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A stranger asked a little lad
Please tell me if you can
This Christmas time-what does it mean,
Why all the fuss and plans?

The little lad thought carefully
For a good and helpful boy:
Perhaps tomorrow Father Christmas
Will bring me lots of toys.

The stranger through a window saw
A party in full swing
And as he looked he wondered
What does Christmas to them bring.

He saw the lonely and the poor
Helped by a precious few
A different Christmas time for them
He saw this – and he knew.

He heard the Church bells ringing
And the people start to sing
Those lovely ancient Carols
To greet the new born King

The stranger raised his arms above
And stars shone bright on high,
For Christmas tells of God’s true love
A manger where his son would lie

The little boy looked all around,
He could hear the angels’ songs
And Christmas Carols filled the air,
But the stranger- he had gone.


Christmas will soon be here. Shoppers are busy looking for gifts to give their loved ones. Plans are being made on how to accommodate those family members that seem to have invited themselves to stay over. Others are busy making their own travel arrangements. But the majority of people will be staying at home, maybe entertaining a few extra guests for lunch on Christmas Day. Fortunately the supermarket shelves will be stacked with food, in fact by now many customers will have already ordered their turkey or goose or a larger than usual joint of meat. Christmas puddings, cakes, boxes of chocolates and sweets, in fact just about anything you can think of, will be on those shelves. How different all this is, from when I was a child in the 1940s. World War 2 was in progress and throughout the War just about everything was rationed.
Before the War 70% of our food was imported from around the world, and arrived by ships. From the outbreak of War German U boats (submarines) tried their utmost to attack and sink the ships carrying this food. Their reasoning was that the British would soon surrender if they were starving. To protect these vital supplies the merchant ships were escorted, by the Royal Navy. Whilst this made it more difficult for the attacking submarines, many merchant ships were still sunk. As a consequence the amount of food arriving here was severely limited. Fortunately, before the War in 1938, some enlightened scientists had foreseen this might happen and with the help of some human guinea pigs being fed small quantities of different foods had devised a programme that although the portions of food were tiny, the amount of calories contained in them would be sufficient to sustain peoples’ health. The government was of course concerned to avoid an “us and them situation” so they introduced Rationing. A book of stamps was issued to everyone. When a customer wanted to buy a rationed product they would have to give the shop keeper a stamp. This meant that the poorer people and the more wealthy would be equal when it came to buying food.
When we look at the amount of food that was available (with the stamps) it seems incredibly small, I’ve listed just a few examples:
Bacon or Ham 113g,
2 small chops (or other meat to equivalent value about 10p)
Butter 56g, Cheese 56g, Tea 56g, Eggs 1
These were the WEEKLY allowance for an adult, each child was allowed half of the adults allowance. As I said this is just some of the rationed foods. Of course all food stuffs were always in short supply, and lengthy queues outside the shops were normal.
A big campaign was initiated to encourage people to grow their own vegetables. This was “Dig for Victory”, and was immensely successful. Local councils allowed football and cricket pitches together with playing fields and parks to be dug up and seeds planted. Plus homeowners transformed their own gardens into allotments. Within one year there was a 40% increase in the amount of vegetables available, compared to the previous year. Housewives would go without and save their coupons, so that at Christmas they could they could provide a special dinner.
Not only food was rationed. Petrol and clothing were also rationed. Different ration books were issued for these. There was also a severe shortage of paper. It was unlawful for a shop to sell paper for wrapping. A lot of people, even today, maintain that fish and chips wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper tasted a lot better than it does today.
Rationing went on throughout the War years and in fact it wasn’t until about 1948 that it began to ease and it was 1954 before the system was completely finished. So if you are not able to buy a particular item in the shops, then maybe just think for a moment it could be a lot worse. Doug Ryan