No more than 2.4

I’m sure there are many things that might trigger a rise in the birth rate – but consider these particular influencing factors for post-war Britain:

  • couples were finally able to celebrate the end of six years of war
  • wives and girlfriends could welcome the return of a loved one from the horrors at the front
  • British women had a chance to meet and marry a military man from the US or Canada who had come to Britain to help the Allied Forces.

Perhaps it was not surprising, therefore, to see the UK birth rate jump from around 795,000 in 1945 to over 955,000 in 1946. Quite a rise! But that wasn’t the real height, perhaps because there was a lag in the timing of demobbing, with some military men not arriving home until well into 1946. And so we see a further leap in numbers in 1947 to well over one million.

Doreen Massow, aged 2, and friends try on pairs of shoes that have been sent to them courtesy of Mrs Abernathy, from Seattle, a member of the English Speaking Union. Doreen is now homeless: she was staying at a neighbour’s house whilst her mother was in hospital giving birth to a new baby, when her own house was destroyed in an air raid. 1941

Babies born during the war years had to experience all the difficulties that their parents were experiencing – from rationing of food to losing their home – as the photo above shows.

But even after the war, the increase in the numbers of children would, in turn, lead to a number of problems. The housing crisis was already one of the greatest issues to trouble families and with more children to care for, having an appropriate home to live in was even more of a priority. Then, five years on, the education sector would start to be stretched to the limit, with class sizes needing to increase. As I mentioned in my previous post, schools were already experiencing problems because of the lack of suitable buildings and a shortage of teachers. Now there were even more children to factor into the mix.

However, although lots of babies were being born, the average family size remained around 2.4, despite the limitations and inaccessibility of family planning support or modern day contraception. It wouldn’t be until the 1960s that the contraceptive pill made family planning more of a reality, of which more in later posts.

Published by Isabella Muir

Isabella is passionate about exploring family life from the 1930s through to the 1960s and beyond. She has published six Sussex Crime mystery novels set during the 1960s and 1970s, a standalone novel dealing with the child migrant policy of the 1950s and 60s, several novellas set during the Second World War, and two short story collections. All available in paperback from your local bookshops, or online as ebooks. Her novels are also available as audiobooks, and have been translated into Italian.

One thought on “No more than 2.4

  1. Reblogged this on Isabella Muir and commented:

    There were plenty of reasons for a baby boom straight after the Second World War – happy times – but difficult times too – as families dealt with the challenges of day-to-day life in the late 1940s…


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