Keep calm and carry on… in the snow

The Beast from the East is just the latest spell of winter weather to visit our islands. But fear not! Brave Brits have a long history of coping with cold snaps


Showing the white stuff

This plucky milkman defies the weather to furnish the people of Chorlton with their daily pinta, in December 1946.


The winter of 1946-7 was one of the harshest on record – the following month saw heavy snowfalls, blocking roads and railways; power stations shut down for lack of fuel supplies, causing powercuts; there was no TV, and magazines stopped publishing. The cold spell lasted until mid-March – in the thaw, more than 100,000 homes were affected by flooding. (Picture: Getty)

Northampton, December 1908. Picture: Getty

Where there’s a will

If you are tempted to shirk work because the buses are cancelled, let this lady prick your conscience, and pull on a pair of skis for the commute.

Coincidentally, 1908 was the year that ski lifts were invented, which made the sport far more popular, at least in countries with regular winter snowfalls. History does not record whether this Northampton lady ever became a whizz on the Alpine pistes.

Sheffield, 1935. Picture: Getty

Grin and bear it

If your classroom or office is a little drafty, remember that a bit of cold never harmed anyone. Here a class learns about the structure of snowflakes, by actually freezing themselves solid. 

In the 1930s, some educationalist were great believers in the benefits of fresh air – by the end of the decade, there were 155 ‘open-air’ schools across the UK, in which children were educated in classrooms that had roofs – but no walls. Even in winter, when sometimes the pupils’ first task in the morning was to sweep snow from their desks.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Michael Ward / Rex Features ( 805327hm )
Sentry box, Buckingham Palace, London, England, Britain
Buckingham Palace, 1982. Picture: Getty

Keep your head cosy

Let’s assume this chap’s head is much warmer than his toes, thanks to his hat, made from the entire skin of a Canadian black bear. A wise move, if you still believe that humans lose 50 per cent of their body heat through their heads. Actually, this turns out to be a myth long since debunked by scientists. Even so, a cosy hat is good for morale, unless, in this case, you happen to be a Canadian black bear.

Hartlepool, around 1962. Picture: Getty

Count your blessings

Fed up with your job? Consider that these fellows earned a crust by gathering coal washed up on the tide, even during the icy blast of the notorious winter of 1962-3. Surprisingly, this back-breaking practice continues until this day, although, mercifully, four wheel drive vehicles have replaced the bicycles.

Regents Park, London, 1929. Picture: Getty

Keep your cool

A gentleman should maintain his dignity whatever the weather. This admirable fellow, businessman Sir Samuel Instone, sports a fine pair of plus-fours and shiny brogues, a stylish response to the inclement weather. He also discreetly enjoys a warming fag. Who says men can’t multi-task?

<> on February 28, 2018 in UNSPECIFIED, United Kingdom. Freezing weather conditions dubbed the "Beast from the East" brings snow and sub-zero temperatures to the UK.
Redcar, 2018. Picture: Getty

Show some stiff upper lip

If the cold weather has you whingeing at the prospect of popping down the corner shop for a loaf of bread, remember that others out there are plunging into freezing seas, all in the name of fun. And live with it.

Richmond Park, 2018. Picture: Getty

Carry on regardless

OK, so there’s snow on the ground. But don’t let that alter your plans. That really wouldn’t be British. Take a bracing carriage ride. That’s what coats are for.