A few weeks after 9/11, householders just down the road from where I live, had a fallout bunker fitted into their back garden. It was hoisted over the roof of their house by a giant crane, the type normally used these days to drop hot tubs into middle-class gardens. One can only assume that the occupants thought that the chances of an airliner plunging into their property had increased to a level higher than the chance of weather hot enough for an evening in the Jacuzzi. A friend of mine also tells a story of arriving at his parent’s house a few days after the New York attack to find his elderly mum and dad sitting in their front room wearing full Hazmat suits as though they might be next on Al-Qaeda’s target list. His parents had also been out on the 12th September and filled up the kitchen storage cupboards with food items ‘just in case.’
Sugar shortage on the way – no need to panic
As recently as the 1930s the Ministry of Food stockpiled food in secret storage depots hidden in locations across the country to enable the feeding of the masses in the event of invasion. The panic caused by Nazi invasion would have created a near instant break in the food supply chain. There have been various other ‘less’ apocalyptic stockpiling and bulk storage instances in British history including the hoarding of toilet rolls during the 1970s which was an imaginary event caused by a rumour in the USA, which was then ignited by comedian Johnny Carson
‘You know, we’ve got all sorts of shortages these days, but have you heard the latest? I’m not kidding. I saw it in the papers. There’s a shortage of toilet paper!’
An elderly member of my family was still stockpiling toilet rolls in the late 1990s because of the scare – despite a shortage not actually happening!
In 1974 a genuine sugar shortage resulted in housewives buying and storing as much as they could until each person was limited to a 2lb bag. A newspaper headline announced: ‘Sugar shortage on the way – no need to panic.’ So what happened? Everyone panicked and the stockpiling of sugar began in homes across the UK.
Stockpiling of food and essentials has been happening for hundreds of years and as we head towards Brexocalypse with nobody truly knowing what the outcome will be, do we really need to be stockpiling and storing food?
Panic on the streets of London, panic on the streets of Birmingham…
Early in the summer of 2018 when the UK was halfway through 2 months with no rain, a minister announced that the government had a plan to stockpile blood and medicines in the event of a hard Brexit causing in a delay in the supply chain. This makes sense, although much of what is used within the NHS cannot be stored long-term – there are for instance around 700,000 tests every year that require radio-isotopes that have very short lives that can’t be put into storage and aren’t manufactured in the UK.
Nobody truly knows what will happen after initial Brexit, so perhaps we should be ‘gently’ bulking up on a few of the essentials in that kitchen storage cupboard. A tin here, a tin there. Back in the 1930s this would have included such essentials as flour, cooking oil, rice and powdered milk, but in 2019 the list might also include items like batteries and over the counter pain relief. One possible problem we may have is the 40% of fresh fruit and vegetables we import from the EU. There is no way of storing these items, although this might start a new trend of the digging up our back gardens as in WW2!