The harsh winter that hit Derbyshire after WWII


As Britain recovered, dusted itself off and rebuilt a nation after World War II, it was hit by another sickening blow in the form of one of the worst winters it has ever seen.

The winter of 1946/47 is a long time ago now, but it changed the course of the UK – and even Europe – forever.

It all started with a cold snap in December 1946, but that was just a taste of what was to come. From January 1947, snow and freezing temperatures arrived in Derbyshire.

Rationing and fuel shortages always occurred as a vestige of war, so a harsh winter was the last thing one needed.

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Over the next two months, seemingly endless amounts of snow were dumped across the country, causing hardship everywhere. No one has escaped it, from remote villages to Buckingham Palace.

Subzero temperatures meant every snowflake was stuck.

In parts of the Peak District, the snowdrifts were up to 20 feet high – you could hold three people on top of each other without seeing outside.

The roads became impassable, stranding towns and villages in a sea of ​​white.

Workers remained inactive and vehicles froze in the street. The pits and quarries remained silent, and the badly needed coal mines could not be exploited.



A snow plow in Buxton – unsuccessfully trying to clear some sort of passable path in January 1947.

Even the roads that could be used were perilous.

Two Derby County supporters were killed when their bus skidded off the road, returning from a game at Stamford Bridge in Chelsea.

But this remarkable generation of people fought to help and help each other – sometimes with fatal consequences.

The RAF was called in to drop off food packages for the residents of Butterton and Longnor.

A Halifax bomber, blinded by freezing clouds, crashed into Grindon Moor as it attempted to supply the villagers – two of the airmen lay at Buxton Cemetery.

Mars finally brought warmer air, and people on that day would be forgiven for thinking their problems were over.



It was easier to tunnel through the snow to this Peak District house, than to try to clear it.
It was easier to tunnel through the snow to this Peak District house, than to try to clear it.

But as the huge amounts of ice and snow melted, it brought new challenges. The water, unable to sink into the still frozen ground, caused widespread flooding.

The Trent River swelled and erupted in mid-March, causing the second worst flooding Long Eaton had ever seen. 2,000 homes in the area were flooded and the area near Long Eaton Station was under 5 to 6 feet of water.

Eventually the snow and water subsided – but the costs were enormous. Farms in particular have been severely affected.

The Labor government of the day came under heavy criticism for its response and poor preparation, ultimately leading to a Conservative government in 1951.

The crisis has not gone unnoticed internationally either, and our struggles have helped our American allies decide on a broad program of foreign aid to rebuild the UK and Europe.

The winter of 1962/63 may have been colder, but the people of 1947 showed real courage to make it through the seemingly endless ice and darkness.

Do you have any photos or stories from your family about this winter? Comment below or speak to us on social media.

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