WILL Basingstoke have a white Christmas this year? Probably not.

Although digging into the Gazette archives, you could be forgiven for wondering why anyone might want one.

The Met Office is currently forecasting light cloud and a moderate breeze on Christmas Day.

And this might come as a relief to residents who recall the Great Freeze-Up of 1947.

While the first flakes of snow of this winter are yet to fall, nothing will ever surpass the amount of snow that occurred at the end of January that year.

As King George VI and his family set off for the warmer lands of South Africa for several months, so the bitterly cold winds brought a similar period of snow and ice to Britain.

As early as January 23, a cold easterly wind blew in across the North Sea and, on January 29, Basingstoke folk awoke to a raging snow blizzard which brought shivers to those heading for work or school.

Visibility was down to a few yards and the snow stung the eyes of those who ventured out. Traffic could hardly move as windscreens became blocked by the snow, and pedestrians slid along the icy pavements.

A group of 13-year-old boys heading for Fairfields School were to encounter even more danger when they got to their class.

While they waited for their teacher in the classroom, a section of the ceiling fell onto one of the desks, just missing two of the boys. The cause of the collapse was never explained.

Meanwhile, other parts of the country were suffering. Snow fell up to several feet deep and drifts rose to a height of 20 feet, bringing all traffic to a halt.

On Sunday, February 2, another heavy fall of snow blocked the main roads, which had just been cleared around Basingstoke – so it was back to the snow-clearers again!

Not only was there heavy snow, but very low temperatures, with 29 degrees of frost recorded at the Basingstoke Joint Nurseries, off Winchester Road, over the following weeks.

Due to goods trains being unable to deliver coal to the power stations across the country, to operate the turbines to generate electricity for each area, the Minister of Fuel and Power, Mr Emmanuel Shinwell, told the government, in the Houses of Parliament, that coal stocks were getting so low that power cuts were imminent.

Consequently, the country found itself without power at certain times of the day.

In Basingstoke, domestic electricity was cut off between 9am and noon, and 2pm to 4pm, for several weeks. With no power to operate machines or household equipment, people became very frustrated.

Some firms had to close down, while housewives made do with cold meals for their families. John Mares, the clothing manufacturer in New Street, managed to keep production going with the aid of a farm tractor and a portable generating plant.

The three cinemas in the town ran their films in the evening at a later time to avoid using too much electricity at a time when people wanted it for other purposes.

As for the local football teams, they had to cancel most of their matches until April, when the weather improved.

When March came, people thought that they would see an end to the bitter weather. But early that month, glazed rain, and a following blizzard, swept in.

Even the Town Hall clock stopped under those conditions. On March 16, a strong gale caused havoc as chimneys and trees came tumbling down.

When the big thaw finally came, it brought floods to the lower part of the town, especially along Lower Brook Street and Flaxfield Road. The River Loddon could not take the amount of water which was melting from the snow, and the same scenes were repeated all over the country, with fields being swamped throughout April.

The freeze-up was over, and local folk were glad to see it go!

n Do you have any memories from this period? Email newsdesk@basingstokegazette.co.uk.