The Big Freeze 1947 – The Big Freeze

Soroptimist International of Harrogate & District President Nicola Harding and member Judith Webb, welcomed David Davies to speak on ‘The Big Freeze of 1947’.

David took us back to the aftermath of World War II in the United Kingdom with a really vivid insight into the hardships which faced the country as it continued to suffer chronic shortages of food and materials. There were serious crises affecting food, housing, fuel and sterling. Starting in 1946, the severe coal shortage had really set the scene – the main problem being our reliance on coal for 93% for all power needs. There were then protracted national strikes by the miners, pending nationalisation. Also in early January 1947 there was a national transport strike to add to the nation’s problems.

Then on 23rd January 1947, the winter’s ‘Big Freeze’ really started, with much snow having already fallen. For over eight weeks, the United Kingdom shivered and suffered greatly, with long hard frosts and deep snow. Snow fell every day somewhere in the country for 55 days. Thousands of people were cut off for days by snowdrifts up to twenty feet deep. The armed forces were called in to help clear roads and railways. Frost destroyed a huge amount of stored potatoes, resulting in the start of potato rationing.

With the docks paralysed and the farming industry at a virtual stand still due to the deep frozen earth, Britain experienced bread being rationed for the first time ever and bacon, cheese and potato rations further cut.

When the freeze was over, there was widespread flooding due to rapid thawing and still frozen ground, which affected roads, railways and ports for exports, together with consequent significant damage to property. This was exacerbated by rain and gales.

Recovery in Britain after 1947 was painfully slow and some food rationing even continued until the early 1950s.

Judith thanked David for reminding us so vividly, through his talk and impressive black and white photos, of the conditions during early 1947 and the hardship of that time.

For more information about the Harrogate & District Soroptimists’ Club and how to become a member visit or email PHOTO LEFT TO RIGHT: Judith Webb, David Davies, President Nicola Harding