Yesteryear: Milkmen’s key role in nation’s morale during wartime

G. Cartwright & Son new electric milk floats

G. Cartwright & Son new electric milk floats

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When the bombs rained down and houses were reduced to piles of rubble, the familiar figure of the milkman picking his way along the street, jaunty cap on his head, was a reassuring sight.

Sometimes he would place a pint on the front step of a house where the only part of the building that had survived was the doorstep itself – knowing that neighbours would find where the occupants were sheltering and make sure they got their milk.

Often the ‘milkman’ would actually be a woman, or a young boy, or a man too old for active service, because the regular roundsman had been called up. Many of those roundsmen never came home.

Britain’s Wartime Milkmen is a fascinating new book, packed with photographs and anecdotes, charting how our milkmen played a key role in the nation’s morale through the Great War and into the Second World War.

One of the photos shows a fleet of new electric milk floats belonging to G. Cartwright & Son, of Dunstable Road, Luton, outside their premises, where there is a notice pleading for customers to return empty bottles.

The book shows how the industry went through many changes, from three deliveries a day made by ‘milk pram’, a heavy handcart containing large churns from which the milkman measured out the milk for customers, to the introduction of bottled milk delivered by horse-drawn carts, and finally to the electric milk-float.

Britain’s Wartime Milkman, a large-format paperback with more than 100 colour and black-and-white photos, is published by Chaplin Books and is priced £9.99. Visit www.chaplinbooks.com