31st December 2006. Debt Paid.
According to a Parliamentary Report the final UK debt owed to America, resulting from World War II, was to be repaid by Today.(1)
In fact it took place two days before, as being the last working day of the year, when the balance was paid by electronic transfer.
Post WWII was pay back time for a bankrupt Britain after Maynard Keynes had negotiated American loans in 1946 at 2% pa, in 50 annual instalments beginning in 1950. So now the push was for exports to earn dollars in exchange, to buy the necessities of life.
Luxuries were unobtainable even if one had the cash to buy them, Wedgwood pottery for example was ordered to export 90% of its output.
More than half of the car output was designated for export. Horse-Power Tax was abandoned to aid export profitability with the most popular cars being lightweight, many with front wheel drive.
Advertisers were in the peculiar difficulty of placing their products before the people but having to explain that supplies were very limited or as lawnmower makers Ransome’s said: ‘Owing to the vital need of increasing exports, very few are likely to be available during 1948′.
Shanks in poetic mood advised that: ‘Silver Comet’ [lawnmowers] were on the wing now to earn dollars’, whilst Idris the ‘quality soft drink’ maker regaled the consumer in adverts such as below.
Adverts of the time tell their tale of Austerity as many are for improving nervous tone, indigestion and other health problems.
Those wealthy enough to afford a refrigerator, as the advert demonstrated: ‘THE smaller IT IS…the GREATER the need for Prestcold Refrigerators, which would make food go further’.
It showed a glum looking ‘be-suited’ dad opening a dish top to reveal a morsel of food.(2).
By 1949 things weren’t improving for on Thursday July 14th Labour Chancellor, Stafford Cripps was outlining the means by which a cut at the rate of £100m a year was to made in our dollar imports. Sugar headed the list of economies which included tobacco, timber and paper.
Even Heinz tomato ketchup was off the shelves between 1939 and 1948, as a consequence more salad cream was consumed: the Author remembers eating rounds of the delicious stuff for tea. Austerity! What Austerity?
Rationing ended finally in 1954.
(1) Hansard: Ruth Kelly MP. 28.2.2002.
(2) Punch Magazine. May 12th 1948.