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21 August 2006
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BBC Four - The Lost Decade 1945-55 BBC Four

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1945

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VE Day

VE Day

8/5/1945

The Nazis' surrender sparks mass celebrations in Britain. More than a million people take to the streets of London, where Winston Churchill (dressed in boiler suit and bowler hat), King George VI and Queen Elizabeth address cheering crowds.

Attlee Election Victory

Attlee Election Victory

26/7/1945

The Labour Party wins a landslide victory as the British electorate ousts war hero Winston Churchill in favour of Clement Attlee's progressive 'Let Us Face the Future' manifesto.

The Improbable Mr Attlee
'Yes We Have Bananas'

'Yes We Have Bananas'

31/12/1945

The first shipment of bananas since the beginning of the war arrives at Bristol docks. It is greeted with much excitement and filmed by newsreel companies. Bananas are rationed and only available to children under 18 and expectant mothers.

Light Programme

Light Programme

29/7/1945

The new radio station replaces the wartime General Forces Programme. It plays a mixture of light music and mainstream entertainment such as Desert Island Discs and Workers' Playtime.

Animal Farm Published

Animal Farm Published

24/10/1945

Secker & Warburg release George Orwell's Soviet Union allegory, about farmyard animals revolting against their human masters, after his usual publisher Golancz gets cold feet over its political connotations.

1946

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BBC Resumes TV Broadcasting

BBC Resumes TV Broadcasting

7/6/1946

Having ceased television broadcasts during the war, the BBC welcomes back its 15,000 viewers with the Mickey Mouse cartoon that was interrupted seven years earlier.

Third Programme Starts

Third Programme Starts

29/9/1946

Plays, operas and classical music concerts are broadcast in full every evening on the latest addition to the wireless dial. "It will be unique in freedom from routine and in acceptance of artistic responsibility,' says a BBC spokesman.

Heathrow Opens to Civilians

Heathrow Opens to Civilians

31/5/1946

Air travellers enjoy pre-flight cocktails in a tented terminal. Within a year the airport has three runways, with three more under construction.

Dance Craze Sweeps Nation

Dance Craze Sweeps Nation

15/2/1946

Imported by American GIs, the Jitterbug sweeps the nation's ballrooms after the war. Dances such as the Lindy Hop are so alarming that 'No Jitterbugging' signs soon appear in the windows of more traditional dance halls.

Britain Can Make It

May - November 1946

The V&A presents a new exhibition showcasing British-made consumer goods in an effort to restore the country's debt-ridden economy through foreign trade. Since the products are only available to overseas customers, the show gains the nickname 'Britain Can't Have It'.

1947

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Travel Restrictions Lifted

15/6/1947

Civilians can once more travel abroad. Those who can afford to do so are amazed that other countries, like America and France, are not living with the same drastic rationing as Britain.

India and Pakistan Gain Independence

15/8/1947

Britain's colonial power diminishes after the Attlee government announces the partition of the British Indian Empire into the secular but Hindu-majority India and Islamic Pakistan. By October the new nations are at war over the disputed region of Kashmir.

Women Students at Cambridge

Women Students at Cambridge

September 1947

Twenty years after Oxford, and more than 70 years after the founding of its first women's college. Cambridge University votes to admit women as full students.

British Mines Nationalised

British Mines Nationalised

1/1/1947

The Attlee government's taste for reform continues with the nationalisation of the coal industry. The National Coal Board is created to manage the country's mines.

Short Skirt Initiative

15/0/1947

To save on fabric, the Government asks women to wear shorter skirts.

1948

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Olympic Games Begin in London

Olympic Games Begin in London

29/7/1948

George VI opens the postponed XIV Olympiad, where athletes must stay in military barracks and bring their own food due to rationing. Germany and Japan are not invited.

National Health Service Created

National Health Service Created

5/7/1948

A key policy of Attlee's Labour government ensures free health care for all. Health and housing minister Aneurin Bevan bases the NHS on a coal-miners' co-operative in his native South Wales.

The Empire Windrush Docks at Tilbury

The Empire Windrush Docks at Tilbury

22/6/1948

The Empire Windrush arrives from Jamaica carrying 500 passengers, many of them ex-servicemen and women, in the first large-scale immigration to Britain from the West Indies. The then Colonial Secretary reassures the country that the migrants "would not last one winter."

British Rail Created

British Rail Created

1/1/1948

The 'Big Four' rail companies merge as part of the Attlee government's nationalisation programme, which also includes the formation of British Coal, British Steel, British Petroleum and British Gas.

1949

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National Sex Survey p>

National Sex Survey

January 1949

Twenty-four full-time researchers and 450 volunteers from Mass Observation survey 4,000 Brits about their sex lives. A quarter of men admit to sleeping with prostitutes and a fifth of women confess to extra-marital affairs.

Devaluation of the Pound

19/9/1949

Under pressure to restore economic stability after the war, the tax-raising, austerity-advocating Chancellor of the Exchequer Stafford Cripps devalues the pound by 30% against the dollar.

1950

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First-Ever Formula 1 Race

First-Ever Formula 1 Race

13/5/1950

The former World War II RAF base at Silverstone hosts the first Grand Prix, which sees the Alfa Romeo team win the first three places.

Portrait of an Election

Portrait of an Election

31/1/1950

American magazine Life sends one of its most acclaimed photographers, W Eugene Smith, to South Wales to cover the general election.

Mediterranean Food Published

Mediterranean Food Published

1950

Elizabeth David acquired an appreciation for food and wine while studying at the Sorbonne. Her first book, Mediterranean Food, is influential but has little practical use since many ingredients are still unavailable due to rationing.

Second Labour Election Win

Second Labour Election Win

24/2/1950

Nationalisation is the key campaign issue as Clement Attlee wins a narrow victory over Churchill, despite getting more votes than his 1945 landslide. The next year, amid a party crisis, another election is called.

The Improbable Mr Attlee

1951

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First Miss World Contest

First Miss World Contest

15/8/1951

As part of the Festival of Britain, Miss Sweden wins what is initially called the 'Festival Bikini Contest'. In subsequent years, the bikini is banned after deeply religious countries threaten to withdraw their delegates if they have to parade in two-piece swimsuits.

Festival of Britain

May - September 1951

Situated on 27 bomb-damaged acres of London's South Bank, the Festival of Britain presents a forward-looking vision, aimed at lifting the nation's spirits with modern architecture and design.

The Good Food Guide Published

15/102/1951

With rationing still in place and nouvelle cuisine years away, Socialist writer and British Communist Party founder Raymond Postgate assembles a band of volunteers to secretly assess the nation's restaurants. The Good Food Guide recommends some 600 places to eat and drink and sells 5,000 copies.

Churchill Becomes Prime Minister Again

Churchill Becomes Prime Minister Again

25/10/1951

Having voted Winston Churchill out in 1945, the electorate return the 76-year-old to power on a platform of repealing some of the nationalisation projects and lowering taxes.

Burgess and Maclean Defect to USSR

Guy Burgess

Burgess and Maclean Defect to USSR

7 - 8 June 1951

Guy Burgess and Anthony Maclean, two of the 'Cambridge Five' spy ring, escape to the Soviet Union after fellow double agent Kim Philby warns the pair that he is under suspicion. Burgess never adapts to Russian life and continues to order suits from his Savile Row tailor.

1952

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Compulsory ID Cards Scrapped

Compulsory ID Cards Scrapped

21/2/1952

ID cards, introduced during the war as protection against Nazi spies, are now deemed unnecessary. Many people had resented the police asking them to produce a card to prove their identity.

Britain Explodes its First Atomic Bomb

3/10/1952

Britain enters the atomic age when a 25-kiloton nuclear weapon is exploded in the hold of HMS Plym, anchored off the Monte Bello Islands in Australia.

The Mousetrap Opens

25/11/1952

The curtain rises on Agatha Christie's record-breaking whodunit for the first time in the West End, with a cast that includes Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim. By 1958 it has become Britain's longest-running theatre production.

Thousands Die in the Great Smog

Thousands Die in the Great Smog

4/12/1952

More than 12,000 people die in London over a three-month period after a cold fog combines with greater fuel emissions from homes and industrial smokestacks. New pollution legislation is introduced in response to the disaster.

1953

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The Queen's Coronation

The Queen's Coronation

2/6/1953

Thousands line the streets of London and millions watch on TV as Elizabeth II is crowned queen. It is the first time that a TV broadcast draws a bigger audience than radio.

Mount Everest Conquered

Mount Everest Conquered

29/5/1953

Edmund Hillary reaches the 29,002-foot summit with the Sherpa Tenzing. The two are part of the British expedition led by Colonel John Hunt.

DNA is Discovered

DNA is Discovered

28/2/1953

James Watson and Francis Crick discover the structure of the DNA double helix. Arriving at the Eagle pub in Cambridge, the scientists announce that they have 'found the secret of life'. Their work finally explains the long-standing mystery of genetic inheritance

James Bond Gets Licence to Kill

James Bond Gets Licence to Kill

13/5/1953

Former naval intelligence officer Ian Fleming's determination to write 'the spy story to end all spy stories' pays off in Casino Royale. In his first adventure, Bond is ordered to neutralise the Russian operative 'Le Chiffre'.

1954

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The Lord of the Rings Published

The Lord of the Rings Published

6/6/1954

Arguably a response to Nazism, atomic bombs and industrialisation, the first part of JRR Tolkien's hobbit epic immediately entrances readers.

Four-Minute Mile

Four-Minute Mile

6/5/1954

Roger Bannister beats Australian John Landy to the milestone in just under four minutes, a record that is subsequently only bettered by around 14 seconds.

Rationing Ends

Rationing Ends

4/7/1954

After 14 years the nation tears up its ration books and celebrates a life of unlimited bacon. Members of the London Housewives' Association hold a special ceremony in Trafalgar Square to mark Derationing Day.

Saucy Postcard 'King' Sentenced

Saucy Postcard 'King' Sentenced

15/7/1954

The Churchill government's crackdown on loose morals is in full swing as Donald McGill, the 'king of the saucy postcard', is fined £50, plus costs, for breaching the Obscene Publications Act (1857).

Don't miss Censored at te Seaside

1955

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Anthony Eden Elected

Anthony Eden Elected

26/5/1955

Having taken over the Conservatives after Churchill's retirement a month earlier, the former foreign secretary leads his party to victory over a divided Labour Party. Despite being referred to as the dullest post-war election, it is the first to have proper televised election-night coverage on the BBC.

Ruth Ellis Executed

Ruth Ellis Executed

13/7/1955

Ruth Ellis becomes the last woman to be hanged in Britain, after she is found guilty of shooting her lover, racing driver David Blakeley.

Guinness Book of Records Published

Guinness Book of Records Published

27/8/1955

The Irish brewer commissions brothers Ross and Norris McWhirter to research the first edition after a pub argument over what is the fastest game bird cannot be settled with existing reference books.

ITV Starts Broadcasting

ITV Starts Broadcasting

22/9/1955

The BBC's monopoly on British television is over, as ITV begins broadcasting at 7.15pm from the Croydon transmitter. The channel's schedule is made up of different regional and network programmes and it is allowed to host commercial advertisements. There are 4.5 million TV sets in the country.

Clement Attlee Resigns

Clement Attlee Resigns

7/12/1955

Following months of speculation, Clement Attlee steps down as Labour leader after 20 years in the post. Within hours the Queen makes him an earl; Attlee is the first leader of the Labour Party to accept a hereditary peerage.

The Improbable Mr Attlee

   



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