Spitfire diagram with cutaway detail from the 1940s

The 1940s were a time of great change and turmoil. But amid all the chaos, there were also some unforgettable memories. Whether it was spending time with family and friends during World War II or listening to your favourite radio show on the wireless, those who lived through the 1940s will always have a special bond. 

Michael Wolff, British graphic designer and brand guru, born in the mid-'30s, looks back on his top 10 memories from growing up in the 1940s. 

1940 Spitfire. 

For me, aged 7, the musical whine of the Supermarine Merlin engine was the sound of merciless triumph. It typified everything heroic about Great Britain and the war effort particularly those courageous boys that went up in them. 

1941 Chocolate coated Ryvita

I'm the only person in the world who remembers this wondrous and delicious product. I couldn't find any trace of it on the web. Dark chocolate on tasteless crispbread a subtle way to make minimal wartime chocolate both taste delicious and last longer. It was confectionary that promised so much and delivered so little, but I loved it. 

1942 Disney's Bambi 

I saw this tragic film during a parental weekend visit to one of the dreadful (full of dread) boarding schools in which I was incarcerated. The fire made me fear for my mother’s life in London where she lived during the air raids and the blitz. 

1943 Bassett-Lowke clockwork classic M7s  

A treasured and cherished possession, I took it to school, looked at it daily, and marvelled at its supreme quality. Even to this day, some 8 decades later that little engine that could still fills my memory with such joy.   

1944 Willys jeep 

My dad was spending time in the United States. On one occasion he visited me at school with two United States army officers and we drove off in the jeep in front of envious boys. It marked the end of the disdain I'd suffered for being foreign. 

1945 First biro made in the UK 1945 

Another rare gift - a status symbol from my dad. It leaked, caused smudges and stained fingers and made me and my clothes smell disgusting. I was forbidden to use it. None of that seemed to matter. It was the first of something, pushing new design and innovation. It looks like I had the design bug from an early age and knew with a little bit of tweeking the biro would be a smash hit. 

1946 the banana came back 

Their arrival was marked a magic post-war moment. The 20th century had arrived! 

1947 R1155 military radio 

This was of my most treasured possessions. At fifteen I still imagined that I'd played a part in winning the war. Every moment was dominated by World War II with only the occasional radio relief. 

1948 Raleigh racing bike

 A conspicuous, mighty and breath-taking gift from my parents it embarrassed me and caused both scorn and envy among my peers. The Raleigh was the king of bikes and every schoolboy’s dream. Bestride the elegant machine out of British cycling manufacturer in Nottingham there was nothing I couldn’t do and nowhere I couldn’t go. I felt like a God! 

1949 Health and Efficiency 

It came in a plain envelope. Printed on glossy paper with a smell I can still remember. It turned my front door into sexual fantasy and the marvellous wonder and promise of 1940s fashion girls. 

What was your childhood like? 

Make a list of the 10 things that have stood the test of time. It was a time filled with innocence and freedom. I loved riding my bike around the neighbourhood and going to school. Of course, we didn’t have all the gadgets and technology that kids today enjoy, but we made our own fun.  

What are your 1940s memories about growing up?  

Let us know in the comments section below, we'd love to hear from you!

Image Credits 

Header Image By Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. Bureau of Special Services. Public Domian 










1940sCategory_entertainment>memory laneChildhood memoriesNostalgiaVintage

1 comment

Anne Pearce

Remember spitfires, ..looping the loop…remember being machine gunned..certainly don’t remember chocolate ryvita…remember being given a banana by a visiting sailor, remember my Raleigh racing bike.. my father coming home after the war from Canada, and not knowing who he was.. lemonade and Oatmeal biscuits….and shrapnel…and five stones ..and the only time I was frightened, when the first doodle-bug came overhead.

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