Tag Archives: Petrol Rationing

Early Days, 1954 Part Two – Rationing, Bananas and a First Car

I first started this blog in November 2009 and I called it ‘The Age of Innocence’ and I intended it to be a look back over the first twenty years or so of my life by examining some of the key events of the years that were making the big news.

The blog was a slow starter, in the first month the statistics show six views increasing to nine in December.  On the basis of these figures it is fair to assume then that not many people have read my early posts so I have decided that ten years since first publication I will go back and review them and repost:

1954 Banana Rationing

“Yes, we have no bananas
We have-a no bananas today
We’ve string beans, and onions
Cabashes, and scallions,
And all sorts of fruit and say
We have an old fashioned tomato
A Long Island potato But yes, we have no bananas
We have no bananas today”

This seems difficult to believe now but it was only in 1954, the year that I was born, that war time rationing in Britain was officially ended.

It began during World-War-Two in January 1940 when due to severe food shortages and heavy convoy losses in the North Atlantic, bacon, butter and sugar were rationed and this was followed soon after by meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, milk and canned fruit.  As the Second-World-War progressed, most kinds of food came to be rationed along with clothing and petrol.

My parents were issued with a ration card for me but never had to use it because it all stopped three weeks after I was born on 4th July. It might have gone on longer but for the work of Gwilym Lloyd George, the son of David Lloyd George, who was the Minister of Food from 1951 to 1954 and insisted that the Government prioritise the end of rationing.

The very last food item to be released from the shackles of rationing was bananas, which for me was quite a significant event.

My Dad loved bananas and I could never quite understand why but I suppose he was only twenty-two in 1954 and hadn’t had the pleasure of the bendy yellow fruit for fifteen years or so.  He had been only thirteen when the war finished and in fact it is entirely possible I suppose that he had never had a banana before in his life.  In war time Britain people could grow fruit and vegetables in the back garden while they were ‘digging for victory’ but there was absolutely no chance of course of growing tropical bananas.

1954 Bananas

Except, and this is interesting, between 1943 and 1958 bananas were grown for export in Iceland in giant greenhouses powered by geothermal power.  Interesting because bananas grow best about 15° north and south of the equator and Iceland is 60° north and despite the benefit of geothermal power the reduced levels of sunlight meant that the fruit took two years to ripen.

The return of the banana in England was hailed as a watershed moment in history heralding an end to austerity and to the curse of the ration book.  The Labour government even instigated a national banana day.

My Dad liked all sorts of strange banana combinations, weirdest of all being banana sandwiches on brown bread with sugar, but he was also very fond of chopped bananas with custard.  Personally I’ve never been that keen on bananas at all (I don’t like the smell or the horrid mushy texture) and I try and avoid anywhere that serves banana split for sweet course, but this rationing fact explains a lot about my Dad’s unusual dietary preferences.

1954 Banana Sandwich

Once a week we all had to have bananas for a sweet until one day when I was about fifteen or so and maybe after listening to a Bob Dylan protest song, or maybe Donovan, I could take it no longer and I refused to eat them.  Dad was a good natured person of unnatural even temperament but on this occasion he became a crazy man and this was the only time I can remember him getting really upset with me but I stood my ground and after he had severely chastised me and refused to let me leave the table I think he ate them up for me because he liked them so much.  That was a win-win situation!

At about the same time Dad used to turn his nose up at a chip-butty and found this quite unacceptable and banned the practice at the dinner table as though it was something equivalent to snorting heroin, which for a man who would slap a banana between two slices of bread was always a mystery to me.

1954 chip butty

Interesting Banana facts:

Bananas are the most popular fruit in the UK with Britons eating an average of between 25 and 30lbs of fruit each year; more than double the amount consumed 15 years ago. Annual UK sales are at a record £750m, representing more than a quarter of all fruit sales.

There are about 120 calories in an average banana, they are an important source of potassium and are one of the healthiest fruits. Vitamins and minerals in a single banana are A and a full range of B vitamins with Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, vitamin B6, and of Folic Acid.  There is also vitamin C, with minerals Calcium, Magnesium, with trace amounts of iron and zinc.

In an average year we (in the UK) now buy three and a half billion bananas, relegating the native apple into a poor second place.

By one measure we apparently spend more money on bananas than any other supermarket item apart from petrol and lottery tickets, and more than 95% of UK households buy them every week.

Since 1954 the British Government has had occasion to issue ration coupons one final time.  This was in 1973 in response to the oil crisis when OPEC proclaimed an embargo and there was a real possibility of supplies running short.  Fortunately this never happened but the tokens were issued all the same.

1954 Rations

It didn’t bother me at that time, I didn’t get my first car until three years later.

1954 First Car

A flame red Hillman Avenger, top specification GL, 1500cc, registration WRW 366J, which featured four round headlights internal bonnet release, two-speed wipers, brushed nylon seat trim (previously never used on British cars), reclining front seats (very important), hockey stick rear light cluster and a round dial dashboard with a rev counter.

In this car I did hundreds of pounds worth of damage to other people’s vehicles because it had an inconveniently high back window which made reversing a bit of a challenge for a short person like me.

Hillman Avenger


Age of Innocence – 1954 Part Two, Rationing and Bananas

banana shortage

This seems almost impossible to believe now but it was only in 1954, the year that I was born, that war time rationing in Britain was officially ended.

Read the full story…