On this day in history….26th May 1950

On this day in history : 26th May 1950 – Petrol rationing finally comes to an end in Britain after its introduction at the beginning of World War 2…. Motorists tear their ration books into confetti on the forecourts….

Motorists’ petrol coupons 1949-50 – Image credit: Paul Townsend via Flickr

When war broke out in September 1939 petrol was the first commodity to be rationed…. Coupons could be collected from the Post Office on the 15th of September – but couldn’t be used until the 16th, when rationing came into force…. Two coupons were issued, 1 per month and the vehicle’s registration book had to be produced – as the coupons were issued according to the rating stated in the book…. Each coupon represented a unit and was only valid for the stated period – meaning they could not be rolled-over or hoarded – it was a case of use them or lose them….

By 1942 petrol for private use had been withdrawn altogether….it was only available for work that was deemed essential – and a special permit was needed…. Red dye was added to the fuel for those approved users in an effort to combat the black market….

On the 1st of June 1948 petrol was able to be bought again – but it was rationed once more…. By the end of the 1940s it had become a controversial matter as to whether rationing was still needed and featured heavily as a hot topic of debate in the 1950 general election campaign…. The Conservatives argued that it was no longer necessary to ration whereas the Labour Government insisted Britain could not afford supplies from the United States….

A garage attendant waits for customers at a garage somewhere in London on Sept. 24, 1939, after petrol rationing was enforced. Image credit – Billy Black via Flickr

Labour lost their majority….and it became all too obvious the public were no longer willing to tolerate rationing…. Minister of Fuel and Power, Philip Noel-Barker, announced to Parliament that a deal had been done with two American oil companies…. The Standard Oil Company, New Jersey and the California Texas Oil Company had agreed to supply oil, accept payment in Sterling and re-invest the money in British goods, such as equipment, oil tankers and services….

When the news broke on the 26th of May 1950 that rationing was to be lifted long queues formed at the garage forecourts – some petrol stations ran dry…. Motorists ripped up their ration books in jubilation whilst they waited….

Petrol rationing was reintroduced again in 1957 for a five month period during the Suez Crisis, when Egypt and Syria blocked supplies from getting through….

There was one bright side to petrol rationing though – cars being a rarity on the roads meant kids got to play safely in the streets….

On this day in history….9th March 1946

On this day in history : 9th March 1946 – Barriers collapse at an overcrowded football match at Burnden Park, home to Bolton Wanderers…. 33 fans are killed and hundreds more are injured….

The match was between Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City…. At 2.40pm the decision was taken to close the turnstiles as the ground had already filled to over-capacity…. But still the crowds came in, climbing over the turnstiles…. Then somebody – wanting to escape the crush – pricked the lock of a gate….as it opened more and more people poured in…. It is estimated 85,000 were packed into the ground – which should have had no more than 70,000….

A quarter of an hour after the game had started the crowd began to spill onto the pitch – play was temporarily stopped whilst the pitch was cleared…. It was just after then that two barriers collapsed and the crowd surged forwards….those knocked to the ground were crushed….

Women and children being passed over the heads of the crowd during the crush – Fair use

The game had restarted – but a police officer went to speak to the referee, George Dutton, to explain there had been fatalities…. At that point the players returned to the dressing rooms….

The injured were removed from the crowd and the dead were lain along the touch-line and covered with coats…. A new touch-line was marked out with sawdust – and less than half an hour after leaving the pitch the players returned to restart the game! Just a line of sawdust separating them from the bodies….

At the end of the first half the teams swapped ends and immediately started the second half…. The match ended goalless…. Stanley Matthews, who was on the Stoke team, later said he was sickened that the game was allowed to continue….

Until the Ibrox Park disaster in 1971 Burnden Park was the deadliest stadium disaster in British history…. 33 dead, including one woman and over 400 injured…. Bolton played their last game there in 1997, before moving to a new stadium…. It was demolished in 1999 and the site is now occupied by a supermarket….


Image credit: Bradford Timeline via Flickr