Ivor's Insights Part 17

Part Seventeen
Rewinding back to the year 1947 we saw two very contrasting weather patterns throughout the country. We had some snow before Christmas 1946 but it was on January 21st 1947 when it really started. This was to be one of the worst winters the UK has ever had. From Scotland to Devon the country was blanketed in snow. All forms of transport were badly affected from food deliveries to coal supplies which resulted in some power stations closing. Electricity supplies to homes were reduced to 19 hours per day. To add to the misery bitter winds blew, temperatures plummeted.
 Helicopters dropped food supplies for people in many cut off villages particularly in Devon, and the Armed Forces were deployed to keep roads and rail tracks clear.
   Of course in those days most houses didn’t have central heating or double glazed windows. Most heating was from coal fires – provided coal was available – and this meant that once you left a coal heated room the rest of the house was bitterly cold.  
Going to the toilet necessitated a mad dash upstairs and then back again to the warmth of the sitting room. Similarly going to bed required extra blankets and getting up each morning for work was way down our list of priorities. 
   The bad weather conditions were compounded by the worrying economy situation with Britain and Europesuffering severe shortages of essential goods. But once again America came to the rescue, this time with the Marshall Plan. This was a huge financial package named after American General George Marshall who, on a visit to Europe in 1947, saw how bad the infrastructure of Britain and much of Western Europe had suffered from the war. The Marshall Plan was instigated with the aim of aiding Europe by supplying food and the other vital supplies necessary in a humanitarian crusade to recovery from the ravages of the war.
   As well as the terrible winter weather of 1947 Britain, two years after the war, was still a country of rationing and austerity. Whenever word got out that some particular shop had just taken delivery of a rarely seen food item mothers would rush with their shopping bags and ration books to stand stoically in the queue hoping to be one of the lucky recipients of some eagerly awaited item.   
   But some respite eventually came when summer arrived. There was a complete change in the weather with sunny days and temperatures soaring into the 30’s centigrade in June. When the cricket season got under way there was one man in particular who will never be forgotten. His name was Denis Compton of Middlesex. He was a dashing, daring, devil-may-care batsman who went into the history books by scoring 18 centuries and amassing 3,816 runs in the 1947 season. He was also an unorthodox left arm spin bowler. He bought a wave of fresh air with his new style of cricket by dashing down the wicket and sweeping or cutting the ball to all four corners of the ground much to the delight of the spectators. He formed a fantastic partnership with Bill Edrich in the Middlesex team as well as for England.  His face was seen on posters around the country because, due to his dark good looks, he was used to advertise the hair product Brylcream. Denis Compton, along with his brother Leslie, was also an accomplished footballer playing for Arsenal as a left winger. He  played for England in some wartime international games and in 1950 won a medal playing in the Cup Final when Arsenal beat Liverpool. Compton joined the Army during the Second World War and was posted to India. He died aged 78 in 1997
   His great partner Bill Edrich may not have had the dashing flair of Compton when batting but he was also a batsman of outstanding ability and his partnership with Compton was one of the most successful of all time. Edrich was a fighter not only on the cricket field but also during the Second World War when, serving as a RAF Bomber Pilot, Squadron Leader Edrich was awarded a DFC.  He, like his great partner Compton, also played football, turning out for Norfolk and later Spurs. Squadron Leader W.J. Edrich DFC died aged 70 in 1986.
   In memory of one of the best partnerships to ever grace the cricket scene the Denis Compton Stand and the Bill Edrich Stand, was erected, side by side, at the Nursery End of Lords Cricket Ground, which is a truly justified fitting tribute to these two giants who bought so much pleasure to cricket fans.
   The year 1947 is also memorable as it was the year when the Labour Government’s minister, Aneurin Bevan, finally saw his dream realised when the National Health Service, which would provide free medical treatment to all citizens of Britain, was introduced. 
   There was widespread interest and joy throughout the country on November 20th 1947 when 21 year old Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip in Westminster Abbey. This happy event was watched by 2,000 invited guests in the Abbey and broadcast to 200 million people around the world. The happy couple honeymooned at Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate in Scotland.
   My brother Bernard was demobbed from the Army in 1948 and returned to Civvy Street. By this time he was married and the proud father of a baby girl. He decided he wanted to become a Quantity Surveyor and accepted a post with a London Building company as a trainee. By studying hard and attending night school three nights a week he achieved his aim and became a fully qualified member of that esteemed fraternity. 
   The next year 1949 saw my next brother David being called up to join the khaki brigade. He was put into the Royal Corps of Signals and hated every minute of his eighteen months National Service.
   I was still an avid film buff and sportsman. My good friend Graeme and I played golf on a nine hole course at nearby Perivale Park and I must admit it bought back memories of earlier days when I and a few other boys in our ‘gang’, including brother Dave, would hide amongst the trees on many a morning looking for ‘lost’ golf balls and then try to sell them to approaching golfers on the course with the sole aim of gaining enough money to go swimming in the afternoon.  As the wonderful television character Arthur Daley would later say about such enterprise it was ‘A nice little earner’. Similarly on the sporting scene Graeme and I would spend Sunday afternoons playing 18 holes on a public putting course followed by an hour or two on the tennis court.
    Talking of Graeme I also remember with affection his mother, Avis Merton, who was a professional actor and very much involved in the local theatre group. I remember how well she played the lead part of the teacher Miss Moffat in the well known play The Corn is Green by Emlyn Williams. The company also performed Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and she often tried to persuade us two to join the group. We thought about asking Princess Ida and Iolanthe to come with us but were frightened we might have The Yeomen of the Guard after us which could end up with us two facing a Trial by Jury thus making our Utopia, Limited. So, after much deliberation we eventually agreed that we didn’t have the Patience or desire to join the Pirates of Penzance or The Gondoliers on HMS Pinafore and so politely declined his Mother’s overtures.
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