In 1954, Britain was broke, emerging from post-War rationing, and most people – including those running London’s power stations – were burning low grade coal to keep warm. Between 1952 – 54 a series of cold Winters led to sulphuric smoke being trapped over the capital. At least 12 000 people – the very young, old and the sick, especially those with existing respiratory illness – died. The 1956 Clean Air Act improved the lives of Londoners vastly. Fog also presented a hazard to London’s emerging civil aviation industry as planes couldn’t see the runway properly.
The Great Fog is also the plot device for Frankie Howerd’s first film, as a hapless bus driver trying to get proponent of “Positive Thought”, Margaret Rutherford, from Heathrow to her flight to Dublin, aided by Petula Clark; but unbeknownst to them the proceeds of a heist have been smuggled on board the bus. Now the London Fog only lingers as a quaint reference to an era of industry and pollution, which seems like a foreign country.