MB Reed

Author and mathematician


Footnotes for 'Events of 1968', Chapters 1-4

Chapters 1-4:

  1. Thomas Hammond’s home and school life in the 1960s are largely based on my own. I think anyone who went to my grammar school at that time will recognise it - though we never had any contact with the girls’ school at the bottom of the playing fields. In particular, the teacher Mr Wolfe (not his real name) whose eccentricities were even more extreme than depicted here. Though I never saw him act with serious violence - it was another teacher who knocked a boy unconscious when he farted during morning Assembly. The school had a Combined Cadet Force, and I was in the RAF section. I can still recall the smell of the blanco I had to polish my gaiters with, the evening before Parade.

  2. The long-serving Prime Minister is Richard Austen Butler, Baron Butler of Saffron Walden, colloquially known as Rab. He’s been described as ‘the best Prime Minister Britain never had.’ He performed successfully as Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary, and was Deputy PM when Harold Macmillan resigned in 1963. As Home Sec he created the UK education system of grammar, secondary modern and technical schools, to cater for all abilities - largely abolished by the Labour Party in favour of Comprehensives in the 1980s. It was widely expected that he would succeed Macmillan as PM but the Tories chose the nonentity Sir Alec Douglas-Home instead. Perhaps Rab’s strong support for Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s influenced this. But in Hammond’s world this would have been an advantage, not a black mark.

  3. The Point of Departure for Thomas’s alternate world was the Deputy Fuhrer’s peace mission to Britain in May 1941: in his world this succeeded, whereas in ours Rudolf Hess crashlanded and was imprisoned in the tower of London by Churchill. The story is described in the background notes to Conjecture, based on the book ‘Double Standards’ by Lyn Pinknett et al.

  4. Rab’s policy is peaceful coexistence with the German Reich. This was the policy between the West and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 70s, to avoid nuclear war. Also known as rapprochement or detente (but not appeasement).

  5. The Monkees starred in a TV series from 1966 to 1968, shown on BBC in the UK. Its surreal comedy was from the same stable as the Beatles films, Monty Python and the Goodies.

  6. Alex Naysmith’s reporting style is based on that of a certain current BBC Radio 4 political correspondent, who seems to get away with such banalities without comment.

Chapter 4: The Queen’s Speech

  1. The Ship and Shovell is an old London pub with a unique layout. This becomes important later in Chapter 14. I recommend a visit: it serves a fantastic steak and ale pie.

  2. Moral Rearmament was an idealistic Christian peace movement in the 1930s.

  3. The Churchill government secretly planned to evacuate King George VI and his family to Hatley Castle in British Columbia if the Nazis invaded Britain. After the war they considered sending the former King Edward VIII into exile there. More recently it was used as a set in the X-Men films.

  4. The speech by Princess Elizabeth is based on one she delivered in 1947 to the young people of the Commonwealth on her 21st birthday.