The harsh European winter of 1946–1947 was noted for its effects in the United Kingdom which suffered its coldest winter in three centuries. It caused severe hardships in terms of the economy and living conditions, with massive disruptions of the energy supply for homes, offices and factories. No one could keep warm, and many businesses had temporary shut-downs. When warm weather finally returned, the ice thawed and flooding was severe in most low-lying areas.
Beginning on 21st January 1947, the country suffered several cold spells – spells that brought large snow drifts that blocked roads and railways. As a result it was difficult to deliver coal to the power stations causing many to shut down which, in turn, effectively caused many industrial companies to close as well. On the ‘social’ front domestic electricity was cut to 19 hours a day, radio broadcasts were limited, television services suspended, some magazines were ordered to stop publishing and newspapers were cut in size. As public morale declined Emanuel Shinwell, the Minister of Fuel, became a scapegoat and received death threats, so much so that he had to be placed under police guard!
By the end of January there was over 7 inches of snow laying in the Isles of Scilly and the overnight temperature at Writtle in Essex, was recorded as minor 20 degree centigrade (−4 °F). In fact, throughout January the highest recorded temperature in England and Wales was 14 °C (57 °F) with the minimum recorded being minus 21 °C (−6 °F)! The easterly winds continued into February – but we’ll wait until then before telling that part of our story.
So what am I doing at this time? I’m 5 years old and last August we had moved house to an old cottage in the Cambridgeshire village of Litlington. My village school is just a few hundred yards from where we now live – and half-way between these two points lives My Nan Stamford. I loved her to bits and she will appear quite a lot over the next 12 months. She lived in one of 10 cottages – cottages where you stepped out of the house straight onto the road through the village. On the other side of the road was – and still is though the houses have altered – the church with a bank rising from the road up higher than I am tall.
The snow narrowed the road so that was now too narrow for busses and cars and carts to pass each other. However, there are not too many of these around in this weather which made this a great space for me and my friend Colin to have snowball fights as we go to and from school. The other ‘perk’ at this time is that my Nan lives in number 3 and Colin’s at number 6 of the 10 houses. Both Nan’s keep us under some sort of control!