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BRITISH ICONS OF THE 1940s

Here are 15 icons of the 1940s presented in the unique Reminisce This style.

WINSTON CHURCHILL is quite rightly regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders in history. A noted statesman and orator, Churchill led Britain and inspired the country through speeches and radio broadcasts with his steadfast refusal to consider defeat, surrender or accept a compromise, and led the country until victory had been secured over Nazi Germany. He was the first person created an honorary citizen of the United States and voted 'The Greatest Briton' in a 2002 BBC poll.

VERA LYNN whose musical recordings and performances were enormously popular during World War II was known as 'The Forces Sweatheart.' Her radio programme 'Sincerely Yours' sent messages to troops serving abroad and she also visited hospitals seeing new mothers to send personal messages to their husbands overseas. During the war she toured Egypt, India and Burma, giving concerts for the troops. Her most iconic song was 'We'll Meet Again' which resonated with soldiers going off to fight and their families and sweethearts. In 2009 Lynn became the oldest living artist to make it into No. 1 in the British album chart, at the age of 92.

GUY GIBSON Wing Commander - VC, DSO & Bar, the first CO of the Royal Air Force's 617 Squadron, which he led the Dam Busters raid in 1943 in aircraft provided with the bouncing bomb designed and developed by Barnes Wallis. The devastation caused by the raids was extensive but the Germans managed to rebuild and recover more quickly than expected. However, the propaganda boost given to the allied war effort was considerable. Gibson continued to fly missions over Germany (he flew over 170 in total) before a fault with a fuel tank selector caused his plane to run out of fuel and crash near Steenbergen, the Netherlands, in September 1944. He was 26.

ST PAUL CATHEDRAL became an inspiration to the British people during World War II. In the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe attempted to bomb Britain into submission by pounding London and other major cities, but St. Paul's miraculously escaped major bomb damage, even as historic buildings nearby were reduced to rubble. Images of St. Paul's framed by smoke and fire became a symbol of Britain's indomitable spirit.

"OVER PAID, OVER SEXED AND OVER HERE!" ...a phrase which was coined during the Second World War making fun of the US Army stationed in Britain prior to D-Day. Although said in good humour there was an undercurrent of unease conveyed by the phrase, especially amongst British men, who resented the attraction of GIs, with their ready supply of nylons, cigarettes and chocolate, amongst British women.

ANDERSON SHELTER In 1938, Sir John Anderson in charge of Air Raid Precautions (ARP), commissioned the engineer, William Patterson, to design a small and cheap shelter that could be erected in people's gardens. Within a few months nearly one and a half million of what became known as Anderson shelters were distributed to people living in areas expected to be bombed by the Luftwaffe. They were given free to the poor but anyone who earned over £5.00 a week had to pay £7.00

THE SPITFIRE was designed as a short-range high-performance interceptor aircraft with a higher top speed than several contemporary fighters. During the Battle of Britain there was a public perception that the Spitfire was the RAF fighter of the battle whereas in fact the more numerous Hawker Hurricane actually shouldered a greater proportion of the burden against the Luftwaffe. After the Battle of Britain the Spitfire became a legend and continues to hold an iconic place in the memories of many.

WOMEN OF BRITAIN In the 1930s, social roles were clearly defined. A woman's place was in the home. With the onset of war, everything changed. Before long, women made up one third of the total workforce in the metal and chemical industries, as well as in ship-building and vehicle manufacture. They worked on the railways, canals and on buses. Women built Waterloo Bridge in London. Women's contributions to the war effort were highlighted in newspapers and magazines and after 1945 images of women, especially in uniform, were used to sell everything from cigarettes to shoes.
MUCH BINDING IN THE MARSH was the title of a comical BBC radio and Radio Luxembourg show broadcast from 1944 to 1954, starring Kenneth Horne and Richard Murdoch as senior staff in a fictional RAF station battling red tape and wartime inconvenience. One of the most fondly remembered parts of the show was the closing theme tune, which was unique each week as topical lyrics referring to the plot of the episode were written and sung by members of the cast.

ITMA - It's That Man Again, was modelled on Bandwaggon which starred Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch, and was set in a pirate commercial radio ship, from which Tommy Handley broadcast. From 1939 Handley played Minister of Aggravation and Mysteries at the Office of Twerps. Dorothy Summers played the office char, Mrs. Mopp, sent by the "Labour" to dust the Mayor's dado. To this day female cleaners are popularly referred to as Mrs. Mopp.

ARTHUR ASKEY starred in Bandwaggon, the first weekly comedy/variety series to be broadcast in Britain on a fixed day. Arthur and Richard Murdoch provided the comedy and their spots, which had them sharing a top floor flat in Broadcasting House, soon came to dominate the show. By the third series, Arthur's career was developing rapidly, with films and stage shows. During World War II, he starred in several Gainsborough Pictures comedy films as well as the a West End musical.

BRIEF ENCOUNTER one of the most popular romantic British films of all time (in 1999 it came second in a BFI poll of the top 100 British films). The story is of unconsummated middle-class adultery centring on a housewife for whom real love brings unexpectedly emotions. The film stars Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. Screenplay by NoŽl Coward is based on his 1936 one-act play Still Life. The film was released amid the social and cultural context of the Second World War when 'brief encounters' were thought to be commonplace.

ALEC GUINNESS appeared in two great movies of the 1940s, Oliver Twist (1948), heavily disguised as Fagin and Kind Hearts and Coronets in which he played all eight members of one family - a general, a snob, a photographer, a suffragette, an admiral, a clergyman, a banker and a duke - with enjoyable ease. It was with the series of Ealing comedies with which, to this day, his name is most closely associated in a number of character roles. Guinness is generally regarded as one of the great acting knights of the 20th century.

TELEVISION following years of blank screens, the BBC Television Service re-opened in June 1946, heralding the start of the modern television era. Although it would be more than a decade before television would have an impact in the home, the televised Victory Parade put TV back in the headlines. Viewers watched the procession and ceremony, seeing more than anyone in the crowds could possibly have seen. The home screens filled with close-up shots of the King and Queen, and the statesmen who had seen the country through the war, and those who were ready to tackle the ardours of peace.

MUFFIN THE MULE first trotted on to our screens in 1946 in the first television programme made for children named, appropriately, 'For the Children'. The show was broadcast live by the BBC from Alexandra Palace from 1946 with Muffin dancing on top of a piano as Annette Mills played it. A separate series of 15 minute episodes, 'Muffin the Mule', was broadcast from 1952, with his signature tune "We want Muffin". A wide range of Muffin spin-off merchandise was made including books, records, games and toys.


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This is by no means meant to be a definitive list but a general overview. You may agree or disagree with the editors choice of 1940s icons. If you would like to add to the list and get a credit for doing so, just email us and tell us in no more than 60 words why your choice should join the icons of the 1940s.

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