I have to admit to being a bit sceptical when the Government announced their target of 15 million vaccinations to have taken place by mid February. And now it has actually happened, and I'm pleased to say that I am one of that 15 million as I had my first vaccination 2 days ago. I guess it just shows what can be achieved when people get organised and just get on with the job in hand. OK, it hasn't been perfect; there's been lots of letters and texts, but better than no communication at all.
This whole situation reminds me of a record much used by family historians, also at a time when the world was under threat. I'm referring to the 1939 England and Wales Register. This document wasn't a census, but it was collated in a similar way, and was designed to capture the whole civilian population.
On 3 September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany, just 20 years after the end of the Great War. Almost 6 years later, the war ended with large parts of the physical world devastated, many millions of lives lost and countless millions of others being displaced. It was a time when the quality of organisation could make a huge difference, especially to the Home Front back in the UK.
During September 1939, householders were required to record information about themselves and their family including name and address, date of birth , occupation etc. This information was collected towards the end of September and used to issue national identity cards on the spot. The Register was also used to issue ration books when rationing was introduced in January 1940 as a way of ensuring that food supplies were shared out fairly .This was clearly an incentive to have your name on the Register, although people in more rural locations were likely to have had the advantage of 'living off the land' to supplement their diets.
As the Register included dates of birth, it was also used in conscription to the armed forces.
The compilation of the Register was a huge undertaking which couldn't have happened without good organisation. Initially it contained over 40 million names and it remained a living document, being updated until 1991.Until that date, records of deaths were added as well as changes of name, usually through marriage. It was also used in the organisation of the NHS in 1948.
The organisation of both the 1939 Register and today's vaccination programme are two very good examples of where the right motivation can work wonders.