The Spade as Mighty as the Sword: The Story of the Dig for Victory Campaign

The Spade as Mighty as the Sword: The Story of the Dig for Victory Campaign

Daniel Smith

Language: English

Pages: 170

ISBN: 2:00313211

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

After food rationing was introduced in 1940, and German U-boats began threatening merchant shipping bringing in essential foodstuffs, the Ministry of Agriculture decided something had to be done to make the kitchens of Britain more self-sufficient.

The result was one of Britain's most successful propaganda campaigns – Dig for Victory – encouraging every man and woman to turn their garden, or even the grass verge in their street, over to cultivating vegetables. By 1942 half the population were taking part, and even the Royal Family had sacrificed their rose beds for growing onions.

Now, Daniel Smith tells the full story of this remarkable wartime episode when spades, forks and bean canes became weapons the ordinary citizen could take up against the enemy. It had tangible benefits for the war effort in that shipping could be reallocated for munitions instead of food imports, as well as for the health of the nation in encouraging a diet of fresh fruit and veg. The campaign threw up unexpected celebrities like C.H. Middleton, whose wartime BBC radio talks on gardening reached a vast audience, and it even sowed the seeds for the modern allotment movement.

Ultimately it is a war story without fighting or killing, one that shows how even The Little Man with the Spade, in the words of the Minister for Agriculture at the time, did his bit for Victory.

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Work is minus one. Do I withdraw from the Local DefenceVolunteers in order to dig for victory or let the vegetable plot fade out? … Truly the working of the bureaucratic mind passeth all understanding. As if to prove that final point, once in office, Winston Churchill decided on a clear-out at the misfiring Ministry of Information, whose effective working would be essential to the success of Dig for Victory. John Reith was unceremoniously removed to the Ministry of Transport, he and Churchill.

She would, after all, be allowed to join the scheme at least a little early. Though no mention was made of her communication with the Ministry, Margaret was convinced that the issue had indeed been brought to the attention of the school. She remembered the jubilation she felt on first joining the working party: ‘A Ministry of Agriculture vehicle backed up to the front entrance of the school – unheard of – and I proudly walked down the front steps, normally out-of-bounds, and climbed with my.

Something of a propaganda coup – the story of an elderly gentleman at the heart of the community doing the right thing and making his contribution to the national effort, just as he had done in the Great War. The story of the rival claimant, Thomas Morgan Jones, may initially lack some of that romanticism but its leading protagonist lived out a remarkable war story of his own. Tom Jones, a resident of Sunbury-on-Thames in Surrey, was an artist with the Morgan-Wells advertising firm based at 9.

But with the shackles of conflict now removed, a downturn in participation was inevitable. Then the battle to keep the Dig for Victory flag flying lost its greatest general. On 18 September 1945, Mr Middleton died suddenly from a heart attack as he left his home in Surbiton. If he had been crucial to putting the wind into the campaign’s sails, his death marked a stilling of the storm. It was not an inconsiderable irony that he was, by all accounts, considerably more adept at talking about.

Helpful references by the late Tommy Handley in ‘Itma’; whilst, until his death, Mr. Middleton stimulated and encouraged us all by his avuncular advice every Sunday after lunch. At the height of the blitz, in 1940, the Lord Mayor of London invited to a luncheon at the Mansion House representatives of local authorities, at which my predecessor, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R.S. Hudson) put plainly before them the desperate position on the food front, and urged them to do.

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