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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

16.1920 - a new decade.

The 1920s began with great hope for returned soldiers like Bert. There were however, worrying signs. Bert wrote to his old Captain, Clement Bailhache, in early 1920 and received a long reply.

The "bit of bad luck" Bailhache refers to was most likely another miscarriage. Nell had four miscarriages, mostly quite late in her pregnancies.

Bailhache, even in 1920, is fearful of an economic crisis.

He views the main barrier to recovery as the demands of the working man for higher wages and better conditions and elaborates at length and with some eloquence. He offers, in summary, the view that: There's only one way and it applies to all of us - hard work and absolute, rigid, cheeseparing economy.
It wasn't only the working class that were deaf to these entreaties in what became the Roaring Twenties .

He concludes with an appeal to Bert.

The letter is interesting, not just as an example of the British class system at work, but for its thread of fear and despair, of the friendship of two soldiers, divided by class, but sharing the discomfort of a world changed forever.
When his grandchildren knew him, in the 1940s and 1950s, Bert was a conservative thinker and voter.It seems likely that he would have agreed with his old Captain, rather than disagreed, although he is unlikely to have been vocal about his views outside of his family.

The cherished engineering job evaporated in March 1921.

With all his skills and War service, Bert, like many others, was unemployed, with a wife, an seven-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter. His mother and brothers were also struggling. His two youngest, and most enterprising brothers, looked for a way out.

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