Holiday Camps were conceived by Billy
Butlin during a wet holiday week on Barry Island while locked out of his
unwelcoming boarding house. He dreamt of a holiday centre for the great mass of
working-class families, where they could have a good time irrespective of the
Billy Butlin started his
first holiday camps in 1936. On the day after Britain’s declaration of war
against Germany, he completed negotiations with the Ministry of Defence to build
several army training camps around Britain at a discount price – subject to
his being able to recover the camps as holiday centres as soon as war was over.
Within weeks of VE Day in 1945, Butlin had all nine of his camps open for
business and doing a roaring trade.
is a familiar part of British culture and folklore, famous for its hi-de-hi
catchphrase, the camp redcoats, the Wakey Wakey breakfast call broadcast across
the camps by tannoy, the barbed wire fences (built to stop non-payers getting
into the camps, but contributing to their reputation as places of enforced
enjoyment), and the hilarious competitions – including Knobbly Knees, Ugly
Faces, and Glamorous Grannies.
the time Butlin sold his empire to the Rank Organisation in 1972, each camp was
hosting 1,000 visitors per day. The camps’ popularity peaked in 1981, but then
declined fast with the growth of cheap package holidays to the Mediterranean.
Over 10 million Britons have had enjoyed a Butlin’s holiday.