Monday, 23 February 2015

#WW2 Farming in Britain During the Second World War

Women's Land Army, Essex, found at

The farming industry in Britain during the Second World War underwent a complete upheaval. It was necessary for the government to control what farmers grew or what livestock they kept to ensure maximum productivity from the land. I have included part of my Special Study for my dissertation from my B.A in history from 2008 for this.
Under the Defence of The Realm Act which was passed just before the outbreak of hostilities[1], the Ministry of Agriculture had the power to

Preserve and maintain agricultural land solely for the production of food, to control by order, the cultivation, management and use of land in order to secure maximum production of food from the farms; to terminate any tenancy of agricultural land where it is considered that the land is being neglected or badly cultivated; to introduce special measures for the determination of birds, rabbits, deer, vermin and pests.[2]

[1] A. Wilt, Food for War, Agriculture and Rearmament in Britain before the Second World War,  p.186.
[2] J.Martin, The Development of Modern Agriculture, British Farming Since 1931,p.38.

The Ministry now had much more power to meet the demands of a hungry populace that would soon have to rely on food that was largely home produced, as was forecast, quite accurately that importation of food would decline. Many of the farmers who had to produce this food had to change their methods of farming. They had to produce in greater quantities food that was rich in carbohydrates such as potatoes, or foodstuffs that were too bulky or fragile that would not take up valuable shipping space, so as not  to rely too heavily on importation. [1]

With reference to the title of this Special Study, like the Great War the Second World War was a time of affluence for many farmers, particularly in the arable districts of England.  For example, prices of wheat in 1939 per cwt for England and Wales were 5 shillings, by 1945 this had risen to 14s 5d. Barley in the same period rose from 8s 10d to 24s 5d, and oats rose from 6s 11d to 16s 5d[2].  farmers were heavily subsidised by the Ministry of Food, who bought goods from farmers at higher rates, whilst selling them to the public at lower rates, the shortfall being made up by the Treasury. Crops such as wheat however, were acquired by the government cheaper than in times of peace[3].This system was , on  26th November 1940 confirmed to stay in place whilst hostilities were taking place and for one year after they ended[4].

Government policy was critical in ensuring an increase in productivity. Like the First World War, War Agricultural Executive Committees There were eventually sixty-one committees established in England and Wales[5],which came to be known as ‘War Ags’. The members of the War Ags included local farmers, members of the Women’s Institute and had the power to take farms away from farmers who were considered to be farming inefficiently. They also had to ensure the government policy of ploughing up more land was implemented. The War Ags had the power to tell people which fields were cultivated and had a pool of labour and machinery to work the land themselves. They  also encouraged more modernisation, which resulted in more efficiency and greater production.


The inportation of feedstuffs  was less due to the problems in shipping. This  did not prevent the encouragement of higher yields in dairy cows. More small scale farmers began to produce milk, premium payments were given to the first 1514 litres of milk produced per month[6]. Other small scale production of  livestock was encouraged with the introduction of Pig and Poultry Clubs[7] Domestic poultry keepers did not have restrictions placed upon them like large scale producers regarding rationing controls. The Small Pig Keepers Council, an organisation founded by the Ministry of Agriculture encouraged anyone with space to keep a pig and feed it on household waste. There is little evidence to suggest that these smallholders and people in towns were ever an economic threat to full-time farmers, but whilst the war was taking place, helped to supplement a diet that was rationed.

Hill farmers were dealt with separately for the first time. In 1940 subsidies were paid at the equivalent of 12.5p per head per hill ewe, by 1942 this had risen to 40p[8]. A committee was formed in 1941-1942 for England and Wales to review the long term future of hill faming, a minimum of four hundred ewes was required for full-time status.

Farm Workers

The government had the foresight to ensure that farmworkers were not as scarce as they had been in the First World War. This was achieved by farming being declared a reserved occupation, if any male farm worker wanted to join the forces or have an alternative occupation, i.e. construction, a replacement had to be found before he was allowed to leave his job on the farm.  This came under the Restrictions of Engagements order in June 1940[9]. Martin claims that anyone who wanted to leave agriculture for the forces or another occupation would have done so[10], as the war was nine months old when this order became effective. Howkins states that an estimated fifty thousand farm workers were lost to the armed forces prior to the Restrictions of Engagements Order. The total number of farm workers in 1939 (seasonal, part and full-time) were six hundred and seven thousand in England and Wales, for 1940 the number had risen to six hundred and eight thousand[11].By 1945 the number had increased to seven hundred and seventy thousand[12]. This was due to the recruitment campaign by the government to organisations such as the Women’s Land Army. This had varied success, in England some encountered sexism, and many were appalled at the conditions they were expected to work and live in. Sackville West, cited in The Peoples War states that women nearly equalled the abilities of their male counterpart in tasks such as milking, turning hay and lifting peas, but other more demanding tasks it required three women to take the place of two men[13].

The unemployed  from the towns and cities were also put to work on farms, as were conscientious objectors[14]. Prisoners of War also took part, by 1945 there were 57,763 working on farms in England and Wales[15], the obvious advantage being that they did not need paying, the incentive to them being a healthier and more stimulating environment than being stuck behind the barbed wire for the duration of the war.

Wages, always an issue with farmworkers, were increased as the value of farm work was recognised by the government as being essential to the war effort, a good wage being an incentive to stay on farms.. Estimated wages in 1940/1941 for the basic wage of an adult male were 48sh 5d per week in England and Wales, by 1944/1945 this had increased to over 67 shillings[16]. Due to the security felt by farmworkers because of the shortage of skilled manpower, union membership of the National Union of Farmworkers rose to 100,000, three times what it had been prior to the war[17].


More tractors and modern implements were as essential to the increased productivity of the land as the farmworkers mentioned above. The horse began to fall out of favour as there was more land cultivation to be undertaken, but the decline was not rapid, there being over six hundred thousand in the whole of Great Britian in 1938[18].In 1946 this had fallen to just over five hundred thousand. The tractor, faster than the horse and becoming more reliable was still outnumbered by the horse, there being around one hundred thousand in England and Wales in 1940[19]. This was  a considerable increase considering there were only around fifty six thousand in Great Britain in 1939[20]. Many farmers were saved the cost of buying a tractor because of the help offered by the War Agricultural Executive Committees mentioned previously. Farmers had priority in the allocation of machinery, this would not have happened if it had not been for the war, the provision of machinery was a great help in modernising farming in England.

To conclude, the Second World War was a turning point in English agriculture. Through government intervention of the way farmers cultivated their land and subsidised pricing, agriculture became more productive. The agricultural industry was also fortunate to receive a priority in machinery allocation, a godsend for farmers wishing to modernise. This was essential due to the threat of merchant shipping during the Battle of the Atlantic, shipping space also being in short supply. Farmworkers benefited enormously, their efforts being recognised as valuable to the well being of the country. Government policy worked with notable success, the Women’s Land Army making a significant contribution, as did Prisoners-of War. Without the preparations for increased production, the country would have been, without doubt, short of food. Also like the First World War, farmers were able to make a comfortable living in most cases, and although rationing was in place for most of the war, farmers were able to access food much easier than people living in urban England.

[1] J. Martin, p.38.
[2] M.A.F.F, A Century of Agricultural Statistics, Great Britain 1866-1966, p.82.
[3] J.Martin, p.38.
[4] 367 H.C Debe,  26th November 1940, Col.92, cited in J.Martin, p.39.
[5] Wilt, p.69.
[6] J. Martin, p.40..
[7] K.A.H Murray, Agriculture, London, (1955), cited in ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] J.Martin, p.p 41, 42.
[10] Ibid, p.42.
[11] M.A.F.F, A Century of Agricultural Statistics, p.62.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Sackville West, The Women’s Land Army, p.97 , cited in A.Calder, The People’s War, p.430.
[14]  A.Howkins, p.120.
[15] M.A.F.F, A Century of Agricultural Statistics, p.62.
[16] Ibid, p.65.
[17] J. Martin, p.42.
[18] M.A.F.F, A Century of Agricultural Statistics, p.61.
[19] Ibid, p.70.
[20] Wilt, p.192.

I hope the sources above prove useful, the BBC made an excellent TV series recreating life in wartime Britain on a farm, you can find a link to their webpage Wartime Farm BBC Wartime Farm
and the TV series is on Youtube 

Friday, 20 February 2015

More On B-17 Flying Fortresses - Lt Don Christenson Carrying Fire: A Video Tribute

This is one of the best blog posts I have seen because there is so much original material in the slide show. Fellow Blogger Don Christenson has put together some brilliant material about his father Lt Don Christenson who was a B-17 pilot in the Second World War. His latest blog post is a slide show about his Father's early life, trips to Denmark and Sweden, his engagement to his Mother, joining the Police Dept and the U.S.A.A.F. Please click on the link and see for yourselves.

Carrying Fire: A Video Tribute: As I mentioned in yesterday

#WW2 The Role Of The Air Raid Warden, Or Air Raid Patrol In The Second World War

Most people who enjoy watching the repeats of Dad's Army on #BBC2 on Saturdays, will probably have an image in their minds that the ARP or Air raid Warden in World War 2, was something of a pest, somebody like the character Hodges who let the power go to his head, ordering people about. In some cases this might have been true (Hodges was based on a real Air Raid Warden) but the Air Raid Warden was an authority figure the government could not do without, they had to make sure the blackout regulations were adhered to.

In the hours of darkness the A.R.W had to make sure homes were blacked out - not showing any light from their homes whatsoever. This was to make the Luftwaffe's bombing less accurate. After bombing raids Air Raid Wardens helped dig out survivors. Air Raid Wardens also issued fines if regulations weren't followed, this did not make them popular but was a necessary deterrent. In exceptional cases people could be imprisoned.
The video below shows what the Blitz was like in British cities during the war.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

#WW2 #B17 Carrying Fire: Being There

This is a brilliant blog about a B-17 Crew in #WW2

Carrying Fire: Being There: It was a sober arrival at Nuthampstead for Don and the other replacement crews on Februry 1, 1945. Everything was different. First ...

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

#WW2 Allied Bombing In The Second World War Was It Right Or Wrong?

Dresden after the raid 1945, image found at:

Allied bombing in World War 2 has been a subject for controversy for many years. It has been a victim of criticism by many, the massive air raids against Dresden, Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin, Lubeck Hanover, Augsburg just to name a few which, for the civilians living there were catastrophic.
Have the Allied Nations from the Second World War forgotten the carnage caused by the German forces over most of Europe and the Soviet Union? The Allied nations were fighting to end the war, so its troops could go home after Hirohito, Mussolini and Hitler had all been defeated.

After June 1940 after France had surrendered, and until September 1943 when the Allies invaded Italy, the air war which the Allies concentrated their efforts was vital to winning the war, even at such a huge cost in men and aircraft. Britain was suffering in the blitz on its cities, and had to retaliate. The development of 4 engined heavy bombers like the Halifax and Lancaster proved invaluable.1000 bomber raids followed on German cities, when the U.S.A. entered the war in 1941, its air force joined the R.A.F in bombing. It suffered heavy losses as its bombers flew in daylight, the Schweinfurt Raid being infamous for losing 60 aircraft over enemy territory.  

We appear to have forgotten WHY we were bombing Germany, it is because we were at war with the Axis powers. I am sure the British and European peoples who suffered at the hands of the Luftwaffe, and took cover whilst German bombs fell on them, do not say Allied bombing was wrong.

The Soviet Union was at war with Germany from June 22nd 1941, 20 million of its citizens died by various causes. Stalin was no saint and had gone overboard with purging his own people, but cities like Sevastopol, Kiev, Stalingrad, Moscow and Leningrad were heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe. I have not heard recently of any Russians speaking out against the Allied bombing. As previously stated, bombing was the only way we could fight Germany in Europe until D-day in 1944. We need to remember we were at war,and also trying to win it. Like most people I am very grateful to Allied aircrews for their sacrifices. Thanks RCAF, RAAF, RAF, USAAF for helping us win the war.

#WW2 Wartime Shortages In Britain Pt3

As well as food, clothes, and other consumer goods being in short supply during the war, petrol and other fuels were also rationed;
Horse drawn car found at:

Petrol Rationing In World War 2
I found this excellent article which was originally printed in the Daily Telegraph September 1939, you can find it here;
Article first published in the Daily Telegraph, Sept 8, 1939.

Petrol ration books are available to-day on application at post offices or local taxation offices, but they cannot be used before Sept. 16 when the rationing system comes into force.

After that date no petrol for any purpose will be obtainable except against ration coupons.
Applicants who must produce the car registration book, will receive from the issuing clerk, two ration books one marked “first month” and one marked “second month” containing coupons for the quantity allowed them according to the rating of the car as shown in the registration book.
Each coupon represents one unit, which for the present represents one gallon, but the unit may be changed later.
Car owners should not that ration books are only valid during the period for which they are issued – the first between Sept. 16 and Oct. 15 and the second between Oct. 16 and Nov. 15. In other words, you cannot hoard your coupons.
Extra rations
Persons requiring more than the minimum ration represented by the books should apply to the Divisional Petroleum Officer for the area which the petrol is required. The names and addresses of these will be issued in a day or two.
A form of application for those who want motor spirit for stationary engines and purposes other than for use in road or agricultural vehicles is also to be had at post offices.
Commercial vehicle operators will also be unable to obtain motor spirit after Sept. 16 except on rations. They will get supplies through their group organisers.
Energy saving poster found at:

Other fuels were also rationed, if they weren't people were encouraged to save  energy as shown by the propaganda poster above. Make use of the daylight, cook one - pot meals, don't poke your fire, finish putting coal on your fire an hour before bed were all tips designed to save valuable resources. The Brtish government printed many pamphlets, some have been republished like this Make Do And Mend book

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

#WW2 Wartime Shortages In Britain Pt2

Plant a victory garden found here:

Continuing from my last post, many things were in short supply during the Second World War including clothing. Britain, being an island, was dependent on imports to feed its population. Shipping space was prioritised for  arms and ammunition, oil, and other equipment that Britain needed to keep fighting Germany and the Axis. As the war went on it got worse due to Britain being alone after June 1940, when France surrendered. Bananas, oranges and other imported foodstuffs soon disappeared from shop shelves. Eggs became scarce, powdered eggs became common in people's kitchens. Meat was also scarce, the government controlling how farmers farmed their land as grain was needed for bread making not for feeding as many animals as before the war. Spam was imported from the United States, and people often started a pig co-operative, feeding food waste to a pig and sharing it when it was slaughtered.
Dig For Victory found here:
The Dig For Victory Campaign was popular, people were encouraged to grow as much food in their garden as they could.

Petrol was also rationed, people were encouraged to think about rail and bus journeys, as servicemen had to have priority.
Is Your Journey Really Necessary found here:
These sacrifices helped the Allies win the war and were necessary so the country didn't starve.

#WW2 Wartime Shortages In Britain Pt 1

Go Through Your Wardrobe advert found here:

There were many shortages in Britain during the Second World War. Most everyday items were rationed; clothes, foodstuffs, fuel (heating oil, petrol, coal, coke). People learnt to 'make do and mend' when clothes wore out and became adept at improvising.

Clothes manufacture concentrated on making uniforms, the British Forces uniforms were made mainly of wool due to cotton having to be imported (remember this was before synthetic fibres).
New clothes for civilians were of a limited range and you needed clothing coupons from your ration book to buy them, so you had to choose wisely. The Women's Voluntary Service ran a clothing exchange, you were given points to use when you brought old clothes in.
WVS Clothing Exchange, photograph can be found here: Click here for WW2 WVS Clothing Exchange
The number of clothes coupons that were issued was reduced as the war progressed, please see the table below:

Clothes Rationing

Everyone was given a book of 66 coupons to use to buy new clothes for one year.
This was cut to 48 in 1942 and 36 in 1943. Each item of clothing cost a certain number of coupons.







Monday, 16 February 2015

#WW2 John Allpress - An Evacuee Tells Of His Experience Courtesy Of The Imperial War Museum

This is an excellent video of John Allpress, an evacuee's experience in the Second World War, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.

#WW2 Evacuation From Towns & Cities

S.S City of Benares

Evacuation from Britain's major towns and cities was undertaken in the first 4 days of the war, nearly 3 million civilians uprooted from their homes and taken into less populated areas, even abroad.
Not everyone was lucky enough to have a good host family, some were abused. Michael Caine spoke about his experiences on Radio 4, Michael and his brother were evacuated from London, for misbehaving they were locked in a small cupboard. When his Mother found out, she assaulted the offending woman for abusing her boys, I'm sure she took them home but I can't find any evidence to support this.

There is no doubt that evacuation affected many people for the rest of their lives, but also saved many. Evacuation abroad ceased when U-boats sank a liner carrying evacuees to the United States on the S.S City of Benares. Only 13 children survived from 90 who had set out on the voyage.
Survivors in a lifeboat from the S.S City of Benares

Saturday, 14 February 2015

#WW2 The Last Flight Of The Lorna Jane

Image from

This is my first attempt at writing some fiction. I have always been a fan of war fiction and this is a short story (which I may develop) about the crew of the Lorna Jane, a B-17 based in Lincolnshire.

The Last Flight of The Lorna Jane

Flames were erupting from the control panel. Luckily they weren't near Roy yet. However the co-pilot's clothes were starting to burn. It didn't matter too much as he was dead, cannon shells from the ME 262 had gone straight through the front of the B-17 Flying Fortress and he had died instantly. He was just sat in his seat, head lolling forward, eyes staring sightlessly ahead.

Roy struggled to hold the aircraft, the crew intercom still worked, he could use some help so he shouted to his engineer

'Mike are you ok?'

'Yes Sir' , he replied, 'I'm fine and dandy'.

'Get up here will you and bring the extinguisher, that 262 nearly took me out, he got Schmidt and he's burning.'

'Damn it, yeah I'm coming.'

Mike Watson grabbed the extinguisher and made his way up through the fuselage of the aircraft, the stench of burning flesh and rubber nearly made him retch. Why did the smell of burning flesh smell like pork? He doused the flames on the control panel, then turned his attention to the dead co-pilot.

‘Hey skipper, that 262 he’s coming back !’, shouted Castilano, one of the waist gunners.
Sergeant Eugene Castilano was a decent shot with the 0.5' machine gun.
'Coming in fast at three o'clock!!' he shouted at the same time as opening fire. The enemy jet fighter passed under the aircraft enabling the ball gunner and other waist gunner to fire on the Me262. The problem was they were so fast, and the gunners only had 500 rounds of ammunition per gun. This meant they had to be very careful about conserving ammunition.

Roy took advantage of some cloud cover to try and lose the enemy fighter jet. He increased the throttle speed and applied full rudder, hopefully if they couldn’t see the enemy he couldn’t see them. Roy thought he had better check the rest of the crew.

'Hey guys check in, will ya? I need to know if you're all still ticking.'
One by one the crew checked in with Roy, Varsinski, the tail gunner was the last of the crew to respond. He was a kid from Idaho who had been a mechanic before the war. He used to go duck hunting with his father and was now able to use his skills to shoot down enemy aircraft. He had caught a flak splinter in the shoulder but was fine.

Roy took a moment to survey the damage. Altimeter and artificial horizon had stopped working, the windscreen was shattered letting in a gale of a draught. Thank God for heated flight suits. Even though Roy was 6'' in height and weighed 210 lbs, he was starting to struggle to hold he B-17 straight and level. He was having to keep the rudder pedal down all the time, every time he let go the aircraft would veer to the left.

'Hey, Dave, you busy?' shouted Roy to the navigator.

'No sir, sat with my feet up' .

'Get up here and give me a hand. You are now the unofficial co-pilot.'

'On my way', Dave replied.

Dave Barker made his way up the fuselage of the aircraft, he had to move the dead co-pilot out of his seat first, this wasn't easy as he was a big man. He dumped him unceremoniously in the bomb bay, leaving a dark red smear of blood in his wake.
'We seem to have lost him, everyone' said Roy, referring to the enemy plane, 'but keep your eyes peeled.'

Apart from the damage to the front of the aircraft and the dead crew-member, Roy felt that they had got off quite lightly. All engines were still working ok and they were on their way back to Lincolnshire, England. He wished he hadn't lost the formation but he hadn't much choice. First there had been flak, hitting the aircraft sending it all over the sky and then the cloudbase. The Lorna Jane had been at the very back of the formation, the most vulnerable place to be. His C.O had told him it was because he was the most experienced pilot, he had a good record of getting back to base after a mission had finished.

His mind drifted back to the weekend dance in the village.
There was little to occupy the American bomber crews in rural England. The only events that sparked some excitement were the local village dances. The absence of local young men and a surplus of young ladies usually meant a good night. Roy, a tall handsome all-American man was single. His strong athletic build from time spent on the athletic track had resulted in plenty of admirers of the opposite sex, but he had always been shy in female company.

'Look at that broad over there Roy – the dark haired one, she’s never taken her eyes off you since we got here', said Frank Schmidt, his co-pilot.

Roy was busy draining another pint of weak English beer. He put his glass down and glanced over. She was in her early twenties and slim with a pale complexion. Everyone in England looked pale, the rationing was to blame for that. This girl had the most beautiful brown eyes . Their eyes met. She smiled at him, he smiled back.

'Aren't you going to ask her for a dance?' If you don't , I'm flamin' sure I will', said Frank, who had also been admiring her.

'I'll finish my beer first man'.

Unfortunately for Roy, another airman had made his way over to her and was leading her on the dance floor as he was putting his empty glass down.

'You've lost your chance there Roy', goaded Frank.

'Wanna bet?, he replied.

Roy straightened his tie, and walked towards the dancing couple.

'Excuse me, I believe there is a Sergeant Wallace looking for you, he's waiting outside with the jeep'

'What ?', said the young airman.

'You are needed back at base, something to do with your 'plane, some flak damage that wasn't reported'.

'It'll wait 'til morning, can't you let me dance ?'

'That's an order', said Roy, in his best parade ground voice.

His adversary stopped dancing, and was going to say farewell to his dancing partner but she had not stopped staring at Roy since he walked over. He walked over the dance floor, avoiding the other couples and walked out of the door without looking back.

'May I have the pleasure of this dance Ma’am?', said Roy

'It would be rude of me to say no'.
'What do they call you anyway?', asked Roy as they danced round the hall.

'My name is Kate and you?'

'Captain Roy Stevenson of the U.S Army Air Force at your service'.

'ROY. ROY! Two Focke Wulfs on the starboard side', a voice shouted at him over the intercom, waking him up from his daydream.

'Hang on everyone, corkscrew to port'. Roy took the B-17 into a steep corkscrew dive, in an attempt to shake off another enemy fighter. Would they make it home?