1947 through the eyes of an Englishman

  BEV stuff:   Warning   Copyright   Contact   Prev   Next   Index   Home  

George Marshall.
The BEV Retrospective - 1947.

With the European economies in ruins, the USA introduced the Marshall Plan. The concept was introduced by US Secretary of State George Marshall at Harvard University on June 5th. It was probably the greatest act of magnanimity, charity, and kindness, ever made by any nation in history, and I strongly suggest that you read the Wiki article.

Marshall said "It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is not directed against any country, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Any government that is willing to assist in recovery will find full co-operation on the part of the U.S.A."

The USA would bale out the bankrupt countries of Europe regardless of which side they'd fought on. Some influential people in the USA had obviously learned a lesson from the Treaty of Versailles that followed WWI, and knew their economics.

Britain was already massively in debt to the USA, since it had not paid for any of the material it received after the US entered the war. It was to be the largest beneficiary of the plan. The Soviets and their allies were included in the offer, but they did not take it up, thinking that there would be too many strings attached.

In July, Truman signed the National Security Act into law, creating the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the National Security Council.

As communist governments were installed in the countries east of Churchill's 'Iron Curtain', the alliance that had existed between the Soviets and the other wartime allies collapsed. The cold war had begun.

Nehru in Srinagar.
On August 15th, Britain relinquished its control of India - the 'Jewel in the Crown' of the British Empire - as Atlee had promised, after 163 years of British rule. This happened largely as a consequence of the increasing level of violence and civil unrest between Muslims and Hindus, but also as a result of years of agitation and civil disobedience aimed toward independence. Also it was probably the case that the British government could no longer afford to hold India in subjugation.

India was first partitioned into two countries - India and Pakistan, who on achieving independence, promptly went to war.

The state of Kashmir in the North West had been one of the 'Princely States' that existed within British India. A majority of its population was Muslim, but its leader was a Hindu. Consequently on independence, a Muslim group attempted to take over Kashmir with the aid of Pakistani troops. Kashmir's Hindu leader appealed for aid from India, who gave it on condition that Kashmir would become part of India. Fighting flared up between Indian and Pakistani troops not only in Kashmir, but also in Bengal, and in the Punjab, and the resulting war lasted into the following year.

In November, the UN General Assembly approved a United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. At that time Palestine was a British Mandate. The plan proposed to dissolve that arrangement and create separate Arab and Jewish states.

Princess Elizabeth, later to be Queen Elizabeth II, married 'Phil the Greek' on 20th November at Westminster Abbey.


The team that had created the atomic bomb continued their efforts, and created smaller, more powerful and more efficient bombs. All now were of the implosion variety. The Soviets were hot on their trail with not inconsiderable help from sympathizers such as Klaus Fuchs, one of the many of British scientists sent over to help with the Manhattan Project in 1943. This sounds pretty treasonous in retrospect, but it has to be remembered that if Russia alone had not desperately resisted the Nazis in 1941/42, the whole war cause could easily have been lost. There were plenty of intellectual, idealistic young men in Britain during those times who felt that the Russians had done a wonderful thing and were to be supported.

The first transistor.
At the US AT& T Company's Bell Research labs, a team that had worked during the war on Germanium detector diodes for radar receivers, had a new idea.

William Shockley thought from his theoretical work that it should be possible to make a three terminal device similar in action to a vacuum tube triode, using the same Germanium crystal technology. However he could not get the idea to work. Frustrated, he handed the idea over to two of his colleagues, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. These two quite quickly came up with the first prototype of the point-contact transistor.

The team built an audio amplifier using the device, and demonstrated it to Bell Labs management. They in turn set up a larger development effort. The device was huge by the standards of current technology, and the point-contact mechanism proved unreliable, but it led eventually to electronics as we know them today.

The winter of 1946/1947 became notorious. The 1946 part wasn't bad, but in February 1947 it took a turn for the worse with lots of snow, and fiendishly low temperatures - rarely above freezing, and as low as -20C. In March there was yet more snow, so that when the cold spell broke at the end of that month, and the temperature rose quite suddenly, there was serious flooding in many parts of the country.

Of course, I thought the snow was wonderful. My dad made me a sledge, and then he and I or my mother and I would go to the "sledging field" - a pasture with a pretty steep slope a couple of fields up from Cottingley Church. As I found out one day after not too long, the field had a number of randomly placed rocks hidden under the snow. I collided with one riding my sledge down the hill in the head first, belly down position, and got a split lip which I recall seemed like a pretty big deal at the time. I thought I would never be able to eat again.
My sister Julie was born on October 10th in this year, though I have surprisingly little recollection of the event. I can just about remember going with my dad to pick her and my mother up from the maternity hospital - the same one as I was born in. After that she must have merged into the Teale household quite smoothly. I don't recall my nose being out of joint, or any other untoward happenings.

Cottingley Primary School.
For me, the other quite major event of 1947 was that I started at Cottingley Primary School (now sadly gone, demolished), in the infants' class. My principle recollection of the class is that there was a lot of running around and playing, and that in the afternoon we all had to take a nap lying on the floor on a little blanket. I can't say whether we ever actually went to sleep or not.

This was, of course, a significant step in the widening of my world. Before then my life had been limited to a fairly small area other than at the times when I went further afield with my parents. The school was further away than I had probably ever been unaccompanied, possibly getting on for half a mile. Also the school had a spectrum of children of different ages and, at that time, the others were all older!

I believe that at first, the infants' class was kept segregated from the 'older' children at breaks and at lunchtime. But there was inevitably leakage, and I probably learned my first swear words at about this time.

At first, my mother would take me to school in the mornings, and come for me at four in the afternoon, but this didn't last for long.
It may be difficult for parents in today's world to imagine, but then the level of trust in many directions was much higher than it is in any direction now. So after a while, John Wordsworth and I used to walk to school and back by ourselves. Nobody thought it necessary to tell us not to talk to strange men and in Cottingley there was so little traffic between home and school that a significant knowledge of road safety was not really required. You were not going to get run over by the proverbial bus. In those days, if two five year olds were crossing the road, the bus would likely have stopped. Buses were few and far between in Cottingley anyway.

There were other reasons for journeys made alone. The back-to-backs in our terrace on Cottingley Main Street did not have bathrooms or toilets - you had a piss pot under the bed. The only plumbing was a mains cold water tap in the kitchen over a sandstone sink that had a drain into the sewage system. What the sewage system consisted of then, I can't tell you exactly.

If you wanted to take a shit, you had to go what was somewhat euphemistically called an 'outside toilet'. I think 'privy' is the traditional word. It means a wall or fence round a hole in the ground where you can do your business with a degree of privacy. Our privy was round the other side of the terrace block. If you were caught short at home, you used the piss pot, and carried the results to the privi in a bucket later.

The privi was a narrow stone shed with lick of whitewash on the inside, a stone slab roof, and a water closet of sorts - I think they were called 'tumblers'. You wiped your arse on a piece of torn up newspaper that hung on a nail on the wall. If there was none, or you'd forgotten that it needed to be replenished, you walked back home with a mucky arse and sorted it out later. You didn't wash your hands there - there was no running water to do that, though my mother would make me do so when I got back if she knew that I'd been there. If it was desperately cold then it would have to be the piss pot. This was life in the mid 20th century in half urban/half country Yorkshire. You didn't think anything about it. That was the way it was.

Speaking of privies, I believe also that this was the time in life when I encountered my first pussy. My mother was friends with another woman in the village. Well, either that or she used to do some cleaning for her; I think it may have been the latter. Either way, I got to know the other woman's daughter, Franceleen Revel. Mrs. Revel and her daughter used to live in a larger detached house at the bottom of Main Street. As far as I can remember, it was the only detached house on the street.

Franceleen and I used to play together in the garden of the house, or indoors if it was raining. Our favourite outside game was 'doctors'. This used to happen in the outside privy, which was otherwise unused because they had facilities in the house - very spiffy! I was usually the doctor. Franceleen would hoist her skirt, drop her knickers, and spread her legs, and I would examine the usual doctors-game part with a Scots pine needle - they had a couple of pine trees growing in the garden. I can't remember if she was ever doctor, or if she was, what that consisted off, but I do remember that I really liked this game, and she didn't seem averse to it either. In time, we were rumbled, and the game was discouraged.

At that time, I don't even think that I even knew what that part of her body was called. It was just hers, as opposed to mine. I guess if I'd been familiar with the vernacular of the times, I'd have called it a cunt, but then I wasn't. My choices would have been vulva, cunt, quim, fanny, hole, and probably many more I can't remember. 'Pussy' is later, and I should think an import from the US, but that will be my euphemism of choice in future years. 'Mine' has probably an even larger number of euphemisms. It would probably have been 'prick' then, but I shall use 'dick', which is more prevalent in current usage.


As if playing doctors was not enough! OK, so I'm conscious by this point, and could listen to the radio, but it would probably be a while until I saw a movie.

Among the films of note in this year from the US were the following:

"Gentleman's Agreement" - a drama film about a journalist - Gregory Peck - who goes undercover posing as a Jew to research antisemitism in New York City;

Life With Father- a comedy movie telling the true story of a stockbroker, Clarence Day, who wants to be master of his house, but finds his wife and his children ignoring him, and in fact making demands for him to change his own life;

The Egg and I - Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray playing newlyweds who go to live in the country.

Best British movie of the year was Brighton Rock, from the novel by Graham Greene, a murder thriller set in 1930s Brighton.

Among the music, the only US top hit I recognize is of a genre I detest now and I believe I detested then - it was silly! The song was "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - yuk. For a Christmas song there was "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" by Sinatra.

Other than that there's nothing in the 1947 list I can put a tune to at this distance, or that I care to link to.

Instead, here's a link to some US traditional jazz by the Bunk Johnson band, a style that was starting to be emulated by some musicians in England around this time.

Top of Page