When Spanish Flu hit Britain

A century ago, a devastating pandemic killed countless millions worldwide. But how did Britain cope when the virus reached its shores? Robert Hume says it was a tragic case of far too little, too late

Spanish flu

This article was first published in the January 2018 edition of BBC History Magazine

“Soon after the war ended, there was a strange kind of flu,” recorded John Pears Jackson, who farmed near Keswick, and died in 2005, aged 98. “Many thousands of people, in England alone, died, including a lot of men and women in Cumberland, some of whom I knew. With none of the drugs and antibiotics we have today, doctors were powerless, and strong men and women were dead in the course of a few days… People drank whisky… and dosed themselves with all kinds of medicines. One farmer I knew swore he cured himself with paraffin oil.”

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