To celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we have delved deep into the Thomas Cook archives to give you a flavour of what travel was like for a holidaymaker in 1952.
At the time of Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne, post-war Britain was still in the grip of rationing. Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister and essential luxury items like fridges, washing machines and television sets were a rare commodity for the majority of people.
So with all this austerity, it’s no wonder that holidaymakers were looking for cheap holidays abroad to escape the day to day drudge of everyday life.
Dawn of the First Cheap Commercial Flights
As well as all inclusive holidays to the Continent – by the traditional travel methods of train and coach – the first scheduled air services came into being in 1952 (see attached image), cutting back on lengthy travel times.
In Thomas Cook’s July/August 1952 edition of the staff magazine, we featured an article by John Shepherd. He was manager of our Rome office at the time, but went on to become Thomas Cook’s CEO 20 years later! In the article, he describes a flight in the Comet – then the world’s first commercial jet airliner – which only entered service in 1952.
In the same year, Thomas Cook also offered escorted tours of South Africa, New Zealand, East Africa, Italy, Scandinavia and Switzerland, as well as special trips to Lourdes for pilgrims, and the Bernese Oberland for flower lovers.
Bargain British Breaks
With two-thirds of the British workforce doing manual work in 1952, and with only three million vehicles on the road, sights had to be set closer to home for many travellers.
Package holiday experts Thomas Cook offered escapes to the countryside or seaside by coach or rail, as well as air tours within Great Britain. We even had our own holiday camp in Prestatyn!
One thing that hasn’t diminished in the last 60 years is our love of a sporting spectacle. As an official sponsor of Olympic Breaks, our history with this elite competition goes back a long way. Athletics aficionados were able to book a trip to the 1952 games, held in Helsinki.
With our help, you could book a package deal to, among others, the World Ice Skating Championships in Paris, the Derby, the Grand National, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the FA Cup Final and Le Mans.
The November/December issue of the staff magazine from 1952 also detailed Thomas Cook’s ability to make arrangements for sporting teams. In 1952, they flew Arsenal FC to Paris to play Racing Club, which involved booking two separate planes as well as coping with a last-minute change of goalkeeper.
Our September/October issue revealed Number 10’s backing. The feature detailed how Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, visited the French Riviera with his wife and private secretary, and revealed that he had entrusted all his travel arrangements to Thomas Cook.
But the highest honour of them all goes to the helping hand one of our satellite offices gave to The Queen’s father, King George VI. Our January/February issue reveals how a Christmas order for a case of Maltese oranges, to be sent to Buckingham Palace for the Royal Family to enjoy, was handled by Thomas Cook’s Malta offices.