charge of public relations, who was very talented at that sort of thing: but when they invited me to come and have a drink with them, I wasn’t allowed to – the Mess was for commissioned officers and war correspondents only.”
Bert saw and photographed atrocities by German forces on Belgium civilians; went in on the first crossings of the Rhine, was at Belsen at the time of its liberation and concluded his time with the army in Europe by taking a photos of the Soviet Marshall Zhukov with Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery near Frankfurt. Although in May, 1945 the war was over in Europe, he was still in the army. He was a sergeant.
He was next posted to the Far East, where he continued taking photographs, including the hanging of Japanese war criminals. It wasn’t until 8 September 1946 that, still a soldier, he arrived back in Liverpool on the troopship Monarch of Bermuda. He then had to travel through the night to Number 77, Military Demobilisation Unit, Guildford, where a £2 ‘mess fee’ was extracted from him. (At the time, about a third to a half of an unskilled workers weekly wage.) As he wrote “By nine o’ clock that morning, fleeced, I was a citizen again, plain Bert Hardy”.
A few days back in England and Bert got in touch with Tom Hopkinson, the editor of Picture Post, who immediately offered Bert his job back at Picture Post, at £1000 a year. Bert said he wasn’t sure, as the price offered might not cover his expenses. A few days later Tom came back with an offer of £1,500 a year. “It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.. It was good to be back at work for Picture Post at a period when the paper was at its greatest”.
Within a month of working on photo stories in England, Tom Hopkinson sent him out East again, this time working for Picture Post and an assignment in India, covering the opening of the Indian Constituent Assembly after independence from Britain. He and a journalist were granted an interview with the new Prime Minister Jawaharial Nehru.
“Nehru was a fine man for whom I had a tremendous respect, but people’s characters only emerge in their actions, or in certain facial expressions… (as the journalist was talking to Nehru) I was shooting away quietly when Nehru absently-mindedly picked up a rose from the bowl of his desk and sniffed it. I took the picture instantly, it was what I wanted.”
In the post-war 1940s and into the 1950s Bert covered everything, to racial tensions in London’s Notting Gate, emerging star Audrey Hepburn, Cardiff’s Tiger Bay area, downtown Liverpool, Tito and his wife in Yugoslavia, the village life and grape harvest in a French village…. He loved working with available light – he was a genius with it and with his darkroom experience he knew how to get the best out of a difficult negative.
The photo of the loving couple with the light streaming in, in the Elephant & Castle area of London is one of this writers favourite Bert Hardy photos, and has been for many years. However, reading Bert’s own story about it, in Bert Hardy: My Life, it’s not quite as it seems. Working on the Elephant & Castle story Bert was only a stone’s throw from where he was brought up in Blackfriars. Wandering around with his camera a woman shouted out “‘Ow about taking a picture of me love?” Looking at some run-down buildings he asked her what they were like round the back. “Bleedin’ awful. Come and see for yourself.”
“Following her down a narrow passageway to a tiny yard about ten feet square… I saw, through a window, a young couple half-lying on a sofa just inside. I asked “What’s it like inside?” She said, “Come and have a look”.
I went inside and asked if I could take a few pictures. They seemed totally unconcerned. When I set up my camera and tripod, they watched me blankly, without moving. In the end we discovered the reason: the girl was a prostitute and the man was a Canadian who had been released from prison the day before; they had spent a hard night in bed celebrating his release.”
It turned out that his guide Maisie, who had told Bert to take her picture, was also a prostitute, and she was a great help to Bert and A.L.Lloyd, the Picture Post journalist, whilst working on the story.
The two of them had just returned from doing a feature for Picture Post on the Gorbals slum tenements in Glasgow. One of the photos that Bert took, and is well known for, was also his favourite picture.
Just over a year later in December, 1949 he and journalist Robert Kee did a story on the Pool of London. It is reproduced here, from the Pete Grafton Collection, as a representative example of Bert’s work. Picture Post, 3 December, 1949.
Some weeks before the Pool of London story was run by Picture Post its writer Robert Kee had been a Witness at the marriage of George Orwell to Sonia Bronwell in the University College Hospital, London, on October 13, 1949. Orwell was being treated for his damaged TB lungs. Orwell was too weak to stand and sat up in his hospital bed for the ceremony. His novels Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (June, 1949) had highlighted the dangers of totalitarian communism and totalitarian societies dominated by cult personalities, such as Stalin. The post-war 1945 period in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China alarmed him. He died in hospital from a burst lung in January, 1950, aged forty-six.
In August, 1950 Bert Hardy was again sent to the East, this time Korea, with journalist James Cameron.
Communist North Korea, backed by the Soviet Union and communist China, had invaded South Korea on 25 June, 1950. The United Nation condemned the invasion and sent UN forces to repel the invaders. The UN troops were not effective at containing the invading communists until UN forces landing at Inchon in September, 1950. Bert Hardy and James Cameron covered the landings.
Whilst doing follow up stories in Korea they came across brutal treatment of prisoners taken by South Korean Forces, which Bert said reminded him of some of the scenes he had seen in German at Belsen in 1945. Making enquiries he and James Cameron were told the prisoners were not North Koreans, but political prisoners, people suspected of having ‘the wrong views’. “We wondered how young boys of fourteen could possible be ‘political’ prisoners…… At intervals a batch of them would be separated from the rest and herded into the back of a lorry which then drove off. Our impression was that they were being taken off to be shot. We were appalled, and decided that we must try and to do something about it. We went to the United Nations Office, and they didn’t want to know.”
They went to the Red Cross who referred them back to the United Nations Office, who said what their allies the South Koreans did was not their concern. “Jimmy Cameron and I were horrified by what we saw, and checked very carefully before sending back our story. We knew it would cause trouble, but not that it would also change Picture Post for ever…”
Their time in Korea over, they returned to London.
“When we reached London we found that Tom (Hopkinson, Picture Post editor) had been holding over our story on the North Korean political prisoners until we returned, just to make sure that everything about the story was quite right, and that we hadn’t distorted or missed out anything. In fact the story about the incident had already appeared in The Times, but Tom was still worried. The combination of Jimmy’s writing and my pictures would really bring what was going on home to people. Because of its implied criticism of the United Nations, it was bound to create controversy. Tom was concerned because Edward Hulton, the proprietor, was known to dislike controversy. He wanted to be absolutely sure about the story before he printed it.”
Bert and A.L.Lloyd (Bert Lloyd) meanwhile were assigned to do a topical piece on the annual British Bonfire Night.
“Bert Lloyd (A.L.Lloyd) and I were wandering around London looking for the best Guy Fawkes we could find… when we heard that Hulton had personally ordered the presses to be stopped at Sun Engraving in Watford, and the issue of Picture Post to be made up again without the story of the political prisoners.
… There was talk of mass resignations if this sort of interference in editorial policy happened again….. Tom was sacked for refusing to comply with Hulton’s request… In spite of all the talk of mass resignation, most of the others stayed put. By sacking Tom, Hulton was forced to make him a payment. But anyone who resigned would not get anything except the salary they were owed. Even for Jimmy and me, who had done the story, resignation was not a luxury we could afford. Tom called a meeting and advised us all to stay on. For the photographers particularly there were no other magazines to compare with Picture Post as outlets for their work…. Looking back on it, it seems quite clear that without Tom’s social commitment, Picture Post lost its edge and its popularity. Contrary to the opinion still held in Fleet Street, people aren’t only interested in pictures of pretty girls when they buy magazines.”
Bert continued to work for Picture Post until it went out of business in 1957, and continued to be the Complete Photographer that he was.
In a Picture Post feature he took several photos with a cheap box camera, to show that it was possible to take a good photo without needing an expensive camera. From this feature a photo of two chorus girls on the seafront railings at Blackpool became a well known Bert Hardy photo.
The MoMA online site, under the Family of Man entry lists the three selected Bert Hardy as follows:
Family of Man MoMA Checklist
The writer hopes to correct the omission of Bert Hardy from the Wikipedia entry on the Family of Man photo exhibition, New York, 1955, shortly.
When Picture Post folded in 1957 Bert worked freelance for Odhams Press, and found that he was earning more money. Then he had a spell working for the Daily Express as their Paris photographer, and then he branched out very successfully into advertising.
“Advertising jobs began to flood in: when I arrived on the scene advertising photography tended to be rather formal. I introduced the 35mm camera and the inventive story-telling approach which had been so popular in Picture Post, to give a fresher, more candid look.”
One of his images, that he created, was for the 1959 promotion of a new WD & HO Wills cigarette, Strand.
It was a strong image, the lone man, never alone with a Strand. People of that generation remember it, even though they didn’t take up the cigarette, which bombed. No smoker of that era wanted to be seen as a lonely person. Perhaps an aspect of the image subliminally entered director Lewis Gilbert’s head when he did one of the final shots in Alfie (1966): Michael Caine alone on the Waterloo Bridge, apart from a dog that befriends him. And crossing the Thames, on the Waterloo Bridge and heading down Waterloo Road he would have come to the Elephant & Castle where he grew up, in poverty, like Bert Hardy. And like Bert’s aunt, Michael Caine’s Mum was also a char (cleaner). And like Bert Hardy he was in Korea, two years later in 1952, in the infantry, a conscript on the front line.
Bert Hardy earned a tremendous amount doing advertising photographic work, but he wrote that it was no substitute for working for Picture Post. In 1964 he and Sheila, his second wife, bought a farm, and he slowly eased himself out of the very lucrative advertising and promotional photography to retire and run the farm.
Retired, he still took the occasional snap, for his own pleasure.
At the time of writing, October, 2018, there is only one book of Bert Hardy photos currently in print: Bert Hardy’s Britain, Bluecoat Press, UK. £19.98.
There are two cautionary reviews of the book on Amazon.co.uk
“One of the UK’ s best known photographers and from Blackfriars in South London. As with some photographic books the design and more importantly the layout and repro are poor. The repro of the pictures is poor quality and why designers ever split a picture over two pages I will never know, it kills the original image!
As for the pictures, some are a bit of a mish mash and seem to be added to pad out the book. I don’t think even Bert would be happy with this.”
“This is a laudable effort, but it falls short in limiting the pictures to Britain, unfortunately leaving out some of his best work….
There are two out of print books of Bert Hardy’s photos available second hand. They compliment each other. Bert Hardy: My Life is his story in his own words, and it’s an extraordinary and fascinating story. It is full of his photos, often with details of how he took the photo. At the back of the book he also lists his favourite cameras and the one he had no time for when issued it by the British Army. The average price second-hand on ebay.co.uk is £24. It runs to 192 pages. Beware of sellers who are either not very bright, or are “at it”, who when listing it describe it as signed by Bert Hardy. There is such a one listed October, 2018 on ebay.co.uk with an asking price of £155. All editions have a printed Bert Hardy signature on the front page.
The second out of print book of Bert Hardy photos is from the Gordon Fraser Photographic Monographs series No.5: Bert Hardy, London 1975. It runs to 72 pages and the reproductions are not always up to the standard that we expect in photographic monographs published in the present decade. A reasonable price to pay on ebay.co.uk is £44 – £45.
All Bert Hardy photos copyright either Getty or the Estate of Bert Hardy. With grateful acknowledge to both copyright holders. All other material: The Pete Grafton Collection.
Unlike Jacques Tati, not all the European film comedy stars of the 1950s and early 1960s crossed boundaries as easily as he did.
France’s Fernandel had a following in Italy, and Italy’s Totò had a following in France (the two made a film together The Law is the Law in 1958). Whilst Norman Wisdom’s star has faded in Britain, he is still loved in Albania, and his films dubbbed into Hindi are popular on the internet. But it was Jacques Tati who really crossed national boundaries, and still does in the 21st century.
In particular it his first two films Jour de Fête (1949) and Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953) that strike a continuing – possibly nostalgic – cord.
Despite a declining population – (1946: 1,135; 2009 (last published figure) 851) – Sainte Sévère still has a post office. The bar in the market square has gone, but there is a restaurant elsewhere in the village that seems to be popular with passing through tourists. Sainte Sévère also has a filling station, a ladies hairdressers, a boulangerie, a butchers and a school. It also now has a little museum dedicated to Jour de Fête and Jacques Tati.
The Hotel de la Plage is now the Best Western Hotel de la Plage. The rooms have flat screen TVs, free Wi-Fi and there is a business lounge. The restaurant is now called La Plage M.Hulot.
Positive views amongst UK visitors to the Best Western Hotel de la Plage recorded on the hotel site include
– Could hear the waves as we lay in bed at night
-Location is excellent, right on the beach.
-Architecturally interesting in that the original character has mostly been preserved.
Average 3 star ratings reviewers on Trip Advisor complained that there was no aircon, that there was no hot breakfast, that you couldn’t get a beer at 5 pm, that the exterior needed a paint, that the room was cramped and small, and that the place needed a modern eye to overhaul it.
From life in the wartime British Army (Private’s Progress, 1954), through to the New Towns of the 1960s (Let’s Keep Religion Out of This, 1963, filmed as Heavens Above) and the start of package holidays in Spain (Whatever Turns You On Jack, 1972) the novelist Alan Hackney had his finger on the life pulse of Britain.
His books are so spot-on in nailing the social history and the politics of the time – but luckily, also laugh-out-aloud (with the partial exception of Let’s Keep Religion Out of This) – that they should be on any reading list for first year students doing a degree in that social history/politics post war period of Britain. And watching Private’s Progress and I’m Alright Jack would save them tedious hours of skimping through some inadequate books, which partially miss (because they were written by academics – secure in their jobs and financially comfortably off, and some of whom were also influenced by their political leanings, left or right). Important aspects and commentary on what life was like for many were missed. For instance, Arthur Marwick’s British Society Since 1945 does not mention, even in one passing sentence, the desire of many Britons to escape the class stratification of that period and emigrate to Australia on the £10 scheme. Both the Kinks and the Animals touched on this stifling class ceiling in some of their music. And many Britons, encouraged by the Australian government took the boats heading out via South Africa and across the Indian Ocean to a socially freer continent.
Meanwhile, those of us left behind could go to the pictures on a Friday or Saturday night and bust a gut laughing at the films touched with the Hand of Hackney: Private’s Progress (1956), and I’m Alright Jack (1959).
Yet Alan Hackney rarely appears when book critics mention the likes of Angus Wilson, Kingsley Amis and William Cooper in the same breath. Still, I doubt that he would have been bothered. Financially he did alright. And the novelist William Cooper rolled around the floor laughing as he read his novels, and Evelyn Waugh did that rare thing (for him) and invited Hackney down to the Waugh home in Somerset, saying how much he admired his work.
Not only do his books have a sharp view of what was happening in Britain at the time he wrote them, but they burst with brilliant dialogue, and the vernacular. The vernacular spilled over into film scripts that he contributed to that weren’t based on his novels, such as Two Way Stretch (1960).
The Film Censor giving Two Way Stretch a “U” – suitable for children – certificate didn’t notice that Alan Hackney had slipped in a choice phrase when Peter Sellers as the trustee Dodger Lane tells visiting welfare ladies in the Prison Governor’s garden that the giant marrow they are admiring was “Hand raised, as they say in the Navy”. There would have been an acknowledged titter in cinemas up and down the country, particularly from ex and serving serviceman.
His novels follow the lives of the same characters as they emerge from the war, such as the gormless Stanley, his naturist father, the unscrupulous, suave Brigadier Bertram Tracepurcel (Uncle Bertie), Stanley’s wartime mate Private Cox (Coxey) who after the war re-invents himself as “Mr de Cameron”, and then Fred Kite, Mrs Kite and Cynthia as they adapt, and some do very nicely thank-you, as Britain moves into the 1970s. The shop steward Fred Kite even makes it to the House of Lords in What Ever Turns You On Jack.
In the obituaries for Alan Hackney when he died in 2009, the consensus is that I’m Alright Jack (“Private Life”) was the apex of his work with its merciless laugh-out-aloud dissection of trade unions super-glued to demarcation disputes and tussles with the Bosses and the Bosses looking after No.I whilst hypocritically spouting on about the “National Interest” (whilst lining their own pockets doing arms deals with corrupt Middle Eastern governments) and consciously provoking union militancy – strikes – for their own financial gain.
In fact, all his novels have an equal weight, but if one has to be highlighted besides I’m Alright Jack (“Private Life”), in the view of this writer it should be Private’s Progress.
Here’s a novel (1954), and then a film made shortly after (1956) that appears in bookshops and then on cinema screens, wedged in between celebrations of World War Two British courage, and examples of individual daring-do. Films, often based on non-fiction books, such as Reach for The Sky (1956), The Dam Busters (1955) and Above Us the Waves (1955).
Private’s Progress is a film that shows some Army Brass who are dodging and skiving as much as the soldiers they are commanding, and Army Brass who are involved in high scale looting of Art Works, shipped back to Blighty for private re-sale and their own financial gain.
“Shipped back” should perhaps be more accurately called “air-lifted”. There were elements in the RAF Transport Command and the USAAF equivalent who were assisting in flying back high-end loot.
The film’s dedication to “All Those Who Got Away With It” would have included British army soldiers who held Prince Friedrich Ferdinand of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, his family, and their servants at gunpoint in the courtyard of Glücksburg Castle near the border with Denmark in May 1945. They were searching for Heinrich Himmler and looted the castle at the same time. Easily pocketable items with high value such as jewellery disappeared. The British Daily Mail in May 1945 reported that “The Duchess of Mecklenburg had appealed to the King (George VI) for compensation… ‘I wrote to Queen Mary in England who is my aunt, asking her to help me and she replied she would do’.” It’s not clear whether any of the soldiers, which would have included officers were ever detected or disciplined, and most of the jewellery seemingly was never recovered.
In the film Private’s Progress Brigadier Tracepurcell and Private Cox and ATS Greenslade don’t get away with it, but in the novel they do, and they do very nicely too. The Boulting Brothers being realistic, knew the British Board of Film Censors would not allow the “culprits” to get away with it, and would refuse a certificate, and the film, therefore, wouldn’t get shown in British cinemas.
It was for the same reason that in the thriller League of Gentlemen, 1960, ex-British Army officers, and a few Other Ranks having mounted a spectacular and successful bank raid – using skills learnt during their army war training – also didn’t get away with it. Talking in 1985, the screenwriter T.E.B Clark (Hue & Cry, 1947, Passport to Pimlico, 1949) stated that in his screenplay for The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951, Alec Guinness also wasn’t able to get away with it. “The censor would not have allowed it”, he said. This wasn’t copping out – it was knowing what was, and was not allowed. The British Board of Film Censors was a self-censoring Trade Body established in 1912, and down the years had had an informal and comfortable relationship with the British Governments of the day.
In the film, every one else in Private’s Progress either does get away with it, or finds dodges and skives to make their boring, drudge-ridden and pointless army life in the Holding Unit a touch easier.
One extraordinary sequence in the film, not commented on by reviewers (and not in the novel) is when Major Hancock (Terry-Thomas) skives off and leaves the Camp, and is seen entering a Picture House in the local town. The banner poster above the Picture House entrance shows that the featured film is In Which We Serve. In Which We Serve was a deeply felt film written and directed by its star Noel Coward, at a time – 1942 – when the tide had yet to turn for the wartime Allies. When Noel Coward was finishing the films’ script in late 1941 British military were having one defeat after another, and the storyline of In Which We Serve was based on the sinking of the destroyer HMS Kelly in the Battle for Crete – a ship commanded by Louis Mountbatten. Recognising a good propaganda film, it was actively helped by the British Government’s Ministry of Information, in providing service men, and promotion. “A classic example of wartime British cinema through its patriotic imagery of national unity and social cohesion within the context of the war” – Wikipedia entry.
In Private’s Progress the on-screen credits boast that the Producers had help from “Absolutely No-One“. Richard Attenborough was in both films. (1).
The following day Major Hancock has them on a forced route march, with full kit. Sweating as they march they are brought to attention by the Company Sergeant Major. Major Hancock addresses them. “You’re an absolute shower. Practically every man in that cinema was from this company.” Cox mutters “Including you, cock.”
Terry-Thomas is rightly associated with the “Absolute shower”expression, but it was Alan Hackney who used it, having first heard it from an irate Commanding Officer in India during the war.
ABCA stood for Army Bureau of Current Affairs set up during the Second World War to “educate and raise morale” amongst servicemen and servicewomen. The railway dodges outlined by Coxey included the ATS dodge, that Fusilier Walter Morrison describes in detail, along with others not mentioned by Coxey, in Pete Grafton’s You, You & You: The People Out of Step with World War Two. (2)
In the three Boulting Brothers films based on Alan Hackney’s novels there are omissions, and, the other way around, narratives that are not in the novels.
In the novel Private’s Progress there is a section where the Stanley character is posted to India, mirroring Alan Hackney’s wartime experience. The novel also fleshes out what is only briefly touched on in the film: the London wartime world of Catherine, Stanley’s sister – a world of artists pre-occupied with producing art that is “plastic”, a stressed female vegan, a hardened squaddie who swings both ways, a Quentin Crisp type character who can’t bear the thought of having to wear “that dreadful khaki” and two dodgy art dealers, one of whom manages to “disappear” following the confusion at Dunkirk. This strand is an important – and witty – narrative element throughout the novel.
The “disappearing” of soldiers – “posted missing – presumed dead” – following Dunkirk is also mentioned in the Afterword to You, You & You.
Both the films and the novels they are based on are equally good standing alone by themselves. Alan Hackney was closely involved in the films Private’s Progress and I’m Alright Jack, even though the screen credits are perfunctory. “From a story by Alan Hackney” does not convey that it is a novel.
His Gollanz published novels have been out of print for years, though most copies – second-hand – are available at reasonable prices on abebooks. Faber and Faber in their Faber Finds series currently list Private’s Progress.