It would be hard to imagine a book that resonates more with today’s uncertain times than Clive Hardy’s latest nostalgia offering – The Home Front – Britain 1939-45.
The unshakeable spirit of a kingdom facing unparalleled challenge shines through Hardy’s highly readable commentary coupled with inspirational images from Britain’s local and national newspaper archives, including the M.E.N.
The result is a hardback that encapsulates the hope rising from the ashes of blitzed cities, the engaging innocence and cheerfulness of child evacuees and the gritty determination of hard-pressed servicemen and women.
We see Dad’s Army volunteers ready to tackle crack Nazi paratroopers with broom-handles and Zulu spears from a long forgotten conflict, women working all hours to make munitions, and Land Girls keeping the wheels of agriculture turning.
There is no shortage of photographs from Manchester and the North West either in what is the ninth publication from Withington company iNostalgia Ltd.
The Christmas Blitz of December 1940 is covered in detail, along with the industrial output of Trafford that produced the hardware to fight the war.
Images include the manufacture of Rolls Royce Merlin engines for Spitfires, Hurricanes and Lancaster bombers at the Ford shadow factory in Eccles and barrage balloons being assembled at Gaythorn Gasworks.
There are scenes of jubilation as crowds celebrate VE Day in the centre of Manchester and street parties break out in the suburbs.
And there’s Belle Vue too. Manchester’s pleasure park never closed throughout the war as thousands sought to forget their woes for a few hours or more after entering the main gates on Hyde Road.
In The Home Front, Hardy takes us from the first stirrings of conflict right through to victory in Japan in August 1945. There is a wonderful mix of family memories and stories as well as the usual informed analysis from a seasoned researcher and writer.
Hardy actually started working on The Home Front well before Coronavirus first visited our shores. “I always wanted to gather together the extraordinary images from our newspapers during the war years”, he said. “Particularly our local newspapers.
“I’m full of admiration for the work of the Home Front photographers who portrayed the struggle and kept the nation informed – often at risk to their own lives”.
One photographer whose work is strongly profiled in the book is Daily Mirror cameraman George Greenwell, who took what are now regarded as iconic shots of St Paul’s Cathedral at the height of the London Blitz in December 1940.
“His images are breathtaking”, said Clive. “There’s one panorama from the dome of St Paul’s showing the statues of apostles silhouetted against the raging fires below. It was used right across pages 6 and 7 of the Daily Mirror on New Year’s Eve 1940”.
But it’s perhaps the images of everyday life that are the most stirring in Hardy’s book. Images like workers balancing precariously on the end of a tram track in the hope of prising a damaged rail from a bombed-out road to salvage it for the war effort.
Or the heart-warming picture of US troops stationed in England spending their own time and money taking children on a cinema trip in December 1943.
There are some fascinating chapters on entertainment and sport, not always covered in wartime memoires. Football was played, albeit on a limited basis, for most of the conflict.
There are jubilant images of Preston North End winning the 1941 Football League War Cup by beating Arsenal 2-1 in a replay at Blackburn’s Ewood Park, and Charlton Athletic playing Reading at The Valley.
Boxing matches were staged on the deck of the Queen Mary moored in Liverpool in October 1941 and the annual Derby horse race transferred from Epsom to Newmarket.
Greyhound racing was hugely popular as it was accessible to everyone. Home-raised dogs could compete with the best on tracks throughout the country.
Hardy includes all the wartime entertainment icons – Wigan’s own George Formby, Flanagan and Allen, Tommy Handley and Vera Lynn to name but a few – as well as providing insight into the BBC Home Service and less familiar shows that toured local theatres.
He also takes an intriguing look at wartime censorship as well as morale-boosting photos that were really not what they seemed – possibly the ‘fake news’ of their day!
In an interesting piece of detective work, Hardy shows how a George Greenwell image of air raid warden Percy Dale helping a Blitz victim in 1940 was in fact a staged shot superimposed on a photo of London’s Paternoster Row in flames.
It was like the famous picture of a London milkman making his way through the rubble to deliver milk, again in 1940. The milkman was actually the photographer’s assistant.
Whatever their genesis, the images did their job.
So too will this book. It could just be the ideal gift for this most unusual of Christmases.
‘The Home Front – Britain 1939-45’ is now on the sale with a special pre-order price of £14.99 – including UK postage and packing. You can get it online from iNostalgia here, or call the order hotline on 01928 503777.
Take a look inside the creepy abandoned Belle Vue Showcase cinema
Who else has great memories of this place?
The Belle Vue Showcase cinema was somewhat of an iconic venue in Manchester, however, it is set to be demolished and replaced.
The news came late last year that the cinema would be demolished to make way for a new secondary school.
The school, ran by the Co-op, is planning on having its first year sevens students in by September, although they’ll be placed in temporary buildings.
The new Co-Op Academy Belle Vue school is set to be finished in 2023, and a first glimpse of what it will look like has now been released.
Newly released documents show a modern L-shaped building, which will be split into three different ‘zones’, including a two-storey sports block – complete with a sports hall, auditorium, and drama studio.
The iconic cinema first opened its doors in 1989 boasting a huge 14 screens in the entertainment complex.
Closing its doors back in March 2020, the cinema had been left abandoned all last year and started to look seriously creepy.
The timeline for demolition hasn’t been given yet, and parents had to have applied for their child’s place in the new school by November 2nd last year – in case you were wanting to.
Once the grounds of Belle Vue zoo and amusement park, the area will definitely have some stories to tell.
The Belle Vue Showcase cinema was one of the first multi-screen complexes to open up, bringing American films, no queues and car parks to fit a 1,000 cars – it was unlike anything that had ever been seen before when it first opened back in 1989.
Back in February last year when rumours began to circulate the cinema would be closing, Mark Barlow, general manager at Showcase Cinemas UK, said: “As the leader in UK cinema innovation, Showcase Cinemas remains committed to operating a cinema in Manchester and as such are in active discussions about future opportunities for a new, state-of-art cinema in the city.”
If you’re going to miss this iconic venue, the company are said to be looking into a new unnamed location for another cinema. They added that they ‘remain fully committed to the city’.
The 12 retro chocolate bars that need to be brought back immediately
Sadly many of the chocolate bars we were once delighted to see in our lunchbox no longer exist, snatched from us way before their time.
And I’m not the only one upset. Hundreds of petitions have been set up to bring back some retro classics and a handful have even been successful.
Last year, Cadbury announced it’s bringing back the Marble bar (only in Australia, unfortunately), proving that nagging works.
We’re still upset about a few other discontinued chocolate treats though…
These delicious honeycomb and white chocolate balls were last tasted in 2014 and Mars have confirmed they have no intention of bringing them back. It’s a crime against humanity.
Poundland does its own version if you can’t go another minute with eating one. Sure, it’s not the original but they are almost as good.
This white chocolate revelation from Cadbury was taken from us too soon. It first graced the shelves back in 2002 and fizzled away just a few short years after.
You can still get the original in Australia and New Zealand and import it over if you’re that dedicated to the cause. Personally, I’d like to see this in corner shops all around the UK.
There was nothing quite like the feeling of dunking your hand in a box of Celebrations and pulling out a Galaxy Truffle.
That feeling was pure happiness and frankly, we all need it back. They’ve released some sort of knock-off Nigel version but I’m not buying it. We want the originals.
It wasn’t until I started researching this that I discovered Time Out bars had sneakily been taken off our shelves and replaced with a single wafer version called Time Out Wafer.
Clever but you’re not fooling me with this smaller alternative.
Two words we didn’t know we needed putting together; chocolate and crisps. Essentially these bad boys were chocolate Pringles and how iconic were they?
We lost these to the discontinued pile back in 2010 and things haven’t been the same since.
The Mars Delight led a short life, just 4 small years. In part due to the fact that it was one of the most calorific bars ever made and it was released just when we were all getting fit – unfortunate timing.
6,423 signed a petition to bring these back in 2016 but there was no luck.
She is beauty, she is grace! Another bad decision from Cadbury was to remove the Flake Snow from our lives.
Nothing beats the promo of this either, a sponsored photoshoot at Anthea Turner’s wedding?! ICONIC.
Fox’s Echo bars were classic lunch box biscuits. They were discontinued and replaced with an inferior bar that we won’t even give any limelight.
Absolutely partial to a mint one but nothing could beat that mix of white and milk chocolate that would just melt in your mouth.
Cadbury Marble is only back in Australia so it is definitely going in the list of things we need back in the UK.
Marble is quite possibly one of the most missed creations of Cadbury, complete with swirls of milk chocolate, white chocolate and hazelnut praline. Dribbling already.
These rivalled Aero Mint (easily) but unfortunately never proved popular enough, being taken from our shelves back in 2003. Something about that velvety chocolate though…
The best thing you could get with the spare change you’d find down the sofa was a Cadbury Taz or a Freddo. The Taz has been replaced with a caramel Freddo instead, and I’m sorry but it’s just not the same.
This is like an ’80s version of a Twirl. Because I was born in 1996 I can’t comment on this bad boy, but I’ve heard good things and there is a petition to bring it back so they must’ve been popular enough to create an army of fans.
Have we missed any? Let us know in the Facebook comments…
There’s an abandoned bar hidden underneath Manchester’s Victoria Station
Would you dare explore underneath Victoria Station?
The Urban Collective search cities and urban landscapes for hidden, unexplored derelict sites, filming the process so we get to see.
Recently, The Urban Collective headed underneath Manchester’s Victoria Station to see the inner workings beneath the station.
Manchester’s Victoria Train Station opened all the way back in 1844, and was designed to help connect Leeds with the port city of Liverpool via train.
The initial building was designed by the ‘Father of Railways’, George Stephenson, who was heavily involved in the UK’s early rail networks.
The original building was a long, single-storey structure that you can still see just next to the large Arena steps.
By the early 1900s, the station had 17 platforms and a huge façade, designed by William Dawes, which still exists today.
The Urban Collective headed underneath the station via the old station offices in the main building, and descended into the now derelict B.R.S.A club.
The club was an underground bar owned by the British Railway Staff Association, and operated as a typical working men’s club during the ’70s and ’80s.
It’s tucked away below the station and the street itself, with punters heading down for a pint near the top station entrance.
You could also get in via the glass building over the road, which later became a barbers.
The bar, topped with glass, as well as wooden floors and other original features are still intact. There’s even a creepy cellar full of crates and thousands of discarded lager bottles.
Old posters are still on the walls, plus there’s even electricity still supplied which makes the fan above the dance floor occasionally spin.
Members nicknamed their fave spot ‘The Vic Bars’, and train staff regularly attended day and night to see organists and cabaret acts throughout the week.
The club was eventually closed in 1992 and has remained derelict and forgotten ever since.
However, the club unit is now under offer as a potential new club, pub or retail unit, despite the considerable amount of work that needs to be undertaken.
You can check out The Urban Collective on YouTube here.