Yesterday morning, thanks to the offices of my lovely amanuensis I took part in a radio broadcast to talk about the lack of food during the war with a German lady called Ingeborg who had lived in Berlin at the end of the war. I think we were chosen because we were both old enough to remember, but she was a mere child compared to me as I told her, she being 85 to my 90! But our memories of the food or lack of it, were very similar and I think our interviewer was a little surprised to hear how very little food there was available for us.
Lottie and I had looked it up because I still have a ration book, identity card and a list of food that was available to us during the war and the prices, butter for example was one shilling and seven pence a lb, our ration was 4 ounces a week. Sugar was 5p a lb, eggs were two shillings for a dozen, margarine was 10 pence a lb. We had 4oz of bacon a week, 2oz of tea, 1oz of cheese and a whole variety of food on ‘points’, so I had to explain the points system and how it worked and also the black market system and how that worked. Ingeborg had similar memories, but the prices didn’t really mean much to me as I didn’t really know what the German coins were worth in those days.
But the thing that surprised our two interviewers, one in the UK and the other in Germany, is that both of us made light of having very little to eat and tried to explain that living in a city like London that was bombed every night for ten months at the beginning of the war, or a city like Berlin that was bombed incessantly and towards the end of the war, was waiting to be invaded by the Russian, British and American armies who were rapidly encircling them, was actually much, much worse then being hungry. By the end of the programme, Ingeborg and I had made friends with one another, for we both understood what it was like to have been mortally afraid and in very real danger. But it came as a surprise to the organisers of the programme who had expected it to be simply an examination of how difficult it was to get hold of enough to eat. That, as both of us explained, was the least of our worries.
I have made a friend and so has Ingeborg, which is a very good thing to have come out of such a programme. It will be broadcast by the BBC next Thursday, sorry those are all the details I’ve got.
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