B is for Backing Britain

My contribution to ABC Wednesday which for Round 10 I am focusing on people from the past.

Backing Britain BadgeAlthough I mean to focus on interesting individuals from the past for this round of ABC Wednesday, this post is about an entire nation who briefly joined the I’m Backing Britain campaign of 1968.

It was a time with echoes of today − the economy was weak, the national debt was high and Britain was a country full of anxiety and despondency.

Against this backdrop, five young typists at Colt Ventilation and Heating Ltd in Surbiton, Surrey, unintentionally set the campaign ball rolling.

The company sent out a staff memo saying that the country’s balance of payments deficit would disappear overnight if the working population would put in a five and a half day week without asking for extra pay, and the five typists duly volunteered.

Within a week, the typists were media celebrities and the I’m Backing Britain campaign was born.

They were roundly congratulated for their patriotic act and Prince Philip sent them a telegram saying, ‘It was the best news I’ve heard’.

Prime Minister Harold Wilson also wrote to say that the campaign ‘was a helpful and robust response to the gloom and near defeatism after devaluation’.

The country was soon awash with badges, mugs, flags and t-shirts and the recently appointed Poet Laureate, Cecil Day-Lewis (father of Daniel), penned the poem, Now and Then, comparing the spirit in the country to that of the Blitz.

Other celebrities soon got in on the act, with DJ Jimmy Savile volunteering to work as as an unpaid porter at Leeds General Infirmary, while Bruce Forsyth issued a Backing Britain single.

Despite the initial patriotic enthusiasm, the campaign wavered as the country’s natural cynicism prevailed. The last nail in the coffin was the wholesaler in London who bought his I’m Backing Britain t-shirts from Portugal because British manufacturers were uncompetitive.

By August, the original five Britain backers of Surbiton were rarely working extra hours and support for the campaign had turned to ridicule.

The film Carry On Up The Khyber was released that summer and ends with the Union Flag being raised with the I’m Backing Britain slogan on it. Peter Butterworth as Brother Belcher turns to camera and says: ‘Of course, they’re all raving mad you know!’

As a reminder that things can indeed get worse, here is Bruce Forsyth singing I’m Backing Britain:

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

8 comments… Add yours
  • Roger Green 25th January 2012

    Well, that song was BANAL.
    I always am ambivalent re what this type of BOOSTERISM is useful, and what is counterproductive.

    ROG, ABC WEDNESDAY team

    Reply
  • Elizabeth 25th January 2012

    Gosh, I’d forgotten all about that campaign, Ian. The memories of slogans on the side of buses and irritating little stickers plastering lamposts has come flooding back. Thank you for that. x

    Reply
  • Reader Wil 25th January 2012

    I’m Backing Britain
    yes I’m Backing Britain
    We’re all Backing Britain
    The Feeling is growing
    So let’s keep it going
    The good times are blowing our way.

    Well if I lived in Britain, I would certainly back Britain. Good luck Ian!
    Thanks from ABC Wednesday team.

    Reply
  • Denise 25th January 2012

    I remember it well – Portugese T-shirts – I despair!
    Denise
    ABC Team

    Reply
  • Helen Mac 25th January 2012

    Well, I came and stayed in Britain for four months that year, doing my part!

    HelenMac
    ABC Team

    Reply
  • Meryl 25th January 2012

    Super post and I’m looking forward to more! I like your Round 10 blogging idea!

    Reply
  • chrisj 27th January 2012

    Well, I would be all for backing Britain, being British myself , until i saw how brash, bad mannered and foul-mouth so many of the youth are. Not that we don’t have the same problems over here but they’re not so ‘in your face’ about it. Not what I was taught in school in England.

    Reply
  • zongrik 29th January 2012

    interesting, never hear of it

    border kids

    Reply

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