WHATEVER arguments are made regarding comparison of behaviour in the 1950s and today, which I concede is difficult to judge, there has at least been no significant change in involvement in anti-social behaviour either by girls or boys, since the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey, was first conducted in 2003.
There has also been a recorded reduction in the use of drink and drugs by under 16s, which I referred to in my previous letter and which augers well for the future. It is most unfortunate that the rioting which has occurred mainly in London, may be taken as an example that there has been a significant rise in criminality by mainly young people. However I remain of the opinion that otherwise, there has been no significant deterioration since the 1950s, which Tony Jenkins, (letters August 8) considers to be the best decade of the century.
I was also a teenager in the 1950s, and have some lovely memories of the period, but do not consider that it was the best period in my 71 years so far. Tony Jenkins asserts that he is not looking through rose coloured spectacles, but that is surely what he is doing. The example given of Royal Air Force conscripts somehow benefiting from six weeks ‘square bashing’ is erroneous in my opinion. I served in the RAF for 25 years, the first 5 years of which were during the final years of conscription. I have also had a book published about my experiences which relates my experience of serving with National Servicemen.
At the time, RAF conscripts consisted of many airmen who had gained a deferment in order to complete a degree course or an apprenticeship. When they joined the ranks, they were mature individuals in their early 20s.
Other younger conscripts were airmen specially selected for technical trades. Overall behaviour was therefore a reflection of the maturity of the majority and was not greatly affected by six weeks of marching up and down, and all the so called ‘bull’ of the era. However anyone who lived in a garrison towns such as Aldershot and Catterick would have gained a much less favourable impression of National Servicemen. The residents of garrison towns in West Germany were particularly affected by the behaviour of soldiers who made the most of the long opening hours of bars that they were unaccustomed to in the United Kingdom. A lesson from history which is of relevance to the present day in respect of all day drinking.
As for those halcyon days of clean telephone boxes etc; for most of the decade, and an even longer period than the Second World War, the United Kingdom was involved in seven different conflicts; Malaya, Kenya, Canal Zone, Cyprus, Aden, Radfan and Suez. There was also the so called Cold War.
Life expectancy had only just risen to 68 years. Most people worked to the age of 65, many in much harsher conditions than today, and did not have many golden years left to enjoy some leisure.
Many children were weak from diseases and malnourished (food rationing remained until 1954), and had to spend time at convalescent camps. I recall visiting a school friend at a large camp at Grassington.
I would like to conclude with two favourable examples of the youth of today. Firstly they continue to provide a total volunteer defence force, and there is no need for conscription. Most are much more socially aware, and for example many spend some time helping others directly and indirectly by taking part in fund raising events.“