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Farming Matters: Rising to war challenge

The Women's Land Army, pictured here in the Second World War, was formed during the First World War

The Women's Land Army, pictured here in the Second World War, was formed during the First World War

 

On Monday people throughout the country will take part in the national commemoration of the outbreak of the First World War by turning out their lights from 10-11pm to reflect on the sacrifices made by our forebears.

For the farming community the war brought many new challenges.

Prior to the war food production had been neglected as the government believed it was more cost effective to import.

Subsequently on the outbreak of war Britain was relying on imports for over 60 per cent of our food supplies; 78 per cent of wheat, 40 per cent of meat and virtually all sugar was imported. More than half of our sugar supplies came from Germany. And we were dependent on imports of fuel, fertilisers and livestock feed from around the world.

The Germans tried to starve us into submission, but farmers rose to the challenge.

More land was taken for agricultural purposes, new crops were grown that previously had been imported, and the Women’s Land Army was created to take the place of the farmers and farmworkers (approximately one third of the male agricultrual workforce) who left the land to serve in the forces.

And as farm horses were taken to serve in battle more mechanisation began on British farms.

Livestock dominated pre-war food production but this was curtailed, although milk production was prioritised.

A food controller was appointed to intervene with food distribution,rationing was introduced in 1918 and penalties were introduced for wasting food that was deemed fit for consumption.

 

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