Walter Greenwood and the Beveridge Report (1941-1945)

Part 1. Walter Greenwood and ‘the People’s War’

Greenwood did not explicitly respond to the Beveridge Report in the press, but he made a clear statement about ‘the People’s War’, seeing in the idea support for a more equal post-war future in Britain. This was a vision which most people also linked to the release of the Beveridge Plan. In his pre-Beveridge Report article in the Labour-inclined Sunday Pictorial published in August 1941, Greenwood firmly associated his own work with ‘the People’s War’:

I wrote a book you may remember. It was called Love on the Dole. Then it became a play. Now it’s become a film. In every guise Love on the Dole was intended to point to the kind of Britain we don’t want after this war. A Britain of unemployment, misery, repression and injustice. This book was intended to be the harbinger of a New Britain (17 August 1941, p.7). (1)

This seems considerably influenced by John Baxter’s film version of the novel, including the final rolling caption by the wartime (Labour) First Lord of the Admiralty, A.V. Alexander:

Our working men and women have responded magnificently to any and every call made upon them. Their reward must be a new Britain. Never again must the unemployed become the forgotten men of the peace.

This caption, as well as other adaptations within the film-script, gives the story a new context, relating the thirties to the forties and promising that through post-war social reform there will never be a return to the workless thirties. While it is certainly the case that both the novel and the play did indeed protest against a kind of Britain stuck in a nineteenth-century poverty which should no longer exist in a modern society, it is really the third film adaptation (with a script to which Greenwood was the major contributor) that adds the ‘harbinger of a New Britain’ theme into the Love on the Dole narrative, something which Greenwood could hardly have so clearly envisaged in 1933 when the novel was published.

In fact, the director John Baxter was clearly a strong supporter of ‘the People’s War’ conception and presumably in their close joint work making the film adaptation, he and Greenwood inevitably shared ideas about what Love on the Dole meant now in 1940/1941. There is, indeed, a substantial full-page article by John Baxter in Kinematograph Weekly from January 1943 which has not been noticed by film or literary scholars, but which makes clear how much Baxter had been thinking about film in wartime, propaganda, and ‘the People’s War’ in the two years since Love on the Dole. (2) Moreover, he explicitly linked Love on the Dole to Beveridge. The article has a main and a secondary headline:


Finding a Formula for Profit Pictures Based on the New World to Come (p.103)

The article is in the regular section of this film trade paper addressing ‘British Production’, hence the reference to ‘profit’, and the focus of the piece on the films being produced by British National Films, the production company Baxter worked for between 1939 and 1943. However, Baxter is also interested in the wider effects of wartime cinema, the dangers of blatant propaganda, especially as it effected the ‘war film’ genre, and post-war society, as the optimistic phrase ‘the New World to Come’ strongly registers. In fact, he argues that films about the consequences or motivations of the war are more effective and less ‘obtrusive’ than obvious propaganda films about combat:

Love on the Dole was propaganda, but again it was of the type that was unnoticeable and therefore acceptable. The Beveridge Report is an answer to the plea expressed in that subject’.

The link Baxter makes could not be more direct – Beveridge answers the questions which the film of Love of on the Dole poses – questions about the responsibilities and powers of the State to ensure the well-being of all its people after the war, making a return to the nineteen-thirties impossible.

In effect, there is a feedback loop from the film back into Greenwood’s own conception of the significance of his story of Love on the Dole. It seems very reasonable to assume that with these commitments to the ‘People’s War’ idea, Greenwood would have been supportive of the Beveridge Report when it appeared. And in fact though this has not been noticed, if the author did not react directly to Beveridge, two of his war-time works, a novel and a play, and their characters, certainly did, and continued developing each in their own ways some of the ideas raised in the 1941 film. (3) This article will trace responses to Beveridge in Greenwood’s war-time work, after a concise introduction to Sir William Beveridge and his Plan.

Part 2. Sir William Beveridge and the Beveridge Plan

The Beveridge Report was strictly-speaking actually titled: Social Insurance and Allied Services, and published by ‘his Majesty’s Stationary Office’ as a ‘Command Paper’ ‘presented to Parliament in November 1942’ (Cmd 6404). (4) However, it was understandably, given the rather dull official title, known almost universally by its author’s name, which soon and perhaps unexpectedly became a household one. Churchill’s wartime coalition government in the person of the Minister of Health, Ernest Brown, had appointed Beveridge in May 1941 to chair ‘an interdepartmental committee’ which was to carry out a ‘survey of the existing national schemes of social insurance and allied services, including workmen’s compensation, and to make recommendations’. (5) Sir William Beveridge (1879-1963) soon became deeply committed to this task. He had trained as a lawyer originally and came from a Liberal political background, but developed a close association from early in the twentieth century with the Fabians, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, mainly through work at the Toynbee Hall Settlement Centre in London, which was intended to narrow the social gulf (at least) between the poor and the well-off. From this experience Beveridge developed a sustained interest in unemployment, or rather in social policies to address this key problem, and was influenced by Fabian ideas – more or less: his biographer José Harris suggests that he frequently ‘veered’ between different and incompatible political ideas about the causes and remedies of unemployment. (6) He became particularly expert on unemployment insurance, and developed his thinking both as a senior civil servant and adviser and as an academic – being appointed as a member of the Board of Trade in 1908, and to a number of social policy commissions, and serving as Director of the Fabian-inclined London School of Economics from 1919 to 1937. As a member of the Board of Trade before the First World War, Beveridge established the National Insurance scheme, and a national system of Labour Exchanges, both clearly of major importance. His biography does not record Beveridge as reading Love on the Dole or going to see the play or showing any awareness of it as a phenomenon, and indeed the majority of his reading energy was clearly dedicated to works of social policy, especially those which emphasised ’empirical studies’, since he became during the first decade of the twentieth century increasingly ‘convinced that economic problems could best be studied by observation of facts’ (Harris, p.65). However, Harris records that Beveridge ‘liked stories and plays that were cheerful and instructive and had happy endings’ (p.65), which might only partially take in Love on the Dole. As it is, this article must look at a one-way relationship between Greenwood and Beveridge, or rather his Report. Beveridge famously stated that his Report was the beginning of ‘a comprehensive policy of social progress’ against the ‘five giants on the road of reconstruction – Want, Ignorance, Squalor, Idleness, and Disease’ (Beveridge Report pp.6-7).

This cartoon is widely reproduced and does brilliantly represent Beveridge’s mission. It shows Beveridge as a heroic human-sized figure battling the first of five giants which he will clearly fight in turn and order of priority. However I am unsure of the cartoon’s author, copyright status and original source – I’ll keep looking. This image is borrowed from an Open Learn Health and Social Care unit on ‘The Beveridge Vision’, but it gives no source nor reference (see

As Paul Addison observes, the appearance of the Beveridge Report came at what seemed a turning point in the War, and was greeted with unexpected enthusiasm:

Suddenly, the long tunnel of defeat was at an end. The Eighth Army defeated Rommel at El Alamein, and Anglo-American troops invaded North-west Africa . . . At last there was a road back to peace, and it made sense to plan for the future. By a co-incidence which seemed to emphasise the point, the government published three weeks after Alamein the famous report by Sir William Beveridge on the future of the social services. Beveridge proposed to abolish poverty or as he termed it ‘want’, by introducing a comprehensive programme of social security ‘from the cradle to the grave’. . . The popular reaction was astonishing. Beveridge, a staid veteran of Edwardian Liberalism, awoke to find himself a hero, the new People’s William (p.17).

William Henry Beveridge, 1st Baron Beveridge, by Topical Press, bromide press print, November 1942, NPG x 184235; reproduced with the kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery under a Creative Commons Licence

This photograph was taken while Beveridge was Master of University College, Oxford. I speculate that he is indeed reading a work of political economy rather than a novel or a play.

Despite Beveridge’s lifetime work on unemployment insurance, the report itself made only light reference to unemployment itself, since it had a founding assumption that ‘the government should maintain “full employment” after the war’ (that is with the unemployment rate running at no more than 3%). His biographer thinks that it was an assumption among three other key assumptions but that it is the one ‘whose presence in the Beveridge Report is most difficult to explain’, ‘[as] this was the one that most defiantly offered a hostage to fortune, since few people in Britain in 1942 were convinced that full employment in peacetime could in fact be maintained’. (7)

Part 3. Greenwood’s Wartime novel: Something in My Heart (1943)

Indeed, Greenwood’s wartime novel, Something in My Heart (1943) while showing characters explicitly referring to the Beveridge Report with enthusiasm, also shared this popular scepticism to a degree. One of its epigraphs quotes a substantial speech by Ernest Bevin (then Minister of Labour and National Service) made during a debate on employment policy and firmly introduces the idea that the right kind of government can control and avoid unemployment in a post-war economy:

The Government welcomes the fact that Parliament is . . . [sic] at last facing this problem as a fundamental issue. We are, indeed, indeed grappling with the problem which is uppermost in the minds of those who are defending the country today, at home, overseas, and in those bitter fights across the Channel. With my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I had an opportunity of visiting one of our ports and seeing the men of the 50th Division, among others, going aboard . . . They were going off to face this terrific battle, with great hearts and great courage. the one question they put to me when I went through their ranks was, ‘Ernie, when we have done this job for you, are we going back to the dole?’ . . . Both the Prime Minister and I answered, ‘No, you are not’. The answer of ‘No’ to those brave men, going aboard those ships to fight, was an answer which, I hope. will be supported by this house . . . [sic] (Hansard, June 21, 1944).

Despite this note of promise and optimism, however, other epigraphs suggest there will be opposition to post-war reform, especially the extreme, insensitive and regressive views expressed by Dean Inge, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and a regular columnist for the Evening Standard newspaper:

When I think of the horrors of revolution, of civil war, and of treasonable strikes and threats of strikes bought off by unlimited blackmail and promises of more loot in the future I am more afraid of what may come after the war than of the German army (Evening Standard, Jan 4th, 1944).

First edition dust wrapper (Hutchinson, 1943), showing Harry and Taffy while unemployed in Salford before joining the RAF, and Helen looking on before exchanging her job in a textile mill for one in war-production (scanned from copy in the author’s collection).

The whole of Greenwood’s wartime novel in effect champions central planning, comparing what central government can do during the war with the lack of action by the pre-war National Government, and emphasises how the capacity of the main characters (Harry Watson, Taffy Lloyd and Helen Oakroyd) was ignored while they were on the dole or in low-paid jobs, and only utilised once they join the RAF or war-production. But it also has a specific discussion of the Beveridge plan by an industrialist and his RAF pilot son, Rupert Hardcastle. The father, a Major in World War One who won the VC, certainly has concerns about his business, but perhaps surprisingly is portrayed as in favour of a number of wartime reforms, including a centralised command economy:

‘We’re told what we’ve got to make and how much. If we don’t turn the quantity and quality out Stafford Cripps walks in and takes over completely, shares, works and everything, and there’s no guarantee that the firm takes over again after the war . . . That’s what ‘s been done without the aid of barricades, red flags and machine guns in the street – aye, and done by the biggest Tory Government in the history of British Parliament. We’ve accomplished all this in our characteristic way – And its only a beginning. As for social reform, you haven’t heard the last of the Beveridge Report . . .’

‘I hope you’re right Guv’, he said. ‘I’m thinking of Taffy Lloyd and his distrust. You know, promises to be forgotten when the danger’s over . . . Beveridge Report, Scott Report, Uthwatt Report and Samuel Report. All talked about, debated, pigeon-holed’ (p.206). (8)

Sir Stafford Cripps was Minister of Aircraft Production from late 1942 until nearly the end of May 1945.

Major Hardcastle responds to Rupert’s new-found knowledge of debates about social policy with some surprise: ‘you’ve been busy, haven’t you son?’ This piece of dialogue is very much a piece of ‘People’s War’ text – showing social unity across classes in the war effort as the industrialist endorses the efficiency of the wartime command economy, and even extends his optimism to the post-war extension of that kind of government to the social sphere through the implementation of the Beveridge Report and other reforms. However, it also expresses through Rupert, once a champion of privilege, fears that the wartime social promises may be evaded. Major Hardcastle’s surprised praise of Rupert for having been busy recognises that in the (allegedly) socially various RAF, and through his relationship with Helen Oakroyd, his son has learnt new things. Indeed, Rupert then goes on to echo some of the views earlier stated by Taffy and Harry about the power and responsibilities of that state, and his and their fears about the trustworthiness of the establishment:

Rugger cap and rowing blue – and now I’m seeing that what I need is an education. These politicians and the big businessmen. I don’t know. They always seem to be able to find every excuse under the sun for not doing anything in peacetime for the people. But when it comes to a scrap like this. Well, you know how much we’re spending . . . I’m only one. How many more on the top shelf’ll want things changed? (pp.206-7).

Unlike pretty much every other work by Greenwood, his wartime novel is not strong on humour, and might seem at times rather earnest, as the Times Literary Supplement review suggested: ‘[the] book is readable all the way through [but it] would be more so if the author did not make his characters think aloud so often and at such great length’ (11 November 1944). Perhaps it is indeed the novel’s intent engagement with the great potential of these ideas for social change which slightly overshadows Greenwood’s usual aesthetics. Overall, Something in My Heart offers a sustained critique of lack of Government action on unemployment during the thirties, and an account of what could be done during wartime, when government intervention, central planning, and a commitment to using all possible man and woman-power were clearly vital. While these might be seen as only temporary emergency strategies, the popular reception of the Beveridge Report suggests that for many these changes made longer-term sense as fairer social policies. Greenwood’s novel represents the social and individual benefits of a more equal society with more equal opportunities, but also sounds an alert – the promises are not yet secure ones.

Part 4. Greenwood’s Late War Play: The Cure for Love (1945)

Greenwood makes further but differently handled references to Beveridge in his other main wartime work, The Cure for Love, first produced in Oldham in January 1945, and then in London from 12 July 1945 (a week after the 1945 election). The play centres on the return on home leave of Sergeant Jack Hardacre, who has been awarded several medals for bravery during fighting in North Africa and Italy. He finds his return to his mother’s home enjoyable in many ways, but it also presents him with difficulties, some of which have been suspended while has has been overseas for three years. In particular, he became unwillingly engaged to his neighbour Janey Jenkins, after she bought herself without his knowledge an alleged engagement ring with his prize-money from a boxing match. Jack is too unsure of himself to contradict the story about his willingness to marry her which Janey and spreads widely. This situation is further complicated by Jack being bowled over as soon as he meets her by his mother’s wartime billetee – Milly Southern.

Here is a London Films publicity still for the film version of The Cure for Love, 1949, showing Jack Hardacre (Robert Donat) being bowled over by Milly (Renee Asherson). Scanned from a copy in the author’s collection. See the Conclusion below for why I am not at present in a position to discuss the film adaptation.

Milly has come to Salford because she has been directed into work in a factory there, something possible because of wartime legislation fully to mobilise the British population for the war effort. This was a policy led by Ernie Bevin (again) in his role as minister of Labour and National service – and indeed Jack’s mother makes several comic references to Bevin and Milly. One of these arises when Millie points out that she has not been introduced to Jack on his arrival home:

MILLY. I suppose we’ll be introduced some time or other.

SARAH. Comes from Tooting near London, she does . . . she was sent up here to work in a factory. Billeted on me by that Bevin fellow. She’s got your bed. You’ll be sleeping on the sofa there (p.17).

This of course makes it clear that Milly is contributing to the war effort and doing so without complaint, while Sarah pretends that Bevin is just an ordinary bloke (which ‘Ernie’ as he was often known, might have been pleased about?) who has inexplicably sent Milly to live in her house, and to take over Jack’s empty bed.

Ernest Bevin, by Howard Coster, half-plate negative, 1942, NPG X 2937; reproduced with the kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery under a Creative Commons Licence

In fact, as we shall see, Sarah too has been making a great contribution to the war effort, and while she seems to understand things only in local terms is actually astute as well as independent, suggesting that she really knows very well why Bevin has such powers, and why he needs them. Sarah returns to a variation on the same joke a little later in the scene. Since she and Milly are both independent and outspoken, but of different generations and views, they often disagree, though are really on the best of terms. Sarah often asserts that her generation had a much harder life, but Milly counters with the view that it has not been easy for her’s either, pointing out the demands made by both pre-war circumstances and wartime service itself:

MILLY. What sort of life do you think our generation’s had? Born just after a war, living through a slump, and then, when we ought to be having a good time, pushed away from home into a factory, or the A.T.S. or the W.R.N.S. (p.22).

When Jack left home he was a teetotaller, and Sarah asks if he has started drinking (fearing he will turn to drink like her deceased husband). He, timorously ‘explains’ that in the desert ‘proper parched we got, and you couldn’t always depend on the water’ (p.19). Milly, who often urges Jack to break away from his mother’s control, queries what is wrong with him having a drink, and in a dispute about who is to have the next turn in the argument the two women riff on the question of whose house it is:

MILLY. No, you go on. It’s your house. We all know that.

SARAH. My house! It’s more like Ernie Bevin’s, the way he keeps dumping people on me. (p.19).

Of course, strictly speaking, Bevin has (indirectly) only so far ‘dumped’ Milly on Sarah! Janey also during a conversation in Act 2 about those who have joined up or are in war work (which she is not) refers to Milly as ‘that Bevin Beauty’, rather suggesting that Bevin has a supply of bathing belles at his command, and also perhaps reluctantly implying that Milly’s contribution to war production gives her an advantage in Jack’s eyes, which indeed it does (p. 47).

While the most direct references to Beveridge and ‘the People’s War’ are made by characters other than Jack, his getting to know a world which is unfamiliar to him – the Home Front – also invokes related questions about what kind of society Britain will be, or should be, post-war. One of Greenwood’s earliest characters, Ted Munter, who was the central figure in his very first and firmly Depression-era short story, ‘A Maker of Books’ in 1931, as well as making further mischief for Larry in Love on the Dole in 1933, makes a reappearance in the play to give his view that things are going to change:

This country’s going to be worth livin’ in after the war . . . what with the dole, Beveridge Report, , Public Assistance and the Old Age Pensions at two quid a week. I wouldn’t mind being a workin’ man myself again (Samuel French Acting edition, London, 1947, Act III, p.71).

There is a comic element here (in contrast to Something in My Heart), in that Ted Munter was never keen on work, and by this stage he (and his sidekick, Charlie Fox) are evidently spivs – both with plenty of money from no obvious source which they freely throw around in ‘The Flying Shuttle’ pub. The two are very keen for Jack to return at once to the boxing-ring, so they can make some money out of him, but he shows no interest in being exploited. The play has a further comic Beveridge reference when Mrs Dorbell also invokes his Report as a thing to be awaited by the poor. She explains she is now elderly and can’t afford to buy herself a drink, but has to depend on the kindness of other patrons of ‘The Flying Shuttle’. However, even the needy Mrs Dorbell draws a line at taking free drinks from Mrs Jenkins:

But you, Ma Jenkins, though I can’t afford it till this here Beveridge Report comes in, I tell you I’d sing in the blooming gutter for my drink afore I’d take one from thee. (Act II, scene 1, p.39).

Clearly, Mrs Dorbell does not show a deep understanding of the Beveridge Report, but sees it as her one hope of attaining enough security to buy her own drinks. Moreover, just as Ted Munter is a somewhat different character from his thirties manifestations (where he looked like someone who would never succeed, he is now unexpectedly a successful operator on the margins of the law), so too this is a somewhat different Mrs Dorbell. In Love on the Dole, she was a successful if small-scale exploiter of her neighbours, who was better-off than those women with families and unemployed husbands. She had her old age pension, her business pawning the goods of those too busy, or too ashamed, to be seen at the pawnshop, for a consideration, and her dodges such as (illegally) pawning her pension book between pension days. She still has her pension, but generally seems poorer – and lonelier: where she was once a member of what was often referred to in reviews of the play as the ‘chorus’ of older women, she is now, in this text anyway, the sole survivor. Mrs Nattle, Mrs Jikes and Mrs Bull provided her with rivals in business, grudging tips about further business opportunities, gossip and company, and convivial ‘nips’ of whisky provided by Mrs Nattle at a price very much to her advantage. Of course, this is partly a matter of keeping the play’s cast to an economic size, but the dialogue given to Mrs Dorbell also confirms that in this text she has fallen on harder times and is more isolated:

Mrs Dorbell. Seventy-seven I am, and worked every day of my life since I can remember. Alone, I am and only ten bob a week apart from the extra shillings they gie at the Public assistance and what I can get for my clothing coupons. Nobody’ll gie me a job. They say I’m too old. When I was working and had it, I spent it wi’ thee, Harry [Lancaster the pub landlord]. Now I’m past it . . . I’ve to sit here waitin’ for anybody with a kind heart to buy an old woman a drink . . . Many a time I’ve sat here dying for a swig and not daring to finish off the bottom of the glass, because it meant going home to an empty grate an’ nothin’ to eat in the house. Starved to death I would ha’ done in this war, if it hadn’t ha’ been for Mrs Hardcastle’s British Restaurant (Act II, Scene 1, p.39).

This is tragi-comic – I do not think Beveridge is likely to have seen the lack of enough cash for a drink as qualifying as any of the five poverty-related evils which his report was designed to defeat, and might have been inclined in some moods to see it indeed as an example of ‘idleness’. Nevertheless, there is a potentially moving sense of pathos here and a genuine description of the miseries of old age, including want of food, warmth, and company, as well as the craving for the (dangerous) antidote of alcohol. She has some further speeches in a similar mood towards the end of the play, in one of which she observes that ‘Three wars there’s been in my time, and I’m still as hard up as ever I was, and we won ’em all’ (p.71). Will there this time be a good post-war outcome for ordinary people? An audience might well feel able to sympathise with Mrs Dorbell after the rigours of the War, and the fact that in the London production of the play the part was played by Iris Vandeleur, who had taken the same role in the 1941 film, might link her continuing sufferings to the film’s ‘People’s War’ inflections. (9) Indeed, Mrs Dorbel might seem four years later to be a more aged and more pathetic version of her Love on the Dole film self (‘Iris Vandeleur scores a hit as an old crone’ said the The Stage, without undue sympathy, 24 May 1945, p. 5). The Beveridge Report references keep it in sight as something to hope for, even if these are comic perspectives. However, there are many other aspects of the play which also feed into related reflections on (and anticipations of) post-war Britain.

The play has most often been seen as a light comedy of no particular seriousness or significance. The Times reviewer thought the situation the play set up had ‘infinite possibilities’, but that they ‘eluded’ Greenwood, so that the play did not get beyond ‘lightly amusing comedy’ (13 July 13,1945, p. 6), while the Weekly Dispatch‘s complained that the play had ‘not enough meat’ for a Lancashire hotpot – the dish which Sarah cooks for Jack on his return home (15 July 1945, p. 2). Then there is the later British Film Bulletin‘s concise dismissal of the film version: ‘Antediluvian Lancastrian farce’ – that is the complete review! (Vol. 17, no. 193, 1950, January-February 1950, p.8). The London Daily News interestingly inserted its paragraph of drama review directly after a discussion of the ’emergency’ of a lack of adequate housing for demobilised soldiers and their families, in an article titled ‘Housing Urgencies By-passed’. Here experts including a Dr A. Wood from Cambridge said the Ministry of Health’s current plans would in no way cope with the numbers of returning soldiers who needed rehousing with their families. He reported that he had:

had some sticky interviews with ex-Servicemen. One, demobilised last week after five years in Burma and India, found his wife and family occupying two rooms in a shared house.

The play review (in a very personal but oddly unidentified first person voice) straight after this continues the theme of post-war conditions for returning soldiers, and is perhaps understandably disappointed in this immediate context not to find Greenwood writing a more substantial piece of social realism about current conditions in the vein of Love on the Dole:

I would have thought that the author of Love on the Dole would have produced exactly what was needed on the theme of the Soldier’s Return. But this is nothing more than a pleasant little Lancashire comedy in which the aforesaid soldier discovers on his return from the triumphant campaigns of the Eighth Army that the girl he left behind is nothing but a tiresome little floosie, who when he claps eyes on a nice little war worker from Tooting, quickly fades into the background . . . Mr. Robert Donat is too good an actor to be effectively trivial, and the same may be said of Miss Renee Asherson (Daily News, London, 13 July, 1945, p. 3).

Nevertheless, it is worth looking more closely to see what is there about the ‘Soldier’s Return’. The Cure for Love is in a comic mode no doubt partly because Greenwood is anxious to have a popular post-war theatrical success to succeed Love on the Dole, but also perhaps because there are things to be relatively joyful about after El-Alamein in 1942, the Allied landing in Algeria in 1943, the landings in Sicily and Italy in the same year, and the successes of D-Day in June 1944 (Jack has fought in the first three of these theatres). The play anticipates a return from war to peace, and in this respect has a very different tone from Something in My Heart, which saw the beginning of the end, but was uncertain about the shape of social consequences at home. While Jack has not yet been demobilised, he has been posted home from the battlefield, and once his leave is over is to serve as an instructor at the local barracks for the immediate future. He might of course be sent to the war against Japan in the Far East, but there is no mention of this, and it seems probable now that he will survive the war (though he says he is going to volunteer as a glider pilot, p.19). Despite the reviewer’s disappointment about lack of seriousness, the patronising and automatic stereotyping of the two younger female characters as ‘a tiresome little floosie’ and ‘a nice little war worker from Tooting’ also takes neither seriously.

The illustrated cover of the Samuel French acting edition of The Cure for Love is in itself unusual – most French acting editions had French’s own design on rather than a commissioned illustration for the particular play published. The drawing by the humorous illustrator Joyce Dennys uses the two colours plus the cream background well, and seems to match well the ‘light comedy’ classification of the play, but does not in my view really capture the work’s content. Jack Hardacre is not confident about his situation nor in his approach to women. The illustration shows a cross Janey Jenkinson in the striped dress and clearly left outside the main interaction of the darts match at the Flying Shuttle, while Milly Southern throws her darts in an exaggerated posture which Jack is enjoying, making her very much the object of the male gaze. This is not what happens in the play: Milly is good at darts and throws as well as Jack – they are successful partners and win the game. While Jack is certainly ‘bowled’ over by Milly at his first sight of her, he is quite explicitly himself made the object of the female gaze in one scene of the play, where his mother and Milly look at him shirtless (see the paragraph below for further discussion of the scene). The reviewer and the illustration impose stereotypical views of gender which the play does not wholly support.

I think to a degree a similar charge of using ‘ready-made’ types could be levelled at Greenwood himself in the case of Janey Jenkins (as well as her mother). Janey is portrayed as a manipulative woman whose own attitudes mean her only hope of a partner and marriage is seen as through trickery and then holding what she has. This plays on Lancashire stereotypes of dominant women and submissive men – Jack despite his war-service and medals will do almost anything rather than assert himself against Janey’s claim of possession, or indeed against his mother’s ‘Rod of Iron’ (an earlier title for the play). (9b) In fact, the play is rather obsessed with this model of dominant Lancashire women – since it is a characteristic of Sarah Hardacre, Jack’s mother too, though her values are much more positive. However, the simple dismissal in the review of Milly Southern as ‘a nice little war worker’ does not register Greenwood’s portrayal of her (a Manchester Guardian review thought that indeed ‘some of the characters are just types . . . but some are people’, 12 June 1945, p.3). Milly is undoubtedly being presented as an entirely untypical personality (as Jack says, ‘I’ve never met a lass like thee before’, p.27), and is also clearly to a degree a rewriting of Sally Hardcastle from Love on the Dole in her strong sense of independence and her willingness to defy convention. Even before she has met Jack, she hears about his situation with Janey from Sarah and suggests that he needs help to change and develop: ‘Perhaps we can give Jack ideas’ (p.13). She is, in comparison to Janey and Sarah, assertive yet not dominant – she treats Jack as an equal and encourages him to act like one by speaking up for himself, something which does not come naturally to him in his home setting. Soon after Jack arrives home, Sarah asks him where he has been wounded and, in an old joke dating back to at least Laurence Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Jack answers: ‘Oh Alamein, Tobruk and . . .’ (p.16). Sarah wants him to take his shirt off so she can see his wounds – Jack protests that he can’t in front of Milly, but his mother insists, and Milly says: ‘Don’t mind me. This is a change in striptease’, suggesting an unexpected shift in gender roles and sexual agency. Sarah is more concerned that Jack hasn’t put in for an army pension in recognition of his wounds – to which he replies, ‘I never thought to bother about it, Ma’ (provoking her to exclaim: ‘You great daft loon!’). Perhaps Jack represents the average soldier, willing to put up with a lot on the battlefield and tempted to continue putting up with things in a similar spirit of stoicism when home. Both his mother and Milly may be invigorating counter-forces to accepting things as they are.

Jack indeed comes back home with many gaps in his knowledge about life on the Home Front, and Milly tends to fill these – though often her explanations have their own inflections. Jack does not seem to know how his mother Sarah has been contributing to the war effort:

JACK. What’s all this about British Restaurant, Ma? Have you opened a business?

SARAH. Listen to the fool.

JACK. Well, Ma. I’ve been away for three years you know. I don’t know what’s been happening. And I’d put nothing past you.

MILLY. It’s a Government thing, Jack. Anybody can go in and get a meal at cost price. They’ve got them all over the country. Good idea, isn’t it? (pp.21-2).

British Restaurants were established in 1940 to provide hot and nutritious meals originally for people bombed out of their homes, but then catered for a wider wartime need for cheap but good hot food. They ran on a non-profit basis and were staffed by volunteers such as Sarah. The wartime food scholar Peter J. Atkins, as summarised in Wikipedia, argues that ‘there was a political dimension, as the Labour Party saw them as a permanent solution to equalising consumption across the class line and guaranteeing a nourishing diet to all’. (10) Clearly, Milly is similarly here championing wartime Government interventions and the democratic idea of the ‘British Restaurant’. In the speech quoted above, Mrs Dorbell says that without Sarah’s British Restaurant she would starve.

‘Members of the Public Enjoying a Meal in one of the Chain of British Restaurants established during wartime, 1943, by Ministry of Information Photo Division photographer Jack Smith; image in the public domain and taken from the wikipedia entry on British Restaurants:

Equally, Millie queries Jack’s passive acceptance of other elements on the home front. As we have seen, Sarah says that Millie has Jack’s bed, so that he will have to sleep on the sofa, but Millie thinks this is a poor way to greet a returning hero:

MILLY. I’ll sleep on the sofa and you can sleep on the bed while you’re on leave.

JACK. Don’t be daft, lass. I’ve told you, floor’ll do for me.

MILLY. It wouldn’t do for me. You like it comfortable, don’t you?

JACK. There’s nothing to complain of. We didn’t have any beds out there.

MILLY. Where did you do your fighting?

JACK. Oh, Alamein, Libya, Tunis and Italy.

MILLY. You fought all that way, and when you get home and there’s not even a bed to sleep on you say there’s nothing to complain of? Your mother’s right, you are daft.

JACK. I dunno – those things don’t matter. The fact of being home again is quite enough for me. Be glad when the blooming war’s over and I can get settled down again.

MILLY. You’d better get some practising in the settling down while you’re on leave. You take the bed and I’ll take the sofa (pp. 25-6).

Jack and Milly’s idea of what is involved in ‘settling down’ clearly differ. Milly is determined that a soldier who has learnt to make do and adapt as necessary should not return home with the idea that they should continue in that frame of mind in civilian life, but instead insist on their due reward and decent conditions. This does indeed seem to link up with the real problem of housing shortages at the time, and is also surely a wider comment on the widely desired transition from wartime necessity to peacetime social improvements.

Jack never does quite bring himself to confront Janey, but he and Milly are inspired by Mrs Dorbell’s account of the strategies of her deceased husband in his manic quest for free drinks – one which resembles her own current dependence on being treated in the pub:

MRS DORBELL. That second husband of mine. Educated man, ‘e was. Speak French ‘e could, though it never got him a job. Fifteen years I worked keeping him, till he dies of over drinking. Ne’er had a penny in his pockets. Always wondered how he got his booze till he told me. Go from pub to pub, he used to, he said, see a drink on the bar top, down it, then say, ‘I’ve supped it, should I ha’ done?’. Fate Accomply, he said (p.58)

Of course, the mis-spelled French phrase suggests also the working out of Fate, and though not signalled immediately, gives to Jack a rather unconventional way out of what he regards as Janey Jenkins’ ‘trap’. Milly and he at some stage (offstage!) sleep together, contrary to ideas of ‘respectability’, and as becomes gradually evident towards the end of the play, she has become pregnant and they have already got married, asking no one’s leave. As Jack says, repeating Mrs Dorbell, ‘Fate Accomply’ (p.76). Though Milly near the end salutes Jack and says ‘Right, Sergeant’ (p. 82), it is very clear that though she has made him more independent and less passive, this will be a marriage of equals and that she will continue to lead by example.

This seems a somewhat unconventional interpretation of the post-war opportunities promised by the ‘People’s War’, and is unusually unbuttoned for Greenwood. In fact, despite the accusation that the play is mere farce, it is not wholly conventional in its handling of the mythical Lancashire domination of men by women, nor in its understanding of the possibilities of post-war Britain. Like most of Greenwood’s work it balances entertainment with seriousness, though perhaps that balance is not quite right here, since reviewers (and audiences?) at the time seemed almost wholly to have missed any serious themes or sub-text. However, there was one exception – the Manchester Guardian reviewer did see that there was a deliberate aesthetic of comic ‘ordinariness’ which was not merely frivolity, but a release from wartime identities, and even picks up the ‘political’ discontents of Mrs Dorbell, though no other topical political references:

Sitting in the bar of ‘The Flying Shuttle’, old Mrs Dorbell remarks in a cosy but malign way that her vote won’t go to the people who made beer the price it is, especially considering that the higher the price the more like water it has become. And it is here that Walter Greenwood in his new play . . . struck the note, which he strikes repeatedly, of a common unthinking humanity; not humanity on parade, nor being heroic, nor in any sense at its finest hour, but kind, quarrelsome, nagging or defiant, and always ordinary (12 June 1945, p.3).

The review does better than most in noticing the shallowness of Mrs Dorbell’s political awareness, but also her real sense of deprivation, and more than that sees that the play is about behaviours nearly post-war, almost freed from the strains of wartime.

In an interview Greenwood gave to the Stage’s drama critic R.B. Marriott a few months after the opening of The Cure for Love he gave a rare sense of his own dramatic aesthetic at this point which may be relevant to what he was attempting in his own play. He firstly saw it as important that British theatre post-war should be performed in theatres outside as well as inside London, and by playwrights who in order to write about ‘ordinary people’ should ‘know a lot about provincial life’ (where he assumes the ‘ordinary’ is located!). Clearly, The Cure for Love meets this criterion, and for Greenwood the Lancashire setting presumably authenticates the representativeness of its characters – though London also gets some coverage through the ‘exiled’ Milly and her gradual adaptations to northern life. Then Marriott asks Greenwood what the nature of post-war theatre is likely to be:

I asked Mr. Greenwood If he considered that there is any particular kind of play for which there will be a demand when the wartime need for escapist entertainment has diminished. ‘Of course’, he replied, ‘the only demand that one can be sure about is the obvious one – for the well-written, exciting or amusing play, but I do think that with the growing consciousness of social and political things, there is emerging a large audience with a taste for plays dealing with current topics. The dramatists who can treat serious social and domestic problems and situations without preaching will be particularly well received, I’m sure. And the most successful will he those who can treat vividly and naturally the outside influences and the intimate things that affect the ‘ordinary’ person’ (4 October 1945, p. 1).

This captures Greenwood’s sense that entertainment is always fundamentally necessary, but also his conviction that this can go beyond ‘escapism’, and can represent serious political and social issues ‘without preaching’ (an idea echoed in the play by Milly who complains of Sarah’s moral strictures on the younger generation: ‘Oh, I can’t do with this sermonising’, p.22). It seems likely that The Cure for Love is indeed an attempt to ‘treat vividly and naturally the outside influences and the intimate things that affect the “ordinary” person’. I think it does not entirely succeed in this project perhaps because ‘the outside influences’ and ‘the intimate things’ are too much hidden in comic archetypes and plot-forms, and may not be clearly enough linked. However, these outer and inner elements are there, and indeed comedy itself is from ancient Greece and Rome onwards about liberation from fossilised social and sexual norms, so Greenwood’s choice of genre is not irrelevant to Britain in 1945. It is a pity that so few have paid any serious attention to the play.

Part 5. Conclusion

Something in My Heart captured considerable public interest during the war, with dozens of mainly positive reviews. Most of these saw the novel as plainly supporting ‘the People’s War’, and indeed the kind of thinking popularly regarded as being exemplified in Beveridge’s Plan. Thus the Welsh Western Mail, as well as regarding the novel as highly ‘readable’, commented on how it portrayed class-mixing in the war effort, and how it saw the relationship between the economic policy of the interwar years and the hoped for policy of the post-war:

War, course, makes strange bedfellows, and the R.A.F. brings together as comrades and friends two formerly unemployed factory workers and the son of a wealthy industrialist. The situation obviously allows Mr. Greenwood opportunity for sharp comment on the economic follies of the past and our hope of a more humane and rational system in the future (31 October 1944, p. 2)

Even the more conservative Daily Telegraph saw the novel in similar terms:

Here is a warm-hearted story which may be ranked almost as a sequel to Love on the Dole . . . Mr Greenwood has nothing good to say of the England in which such material [i.e. the unemployed] was allowed to go to waste, but much hope of a post-war England which will make better use of its heritage of brains and character (20 October 1944, p. 64).

The most substantial review of all was written by the novelist Pamela Hansford Johnson (at that stage author of nine well-regarded novels), who saw the novel as representing fears and hopes about the post-war shape of Britain, especially as seen by servicemen:

Let me say … that this is an important novel of ideas, and that it ventilates a good many worries that are apt to fester in confinement. if future generations want to know what the fighting men were thinking during the Nazi war, they will get a good deal of enlightenment from any copy of Something in My Heart . . . that may remain extant (John O’London’s Weekly, 20 October 1944, p. 32).

Again, this review expresses support for the ‘People’s War idea’ and sees it (not necessarily accurately) as representing the views of a large proportion of servicemen (servicewomen are sadly not mentioned). The play The Cure for Love was a success on stage – in the north of England at least, though less so in London. However, it was mainly seen as a comedy without any obvious social or political themes – though as I have argued these are in fact present. I would like in the near future to add some further discussion about the politics (or absence of politics) in the 1950 film version (directed by Robert Donat, London Films), but at present there is no easy means of seeing the complete film, since it has rarely if ever been screened on television and there has been no video or DVD recording. (11)

Though the press often linked Greenwood’s work to the overall ‘People’s War’ idea, specific links to the Beveridge Report were rarer. However, there were three newspaper articles which interestingly assumed an automatic and explicit connection between Beveridge and Love on the Dole. The first of these was published at the opening of 1943 in the Nottingham Journal:

Had it not been for the ‘Hanky Parks’ which disgrace so many of our Industrial cities, reeking streets and alleys where the sun only shines at second-hand, there would have been no Beveridge Report. The revival of Love on the Dole, at the Nottingham Repertory Theatre this week is a salutary reminder of the abyss of unemployment in which millions of our population were sunk in the 1930s, and of the lives they were compelled to lead because they had become the slaves of the machines, and the machines were standing idle. It is a beautiful and moving performance that Barbara Miller gives us of Sally Hardcastle, whom the author, Walter Greenwood, through the mouth of one of his characters, describes as a ‘rose blossoming on a rubbish heap’. Others who fit into the drab picture of slum life which this play paints, are Henry Hutteroth, Barbara Cavan and Antony Barrett (5 January 1943, p.4).

Again, the link could not be made clearer between Greenwood’s work on drawing attention to the deprivation and neglect of whole sections of the British population, and the necessity of the implementation of the Beveridge Plan. The review echoes the film version of Love on the Dole in the way it sees the work as a response to the Government deficits of the thirties, and as an appeal for the beginnings of a new post-war Britain.

The second article was published in the Nottingham Journal, but dated from two years later, and showed at least one Liberal politician who was less willing to accept the accuracy of Love on the Dole as question and the correctness of Beveridge as answer. The article reported on the day’s debate at the Liberal Party Conference, and was supportively titled ‘All Set for Beveridge’. Sir William, who had been elected as a Liberal MP in 1944 in a by-election and stood again (unsuccessfully) in the 1945 elections, himself spoke about his Report, but clearly met at least some half-hearted support:

Considering that the resolution on full employment was easily the most important before the Liberal Party Conference, the attendance (it was considered this morning) was very disappointing. There were many empty seats in the body of the hall and a small platform. Sir William Beveridge argued the case for the executive’s resolution closely, fluently, and persuasively, but Mr. Elliot Dodds surprised some supporters and encouraged opponents with the qualifications he uttered in seconding it. He said frankly he did not like all of it as it stands, and spoke of wanting to ‘dot Sir William’s eyes’ on some, points. However, despite his dash of Mark Antony, he supported the master principle. ‘Love on the Dole’ might make a play’,’ he said, ‘but liberty on the dole makes a mockery.’ Limitation of speeches to a couple of minutes precluded anything like debate and, as the conference was impatient to vote, there were few. Points from them were that from the Conservatives we can have liberty without security, and from Labour security without liberty. The Liberal plan provides for both security and liberty. Winding up. Sir William remarked that, as usual, the opponents had talked a lot about liberty, but not one had attempted to define what meant it (3 February 1945, p.2).

This report may seem mysterious to the contemporary reader at points, partly because it is using some terms loaded with meanings for those in the Liberal Party tradition. (11b) Here ‘security’ probably indicates the traditional Liberal view that rights to property ownership gave stability to a society, while ‘liberty’ referred to the principle that all members of society should have personal freedoms under the law to participate in the polity, including through democratic political activity, and by opportunities to acquire property. I take it that Beveridge’s seconder (opponent?), Elliott Dodds, is raising the old complaint that some workers will prefer to take the dole if it is too generous rather than work’ : this is the undesirable ‘liberty on the dole’ referred to in contrast to Love on the Dole. In effect, Dodds dismisses Greenwood’s play as merely ‘a play’, rather than a serious political contribution to understanding the experience of long-term unemployment. Beveridge may not have referred specifically to Love on the Dole in his response, but presumably did maintain that his plans for unemployment benefit were not excessively generous. Elliot Dodds was a journalist and lifelong Liberal supporter who according to his Wikipedia entry did, despite his reservation here, support Beveridge’s contributions to the social reforming policy of the more radical wing of the party. (12)

At a more local level of politics, this time in Lancashire, Mr Wilson Hey, a distinguished surgeon from Colne, and chief guest at the Colne Rotary Club annual dinner also linked Greenwood to Beveridge in 1945. The headline of the article named the topic under discussion at the 1945 dinner: ‘Rotary’s Part in Post-War World’. Hey took a related but more firmly opposed view to that of Elliot Dodds on both Beveridge and Love on the Dole itself:

‘Colne men of that day’, he commented, ‘would never have tolerated Beveridge’s security. A man was his own security and had his own independence, the type of men ‘who will continue to independent when Beveridge’s scheme comes out’. Love on the Dole could never have been written in Colne (Barnoldswick & Earby Times, 23 February 1945, p. 5).

Clearly, Hey asserts the view that any ‘man’ of independent spirit would never allow himself to become so ‘insecure’ as to ever have need of the dole, or indeed or any of Beveridge’s proposed provision of economic and social ‘safety nets’. Thus, such a play could never have been produced in Colne – Greenwood presumably showed his own lack of security and independence in making his case for those in Salford who were by Hey’s standards self-inflicted economic, social and moral ‘failures’. Of course, much of the work Greenwood put into the play was to show the weak-mindedness of such comfortable complacency – to portray how an independent family like the Hardcastles were put into a position by the depression, unemployment, and their long-standing position on the edge of poverty where they could no longer make ‘good’ economic or ‘moral’ decisions.

In summary, there was a Love on the Dole to Beveridge narrative of which John Baxter and Greenwood were aware, and to which they both contributed. Though Beveridge himself did not name such a link, it did seem evident to others including some theatre reviewers and some politicians (even if they disapproved of Love on the Dole, Walter Greenwood and the Beveridge Plan). Perhaps most surprisingly, Greenwood’s allegedly light comedy or farce, The Cure for Love, also made some interventions in that narrative, though in ways which did not have much public impact – perhaps because they were too idiosyncratic, perhaps because they were too subtle, or perhaps because they were too bound up for contemporary audiences with what might have seemed to them ‘only’ comic ideas about gender and equality?


Note 1. I first discussed this article (in a similar vein, though without making a Beveridge connection) in an article, ‘The Army of the Unemployed: Walter Greenwood’s Wartime Novel and the Reconstruction of Britain’, Keywords – A Journal of Cultural Materialism, Vol.10, October 2012, pp.103-124 and then returned to it in my book, Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole – Novel, Play, Film , Liverpool University Press, 2018, p.184.

Note 2. For example, though it notes Baxter’s general commitment in his films to a socially progressive ‘People’s War’ narrative, this article by the director himself is not discussed in Robert Murphy’s (excellent) British Cinema and the Second World War, Continuum, London, 2000 (see discussion of Baxter’s on ‘radical populist ethos’ on pp.13-14 and 76 ).

Note 3. I did note briefly some Beveridge references in my book (see pp. 153, 274 and 276), and linked these to ‘the People’s War’ idea, but there is a little more to say about Something in My Heart, and much more to discuss about the engagement of The Cure for Love with questions about the shape of post-war Britain, as well as curious press discussions relating Greenwood to Beveridge.

Note 4. An image of the title page can be viewed on a British Library page:

Note 5. There is, unsurprisingly, an extensive historical literature on the Beveridge Report, as well as on Beveridge himself. I am drawing here on Paul Addison’s classic and seminal discussion The Road to 1945: British Politics and the Second World War (Jonathan Cape, London 1945; reprinted by Pimlico Press, London, 1993) as well as on William Beveridge – A Biography by José Harris (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1977) which gives a complex account of a man whose social, economic and political thinking often seemed unstable and sometimes positively contradictory. The information about the origins of the Report is from p.169 of the Pimlico edition of Addison, and all further page references are to that edition. Ernest Brown was a ‘National Liberal’ member of the wartime coalition; see his Wikipedia entry for an introduction to his career:

Note 6. See José Harris ‘s ‘Introduction’, pp.1-5 – and indeed the whole biography which seeks to come to terms with Beveridge’s angular intellectual personality, without smoothing over its contradictions.

Note 7. William Beveridge – A Biography, pp. 428-9, and footnote 47.

Note 8. These reports were all, like the Beveridge Report, mainly likely to lead to major post-war social reforms, but never had the same public impact as it did. The Uthwatt and Scott Reports were both linked to post-war rebuilding and replanning, inevitable needs even early in the war due to extensive bomb damage to London and other cities and towns (they dated respectively from January and October 1941). The Scott Report focussed on the future of rural areas, while the Uthwatt Report focused on compensation schemes for land taken over for replanning purposes (see The Road to 1945, p.177). The Samuel Report dated back to 1926 and made recommendations about the reorganisation and regulation of the British mining industry, also including however a recommendation to reduce in miners’ wages. It seems very much the odd one out, since the others were more obviously progressive and fed into the policy of the Labour government after the 1945 election (see The Road to 1945, p.252).

Note 9. The cast is is listed in the Samuel French Acting Edition of The Cure for Love (no. 2102). Apart from Iris Vandeleur, the other actor from the film was Marjorie Rhodes, who moves from the role of Mrs Bull to that of Sarah Hardacre, a character who shares some tough and self-sufficient aspects with Mrs Bull, and so allows Rhodes to develop some continuity with her much praised role in the film.

Note 9b. As in the case of Love on the Dole, Greenwood had several attempts at the best title for his new play. At its Oldham Repertory Company premiere in January 1945 it was called Rod of Iron, which certainly makes central the theme of female dominance, but also suggests less accurately that Sarah Hardacre is the main protagonist. In an earlier advert in the Stage (8 March 1945. p.6) asking for large theatres available to put on the play, it was called The Sergeant’s Mess. As well an amusing play on words, this title put Jack firmly at the centre of the play. Perhaps Greenwood preferred the final The Cure for Love both because of its proverbial ring (‘the only cure for love is marriage’ – a proverb open to cynical or optimistic interpretations), and for its echo of his other great stage success – Love on the Dole, of course.

Note 10. See the informative wikipedia article on British Restaurants (, which draws on Peter J. Atkins’ book chapter ‘Communal Feeding in Wartime: British Restaurants, 1940-1947’ in Food and War in Twentieth-Century Europe, edited by Ina Zweigener-Bargielowska, Routledge London, 2011.

Note 11. The film of The Cure for Love does have an entry on the BFI Screen-online website (available only to subscribing Universities and colleges), with some useful commentary, and also include links to three clips from the film (amounting to just under ten minutes of footage), but in fact these links do not currently work, as far as I can see.

Note 11b. There is of course a huge historical and political literature on the Liberal Party, a major force in British politics, government and society between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century. However, for an approachable and reasonable introduction, see the wikipedia entry, and especially for the period and under ideas under consideration here, the paragraph on the ‘Rise of New Liberalism’:

Note 12. See: .