The Outrageously Lethal Life Of A Victorian Matchmaker | History of Britain | Absolute History (2023)


Tony Robinson takes us back in time to meet a 13-year-old girl who risked her lfe every day working 14-hour shifts in a match factory. This is the real, ugly story of the Victorian era.

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We've all seen the pictures and read the stories in the history books about the kings and queens with their power and privilege, and silks and Furs, but in this series, I want to discover the other side of History I'm, already quite nervous.

Besides, we don't often hear about how ordinary British people lived their lives from the Tudors to see why it did attract my attention to the victorians brother Stone in Victoria, and London you will hit a drunken cat man is, is that many of them saw? Oh, my God, it's horrible.

Just seeing you do that to the people who really fought the second world war, James could hear the Ping of bullets and they platter of shrapnel one thing's for sure these people knew the meaning of the word.

Tough I'll be finding the truth about their daily lives, what they ate.

How long would that have lasted up to three years, how they made a living, there's even value in a rat when it's dead and those vital necessities of life? What did you do if you wanted to pee guy in the bucket the bucket? This is British history from the bottom up, you've got to admit: I am terrifying.

This time, I'm heading back to the Victorian age, when Britain ruled the world and mutton chops weren't, just something you ate.

They were also lovely whiskers.

Now, while you might be thinking the Victorian Britain was made by a bunch of mustachioed men like him, the truth was very different, because the unsung heroes who really put the great into Great Britain, were just the ordinary folk who had to cope with the most dramatic changes the world has ever seen.

Wild Queen Victoria was busy gazing down from her throne.

Her loyal subjects were hard at work in factories up and down the land churning out everything from Steam Engines to Natty clothes and Cutlery.

But life on the factory floor was cheap.

A combination of lethal machinery and long hours meant that gruesome accidents, even death, were never very far away and right up there in the list of most lethal jobs in Victorian Britain was the match.

Girl, like Sarah Chapman, here, still called a girl when this picture was taken when she was almost 30.

in the late 1800s.

If you went down the Marlin Road turn left at a pub called The Swan and down a little Alleyway you'd come to Sarah Chapman's house.

She lived in a court just like this one in a house with her father, Samuel, her mother, Sarah Anne and her six brothers and sisters, one of seven kids Sarah, was a feisty youngin with a sharp brain.

We know that at school she learned how to read and write, but this remember was Victorian Britain, where at the age of 13 working class, kids like Sarah, had to put aside such fripperies as education and get themselves a job Sarah that meant starting work in the same Factory as her mum and sister.

This is where Sarah worked the Bryant and may match Factory back in those days.

It would have been frenetic around here with over a thousand women and girls working here six days a week.

Every week you see there was nothing the victorians loved more than setting fire to things, lamps, logs, more lamps and, of course, tobacco, which meant that the humble match was an invaluable item.

This is an old Bryant and may match box, and the thing about this match was that it would strike anywhere, as you can see, yeah very effective, so effective that by 1860 Bryant and may were churning out 75 000 boxes of the things every day, but with demand match.

Girls like Sarah were expected to work.

14 hour shifts virtually all of it on their feet.

Can you imagine? Luckily, she was promoted and by 19 Sarah was working as a machinist.

The person who cut the matchsticks down to size if Sarah ever got sick.

That was just tough luck.

The factory was perfectly entitled to discard her Flacco.

Well, look like a spent match for all that she earned a meager wage of five Shillings a week, which is about 16 pounds a week in today's money, but even that could be severely reduced by harsh fines on things like sitting down being untidy, dropping a match, or even just going to the toilet without permission.

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Sam Johnson is Sarah's, great-great-granddaughter and she's.


To tell me a bit more about her home life.

There were seven children in the family, which is why there's so many beds here exactly yes, yes, and they would have all been cramped into into a tiny room like this.

So maybe that's what created her feisty personality? I bet she was the boss in the bedroom when she was a kid absolutely yeah, Chuck the boys on the floor and uh as for her one day off well after a quick breakfast of bread and dripping, it would be out with the broom and on with the housework.

The girls as soon as they were old enough would have pulled their weight with the housework.

So they would do all the washing of the clothes and they're cleaning the house and getting the baking done ready for the week.

Only then would Sarah finally have been able to put her feet up with a nice cup of tea and perhaps a puff on a pipe the next morning, and it would be up with the lahak for the start of another shift at the factory, but Sarah's life wasn't just exhausting.

It was also blooming dangerous.

You see, unlike today's safety matches, matchsticks back then were dipped in a chemical called white phosphorus.

It was this that made the matches catch fire, but phosphorus comes with some horrible side effects and there was one that Sarah dreaded above all others.

Girls, who'd worked here for some time could get a condition which they called fuzzy jaw.

It was a terrible disease that caused the bones around the mouth, to slowly rot away and emit a foul smelling pus.

As the infection spread, it would lead to horrendous disfigurement, organ failure and eventually death.

Luckily, Sarah escaped this grizzly fate, but many of her co-workers around 1 in 10 of them didn't not that the factory owners seem to care even Sarah's lunch hour was full of danger.

The women and girls were forced to eat their lunch.

On the factory floor, where phosphorus particles could easily get into their food, there was no other space available and they weren't allowed to eat outside health and safety, foreign, so bad were conditions in the Bryant and may Factory that on the 6th of July, 1888 Sarah and her fellow workers, downed matchsticks and went on strike by the end of July, Bryant and may had caved in the whole thing had been a complete PR disaster for them and they agreed all the women's demands.

You can imagine Sarah and her friends racing out of here absolutely over the moon.

On the back of the hard graft of ordinary victorians, the UK became the richest and most powerful Nation on Earth, with all that money rolling in the victorians did what great empires have always done.

They built things, engineering projects like Railways, Bridges and tunnels, many of them still in use today.

Building these monster projects was the job of the Navy's big strapping blokes, like Angus Innis from Glasgow.

Now we don't exactly know what Angus looked like, but we can take a guess, because Scottish nav is like nothing more than dressing up in their spare time, just like Teddy, Boys, mods and peaky blinders to let people know who they were.

They sported moleskin jackets, scarlet, waistcoats and bright blue caps.

This is the kind of place where Angus would have lived.

He would have rented a room or part of a room or even part of a bed in a boarding house.

It would all have been pretty grim most of angus's.

Time, though, was spent building things like glasgow's new sewage system.

You see, Victorian Glasgow was dirtier than a Badger's bottom.

Its slums were so bad.

They were almost as disgusting as London's from the pub Angus would watch his step for fear of treading in something unmentionable.

In this kind of environment, does disease was Rife, a system of tunnels was needed to get all the sewage out of the city, and it was Navy's like Angus that were called on to do the work.

After a typical Navy's breakfast of six slices of bacon, a loaf of bread, one can of condensed milk and two pints of beer, angus's 12-hour shift would begin the moment.

His foreman gave the order.

The new sewage pipes, using muscle power alone Angus, was expected to shift a hernia-inducing 20 tons of Earth a day.

The more Mucky moved, the more he was paid on average, that was about 25 Pence a day, the equivalent of about eight quid, but most of that he would have spent on beer a mind-boggling gallon a day of the stuff.

Oh cheers this massive sewage pipe is an impressive example of the kind of work that navis were doing here in Glasgow in the 19th century, but to get a more Vivid picture of angus's life.

I'm going to travel 30 miles north of here into the Highlands from Census records, had up, sticks and moved here to the Bonnie Banks of La Catrine, where he was helping to build a tunnel to carry clean drinking water into Glasgow.

This is the water tunnel which ran for 30 miles straight into the center of Glasgow.

The census also tells us that Angus was now married and that his wife, Helen and their young family were living here too, no doubt enjoying the peaceful Countryside, along with hundreds of other navies and a bunch of angry locals midges by now, Angus was moving up in the world and had swapped his shovel for a much more important job, using explosives to blast a tunnel through the mountains, which was, of course very, very dangerous.

In fact, the accident and death rate for navis was higher than for any other group of workers in the country and that included coal miners and soldiers.

No wonder Angus like to Tipple at the end of the day exhausted from blowing up the Scottish, Countryside Angus would have rejoined Helen and the kids at the temporary Camp beside the lock here.

To tell me more about life inside the camp.

Is local historian, Sean Barrington? It was a well-organized, community there'd, be the cooking Squad, so it'd be no problem getting beef and lamb and pigs and oatmeal porridge, maybe porridge morning noon and night.

That's astonishing! I I would have assumed that a navi working here would have been three quarters, starved and having the most miserable time possible, but actually, what we're describing is something yeah, it's rigorous, yes, but uh.

At least your bell is full well the women able to work.

Oh the women would be fully fully employed.

There would be laundry, it would need to be done so lots of meat by day booze by night and clean pants and absolutely after four years of muck, sweat and beer angus's time at Loch, Katrine finally came to an end and in 1859 the new water Channel he'd helped to build was opened by none other than Queen Victoria navis, like Angus, were a special breed.

They were itinerant, rootless, often very isolated.

It was like you had the working class there and somewhere down here, were the navis at the very bottom of the pecking order, and yet it was people like Angus and his like, who built modern Britain with their bare hands, and their legacy is still with us.

Today, foreign really took off under the victorians, but none of their fancy, steam engines, cotton, Mills or water pumps would have been any use without coal.

Coal powered the Victorian age and the mining industry was huge in 1841 nearly 220 000 people worked in the mines.

Most of them were men, but around about 5.

000 of them were either women or children as young as five among these women was one Betty Harris have any actual photos of her, but she might have looked a bit like this young lass holding what seems to be a giant tambourine Betty and her husband lived in a small, rented Cottage, not far from Noel's pit in Bolton a place.

Much like this was all very cozy.

Fire was going all the time of course.

Well, fuel was everywhere, wasn't it and here's a clue, tiny little seat, tiny little potting? They had two children and when they were at work, but his cousin looked after them.

In order to keep Betty's household going, her cousin did all the housework, she cleaned the house.

She went shopping every day because fridges hadn't been invented, yet she cleaned the courtyard.

She did all the washing imagine how difficult it would have been.

Keeping things clean with all that smoke and dust about I've had Envy huh, but if running a Victorian household wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs working down, the mine was just horrendous six days a week dressed in trousers and jackets.

Our Betty would leave the house at dawn and head down pit where she could spend the next 14 hours on her hands and knees like a beast of burden, hauling coal hard to imagine anything more grim to learn more about Betty's life, underground I've come to cap House colliery near Wakefield.

If you'd like to follow me, please, through all these doors, yep I've been joined by Denise Bates, whose great great great grandmother was a Victorian mining.

Last like Betty I.

Could you imagine just schlepping up down here every single day, I think we sometimes don't realize we're born just like Betty we're going to have to crawl on our hands and knees to get the coal face? Oh, it's really hurts your hands like most of the women and children who worked in the mines bet.

His job was to drag the big heavy carts used to carry the coal, so this is the conditions that Betty would have been working in right.

Oh definitely, she reported that she was working in a very nasty pit.

Oh I can't imagine what it must have been like if these were your working conditions for how many hours a day, do you reckon 14 hours depending on demand, and would you get up to the surface at lunchtime not a chance more likely to have been a hunk of bread and cheese on the go? Is this the cold face here? Yeah, it looks like it doesn't.

It yeah I should have touched that so tell me about Betty.

She was working for her husband, which was the practice of females who mined in Lancashire.

What do you think their relationship would have been like Betty mentions that there's an awful lot of domestic violence going on that there were very many women who were being beaten by the man that they worked for for no other reason than the inability to move those trucks as fast as the men wanted.

What would the heat, the dust and the regular beatings life for Betty was about as tough as it gets when Betty got home from work, usually around 6, 30 or 7 in the evening, she would have been absolutely exhausted.

She'd have been filthy sweating, but she would have been far too tired to have a wash before she went to bed.

One thing she'd definitely have done, though, is have a decent meal.

She'd have needed the calories apart from rent, virtually all her money went on food Victorian Delicacies such as tripe, Trotters or budget lamb cuts from sheep that had dropped down dead from disease come Sunday her one and only day off.

Betty was then expected to catch up on chores like darning socks and knitting stockings, while hubby put his feet up and contemplated the serious issues of the world, but Betty's life was about to change in 1838 a flood at a Yorkshire colliery drowned 26 children prompting a report after a lengthy public inquiry.

So the report was published, as you can imagine, the Press were all over it.

Here's some of the daily newspapers that came out in May 1842, some great pictures here look you've got propelling the loaded wagons digging out the coal.

Imagine seeing these for the first time.

If you didn't know that that kind of thing went on in your country, but the revelations didn't end there.

In fact, it wasn't the long hours, the dust, the awful conditions, the industrial accidents that shocks people.

It was believe it or not the nudity, the girls they are naked down to the waist young females dressed like boys in trousers crawling on all fours any sight, more disgustingly, indecent or revolting can scarcely Be Imagined than these girls at work.

No brothel can beat it in actual fact, if it hadn't at all, such topless working was extremely rare, but still the report had a dramatic effect and in 1842 the mines and collieries act.

Put a stop to women, including our Betty working Underground in Victorian Britain, the place to be was in the city.

London might have been filthy and plagued by crime, but by the 1850s it was the world's largest city and in just 40 years its population doubled in size just like Queen Victoria's waistline.

We are not amused and all those new people meant lots of work for London's cabbies cab.

Men like John Cochran John, was born in 1833 and lived in Hoban, an old-fashioned part of London full of narrow, Alleyways and densely packed housing.

But he was looking to move up in the world.

The year is 1851 and 18 year old, John Cochran wants to set up in business.

He wants to do exactly what his dad did before him and be The Driver of a horse and cab.

Hello Daniel.

You are looking so beautiful, but sadly his dad isn't around anymore to show him the ropes, because when John was 11, his old man had passed away, leaving behind a wife, four kids and a huge pile of debt to make ends meet.

The young John had been forced to become the main Breadwinner and by 18 he scrimped and saved enough money to buy himself a horse, hire a cab and follow in his dearly departed, dad's footsteps, but the problem for John was that he looked really young and on one of his first Journeys he was accused of being a buck, which was the slang word for an unlicensed driver, but he wasn't.

He was perfectly legal, he was over 16 and he knew the highways and byways of London, which were the two stipulations right.

Let's go come on back in the 1850s London streets would have been filled with horse-drawn cabs, just like this leaving great piles of steaming dung in their wake.

But while the middle class passengers were able to put their feet up and enjoy the views, the working-class lands like young John, the job was relentless six days a week on an average day, he'd start touting for work about 9am and finish at midnight.

He didn't have a little yellow for higher sire on the top of the cab.

If he wanted to show people that he was available, he held up his whip like this, where to love sitting on top of his cab with only a hand.

A couple of old coats for protection John was exposed to the very worst of London's weather Chuck in all that Victorian, soot and Smog, and the lifestyle of cabbies like John, is about as healthy as smoking.

40 a day.

The money was much better either to make a profit.

He had to work really hard.

He only got six months a mile for a cab like this, and out of that, you had to pay yard money for the stabling and feeding of the horse.

It's a tough old job and it was about to get a whole lot tougher.

You see, horses can be very temperamental, as poor old John discovered one afternoon shortly after buying his very own cab, when his horse suddenly bolted, causing his new set of wheels to flip over leaving John with a hefty repair bill.

In fact, accidents like this were pretty common and, more often than not, they were caused by the same thing.

Cab drivers were notorious for spending hour after hour in the pub, but did they really I'll? Ask a cabbie, Taxi Driver Sean Farrell writes a Blog on the history of London's cabbies.

So by law they should have been sitting on the box of the cave, no matter what the weather yeah.

In truth, they hid inside a pub mably.

There must have been examples of cab drivers coming out of the pub Hammers and having accidents.

Oh they're, numerous throw a stone in Victoria and London.

You will hit the drunken cab.

Man is that many of them, but not John Cochran, because John one of the few cabbies who refused to work on a Sunday didn't approve of the demon drink.

So, while his fellow cabbies were off getting plastered, John could be found sitting on the taxi rank.

Reading a book and munching on a popular Victorian dish, sorted herring and before long he'd signed up to an extraordinary new idea, a scheme to stop cabbies from drinking and driving.

I know mad I'm not really allowed in here am I I'm, not a cabbie you're, not, but I might give you my badge in 1875 John attended the opening of London's very first cab, shelter a place where cabbies could wait for customers without drinking their body weight in beer.

It's great in here.

Isn't it lovely it's nice? It's a funny shape, though.

Isn't it it's really long and thin they're designed to be the same width and lymph as the original horse and car coach, so they didn't take up no more extra space in the road.

Also just go cab cab, cab, little Hut cab.

Exactly do you think it would have been very similar in Victorian times absolutely you've got electric lighting.

There would have been gaslighting in them those, but they got a gas stove.

They would provide hot meals for your hot tea coffee.

You could even bring a steak and they would cook it for you and charge you a coffee and while he was getting his protein hit, John could also browse through a selection of complimentary books and newspapers, keeping his brain fit and alert to deal with London's roads and grow his business.

By the time the cab shelters were built in the 1870s John's business was thriving.

He ended up cheers with nearly 30 people working for him and 126 horses.

In fact, when he was 68, he sold up and retired on the profits, not bad for a cabier.

Excuse me cheers Victorian Britain was brimming with inventions and people experimenting with new ideas, but forget yourism, barred, Kingdom brunelles of this world and all those boats and bridges of his and consider instead another great Victorian Advance.

It's the invention of modern shopping.

You see with all that new industry wages were on the up and for the first time, working people had a bit of money to spend.

Goo canny.

Victorian shopkeeper was only too pleased to help by the late 19th century.

The competition for customers was really hotting up a hundred years.

Previously, a window display like this one would have been completely unimaginable.

The shops had been small, specialist and staffed by very fierce shopkeepers, but change was on its way and it was pioneered by women like Esther Brown.

Here she is Esther was born in 1878 in Manchester, where she grew up in a small terraced house.

Her dad Joseph worked on the trams, while her mum Margaret stayed at home looking after Esther and her brother and sister, the victorians, though, didn't really do childhood and by the age of 14, Esther, had left school and was working on a market store, selling household bits and bobs, but down the market.

Things were a bit well down market and when Esther was offered a job in a fancy new shop, she jumped at the chance.

Esther came up this very road.

On the first day of her first proper job, the year was 1894 and she was 16.

This is Cheatham Hill, it's not the most salubrious part of Manchester.

Is it there would have been trams, clanging backwards and forwards lots of new immigrant communities.

It would have been noisy, vibrant, energetic and it was Esther's big day girl at Michael Marx's Penny Bazaar, which was the very first Marx and Spencer's store.

This is the Cheatham Hill m s now.

Well, it was absolutely nothing like that this was virtually a Victorian pound shop.

He kept the stock under tarpaulin in the backyard and over the front door.

There was a big Scarlet sign.

That said, don't ask the price.

It's a penny.

Marx's Penny Bazaar wasn't just a bargain.

Hunter's Paradise, though oh that is so lovely you see for years.

If a customer so much has stepped into a shop, they were expected to buy something, but all that was about to change.


A Little Help from Esther Esther's job was to try to persuade her customers to do something entirely new.

In fact, it was so new.

They had to invent a word for it and that word was browsing looking at the goods without feeling that you had a compunction to buy them nowadays, we're all brilliant at browsing.

Aren't we but back then it was a novelty.

Oh look! A rolling pin I can handle it a basket.

I couldn't touch it.

Of course the downside was that from now on, shoplifting became a big problem.

I'm sorry it must.

He must once the customer had chosen what they wanted wooden spoon.

Maybe a chopping board full candles, that's actually what these are, then Esther would wrap them all up, but she wasn't allowed to tot up the money that had to be done by a man Leanne.

Can you demonstrate how this procedure Works? Certainly five pennies? Thank you very much.

So I'll then put this in here, there's half a ball.

This will be closed.

Tight now, I would put this in there a slot send it up through the system to the cash offers that we've got the cash offers.

The gentleman would record in The Ledger what you'd spent and he would send a change back.

The exact same way a nice, sensible man who would know how to add up, of course, not likely, of course, Gizzy girls who wouldn't be trusted with that, while adding up wasn't high on her list of Duties Esther was expected to be smart polite and have the constitution of a exactly anyone.

Who's ever worked in retail knows what it's like standing on your feet all day, but Esther's day started at six in the morning: finished 10 or 11 at night.

So a 90 hour week in big clumpy shoes, heavy skirt, stiff back, smiling nicely.

All the time must have been a bit and, of course, her customers paid her wages, so they were always always right.

At lunchtime, Esther didn't get much of a break, but Michael marks was better than most employers.

At least he installed gas Rings like these in the back office, so the girls could get some hot food, such as that shotgirl's favorite, a nice bowl of green pea, soup, lovely everybody, Esther was paid a modest 25 pounds a year around half of what a mail shop assistant earned, but just enough for the odd Trip To The Music Hall on her one day off working in the shop is so commonplace nowadays that it's easy to underestimate.

Quite how different it would have been for someone like Esther in those days, a lot of people thought that shot girls were a bit tainted like prostitutes.

You know just standing out there in public selling stuff to customers.

Happily, though, for Esther things were Beginning to Look up because as shopping got, more and more popular shops began to move into fancy.

Arcades like this, and as for the women who were working in them, they started to have a career path.

They could end up as shop managers and who was one of the first women to do just that.

Esther Brown, before the Victorian age travel, was a bit of a bore.

The fastest thing around had four legs and eight straw.

So no wonder the invention of the steam train got everyone, including Queen Victoria, rather excited hell, but I want one but trains weren't just for the Rich and Famous.

They were used by almost everyone like this ordinary shoemaker's son from Manchester, who describes one memorable train journey in his diary.

It is very strange reading the Diary of someone who was born over 200 years ago and is so candid about their life.

His name was Edwin War.

He was a secretary writing letters in his office in Manchester in the late 1840s he just turned 30.

He lived in Hume with his wife who looked after the house when he was away working, which is what her Victorian wife would have done in those days.

Everything seems hunky-dory, but the diary tells a very different story because Edwin was utterly miserable.

He and his wife Marianne weren't, exactly loves young dream, went to Rochdale in the evening in company with my wife, oh full, of unhappy Reflections, oh and then there was work, Edwin loathed his job and he hated being two-faced.

Trying to squeeze money out of people who were in debt to his company, he wrote in his diary: I don't have the Begley eloquence, which can humbug them into a false generosity for his efforts.

Edwin earned about a pound a week around 130 quid in today's money, but often he wasn't paid at all, prompting him to complain.

My wife and me had just one hate me between us and we knew not where the next meal was to come from the long-suffering Mrs War.

It all got too much after a particularly heated row with his wife, Marianne Edwin describes her packing her bags and heading off for her Aunt Sally's in Rochdale.

She even takes the rocking chair with her so she's, clearly not intending to come home.

Edwin's response is to turn to drink, but Marianne must have had second thoughts because she eventually returned home.

Presumably, with the rocking chair too, celebrate their reunion Edwin splashed out on a pair of Railway tickets to that home of holiday, fun, Blackpool Marianne was going to be so pleased on the morning of the Blackpool Excursion Edwin gets up early, tries to wake his wife, but she won't budge.

He's not going to let her spoil his day, though so he gets.

Washed gets all ready hand leaves the house oh Marianne, when he got to the station.

Edwin was gobsmacked by what he saw.

I found an astounding Gathering of people, upwards of 2 000 persons, you see to the average Victorian City dweller The Lure of the sea was like human catnip and beginning in the 1840s.

Special Railway excursions began ferrying hordes of over-excited day Trippers to such far-flung locations as Brighton Banger and in Edwin's case Blackpool Susan.

It's very exciting, to tell me more about Edwin's big day out his Railway historian, Susan major.

Why was he so excited about this excursion? Well, he had a particular thing about the thrill of being in a crowd now to us being in a crowd, is a nuisance, yeah yeah, but somebody like him.

He felt it made it feel as if it was one World.

It was a new thing.

It was a modern thing.

Oh definitely in Edwin's diary he does say that there were two thousand people, I thought that was a misprint.

No, these were monster trains with monster excursions.

Quite often you'd find more than one engine pulling up to 100 carriages.

There could be three four engines it would have been like being on the London Tube in the rush hour in June, wouldn't it people must have felt as though they were being treated as animals, they felt as if they were being dehumanized to an elite and moo and Bar.

Finally, Edwin's train pulled into Blackpool where he and his fellow passengers disembarked and like a crowd of starving Penguins, headed straight for the sea.

So Edwin comes down the high street from the station and remember because the crowd know that they've only got a limited amount of time here they immediately set to work having a good time.

The Blackpool of 1849 didn't yet have its famous tower or even appear for that matter.

Nonetheless, Edwin was totally smitten.

The thing he likes more than anything else, though, is the donkeys there's little kids who get on them and they won't move.

He says everybody is having a good time, except presumably the donkeys and then towards the end of his stay.

He buys four chops raw chops off some bloke and then he goes back into town where someone in a shop fries them up for him for Falcons what a way to spend the day as for his problems.

Well, they now seemed A Million, Miles, Away foreign, but things weren't, just looking up for Edwin in a momentous time marked by new Railways new sewage systems and even modern shopping.

The Victorian period was a crucial part of British history, driven by ordinary women and men across the land.

The Nazis were the most terrifying enemies in one of the nastiest Wars in history, but taking them on wasn't just down to men like him.

Britain fought the second world war with a bunch of ordinary office workers, Grocers, Bakers and Housewives.

We know the result, but what was it really like for ordinary britons caught up in it all most of the people who still remember the second world war were only children at the time, but even though they were just kids, a lot of them still have vivid memories of having to seek shelter because their country was under brutal attack in 1940, eight-year-old, Babs Clark and her family found themselves in the thick of it all in London's, East End.

So what did babs's mum? Do she grabbed the kids and headed for the countryside? Thousands of parents had the same idea.

Nearly a million school children were packed off to the country Babs, and her mom and sister Jean ended up in Torquay.

It was amazing they had a small cottage on a farm went to a local school best of all.

They could play on the beach every day, safe from the bombs.

Also, they thought Babs now in her 80s still remembers.

One particular incident like it was yesterday.

There was a couple of planes coming in from the sea and I was saying to my sister I, wonder what they are Jane and it was two measure Smiths and I machine gun the beach we were on because we came home full of it telling my mum and I won't say the actual words my mum said, but in other words it was so and so that for a game of soldiers, we're going back to London I'd, rather the bombs coming down and the Bloody Germans machine come in my kids, oh Babs, and her mum and sister hot footed it back to the family home in bethnal green this one.

So when you got back to London what was your house like? It was all right.

Apart from the fact we had to have a child pool and over the roof, because the roof had got blown off during the Blitz and you still live there.

Oh yeah, of course you did.

The family's unscheduled break in Torquay.

May well have saved their lives and, after Hitler had had his way with the East end.

It was even more fun than the beach if well a little dangerous.

More of a problem for Growing Kids was food.

The government was Keen to make sure nothing got wasted to make sure Britain didn't run out.

The amount of food everybody could eat was rationed and every time you wanted to buy something.

You got a stamp in this your Russian book for bab's mum.

It was a right old, drag it's for a game of soldiers and provided for only a limited menu.

This is what Babs would have been allowed in her rations, a couple of pints of milk, some sugar, a little bit of cheese, some Jam, some Marge, some lard one egg and some egg powder, this much meat and a few sweets.

It would make a lovely meal, wouldn't it, but it had to last Babs a whole week.

The government was full of useful advice on how to make everything go further, but there was one thing that wasn't in short supply for Babs and her family greens.

We had a lot and we grew a lot of age and our allotment was in there.

My dad used to be quite proud of that a lot.

But what seems he grew? Okay.

What did your mum make here? Go? You should have a lot of stews after tea as night fell Babs and her mum and sister would head down to the newly built bethnal Green Tube Station from Hitler's bombs.

My mum got a hunt down here for a dog yeah.

It was a three-tier bunk bottom middle.

On top, there was loads of space because the rails hadn't yet been laid in the news station.

The prizing, the bunks didn't collapse by Boy Scout s from a flat pack.

How far down? That's? How old did you used to sleep? I wouldn't like to say how many yards, but it was a good 10-15 minute walk.

It was quite a way down and you didn't feel claustrophobic no stop and talk to him and you've got your bank in the end.

What did you do if you wanted to pee guy in the bucket the bucket yeah? They had buckets they're so far, along yeah with the curtain, Landing very smelly, poor, the palette from the smell it all sounds rather Jolly.

It was like an underground town with a library, doctor's surgery.

They are and a haul for weddings or parties.

Every time a soldier came home, they had a jolly shindig.

You feel safe here, okay But there again, you say hi to my mum and my sister, so I felt safe because I was with them I wonder if you left anything down there, but it's chewing gum on one of the walls could still be there and it still is there yeah, but the fan was about to come to a juddering halt.

As once again the realities of War hit home on the 3rd of March 1943, an incident took place at bethnal Green, which in moments became a major tragedy.

It was a Rainy Night.

The air raid siren went off at 8.


people started coming down into the tube, as they always did, but at that moment anti-aircraft guns began to start firing in Victoria Park just over the road there.

So more and more people came down and it was very dark.

They only got one light because of the blackout and there weren't handrails here then like there are now and all the steps were really slippy and a woman tripped over with her son and some old chap fell on top of them and more and more people kept pressing down until they were right up to the ceiling, crushing each other.

Although Babs survived many didn't a memorial next to bethnal Green Tube Station erected.

Surprisingly recently in 2017 marks the worst British civilian disaster in World War II 173 people were crushed to death.

What do you remember about that night? I know, I got pushed and I fell over something and somebody fell on May.

There were so many people down the stairs.

They were all falling on top of them and I just heard my sister saying.

Oh, don't pull me out yet I've got my little sister here and with that whoever it was pulled.

The pair of the set didn't know what had happened to my mum, and my sister was going around asking.

If people had seen anything of her mum which they hadn't and then an Airave Walden, said to a guy in that room she might be in there, Gene went in there and um.

It was all dead bodies.

She had to look at to see if her mum was there.

Luckily, bab's mum had survived and the next day life went on as usual.

She still got us up the next morning for me to go to school and the head milestones in assembly and he said, there's been a bad accident at Bessemer green truth station and he said any of you, children that were in it.

You can go home for the day.

Well, after the skull covered with this, they all washed out.

Did you ever use that shelter again or was it closed down? Oh no.

We used it as following night Babs and her family just kept calm and carried on the German bombing campaign deliberately set out to undermine our morale, but talking to Babs I, get a real sense of the conviction and determination that was shared by almost everyone and I reckon.

It was that as much as anything that got us through different kind of danger, hundreds of thousands of ordinary young men were learning how to fight and to kill.

James Palmer was one of them.

James Palmer lived in Hume Manchester with his Dad.

He was very lucky very jokey as a lad.

Oh byak, do you think they're impressed I should flip him well hope so, very good.

What's next by 1939, he was working as an office boy in the garage.

He spent a lot of time with his girlfriend Muriel and he was just about to turn.


foreign was on July the 1st, but it was a slightly glum affair.

War was on the horizon, and young men between the ages of 20 and 22 were being recruited by the government to boost Army numbers.

James must have opened his birthday cards with mixed feelings, especially as one of the cards wasn't a card at all.

It was his call-out notice within two weeks.

James was being seen off at the station by his girlfriend, and his dad James is passing from his father was emotional for both men.

His dad had served in the first war and had seen the horrors of the battlefield first hand and when his wife had died, he devoted himself to looking after his son, and now he was going to have to let him go.

He must have been worried sick.

He knew all about war.

James wrote in his diary on the day he left Muriel was in tears.

Clinging to my arm dad turned away as she kissed me.

A lump in my throat prevented me from saying much.

I was on my way to God knows where, or what, where James was actually headed, was warm in stone to join the 13th tank regiment.

On his first day, James was presented with loads of stuff I'm meeting Alex Jones, a war veteran and army historian to find out more so he would suddenly have been responsible for all this.

Absolutely as soon as they arrived, they'd have been given a kit bag in the qm stores and, of course, if the Army gives someone kitten equipment, you know there's going to be inspections.

Coming up, you'd have had to have balled his boots.

He would have had suppressed his kits.

He would have had to have blank code, the webbing as well so giving it this kind of nice green protective layer which all the soldiers thought was utterly pointless.

Don't say a word absolute silence, so this is what his setup would have been like he's, not real by the way.

Just in case you were wondering, he'd have had a cupboard like this with all his stuff in it, and his uniforms laid out and he'd have had a regulation, blanket everything's, Ship Shape, all out there for the world to see.

But amidst all this boys, agility James met the Corporal in charge, jock a regular Soldier on the First Night, the Lights Go Out Darkness you're supposed to go to sleep, but some of the recruits keep on talking and jot tells them to shut up, but they don't in fact they're talking even louder and John goes when I tell you to do something you do it and it goes completely silent and then one of the recruits says get stuffed and then all hell breaks, loose, jock, grabs him and painted him straight in the face and knocks him out cold.

Oh welcome to the war James, but it wasn't only this mount private who got a rude shot from army life James and the new soldiers like him were complete, fishes out of water weren't.

They they really were because they didn't have any Prime military training.

Maybe the only experience they had were the stories made from their fathers.

We know James's father was a veteran of the Somme, for example yeah.

What would his training have been well James when he first turned up would have undertaken eight weeks of basic military training.

Also would have consisted of anti-gas training.

The Army was very concerned about the gas threats behind you.

There is a pretty fearsome looking instrument.

Presumably he would have been trained on that.

Yes, this is the Vickers machine gun, which would have been the standard Armament in a lot of British light tanks at the start of the war James recounts when he first gets his chance to to shoot on a live range, uh he's so excited he just fires off all the rounds at once, he's going blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah forever and ever well.

No, because all he has given the cuts to training allowances is 20 rounds to practice with which is about 500 rounds.

A minute meant that James would be out of ammo in about two seconds.

Oh, perhaps because of his enthusiasm, James was assigned to be a gunner on a tank, May 1940.

The call finally came James was going to fight in France.

He was given 48 Hours leave and then he was off.

He spent his last day in Britain with his girlfriend Muriel and his father before heading across the channel when he landed.

The German Army was only a few miles away and his tank troop soon found itself under attack.

As we topped the rise.

Anti-Tank guns hit us from the right flunk.

Four of our tanks were Ablaze before we'd gone, 10 yards, we were sitting ducks.

It was sheer murder.

I saw some men running amongst the trees with their clothes burning, like torches, men were dragging their Pals through the mod away from the burning tanks, and the smell of burning flesh was catching my throat James crouched, and he could hear the Ping of bullets and a platter of shrapnel, but his tank driver pressed on and on through the hail storm of fire, and eventually he reached the other side of the valley.

Their first action had been a disaster, though only four of the 25 Lads in James's troop were still alive soon.

His regiment was desperately retracing the path back to the coast as the Army retreated via Dunkirk blighty, almost as soon as they'd left James returned to Manchester and proposed to Muriel.

He said yes, but now James had a war to win he'd be in some of its most crucial battles before life would return to anything like normal, and he and his new fiancee could finally tie the knot for many ordinary Brits taking on Hitler's fearsome War Machine demanded a Brazen response, and women especially suddenly found themselves doing all sorts of things.

They'd never imagined doing.

Women like Eileen Herron in 1939 Eileen was 23, but she still lived at home because she worked for her family's grocery business in folkestone, where she served behind the counter and drove the delivery.

Van Eileen was a bit of a Pioneer when she was only 20 she'd been among the first women to take the newly introduced driving test.

Little did she know, though, what use her driving skills would be once the war started just three months into it: 43 000 women volunteered for the auxiliary territorial service or ATS, the women's Infantry, the Army welcomed her with an arm full of Jabs, just a scratch from a needle already blunted by the other recruits foreign.

She shared a freezing, Nissan Hut with around 20 other women, but at least they could help each other take their medicine before settling down in a lumpy mattress, oh night night, I wonder if Eileen regretted her decision as she sat in her freezing cold Barracks, there was three feet of snow on the ground and okay.

The recruits were given a bucket of coal a day, but one bucket was hardly going to make any impact at all in a tin building.

At the end of the first week, she trudged all the way to the nearest town for a hot bath at the swimming pool and a nice cup of cocoa, but getting used to unsumptuous living conditions was the easy bit.

Eileen was in the Army now and there was a whole new world of pain to embrace for the new recruits.

Training was intense and Relentless from the shrill sound of the bugle at 6am.

The whole day was a long list of drills physical exercises and skills, training and all from measly 11 Shillings a week.

Two-Thirds of what a man of the same rank would have got, but Eileen was special.

She was a high value recruit because she had something the Army needed.

She could drive a truck.

So-Called Tilly trucks were used as anything from ambulances to carriers of vital military equipment and I'm having a go on one.

The clutch and the accelerator on the braking is great, but steering oh look at these a lot to be desired.

Compared with today's cars.

Every time I go around the corner, I feel it in the biceps, but these were brilliant Vehicles.

They were so adaptable.

Real dogs bodies vehicles, but the downside was that they were very bumpy and uncomfortable I'm having a great time but I'm only doing it for one morning, Eileen had to do it month.

After month s poor old Island, she must have been knackered.

In fact she called it her wretched Tilly.

That was a really good drive.

It was nice and simple.

You know there's only sort of four or five little things to push and pull on it, but the viz is not very good at all.

It must be very difficult at night, absolutely, and especially because of the blackouts headlights would have been just a glimmer of light.

Coming from that, and obviously the threat of invasion was at its height, so all of the signposts have been taken down and so they'd have to rely on map Reading, knowing where they were going.

Julian Pattinson is a historian of the ATS.

She knows all about everyday life for women like Eileen, well they're in Barracks, so they're going to be having Mass catering, hearty nutritious meals that could be feeding hundreds of people.

They actually got better rations than the ordinary civilian um, but so I think she would have been well fed and the rest of the time when she wasn't working.

She worked long hours, but she would always have time off and they would go to the cinema.

They would always be dances on a Saturday.

Women were very much in demand at local, Army, Barracks, so I think they played hard and worked hard.

Foreign lots of nice accounts where women talk about wearing a bit of lipstick, wearing non-regulation underwear because nobody's going to notice that they're not wearing their khaki pants.

So there are opportunities for these women to individualize the muddy green gray, dull uniform.

There was a slogan that beauty is a duty too, so you have these manufacturers, whether it's a toothpaste or breakfast cereal or shampoo, and it would be very much you know the woman in the ATS like Eileen, who would be applying particular kind of face cream.

For example, there was this expectation that women would pay attention to their appearance, because actually it would have a knock-on effect on male morale.

I bet, if I said to you, beauty is a duty too.

Now you smack me in the nose.

I'm not gonna answer that question I mean might not have enjoyed driving her Tilly very much, but she was obviously pretty good at it, because soon she was made a driving instructor and was promoted to the rank of Lance corporal.

This meant she now had 25 trainees under her and a lot more responsibility under Eileen hundreds of women learn to drive and maintain motorbikes, ambulances and trucks, helping the war effort to smash the Nazis.

She was about to experience something even more exciting one day, Eileen was ordered to go to her common dance office and he told her a secret.

Apparently, a new subleton, which was the equivalent of the second Lieutenant, was going to be working alongside her and her friends.

But this was no ordinary suppleton.

Her name was Princess.

Elizabeth were soon mending the Tilly trucks together by day sableton Elizabeth mucked in with the other girls, but at night she turned back into a princess and went to sleep in her in her Eileen wrote at the time that the princess was quite striking, pretty with lovely eyes and a charming smile, but more celebrities were about to appear one day: King George VI and his wife turn up to have a look at exactly what it is.

Their daughter, princess, Elizabeth is doing, and it's a it's all Pomp and Circumstance until suddenly, King George leans under the Bonnet, starts fiddling away with the engine.

Lord knows what he's doing.

One wonders what this bit us Elizabeth's panicking.

Everyone else is laughing.

Then Elizabeth gets her hands out and goes look dad.

They're all oily.

Everyone seems to have seen the funny side.

Eileen later wrote that the queen was very interested to see who these gals were consorting with her elder daughter and the King was absolutely Charming.

The visit was filmed at length and became a very effective piece of wartime propaganda, foreign for most Ordinary People.

At that time, the king and queen had become powerful symbols of the kind of country that they were fighting for.

So when their daughter princess Elizabeth was seen amongst them mucking in getting her hands dirty, it must have sent a really powerful message when the Nazis finally threw in the towel.

Victory in Europe was celebrated with a party to end all parties Eileen and the other women of the ATS let rip outside Buckingham Palace and even princess Elizabeth snuck out Incognito to Gate Crash the party four years before those joyful celebrations.

It had only been that bit of Muddy Water.

We call the English Channel that held the Nazi foe at Bay, but some rather unlucky Brits didn't even have that.

It's easy to forget that over 60 000 British people lived under Nazi control here in the Channel Islands from June 1940.

All the way through to 1945.

the German Invaders were excited to have claimed a little piece of Britain I, suppose that for them compared to fighting, say on the Russian front, hello, sunshine, hello, Sky, it was almost a holiday so for the locals, there may not have been any fighting, but the very feeling of being British and any connection with Britain was under attack.

Can you imagine what life would have been like here during the German occupation would have been a lot of happy smiling faces.

I can tell you that one ordinary Britain Hubert Lanyon was the only Baker on the small island of Sark just off Guernsey.

He lived there with his wife and four kids, including five-year-old Maisie.

Well, I, just remembered being told all the Germans are coming, the Germans are coming and then when they arrived, they marched and they used to sing beautiful songs and it it just echoed all around the island it was.

It was really lovely to hear them singing and of course we were a bit apprehensive, but once we got to know them and the ordinary Soldier was quite friendly, but for Hubert the new regime changed everything overnight.

He even had to share his Baker's oven with the Germans they had half the week and he had half the week and as War went on, the provisions came from France.

The flower was a terrible quality.

It was full of bits of wood stones and rat droppings.

To make things worse.

The departing British Army had taken a lot of the Channel Islands Food Supplies with it, and there wasn't much left.

We could manage to grow vegetables, which was you know, a Saving Grace.

We didn't have meat, we didn't have much meat just rabbit, but uh whatever animal was killed, had to be shared with the Germans.

The Germans had their proportion and there was so much left for the Islanders, so the local people started to think outside the box and go in search of new, culinary experiences.

Mommy the beach was Awash with seaweed, which they harvested and boiled up to make jelly.

It wasn't too bad it flavored with blackberries or frankly anything they could lay their hands on.

As time went by the food shortages got worse and worse.

The fishermen were only allowed to go about a mile out to sea, because the Germans were frightened that they would run away basic Commodities, like soap, began to disappear off the shelves.

What little there was was reserved for newborn babies.

Moss replaced cotton wool in the hospitals.

Some people said they couldn't recognize their friends and colleagues in the street, because they'd grown so thin.

Even the Germans were hungry.

When we came towards the end of the war, they shot cats, they had cats, the Germans.

Yes, we saw them, go up the lane with our cats strung on their belt you're kidding, our cat was on his belt and they they'd shot it.

That must be had been awful for a little girl to see that terrible, maize's, father Hubert decided to make a stand in June 1942.

The Germans had confiscated the radios on the island, and now people couldn't even get the news.

So Hubert joined a secret organization.

Defiantly named guns the Guernsey underground news service, because it was also secret.

No one knew very much about it, but this building is now prio library and it's here, I reckon I'm going to find the evidence.

I need about what maize's dad was doing in the war historian.

Julie Carr has found some of the news sheets that the resistance group published.

Oh look, that's V for victory, guns and Viper victory.

These are original copies, yeah and, as you can see, they're they're typed out on tomato packing paper, which is really thin, and if you were caught with one of these, you would have been arrested.

Oh absolutely, absolutely! Yes! So what was it that maize's Dad actually did on this newspaper? He was the distributor of guns in Sag.

He had a little library at the back of the bakery, and so he would take a newsletter and put it inside a book in the library.

So people would come along and browse in the library and you know, but apparently there were even German soldiers who knew about it, but stayed silent because they also wanted to have the real news.

But not everyone could be trusted to keep a secret.

Some Islanders were prepared to trade information for food, even at the risk of having their houses dorbed with the swastika one day, acting on a tip-off, the Germans came to the lanyon's house, searching for Hubert and his newsletters.

They had fixed bayonets and they went through the toy basket under the bed with a toy basket and went right through my panda bear stomach.

That's outrageous, but it wasn't long before they found her dad.

They beat him up and knocked teeth out and and he was he was unconscious for a while, and then they hauled him off hands behind his back and holding his hair and pull it, and he went past our door with all the family standing on the doorstep and he just looked at us and I thought I.

Suppose he thought when will I ever see them again.

Can you remember what you were thinking, but I just thought they were being cruel to my daddy? Was your mum able to explain to you what was going on? She didn't know where he was for a month.

We were, we thought, he'd been taken to concentration camp and perhaps shot then the family discovered Hubert was alive and imprisoned on the island.

Maisie's mum pleaded for his release, saying that the Islanders were desperate for him to bake bread after four months in prison he was released, but five others involved in the free paper were deported to Germany, where two of them died in prison.

I consider my father was lucky to come home to us sure and I do still feel very sorry for the people whose lives were lost.

Of course, there's no doubt that Hubert was a very brave man, but it does make me wonder what I would have done in a similar situation.

Would I have resisted, knowing that it could put my family and my neighbors in Jeopardy or would I just have gone about my business and kept my head down till the end of the war? I? Really? Don't know in the second world war, the Victory against the Nazis depended on an event that happened far away on the other side of the world, on the peaceful, Pacific Islands of Hawaii Harbor and forced the United States into the war very quickly.

Our little island was swarming with Americans one and a half million of them were either stationed here or stopped off here on their way to Germany filament had a decisive impact on the course of the war and meant a heck of a lot to the Brits who worked with them, fought with them, or, as was often the case, fell in love with the American GIS Joy Beaver would be one of them, but back in 1941 before the gis arrived, she was just 16 and a love affair was the last thing on her mind.

Joy soon became her family's only wage earner and had to support her mother and two younger brothers.

She catched the train before half seven each day when it was cheaper, but instead of leaves or snow on the line.

There was the threat of blown up, Bridges or unexploded shells.

She had a boring job at the Inland Revenue in the city typing letters to people who hadn't paid their tax, Joy lived for her daily break.

Best time of day was a lunch hour and I could walk in The Gardens of the Tower of London.

At the end of each day, she'd catch the train home before night fell and the bombing started once again.

Supper could be an omelet made from powdered egg, or if there was nothing else available, there was the Sinister threat of whale meat in the evenings, they'd, listen to Jazz or popular songs on the record player or tune in to Winston Churchill.

For a bit of Courage, we will meet out to the Germans more than the measure they have meeting afterwards at weekends, joy and her friends glammed up and hit the Dancehall, the embassy Ballroom in Bexley newly reopened after the worst of the blitz.

It's really a nice place.

It was a big dancehall and had a nice bands.

It was also a popular haunt for American GIS and, of course, that Drew a lot of girls that wanted to come there and dance with the soldiers.

But these American boys were supposed to be on their best behavior.

Just look at this.

This is the little book they all had to read instructions for American servicemen in Britain 1942 issued by the U.S war department.

The purpose of this guide is to start getting you acquainted with the British, their country and their ways.

It goes on to give lots of Handy advice.

The British are often more reserved in conduct than we.

So if britons sit in trains or buses without striking up conversation with you, it doesn't mean they're, being haughty and unfriendly, probably they're paying more attention to you than you think, but they don't speak to you because they don't want to appear intrusive or rude and there's another one.


I really like this keep out of arguments, you can rub a britisher the wrong way.

By telling him we came over and won the last one I, don't think they'd like that, and, most importantly, don't be a show-off.

The British Tommy is apt to be specially touchy about the difference between his wages and yours.

Keep this in mind.

Actually, the British Tommy was most likely to be worried about the thought of the GI running off with his wife or the girl next door, and, to be quite honest, he was probably right to me as one British comedian, famously put it.

The Yanks were oversexed overpaid and over here, but the GI that Joy met in September.

1944 wasn't like that at all.

How did you first meet Carl? He was brought to the Embassy Ballroom by the other guys in the unit they said you, you should come and meet this girl.

His name was Carl Beebe.

He was not so laughing and joking and all that kind of thing, like the others were you know he didn't tell me that the streets of New York were paved with gold.

Carl was stationed here at the stately home Hall place two miles from Joy's house.

He worked for U.S, Army intelligence, intercepting encoded messages from Nazi High command soon Carl asked joy out and they hit it off.

They'd go for walks in the park near where she lived.

He was always bringing me flowers or something for Easter.

He picked a whole bunch of daffodils there's a place where flowers grow after three months of courting Carl proposed, but arranging a wedding in Wartime required, let's say special skills.

How did you get addressed this nice in the middle of the war? You'd have to ask my brother: oh he got it through some friends of his or people.

He knows I, don't know so you're saying it was off the black market really.

Aren't you I believe that it was the black market? Yes, foreign.

Did you get married in a church? Yes, I did a very much damaged Church, the roof was out and the rain and the snow was coming through, and they'd had little pots on the floor to catch the water, and you could hear the water dinging into the bottles.

The second world war had brought joy and Carl together and they eventually made the journey to America together with their young son.

The war created huge Rifts between countries which took decades to heal.

So it's nice to hear some stories of romance coming out of all that.

Chaos for Joy, at least and for others like her.

The war did have a silver lining britons, it's triumphant and remains one of our country's Finest Hours.

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