On this day in history….23rd July 1957

On this day in history : 23rd July 1957 – As a strike by busmen enters its fourth day there are violent scenes in towns and villages across the country….

Image via Pinterest

Around 100,000 employees of provincial bus companies had walked out on strike a few days before…. They were demanding a pay rise of £1 per week – but to date their employers had only offered 3 shillings per week, claiming this more than compensated for the rise in the cost of living since the last pay rise of 5 shillings the previous November….

Things had become heated – with anger directed particularly at those who had chosen to continue working…. Buses were vandalised, including those with passengers onboard….windows were smashed, tyres slashed and strike-breaking drivers were attacked…. One driver in Derbyshire needed hospital treatment after being hit in the stomach with an iron bar…. Another was pulled from his bus in Yorkshire, hit in the mouth and kicked in the stomach; the windows and headlights of his bus were smashed…. The Transport and General Workers Union refused to admit their members were responsible….

All things considered the strike action actually had very little effect on industry….factories, offices, shops and mines all across the land remained fully staffed…. While many work colleagues organised car shares, train companies reported that business was up by 25%…. Some employers laid on coaches to ferry their workers to and from the stations….

Whitlesea Bus Service – Alan Farrow via Flickr

On the 26th of July the Industrial Disputes Tribunal awarded the busmen an increase of 11 shillings, which was just over 50% of what they had asked for…. The following week bus drivers in cities such as London and Manchester, who had not officially been part of the strike action, accepted their employers’ offer for a pay rise equalling to the same amount…. As an aftermath a motion for a full inquiry into the violence that had occurred was tabled by a group of 11 Conservative MPs….

London Country Vintage Bus Running Day – Jason Thompson via Flickr

On this day in history….21st April 1959

On this day in history : 21st April 1959 – Dame Margot Fonteyn, the world-famous English ballerina, is jailed for 24 hours in Panama while police look for her husband who is accused of plotting a coup….

Fonteyn and Helpmann, The Sleeping Beauty, Sadler’s Wells 1950 U.S. tour – Sol. Hurok / Sadler’s Wells Ballet – Public domain

Fonteyn had married Dr. Robert Arias, the son of a former Panamanian President in February 1955…. His family opposed the strict regime of the then President, Ernesto de la Guardia….

Whilst on holiday in Panama Arias and Fonteyn had set out on a supposed fishing trip onboard their luxury yacht ‘Nola’….only Arias was to strangely ‘disappear’…. When Fonteyn returned to port at Balboa Harbour, Panama City she claimed to have no knowledge of her husband’s whereabouts…. and then found herself being arrested…. She was detained in prison by the Panamanian National Guard – but it turned out she wasn’t as innocent as it seems….

Prima Ballerina, Dame Margot Fonteyn – Kristine via Flickr

On learning of her arrest British Ambassador to Panama, Sir Ian Henderson, rushed to the prison to try and see her – but was initially denied access…. Eventually at 9pm that evening he was granted permission…. It appeared she had been very well looked after – having been allocated a ‘suite’ usually reserved for political prisoners, even being provided with fresh flowers….and she was only too keen to tell him what she and Arias had been up to….

Her husband had been planning a coup against the President of Panama involving 125 rebel fighters…. During a trip to Cuba in January 1959 she and Arias had met with Fidel Castro who had promised to help by providing men and arms….

The ‘fishing trip’ onboard ‘Nola’ had really been in order to collect weapons which had been concealed within a buoy – only the couple had been witnessed by some fishermen who reported them…. It was therefore decided that Arias should disappear….and that night he ‘jumped ship’, making his escape on a shrimp vessel named ‘Elaine’…. Fonteyn then used ‘Nola’ as a decoy to divert the attention away from her husband whilst he made his getaway…. She then turned up at the port realising she had to risk the consequences….

Sir Ian Henderson managed to secure her release and she was flown to New York….from there she returned to London…. Arias took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy and in June 1959 the couple were reunited in Rio de Janeiro….

Dame Margot Fonteyn in the 1960s – Hurok Concerts (U.S.) – Public domain

On this day in history….5th February 1953

On this day in history : 5th February 1953 – Sweet rationing finally comes to an end after over 10 years of restrictions – children flock to their nearest sweet-shop….

Rationing came into force on the 8th of January 1940 – shortly after the beginning of World War 2…. Initially it was just for petrol but it wasn’t long before it was introduced for food as well….with bacon, butter and sugar being the first…. By Summer 1942 this had extended to include tea, meat, cheese, eggs, lard, milk and jam….

A shopkeeper cancels the coupons in a British housewife’s ration book for the tea, sugar, cooking fats and bacon she is allowed for one week. Most foods in Britain were rationed and some brand names given the designation ‘National’. Image : Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division – Public domain

Of course, it wasn’t just food and petrol that were rationed….pretty much everything was in short supply….coal, clothing, paper, furniture, frying pans, razor blades….even basic commodities such as soap….

The rationing of sweets and chocolate began on the 26th of July 1942….with an allowance of just 12oz every four weeks…. Generally de-rationing began in 1948 but it was a slow process…. An attempt was made to de-ration sweets in April 1949 – but demand far outweighed supply and it had to be reintroduced four months later….

Image credit: Philip Howard via Flickr

Major Gwilym Lloyd-George, Minister for Food, had to reassure the House of Commons that measures were to be taken to deal with the anticipated surge in demand…. Manufacturers were to be allocated a one-off increased allowance of sugar in preparation – but even so, they still only had 54% of the sugar available to them before the war….

On the day of de-rationing it gave cause for celebration…. One company at Clapham Common gave 800 school children lollipops during their lunch breaks – and another London factory opened its doors and handed out free sweets to all….

Image credit: Claire via Flickr

Queues formed outside sweet-shops, many popular brands sold out quickly…. Among the favourites were toffee apples, chocolates, liquorice, lollipops and nougat…. But whatever your fancied ~ lemon sherberts, barley sugar, jelly babies, gob stoppers, pear drops, liquorice allsorts….they were all available again…. Workers queued in their lunch breaks to buy boxes of chocolates to take home to their loved ones….and the BBC reported – “Children all over Britain have been emptying their piggy banks and heading for the nearest sweet shop”….


However, there was no panic buying – possibly people were used to having a limited supply. Or perhaps another reason being the cost….the price of sweets and chocolates having nearly doubled since the beginning of the war….

As well as the de-rationing of sweets restrictions were also lifted on cheese, butter, margarine, cooking fats, eggs and cream…. Sugar itself was not de-rationed until September 1953 – and this was probably due to pressure from the confectionery manufacturers…. Bread rationing had ended in 1948, clothing in 1949 and petrol in 1950…. Rationing officially ended when meat was de-rationed in July 1954….

In the first year following the de-rationing of sweets spending on confectionery went up by approximately £100m to £250m per year…. Nowadays as a nation we spend in excess of £5.5bn…!