Celebrating a special anniversary on this day 23 January 2013. Not something I am likely to forget. It was a life changing journey to a new future.
On 23 January 1963 I started out on a train journey. This in itself was an undertaking as it was in the middle of a harsh winter known in U.K. as “The Big Freeze of 1963“. My destination RAF Cosford, known then as the no.2 School of Technical Training. I was joining the Royal Air Force on the government’s boy entrant scheme. The train journey from the South of England seemed to take forever as the train would often stop and stay at a standstill due to severe frost on the rails. Eventually, I arrived many hours later in a bleak and frosty Cosford to start a new life.
To understand the weather conditions of the day I have quoted some facts below.
Extract from Wikipedia.org:
The winter of 1962–1963 (also known as The Big Freeze of 1963) was one of the coldest winters on record in the United Kingdom. Temperatures plummeted and lakes and rivers began to freeze over. In the Central England Temperature (CET) record, extending back to 1659, only the winter (defined as the months of December, January and February) of 1683–84 has been significantly colder, with 1739–40 being slightly colder than 1962–63. However, the winter did not rank so highly in Scotland for its severity as it did in England and Wales.
January 1963 was the coldest month of the 20th century. Much of England and Wales was snow-covered throughout the month. The country started to freeze solid, with temperatures as low as −19.4 °C at Achany in Sutherland on 11th. Freezing fog was a hazard for most of the country.
In January 1963 the sea froze for 1 mile (1.6 km) out from shore at Herne Bay, Kent; BBC television news expressed a fear that the Strait of Dover would freeze across. The upper reaches of the River Thames also froze over, though it did not freeze in Central London, partly due to the hot effluent from two thermal power stations, Battersea and Bankside: the removal of the old multi-arched London Bridge, which obstructed the river’s free flow, and the river embankments, make the river less likely to freeze in London than in earlier times. The ice was thick enough in some places that people were skating on it. Icicles hung from many roof gutterings; some of these were as long as a metre (3 feet, 3 inches).
Extract from Paraffin Winter (the winter of 1963):
23rd January 1963
On what was generally described as the coldest night of the winter, the British Insurance Association estimated that already the weather had cost more than £5M in claims. Two hundred London buses were put out of action when their fuel froze. Two more people died from the cold. The Mancunian Express took nearly ten hours to get from Euston to Manchester a journey it generally completes in just over three and a half hours.
24th January 1963
There was more chaos on the railways as diesel fuel, coal, points and water troughs froze. Passengers travelling in one train from St.Pancras to Manchester took only ten minutes short of twelve hours to cover the 189 miles. They were lucky. Many trains didn’t run at all. Fifty families were evacuated from a block of flats in Streatham because they were too hot; there was a fault in the central-heating system. On the other side of London bonfires were lit in the streets of Paddington to prevent water freezing in the stand pipes. Cabinet met to discuss emergency measures.