Roads that had once been buzzing highways, vital for the transport of goods and food to the areas that needed it petered out into nothingness. The temperatures were so cold that petrol froze in its tanks and fuel lines.
Men froze out in the open and over night where they lay, to touch bare metal would cost you your hand and frostbite and exposure became a major strain on the health providers.
To keep aircraft in the air mechanics would be roused at 3 or 4am to begin heating the engines so that they would be available at first light. Special heaters were provided that would sit inside cowlings to keep the petrol from freezing. Vast armies of men worked all morning and through the day to keep the runways clear of snow and ice so that the planes could still leave and land.
Yet the trains still ran, aeroplanes still flew and vehicles still got through.
This was the German front in Russia 1941. The temperature reached as low as -20 C.
That is cold.
According to the Met office, the mean temperature of the British Winter in 2010-11 was 2.4 C and the country ground to a halt. Airports were closed, the motorways ground to a halt and the railways were out of action for long periods of time. Despite the coldest winter since the 1970's occurring the year before no one seemed ready for it or done any preparation.
Southeastern seemed to grind to a halt. No passenger information was available and commuters took pot luck as to whether they got home or not. My work was sending those of us who lived quite a distance home as soon as the railways looked like they were going to close up.
London terminus's differed in busyness depending on the day. Sometimes the stations were dead as people just hadn't even attempted to get into London, others trying to board a train was like trying to board a lifeboat on the Titanic, people pushed and shoved and wedged themselves onto any train that was even half going their way.
This year Southeastern have laid on special emergency kits in trains including foil blankets, glow sticks, torches in case of breakdown. They're also heating more rails and running more trains to keep the tracks warm. They've also promised to keep passengers better informed of any disruption.
This said, in the last few weeks there have been delays caused by "Adverse Weather conditions" which were wind, on one day and rain on another. Both of these weather conditions are both exceptionally common on this island and if rain and wind can cause such chaos then when the snows come I fear another network shutdown.
|The view from Gillingham Station February 2011|
Having read a lot about the Wehrmacht in the snow I always try to keep a realistic idea of what is cold and what is chilly but I also am clinging to the motto of be prepared. My boots are by the door, a couple of spare uniforms are stored in my locker at work with some changes of clothes and I think I'm going to take my sleeping bag and stowing it just in case I get stuck at work. As the credit crunch bites I cannot afford a hotel for an indefinite period and I know work cannot afford to help cover the costs.
Winter is coming, the question is how prepared is everyone?