• Tastes Of History

On This Day: Yes, we have bananas

Updated: Jan 5


December 30th, 1945, a cold Sunday morning, saw the cargo ship Tilapa docked in Bristol. It was carrying the first bananas to be seen in Britain for five years [1]. Ten million Jamaican bananas were welcomed by the Lord Mayor as crowds lined the dockside. They were not the only foodstuffs that war and rationing had removed from Britain’s homes but their absence had come to represent the austerity of life on the Home Front. The bananas’ return was an important political gesture by Prime Minister Clement Atlee’s post-war Labour government.


Blighted by disease, freak weather and economic collapse brought about by Britain’s import ban in 1940, the Jamaican crop could not fulfil the desire for these exotic yellow fruits. As soon as the first supply arrived a Banana Order was imposed restricting bananas to one a week for children and expectant mothers. In fact people would be lucky to find any as millions went astray from dockyards and warehouses fuelling the black market. The Banana Order was not rescinded for until 1952 and the mania of the 1940s became a distant memory.


Endnotes:


1. Williams, S., (2005), ‘Britain goes bananas’, BBC History Magazine Vol 6, No 12, p. 12.

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