The winter of 1946/47 when I was just four and a half years old
Snow on the ground for three months from mid January 1947
Throughout the last 30 years I have become increasingly intrigued by how wintry weather, ‘storm winds’ and especially prospect of a cold spell, snow and freezing conditions take over the tabloid media with sensational headlines and weather forecasters go into overdrive.
So it has been last 48 hours with newspaper headlines and media warnings about the 'Beast from the East'
In the UK we don’t really understand or experience seriously severe weather conditions be they storms, floods, snow or freezing really entails. Yet in vast areas of the world people exist day to day, travel to work and have to just get on with it. I often watch programmes on the Discovery and other factual channels for example ones about Alaska, the last frontier and the Dalton Highway for example.
The only very cold weather I have experienced was two or three times whilst on work visits to Sweden where at December time the temperature was -25 degrees.
Anyway freezing weather is upon us and maybe a few inches of snow – I bet it will be reason enough to disrupt travel, intention of turning up for work, school closures and the like. I won’t comment further on all that here.
The intention of this post is to remind everyone of a much more severe, damaging and considerably longer lasting ‘Beast’ that hit the UK in early 1947.
Seventy years ago, from late January until mid March, easterly winds drove a succession of snowstorms across the UK resulting in what was believed to have been the snowiest winter since the mid-nineteenth century. Six weeks of snow, which began on January 23, led to thousands of people being cut off by snowdrifts. As the UK was recovering from the effects of the Second World War, the armed forces were called upon to clear roads and railways of snowdrifts that were up to seven meters deep in places.
According to records, snow fell every day somewhere in the UK for 55 days and because the temperature on most days barely exceeded freezing, much of the snow settled. Indeed I have a childhood recollection that it remained on the ground in the surrounding villages into April.
The winter had severe effects on British industries, causing the loss of around 10% of the year's industrial production, 10 - 20% of cereal and potato crops, and 25% of sheep stocks.
Like the Carmarthenshire historian Arwyn Thomas who has written about experiencing the great snow of 1947 I describe in this video from my YouTube channel recollections of those days.