The second half of the 1940s was characterized by immense everyday hardships as the nation struggled to recover from six years of total war. But all was not gloom and doom in austerity Britain. As historian Paul Addison notes, the stock images of the immediate post-war period — in which the nation was always in the grip of hard winter snow, men were digging coal and women queuing for offal — should not overshadow the fact that ‘there was plenty of fun to be had in the Attlee years’.1 In reality, summers were generally long and hot, and the playing and watching of sport, regarded by foreign observers as a British obsession, resumed with a vengeance after the restrictions of the war years. The continuation of rationing made daily living conditions stressful, but high levels of employment gave the majority of families more disposable income than ever before, and while commodities for the home remained in short supply, leisure pursuits provided a valuable outlet. With television still in its infancy, long-established spectator sports quickly revived and reached new levels of popularity. Almost 100,000 people attended the first post-war Cup final at Wembley in April 1946, and the spring and summer witnessed the return of other traditional dates in the annual sporting calendar such as the Boat Race, the Grand National and Wimbledon.
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