1946 through the eyes of an Englishman

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The BEV Retrospective - 1946.

In January, the inaugural meeting of the United Nations General Assembly was held in London. 51 nations were represented. The Security Council held its first meeting, adopting rules of procedure. On February 1st, Trygve Lie of Norwat was chosen as the first United Nations Secretary General. In April, the last meeting of the League of Nations - formed after WW1 as the UN was formed after WW2 - was held. It disbanded itsself and handed over to the UN.

With Japan out of the picture, the Chinese communists and nationalists returned to all-out civil war. The nationalists were still numerically, and in weaponry, stronger than the communists. They received massive material aid from the US, while the communists received aid on a smaller scale from the USSR. However the nationalist government was corrupt, and as a result lacked popular support. The communist forces, though initially hard pressed, gradually made progress, generally dominating the country areas before the cities.


Indo China as it is today.
In the aftermath of WW2, significant political changes also ensued in what was then called Indochina, an area that was controlled by the French before WW2. Indochina consisted of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. It was ordered by Burma and Thailand on the west, and by China to the north.

When the Japanese surrendered, perhaps just to be mischievous, they handed over control of Vietnam to communist nationalists - the Viet Minh, and kept French officials and military officers imprisoned for longer than they should have.

This did not last long. The Chinese nationalists took over control of the north of the country, and a British army landed in the south, by arrangement between the allies. Later in the year, the French resumed their pre-war control, and the Viet Minh, under Ho Chi Minh, fled into the countryside to conduct guerrilla operations aimed at Ho's long-term goal of independence from the French.

What ensued was to be a long and complicated struggle.

In Britain, as part of the Labour government's program, the Bank of England and the coal mines were nationalized. The Prime Minister, Atlee, promised India its independence as soon as it could work out a constitution.

Churchill, the ex prime minister, delivered a famous address at Westminster College in Missouri in which he said, of Europe "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent".

Politically, otherwise it was a rather quiet year. I think that a lot of politicians were thinking "OK, so what do we do now".


Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer.
Technology.

ENIAC - The first US electronic digital computer was developed at the University of Pensylvania. Because it was electronic, it was 1000 times faster than the IBM Harvard Mark 1, and it was technically a computer as we now recognize the term - it was 'Turing Complete'. Its programming was however somwwhat clunky in that it was programmed by plugging wires into grids of sockets, so it wasn't quite there yet. It was to be used for calculating artillery trajectories.

Despite consisting of a room full of vacuum tube electronics, weighing tons, and consuming many kilowatts of power, it was probably less powerful than the pocket calculator you may have lieing around the house somewhere.
Life.

It's likely that in this year I ate my first banana, though I don't remember the event. Certainly, in February, banana boats resumed the shipments that had been interrupted by the war.

My dad was demobbed, and arrived one day more or less out of the blue at Forster Square station in Bradford, complete with kit bag. Of course he was a complete stranger to me, but we seemed to get on OK, and he carried me home pig-a-back on his shoulders. The only incident worth mentioning is that after he'd got off the train, and kissed my mother, he patted me on the head. I apparently responded by saying "I'm not a dog you know!"

I was fascinated by the kit bag. When we got back to Cottingley I pestered him until he opened it up and showed me its contents. My guess is that it contained mostly dirty laundry, possibly letters from mum, and so on. There was also a wooden toy that dad had got for me as a present. I have no recollection of what it was, since there were two other things in there that completely got my attention. One was his chess set, and the other was an interlocked wooden sphere puzzle whose pieces slid in various directions allowing the sphere to be disassembled - a three dimensional jig-saw puzzle, and a marvel of woodworking. I loved it and proceeded to take it to pieces. But it was obviously something that my dad valued too because it soon disappeared into a bedroom drawer, rarely to be seen again.

The other fascination was that my father smoked a pipe - something I'd had no contact with before. I liked the smell of the tobacco, though I'm not sure that mum was particularly pleased to have it in the house.

Dad was around for a few days, but pretty soon he was back at the job he had done before the war as a wool sorter in Bradford, and I didn't see much of him except at the weekend. Wool sorting is one of those craft skills. When a sheep is sheared by a professional shearer, the fleece stays in one piece, arranged just as it was when it was on the sheep. The fleeces were then baled up in canvas, and that's how they arrived at my dad's work. It was his job to separate the parts of the fleece according to the parts of the sheep's body they had covered, rather like a butcher cutting up a carcass. He would also grade the wool according to its feel, or quality.

At the weekends he would often take me for walks in the surrounding countryside, and it is him that I have to thank for my basic knowledge of the names and habits of the animals, birds, trees, wild plants and flowers of England.


Duke Ellington.
Entertainment.

The award winning film for the year in the US was "The Best Years of Our Lives" - a drama about three servicemen trying to piece their lives back together after coming home from WWII. Second to it in box office terms was "Duel in the Sun" - the story of a half-Native American girl who goes to live with her white relatives; all about racial predjudice and taboo sexual relations. Also popular was "The Jolson Story", about which I would say the less said the better.

From Britain, the outstanding movie was "Great Expectations" - David Lean again with an adaptation of Dickens.

Music wise, in the US the top four were "Prisoner of Love" by Perry Como, "Five Minutes More" by Sinatra", "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! by Vaughn Monroe, and "For Sentimental Reasons" by Nat King Cole.

Of the other US hits that year, I'd take "Take the A Train" by the Duke Ellington band.

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