The UK is about to pay off the last of its World War II loans from the US. But it hasn’t always been so fastidious.
On 31 December, the UK will make a payment of about $83m (Â£45.5m) to the US and so discharge the last of its loans from World War II from its transatlantic ally.
It is hard from a modern viewpoint to appreciate the astronomical costs and economic damage caused by this conflict. In 1945, Britain badly needed money to pay for reconstruction and also to import food for a nation worn down after years of rationing.
“In a nutshell, everything we got from America in World War II was free,” says economic historian Professor Mark Harrison, of Warwick University.
“The loan was really to help Britain through the consequences of post-war adjustment, rather than the war itself. This position was different from World War I, where money was lent for the war effort itself.” Britain had spent a great deal of money at the beginning of the war, under the US cash-and-carry scheme, which saw straight payments for materiel. There was also trading of territory for equipment on terms that have attracted much criticism in the years since. By 1941, Britain was in a parlous financial state and Lend-Lease was eventually introduced.
The post-war loan was part-driven by the Americans’ termination of the scheme. Under the programme, the US had effectively donated equipment for the war effort, but anything left over in Britain at the end of hostilities and still needed would have to be paid for.
But the price would please a bargain hunter - the US only wanted one-tenth of the production cost of the equipment and would lend the money to pay for it.
Probably should of told them to hold onto it for us. The way our government is spending we’ll probably have to sleep on their couch in the near future.