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Traders in the black market

Discussion in 'History of Britain during World War II' started by Cabel1960, Jan 15, 2012.

  1. Cabel1960

    Cabel1960 recruit

    Nov 4, 2006
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    Even after so many years have passed it is still relatively rare to find anyone willing to discuss the Black Market in anything other than the sketchiest terms. This contribution found on the net by Jim Wilcox is therefore most welcome:

    ‘Well, I don’t know if I should say this or not… but over 60 years on I guess it doesn’t matter much any more. My parents were in business in London and naturally had many business contacts. One of these people owned a farm in Barnet, which at that time was just outside London but is probably well within London’s boundaries today. We were one of the few people with a car, a 1936 Morris Oxford, which incidentally no-one except my Navy uncle could drive at that time, and since he was at sea for a good part of the war and petrol was rationed it probably qualified as one of the lowest-mileage cars ever. However, when he was home we used to drive to this farm, other times we simply took the bus and tube.

    The farmer would phone us whenever he had a government allocation to slaughter some pigs and we would go there and buy a fair amount of pork and bacon, but couldn’t take all he wanted to sell since there was no such thing as refrigerators in the houses. We had eight people to feed, (grandmother, my mum and dad, my brother, me, one uncle and two aunts all living in the same house) so I imagine we still purchased a fair amount. He also had eggs and beef for sale which we bought, but of course the prices for all this Black Market stuff were exorbitant as he certainly didn’t lack customers. Rationing was so harsh that anyone who had connections and could afford to buy food on the Black Market did so, especially if they had children. Practically everything was available on the Black Market in the 1940’s, in fact rather well-dressed men who were known as ‘Spivs’ or ‘Wide Boys’ would stop you on the street and offer cigarettes, tobacco, beer, watches, canned food staples, nylon stockings, chocolate and just about anything providing you had the money to pay for it. The sporty clothes and expensive suits and spats were a sort of ‘trademark’ which identified these people to everyone.

    I am in no doubt a lot of money was made, but I had no idea of their sources of these goods. Some of it was no doubt salvaged from bombed warehouses and ships docked in the harbours. In fact I can remember getting ‘distressed’ tins of jam, again, at a price. Much of it I’m sure was simply stolen goods. Probably much of it came from American army bases, as the Americans seemed to have everything in abundance and I distinctly remember buying American cigarettes for my dad, who wouldn’t smoke them. His brand was Craven ‘A’ and he would smoke nothing else.

    As far as who operated the Black Market is concerned I’m afraid I have no idea. There was probably some organisation to it on a country-wide scale, but as far as I knew it was ordinary people like the farmer who had access to surplus goods and sold them for whatever price they could get. People really were hungry a lot of the time and I hope never to see those days again.’

    Discouraging the American black market

    black market.jpg
  2. worldwar

    worldwar New Member

    Oct 15, 2012
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    via War44
    Black Market

    A lot of nations, rationed many items during the war. If you wanted more gasoline or meat then you were able to get with your ration book, you had to get it through a black market source.


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