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Austerity Dissectology

Hi There! I hope that your weekend is going well and that if, like me, you hale from the UK, you are out there making the most of this Springlike weather which has suddenly descended upon us.

I generally make it a point to keep Fiction Books just that, with the content reflecting the blog’s title. For 99% of the time this remains the case, however occasionally I will introduce a random post featuring one or more of my other passions, hobbies and pastimes.

One of these is an addiction to dissectology, or making jigsaw puzzles. I am not so much addicted to having to have a jigsaw under construction at any given point in time, it is more the case that once I have made the decision to open that box and start touching the pieces, I never know quite when to stop and a five minute search to find the next one or two pieces, turns into a total loss of all time recognition and complete immersion in the emerging picture.

Given the many First and Second World War anniversaries and memorial days which are due to be recognised this year, 2014, my last jigsaw was quite an appropriate selection from my charity shop jigsaw puzzle haul to have chosen and certainly brought home to me just how difficult life must have been as a child during the 1940s, both during wartime itself and in the many years of hardship and austerity which followed.


As war broke out, toys and games began to adapt to the new situation. It was important to keep up moral on the home front, so even though there was a shortage of paper and card, topical board games were soon available with titles to reflect the growing battle – Night Raiders, Bomber Command, Torpedo Attack, Submarine Hunt. Even the daily routine of preventing light being seen shining out from the house after dark was made into the game of  Blacking-Out the Moon, while the card game of Vacuation made light of the need for children to be evacuated.

Many toy manufacturers were switched over to making things for the war effort like gas masks and Tommy guns, which meant that Hornby trains and the construction set Bayco became unavailable. Some things did continue; Monopoly was still manufactured, but the metal counters were replaced with card.

For younger children, cut-out clothes to dress a card doll in different uniforms went under the patriotic phrase “We’re all in it”. While for the lucky few, a proper doll dressed in ATS uniform would have been much treasured. As materials for making teddy bears vanished, any piece of material ended up becoming a cuddly friend. During the last years of the 1940s, a number of new toy firms were established by ex-service men, one such being the table soccer game of Subbuteo.


Image Of Robert OpieThe items that make up this series of jigsaws come from the Robert Opie Collection, which is housed at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in London’s Notting Hill, although it was formerly housed at Gloucester.

Having saved the packaging and promotional materials around him since he was at school, Robert Opie gathered together the earlier story of mass manufacture from many sources.

In 1975 he held an exhibition at the Victorian and Albert Museum, and then in 1984 founded Britain’s first museum devoted to the story of our consumer society.

The displays give a sense of the evolving culture and life-style since Victorian times, represented through the everyday items that we all take for granted – from motor cars, telephones, holidays and entertainment, to all manner of branded groceries, sweets and household goods.

The Collection traces the changes in social taste and tempo, the whims of style and fashion, the advent of aviation, the jazz age and the gradual emancipation of women. It’s through the fabric of daily living – the song sheets, toys, souvenirs, postcards, magazines and posters – that the rich tapestry of the British way of life is woven together.

“I was struck by the idea that I should save the packaging which would otherwise surely disappear forever. The collection offers evidence of a dynamic commercial system that delivers thousands of desirable items from all corners of the world, a feat arguably more complex than sending man to the Moon, but one still taken for granted.”

Check out The Museum of Brands


‘Austerity Dissectology’

I was in two minds whether or not to purchase this particular jigsaw puzzle, as first impressions of the drab and war focused nature of the toys and games, was not especially appealing. However, as I also managed to acquire the next two jigsaws in this series, ‘Toybox Memories of the 1950s’ and ‘Toybox Memories of the 1960s’, I was intrigued to follow the progression of toys and games during these later periods of relative economic and political stability and to spot the speed of the advancements in the toys and games marketplace.

I do have to say, that I am not personally of the age group to remember the majority of the games and toys featured in this 1940s jigsaw puzzle, with the possible exceptions of Monopoly, Hornby Trains and of course the cut-out dolls with the paper clothing outfits, which were are still very much in circulation in my 1960s childhood days. In fact, all three are still very much in existence and thriving today, even the cardboard cut-out dolls, which are now considered to be ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’.

To my mind, the puzzle depicts an era when children were made much more aware of the broader worldwide situation of the times in which they lived and became as patriotic as their families and friends. Games appeared to be made which specifically enabled adults to teach the children about the wartime situation in which the entire country was involved in one way or another, and to show children the part they too had to play, whilst still attempting to protect as much of the innocence of their young lives as possible.

It would be good to be a fly on the wall in another 60 or so years time, to see just how the propensity for mindless violence, which seems to be so inherent in many of todays electronic and computerised toys, is portrayed. Perhaps these machines will have been romanticised to some degree by then, or maybe will have been replaced by something much worse, making todays toys appear as dull and lifeless to the then potential dissectologist, as the 1940s selection is to us today!

I visited the Robert Opie  Collection when it was housed in its original location of Gloucester Docks and it made for a fascinating and value for money experience, as well as some laugh-out-loud memories! I would definitely recommend this as an excellent time out.

This item was purchased by me from the charity shop where I volunteer, supporting my local hospice.

Whilst I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a purchase, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from person to person, some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 4 out of 5.



Written by

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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Written by Yvonne