logo - Join me in the 1900s mid C20th
The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Growing fruit & vegetables at home
in the shortages of 1940s/50s Britain

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World War Two poster encouraging people to dig for victory

Poster encouraging everyone to grow as much of their own produce as possible - photographed at Swansea Bay Museum.

Hitler tried to starve Britain into submission in the Second World War. So food was in short supply because of the risk to merchant seamen of bringing it in from overseas. These seamen risked their lives bringing in what they did, in perpetual fear of being sunk by German submarines.

Consequently the Government encouraged householders set up ways to produce more food on the home front. One way was to grow their own fruit and vegetables, largely from seed. The campaign was known as Dig for Victory. Rationing was so severe that householders needed little encouragement.

So, like many other back gardens, our back garden was turned into a vegetable patch. (We had always had two apple trees, a cooker and an eater, both planted when the house was built, and they fruited well.)

I remember my parents' euphoria at the end of the war when we seeded a new lawn.

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Why growing vegetables didn't always work

My mother's brother, on a twenty-four hour leave from the RAF, dug up our entire front garden and planted neat rows of cabbage plants which grew magnificently with the help of steaming manure from the milkman's horse. (It was my job to rush out and scoop that up with a coal-shovel before any of the neighbours got there first!)

One morning, when my mother pulled back the blackout curtains, the entire crop had been 'lifted' during the night! Granny said she strongly suspected that it was the work of one of the neighbours who was believed to have had a vegetable stall in Woolwich Market. She cursed the 'culprit' for years afterwards.

Michael Sullivan

My husband's relative thought he would make the family more self-sufficient for food by growing vegetables and keeping a goat for milk. He kept the two apart with a fence. One day, though, the goat managed to get through the fence - and that was the end of the vegetables!

Marina Theophanopoulos

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster