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1954: Housewives celebrate end of rationing

Fourteen years of food rationing in Britain ended at midnight when restrictions on the sale and purchase of meat and bacon were lifted.

Members of the London Housewives' Association held a special ceremony in London's Trafalgar Square to mark Derationing Day.

The Minister of Fuel and Power, Geoffrey Lloyd, burned a large replica of a ration book at an open meeting in his constituency.

But the Minister of Food, Major Gwilym Lloyd-George, told a meeting at Bebington in Cheshire he would keep his as a souvenir and praised all those traders and organisations that had co-operated with the rationing system.

For the first time since the war began in 1939 London's Smithfield Market opened at midnight instead of 0600 and meat sellers were doing a roaring trade.

High prices

Although the final step in dismantling the whole wartime system of food distribution comes into effect, it's not all good news.

Butchers are predicting meat prices will soar for the next couple of weeks until the effect of supply and demand cools the situation down.

In February the Ministry of Food stopped controlling the sale of pork and announced it would end all food rationing this summer.

Food rationing began on 8 January 1940, four months after the outbreak of war.

Limits were imposed on the sale of bacon, butter and sugar.

Then on 11 March 1940 all meat was rationed. Clothes coupons were introduced and a black market soon developed while queueing outside shops and bartering for extra food became a way of life.

There were allowances made for pregnant women who used special green ration books to get extra food rations, and breastfeeding mothers had extra milk.

Restrictions were gradually lifted three years after war had ended, starting with flour on 25 July 1948, followed by clothes on 15 March 1949.

On 19 May 1950 rationing ended for canned and dried fruit, chocolate biscuits, treacle, syrup, jellies and mincemeat.

Petrol rationing, imposed in 1939, ended in May 1950 followed by soap in September 1950.

Three years later sales of sugar were off ration and last May butter rationing ended.

In Context
Rationing was introduced because of difficulties importing food to Britain by boat during the war, to ensure everyone had their fair share and to prevent people stockpiling foodstuffs.

Various essential and non-essential foods were rationed, such as clothes, furniture and fuel. Rationing of sweets and chocolate began on 26 July 1942.

During the war, health experts from the Ministry of Food ensured that the British people had a balanced diet.

Householders were told they were on the "Kitchen Front" and that they had a duty to use foods to their greatest advantage.

The Ministry devised characters such as Potato Pete and Dr Carrot to put their message across.

The process of de-rationing began in 1948, but made slow progress until 1953. Then Food Minister Gwilym Lloyd-George made it a priority for his department.

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