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‘Memories Of The 1940s’
‘1940s Shopping Basket’
By Gibsons Puzzles

Clicking on the jigsaw box will link you directly to its Amazon ‘buy’ page

Actual Puzzle size: 490 x 685 mm

The outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 led to a deepening community spirit, a feeling that each should do his or her bit towards the war effort. As the scarcity of raw materials increased, so the packaging of everyday goods had to adapt. The labels around cans were reduced, the quality of cardboard was lowered, less printing ink was used and with fewer colours. Even products that had previously sold in tin containers were replaced by card boxes or bottles.

During the early years of the 1940s, rationing of many commodities was introduced – bacon, butter, meat, eggs, sugar, jam, canned foods, tea, sweets and other groceries were added to the list of restricted foods. Everything from soap to saucepans were in short supply. Families were encouraged to economise on fuel, ‘Dig for Victory, return empty jam jars and save waste paper for the salvage collector.

To simulate stockings women painted ‘liquid silk’ (see inside the wicker shopping basket). Another novelty product was Teafusa which allegedly increased your tea ration. Mazawattea tea ensured the contents were ‘gas proof’ with its hermetically sealed tin.

Even after the end of hostilities in May 1945, shortages and queues continued throughout the ’40s; dried egg and dried milk powder still came from the USA, and the slogan for growing your own vegetables now changed to ‘Dig for Plenty’.


Image Of Robert Opie

The 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 in Gloucester, which is where I visited to view it.

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


“Piece together the products to picture the past once more

and taste the texture of this evocative time.”

Even though the 1940s was very much the time era of my parents and grandparents, I recognised many of the products depicted in this jigsaw, which are very much still with us today, here in the UK ! However, without having spent so long working on the puzzle, I probably wouldn’t have realised it from their appearance.

In today’s consumer marketplace, packaging and presentation are most definitely king with the average shopper and the colourful boxes, jars and tins, with their enticing advertising slogans, bear little or no resemblance to the no nonsense, basic look of the war time weekly basket.

Talking of baskets, did you spot the wicker shopping basket in the picture? no plastic carrier bags in sight here! Even as late as the 1960s, I can remember my mum sending me off to the local grocery, with a shopping list, just the right amount of money with which to pay for the goods and the ever trustworthy wicker over arm basket.

Even then, only a small amount of the overall weekly shop was pre-wrapped and stories my mother-in-law in particular can tell, of the early post war years working in her local branch of the Co-operative Store, are so interesting. She weighed out sugar and salt by the ounce and wrapped it in twists of paper; sliced cheese to the required weight by sight, with the aid of a very lethal looking cheese wire; and portioned butter into permissable weights with the aid of butter pats. All skills we have long abandoned and forgotten, in this pre-packaged age of glass and plastic.

I realise that through necessity and rationing, as much food as possible needed to be packaged suitably for storing in air raid shelters, however I’m not sure that I could stomach the thought of eating mashed potato, or dried eggs from a tin and the bottle of ‘Camp’ coffee brings back horrid childhood memories, especially when it came served with a generous amount of canned condensed milk! Is it any wonder that I hate milk of any description, so much now!

I visited the Robert Opie Collection, when it was housed in its original location at Gloucester Docks and it was an amazing experience. The displays were well thought out and presented and there were simply so many products and services represented, that a manufacturer such as Gibson’s would have no difficulty for some time to come, in obtaining material in abundance for their jigsaw puzzle design ideas.

The changing face of familiar brands can be seen, along with the products that have come and gone, but whatever my age, many of them have played a part in my life and my memories.

A quality product, a great idea concept for a ‘series’ jigsaw and definitely fun to do !

This jigsaw puzzle was a charity shop purchase. Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article.

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. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 5 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