Guide David’s birthday – What happened in London on July 25th, 1946?

London calling.

London Walks connecting.

London Walks here with today’s London fix.

Story time. History time.

I feel like a baseball pitcher who just keeps adding to his arsenal of pitches. Starts with the basic repertory of a fastball, a curve ball and a change-up. And then adds a slider. And then a screwball. And then a palm ball. And a knuckleball. And on it goes.

Well, if the London Walks podcast is an assortment of baseball pitches, we’ve added one to the repertory today. All will be revealed – I’ll show it off at the end.

But first an announcement. And there’ll be another announcement at the end.

The London Walks August Newsletter will be coming out at the end of this week. There’s some good stuff in it. Some new stuff. By all means subscribe if you’d like to receive it. You’ll be in good company. We’re fast closing in on 10,000 subscribers. Subscribe by scrolling down to the bottom of the home page of our website,

Ok, that’s enough warm-up. Play Ball. Today we’re going to take a look at what happened in London on July 25th, 1946.

Bread is in the news. Today, July 25th, was the fifth day of bread rationing. And it wasn’t going well, wasn’t popular. Protest campaigns against the rationing scheme were underway. Bakers, their roundsmen and Ministry of Food officials were at daggers drawn. The roundsmen were on strike. What’s not being delivered goes off. And sure enough, at Price’s Bakery in Camberwell, Lambeth Food Inspectors condemned nearly 13,000 loaves as unfit for human consumption. That’s five tons of flour gone to waste. Well, not completely gone to waste, the loaves were carted away to the Croydon pig depot.

In other news, in a by-election in Battersea the Socialist incumbent D. Jay held on to his seat.

A crowd of about 1,000 people swarmed over the tramlines on Lavender Hill to hear the result announced from the town hall balcony. Four women brought a sofa to sit on outside. On the announcement, many joined in singing the Red Flag.

It was a night at the theatre for Winston Churchill, his wife Clementine and his daughter Mary. The former prime minister and his family members attended a performance of Sir Alan Herbert’s Big Ben at the Adelphi Theatre. He received a great welcome when he entered the auditorium. Traffic in the Strand was brought to a standstill by crowds when he left.

Turning to the Telegraph – it ran a short “One year ago Today” item. It read,

Britain, the United States and China delivered a joint ultimatum to Japan to get out of the war on their terms now, or be inevitably and completely destroyed by “prodigious forces now poised to strike the final blows.’”

Wasn’t an especially good day for Count Caradini, a representative of the Italian government. Thieves broke into his residence in Grosvenor Square. They made off with cash and clothing valued at £100. A number of people sleeping in the house were not disturbed.

Not a good day either for the man in the dock at the Old Bailey. He was sentenced to die for strangling his wife.

Elsewhere, a search was on to find a German prisoner of war who escaped from a camp at Hackney.

The Minister of Health,  Aneurin Bevan, had some good news. His office issued a report that in June five times as many permanent houses were completed in Britain as in the whole of the first fifteen months after the war.

And there was good housing news for Bill, the bombed-out cat. For years he’d lived among blitz debris on Fortune Green in Hampstead. But as of today Bill got a proper home, thanks to

a petition to the local council signed by residents and to the intervention of the local branch of Our Dumb Friends League.

In Farnborough, just south of London, boy triplets were born to parents who lived in one room and already had another son, aged three. And how tiny was that one room – it was just 12 feet by 8 feet. Their father, Roy, an ex-soldier – seven and a half years in the army, including Dunkirk and Burma – said his newborns were whoppers.

I’d so like to know if any of those triplets are still alive. Be fun to meet them. Talk to them. See what their lives were like.

Anything else? Yes, at Greenwich Observatory they were keeping an eye on a huge sunspot. The area of the sunspot was about 5 billion square miles. That’s about 25 times the surface area of the earth. But just a tiny part of the surface of the sun. It would take 476 of those sunspots to cover the surface of our star.

And a bit of cultural news, on July 25th 1946 the great Myra Hess – Dame Myra Hess – unveiled three stained glass windows at the Royal Academy of Music.

Now, has the penny dropped? We’re doing what happened in London on July 25th, 1946 because that was my, David’s, birthday. A long way from here. A place called Dubuque, Iowa. Got started there. But have been here, in London, all my adult life. And endlessly grateful I am for the hand life dealt me, cards I could play that got me here. And kept me here. Here. In the greatest city on earth.

So what are the takeaways for me. Well, I’ll never be able to go past the Adelphi Theatre again without thinking, right when Winston Churchill was watching a drama and then stepping outside to be greeted by a throng of cheering admirers I was deeply involved in a drama myself and when it wound up I emerged – if you can call being given the heave-ho emerging – I emerged to be greeted by my own throng of admirers.

And for good measure, at that very moment two Princesses, Princess Elizabeth (who would of course go on to become Queen Elizabeth II) Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret were making a sort of entrance themselves. They were getting off a bus, having completed, on my birthday, their first-ever bus ride. They told the driver they had never driven in a public service vehicle before – something they’d always wanted to do. Ah, yes, that July 25th 1946 feeling. A moment to remember. I know it well. I’d never been on a ride down a birth canal before. It was something I always wanted to do.

And here’s the other announcement. I said the guy on the mound for the London Walks podcast – yes, baseball metaphor here – the starting pitcher, the guy on the mound, me, has got a new pitch in his repertory. It’s what I’ve done today. I took at what happened in London on someone’s birthday. Me – my birthday – being the point man. Or guinea pig if you prefer.

Anyway, at no little risk of belabouring the obvious, we’ve always been at pains to stress that a London Walk is a three-legged stool. A one-legged stool is a stool that’s not equal to the job. Neither is a two-legged stool. But a three-legged stool – it’s strong, it’s stable, it’ll get the job done for you. So what are the three legs of the stool called London Walks. One of those legs is of course London. The second leg is the guide. The third leg is our walkers. And they’re really sort of the mystery guest. They don’t get noticed, they don’t get much credit. But without them the stool can’t stand.

And I thought, why not, from time to time, get some of our walkers into play here on this podcast. You write to me, David, at London Walks – the email address is [email protected] – tell me a little bit about yourself. And what your birthday is. And I’ll do what I’ve done here. Write you up, introduce you. And then we’ll find out what went down in London on your birthday. What was going on here in The Big Smoke, London, the day you took your first bow. Anyway, there it is. It’s an open invitation. I hope I hear from a few of you. It’d be interesting. And fun.

You’ve been listening to the Today in London History podcast. Emanating from – home of London Walks, London’s signature walking tour company. London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the-right-size walking tour company. And as long as we’re at it, London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.

And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative.

That’s the key to everything. It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.

It’s not rocket science: you get what you pay for. And just as surely, you also get what you don’t pay for.

Back in 1968 when we got started we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question: Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world? You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world you do whatever you have to do to attract and keep the best guides in London – you want them guiding for you, not for somebody else. Bears repeating: the way we’re structured – a guides’ cooperative – is the key to the whole thing. It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following, a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.

It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely –

to front our walks with distinguished


By way of example,

Stewart Purvis, the former Editor (and

subsequently CEO) of Independent

Television News. And Lisa Honan

who had a distinguished career as

diplomat (Lisa was the Governor of

St Helena, the island where Napoleon

breathed his last and, some say, had

his penis amputated – Napoleon

didn’t feel a thing – if thing’s the mot

juste – he was dead.)

Stewart and Lisa – both of them

CBEs – are just a couple of our

headline acts.

The London Walks All-Star team of

guides includes a former London

Mayor, it includes barristers (one of

them an MBE); it includes doctors,

geologists, museum curators,

archaeologists, historians, criminal

defence lawyers, university professors,

Royal Shakespeare Company actors,

a bevy of MVPs,

Oscar winners (people who’ve won

the big one, the Guide of the Year Award)… well,

you get the idea. As that travel writer

famously put it, “if this were a golf

tournament, every name on the

Leader Board would be a London

Walks guide.”

And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar and the familiar new.

And on that agreeable note…come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks. And that’s by way of saying, Good Londoning one and all. See ya next time.

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