Interesting stuff about the Great Smog on Wikipedia: “The Great Smog of ’52 or Big Smoke was a severe air-pollution event that affected London during December 1952. A period of cold weather, combined with an anticyclone and windless conditions, collected airborne pollutants mostly from the use of coal to form a thick layer of smog over the city. It lasted from Friday 5 to Tuesday 9 December 1952, and then dispersed quickly after a change of weather.
“Although it caused major disruption due to the effect on visibility, and even penetrated indoor areas, it was not thought to be a significant event at the time, with London having experienced many smog events in the past, so-called “pea soupers”. However, government medical reports in the following weeks estimated that up until 8 December 4,000 people had died prematurely and 100,000 more were made ill because of the smog’s effects on the human respiratory tract. More recent research suggests that the total number of fatalities was considerably greater, at about 12,000.
“Although London was accustomed to heavy fogs, this one was denser and longer-lasting than any previous fog. Visibility was reduced to a few yards (“It’s like you were blind”) making driving difficult or impossible.
“Public transport ceased, apart from the London Underground; and the ambulance service stopped functioning, forcing users to transport themselves to hospital. The smog even seeped indoors, resulting in the cancellation or abandonment of concerts and film screenings as visibility decreased in large enclosed spaces, and stages and screens became harder to see from the seats. Outdoor sports events were also affected.
“In the inner London suburbs and away from town centres there was no disturbance by moving traffic to thin out the dense fog in the back streets. The result was that visibility could be down to a metre or so in the daytime. Walking out of doors became a matter of shuffling one’s feet to feel for road curbs, etc. This was made even worse at night because each back street lamp at the time was fitted with an incandescent light-bulb which gave no penetrating light onto the pavement for pedestrians to see their feet, or even the lamp post. Fog-penetrating fluorescent lamps did not become widely available until later on in the Fifties. ‘Smog masks’ were worn by those who were able to purchase them from chemists.”
(Photo via WeHadFacesThen)