Thomas Graham’s Diary – 11th September 1939

“Streets crammed with traffic and people, the latter mostly carrying gas masks. I saw a few 1st aid posts. Many buildings sandbagged and the police wearing their ordinary helmets but carrying tin hats slung over their shoulders”.

Thomas opens this entry describing a quite vivid scene which met himself, daughter Cecil and daughter-in-law to be Jean on a trip through to Glasgow to the Central Hotel as a last outing before they believed restrictions would be imposed, such as on petrol. Such scenes would have been commonplace in the early days of the war when there was uncertainty of what was going to happen in the conflict, and communities trying to be as prepared as possible for any eventualities.

Restrictions were indeed enforced for civilians with personal motoring discouraged and strict rations put in place. Initially, this was due more to the fear of the damage which could be caused if there were to be large congregations of fully fuelled vehicles in built up areas like cities or in popular destinations than shortages, but as the war progressed, this was a real issue. Ration books were provided with strict rules regarding the use of the “motor spirit” coupons, and eventually private motoring was prohibited in 1942, with many car parts being used to turn into vans or ambulances. Restrictions lasted over a long ten years until May 1950, although rationing was briefly reintroduced again in late 1956 during the Suez Crisis; ending in May 1957.

Thomas makes reference to Jean’s work as a barrage balloon operator in the auxiliary air force, which he had discussed in an earlier diary entry, and expresses again his worry particularly for women working in these types of roles.

As Thomas continues, the impact that war has on “normal life” is especially evident. Jean and Thomas’ son were planning a wedding before the outbreak of war, which they decided to postpone due to the lack of opportunity for leave for them both, and the fact that they would have little time thereafter to spend together. Of course for many in a similar situation, they never got to spend time together again. Concluding the entry brings more sombre sentiments as Thomas discusses meeting with his lawyer to discuss his financial affairs, in order to be able to provide assistance for his family. As perceptive as ever, he foresees a long conflict stating “we shall all be broke after this business is over, if it ever is in my lifetime which is doubtful”.

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