This article was written on 27 August 2011
Even at the age of 15 I was sufficiently interested in current affairs to write occasional ‘special reports’as adjuncts to my diary. I thought you might like a little light relief today – and so I offer you one of those regular reports. This one, which hasn’t seen the light of day for 60 years, was written on the weekend of 24-26 August 1951.
A few explanations are needed. There are several items on that report above that still have a sort of relevance today. The war in Korea was still in progress and talks about an armistice were deadlocked. Mr Stokes, the British Representative, had come back to London as he had received no satisfaction in Teheran. That’s not a misspelling; it’s how Tehran was written in English in those days and Iran was always referred to as Persia. Mr Stokes, later Sir Richard Rapier Stokes (27 January 1897–3 August 1957), was a Labour politician who served briefly as Lord Privy Seal in 1951 and was MP for Ipswich from 1938 until his death in 1957. The satisfaction he didn't get in Teheran in 1951 was in talks with Mohammad Mosaddeq, the architect of the nationalisation of the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913 through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (which later became British Petroleum and later still plain BP). In the next sentence I wrote that 'that the Navy is being prepared for something'. I've no idea now what that was but, of course, in those days the Royal Navy had a presence in oceans and seas all around the world. Perhaps they were patrolling in the Persian Gulf ready for any trouble concerned with the failed oil talks?
On that same page I made mention of the fact that "a recently imposed ban by the Football Association on live commentaries on the wireless was to be reconsidered". Wireless in 1951 was synonymous with BBC. By coincidence, I note that just a couple of days ago, the BBC ended another long-standing football ban and Sir Alex Ferguson will now talk on the BBC for the first time since 2004.
Meat and sweets were still ‘on the ration’ six years after the end of World War 2. Each person was allowed meat to the value of 1s 2d per week (that’s about 6p when converted to decimal currency) and 26 ounces (0.74 kg) of sweets per month per person. The price of a pack of 20 cigarettes was increased by one old penny on this day in 1951 to 3s 7d (roughly 17 decimal pence).
Finally, because of my fascination at the time with comedy programmes on the 'wireless', I noted that Richard Murdoch took over from Ted Ray as compere of a regular variety programme called ‘Calling all Forces’ on the BBC Light Programme at 9pm. (I know that Tony Hancock also regularly appeared in “Calling All Forces” in 1951/52.) These days BBC 4 Extra regularly replays comedy programmes from that era. So, once again, thank you BBC for keeping the memories alive.