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Create a Dig for Victory garden

Today we might garden for enjoyment, or to save a little money on shop-bought vegetables. Kath Garner looks back to the time when growing your own was part of the British war effort in the Second World War

GAINING AN INSIGHT TO YOUR ANCESTORS’ LIVES

Living historians – dressed as Women’s Land Army workers at the Eden Camp, Malton, North Yorkshire

When war broke out in 1939, approximately 75 per cent of Britain’s food was imported. As German U-boats targeted increasingly vulnerable supply ships sinking tonnes of foodstuffs, the British Government realised home-grown produce was of paramount importance. Recognition that a blockade could potentially defeat the British resolve by starving the country into submission, and the need for the Merchant Navy to transport troops and munitions, led to the creation of one of the most successful wartime campaigns.

Professor John Rawburn, Head of the Agricultural Plans Branch of the Ministry of Food, introduced the ‘Grow More Food’ campaign. Spearheaded by Lord Woolton, it aimed to ignite public enthusiasm into producing home-grown produce. It was quickly renamed ‘Dig for Victory’ after a London newspaper slogan caught the public imagination and proved to be an inspirational campaign, using marketing techniques well ahead of their time. Those unable to enlist were encouraged to join the ranks of the kitchen battlefield, becoming a food producer and a vital part of the war effort. Lord Woolton declared food a ‘munition of war’ and ‘recruits’ were urged to defend and strengthen the home front with their gardening tools and vegetable plots, enabling Britain to become self-sufficient and avert starvation. Rationing was quickly introduced to ensure a fair share for all – enough to keep the public fit and healthy. Vegetables were not rationed, but many varieties, such as onions, became increasingly hard to find.

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About Family Tree

Where would today's family historian be without the wonders of the web? This issue we give you bespoke clues to help you mine that nugget of ancestral gold from among the billions of records available the major family history websites. But family history isn't just about researching facts. It's about recording and treasuring that family story. So to help you do just this, we also have a guide to building your own website for your genealogical discoveries - an online home for your family archive. Step up, and see where you can take your research next!