Monthly Archives: February 2016

Food for thought – digging for victory in the Second World War

Spring will soon be with us and many people’s thought will be turning to their gardens. What will you plant this year? Some will plant flowers only, others vegetables, some a mixture of both. But during World War 2 your choices would have been very different.

U-boat attack

How to feed the population of Britain was one of the perennial questions during the Second World War. About 55 million tons of food was imported into the UK at the outbreak of war, but the German U-boats began to hunt the convoys which crossed the Atlantic, causing great losses in lives and supplies. Essential foodstuffs were rationed, and within a month of the outbreak of war the Ministry of Agriculture launched its ‘Dig For Victory’ campaign.

Everyone was encouraged to dig up their flower beds and lawns to create vegetable gardens. The idea was twofold – to provide much needed food for the local community whilst, at the same time, freeing up space in the merchant ships for military supplies. Gardens, sports grounds and parks were soon full of vegetables, even Buckingham Palace gardens and the lawns and moat at the Tower of London became large allotments.

Tower of London

poster-dig-victoryBy 1943 over one million tons of vegetables were being grown in the ‘Dig For Victory’ drive, all encouraged by Ministry of Agriculture ‘food flashes’, literature and poster displays. Two key cartoon characters who encouraged the gardeners were ‘Dr Carrot’ and ‘Potato Pete’ who often appeared on posters in railway and bus stations, and in leaflets. Over 10 million leaflets were distributed during the war. The government also provided innovative recipes, including curried carrot and carrotade (a drink made from carrots and swedes). When there was a glut of carrots Lord Woolton had a novel idea to encourage people to eat more. He said that RAF pilots were eating carrots to help them see better in the dark. Radar was still a secret so the general population had no idea what was behind the increasing success of the pilots. They knew that, like everyone else, pilots were eating a lot of carrots so Woolton’s propogandists got to work. Within no time at all everyone was eating carrots to improve their vision!

DrCarrot

potaot pete

People were also encouraged by Lord Wooton and others to try innovative recipes, and to scrub instead of peeling potatoes to avoid waste. As one poem put it:

Those who have the will to win,
Cook potatoes in their skin,
Knowing that the sight of peelings,
Deeply hurts Lord Woolton’s feelings.

As well as growing vegetables, people also kept their own chickens, rabbits, goats and pigs. About 6,000 pigs were raised; they were especially popular because they could be fed kitchen waste, and by the end of the war 900 ‘pig clubs’ had been set up to coordinate the collection of waste, and to purchase pigs for groups of families who couldn’t afford one of their own.

pig poster

Chickens were also popular. By 1943-44, people who kept hens in their gardens were producing around 25% of the country’s fresh eggs. By the end of the war there were over 250,000 members of the Domestic Poultry Keepers’ Council, raising in excess of twelve million birds.

In my novel Heronfield we get a clear feel for what life was like for civilians when Sarah’s mother turns her garden over to vegetable, bemoaning the loss of her beloved roses. But the importance of ‘Dig For Victory’ is then seen in the aftermath of the bombing of Coventry when people shared the supplies from their gardens in the first few desperate days before help arrived.

coventry-1940-595x498

As the war progressed it became clear to everyone that the ‘Dig For Victory’ campaign had been far more successful than could ever have been imagined. However, it was recognised that there would still be a need for home grown food for a long time to come. Civilians were encouraged to keep gardening, keep digging, long after the war was over.

Rationing continued for the British people long after the war was over, and with it the work of growing vegetables. It was a number of years before roses once again replaced radishes, carnations replaced cabbages, and what had been lettuce beds were once more lawns for families to enjoy.

PortlandRoseGarden

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Readers’ Favorite reviews Heronfield

I was very pleased to receive a 5 star review fro Readers’ Favorite; after all, it’s my readers who are most important to me!

Reviewed by Trudi LoPreto for Readers’ Favorite

Heronfield by Dorinda Balchin is a six-year saga set in England during World War II. It is a fantastic story that put me on the battlefield and into the lives of brothers Tony and David, their friends, family and loved ones. Heronfield is the home of the two brothers, but is now being used as a convalescent hospital for those injured fighting the Germans. Sarah is a young woman who is volunteering at Heronfield, nursing the soldiers back to health. David joins up and becomes a fighter pilot, making his father, Sir Michael, very proud. Tony becomes a secret agent, parachuting into enemy territory, setting up a resistance group, and working to destroy the strategic spots without getting caught – but he is unable to tell his family what he is really doing. Sir Michael thinks he is a coward and not willing to fight for his country. The story took me into many of the battles and to the horrors in the concentration camp that the prisoners had to endure on a daily basis. Heronfield also shared with me the happy times of falling in love and seeing friends caring for and helping each other through very tough times.

What a wonderful book this is. Dorinda Balchin wrote four hundred and ninety pages of an excellent story. It took me longer than I expected to read it, but each page made me cry, cheer, smile, and anxiously await D-Day and the end of the war. Heronfield is a fictional story with accurate historical events that made for a superb book. I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially if you enjoy family sagas and World War II history because it combines these elements in an incredibly good read.

You can take a look at the Readers’ Favorite website here

Book Review – ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel

wolf HallHenry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, are well known facts of history. Most people even know the names of some of the other people who played key roles in this matter. What Hilary Mantel has done in ‘Wolf Hall’ is to breathe life into these people. To flesh out the brief, dusty biographies of history into living, breathing people. People we can love or hate, laugh with or laugh at, care for or hope for their downfall.

At the centre of it all is Thomas Cromwell. A man of humble origins, a traveller in his youth, a lawyer, friend of archbishops and, ultimately, confidant of the king. Ms Mantel has managed to get into the character of Cromwell, teasing out possible motives for his actions, deftly drawing the psychology of a man and of an age. History depicts Cromwell as a ruthless self-seeker, and there are aspects of that in this book, yet Ms Mantel digs deeper – a loyal friend, a family man, a loving husband and father, a cultured man who knew many languages, loved art and poetry, loved to hunt with his falcons, was keen to find and train young minds. This bringing to life of Cromwell, and many other characters, makes ‘Wolf Hall’ compelling reading, even though we already know the outcome of the story. Added to this is the in-depth depiction of life at court – the ladies in waiting, the kings gentlemen, intrigue and indulgence, banquets and religious disagreement, hunting and jousting – the list is endless. Along with the background of Cromwell this gives a fascinating insight into life in Tudor times for both rich and poor.

‘Wolf Hall’ is an historical novel with an emphasis on history, both in the plot and the descriptions. Ms Mantel has taken a story we all know and masterfully made it into something new, which any lover of history will enjoy. With one caveat. I enjoyed reading this book, but for some the style may be a little strange. Cromwell is always referred to as ‘he’, which can be confusing at times; so much so that, on occasion, the author resorts to writing ‘he, Cromwell, said…’. For myself, this is not a problem as the style is quite unique and gives a feeling of being in another time with another turn of phrase, another way of saying and doing things. For those who initially find this style difficult to follow I would ask you to persevere, a few pages in and you will cease to notice this most of the time as you become gripped by the story.

‘Wolf Hall’ is a fascinating read, and a great introduction to Thomas Cromwell. I am very much looking forward to following his story through Anne Boleyn’s time as Henry’s wife, and on to yet another queen in Ms Mantel’s sequel, ‘Bring Up The Bodies’.

Hilary Mantel’s website can be found here

Wolf Hall can be found on Amazon

You can find more of my Book Reviews here