Today (February 10) in London History – London got a taste of life in the Arctic Circle

This one got over the line because of the coincidence and the name. Those two, a couple of sunbeams. Two brief, sweet torrents of felicity.

The coincidence is that the same thing happened on February 10th, 1434. What is it about February 10th – why does it have to come along and spoil all the Winter Wonderland fun?

Anyway, our February 10th is February 10th, 1947.

Now, the episodes weren’t perfectly symmetrical. The 1434 Great Freeze – there, the cat’s out of the bag – began on November 24th. So it lasted all winter, nearly three months. 

The 1947 cold spell only kicked in towards the end of January. So it only lasted for a fortnight or so.

But, yes, the thaw came for both of them on same day, February 10th. Coincidences. Gotta love ‘em.

It wasn’t before time, the 1947 February 10th thaw.

And that brings us to the other thing that got this one over the line: the name.

A politician called it an “economic Dunkirk” – now there’s a grab ‘em by the throat nickname if there ever was one. 

But the pol – he was a Labour member for King’s Norton, Birmingham – wasn’t far off. For starters, they were just about out of coal. Had a week’s worth left. 

The culprit was London Electricity – well, the real villain was the severe cold – London Electricity, trying to meet the unprecedented demand, had burned through 150,000 tons in a week. 150,000 tons of coal. 

One ton of coal will take up about 40 cubic feet. 

How much is 40 cubic feet? It’s about seven times as big as a bathtub. So 150,000 tons of coal is about a million bathtubs. An average bathtub is 5 and a half feet long. You start in London and line up five and a half million bathtubs that’d get you to Riga in Latvia. Start lining ‘em up in New York City it’d get you to Little Rock, Arkansas.

It’s a lot of coal to go through in a week.

And it wasn’t just a London thing. The whole country was in a very bad way – in the grip of an economic Dunkirk. 70 main roads were blocked. 5,000 people were marooned in isolated Wolds villages. People in Huggate, a village in Yorkshire, were waiting for supplies by parachute. They’d been without coal for ten days and without bread for eight. In Derbyshire, food and lamp oil were carried to villages by sled. Doctors were doing rounds on foot and on horseback. Binbrook in Lincolnshire was completely cut off – supplies were being airlifted, parachuted into Binbrook. Trains were buried in snowdrifts. Buses were marooned. Hundreds of private cars snowbound and abandoned in snowdrifts. The UK and London got a taste of life in the Arctic Circle.

The kids loved it, though.

Ok, short but sweet this one. Growing up in Wisconsin, I know the genuine article when it comes to winter weather. Two weeks of snow and freezing weather, that’s an extremely mild winter.

Anyway, this has sparked an idea. Podcast coming up one of these days on London weather – what to expect, why is it what it is, what’s the best way to cope with it.

Stay tuned. And see ya tomorrow. 

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