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This morning I scanned another batch of colour negatives from June 2003.
At that time I regularly walked miles around Newark, having spent much of the week commuting to and from London. On one such a perambulation, in glorious sunshine, I photographed the
prolific flowers of the hedgerows, including wild roses, oxeye daisies, volunteer poppies, and nature’s clock. This latter, cleverly engineered, softly globed, dandelion seed head is so called because the number of children’s puffs needed to disperse the drifting seeds is said to tell the time.
Across fallow fields the pastel blues of Newark’s gypsum factory blended with the light cerulean sky.
That evening Sam and Louisa donned their outfits for a local 1940s party. My daughter’s bright red lipstick and flamboyant hair was her basis for the period look. Her brother’s splendid three piece suit was the genuine article.
This was a demob suit. Members of the armed forces were demobilised, or stood down from combat-ready status, at the end of both World Wars 1 and 2. The term was shortened in common use in the 1930s, and only in 1945 after the Second War did the demob suit enter the language. The returning combatants needed new wardrobes in order to enter civilian life after years of fighting. Their former clothes were most unlikely to fit them, and, even had they been able to find the money for new garments, rationing would not have allowed them to obtain enough.
Many separate Demobilisation Centres were set up by each of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. There, in exchange for their service uniforms, men were given a full set of clothes which, according to the Imperial War Museum included a felt hat or cap according to choice; a double-breasted pinstripe three-piece suit, or single breasted jacket with flannel trousers; two shirts with matching collar studs; a tie; shoes; and a raincoat. A cigarette ration and a special allocation of clothing coupons were also distributed, so that those who could afford them could purchase additional items. A one-way rail warrant was provided.
Clothes were made of the best quality available at the time. Sam’s pristine suit, almost 60 years on, certainly attested to this. It fitted him perfectly, which could not have been said by the recipients of many of those presented immediately after the war. I was envious.
Towards the end of 1945, approximately 75,000 suits were made each week. The major suppliers included Fifty Shilling Tailors, Simpsons of Piccadilly, and Burtons, founded by Montague Burton. Although there is no definite derivation of the phrase ‘the full monty’, meaning a complete set, there is some speculation that this refers to Montague’s demob suits.
Fortunately for him, Sam did not need to follow his grandfathers or great-grandfathers in going to war to earn his suit. He just needed his charm in persuading a specialist rental outlet to allow him to keep it.
It is a while since I photographed what I normally call Jackie’s symphony in white. This evening it was more like cream. The meal consists of tangy smoked haddock, piquant cauliflower cheese, creamy mashed potato and swede, and crunchy carrots. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden, and I finished one bottle of Azinhaga and started on another.