Dig for Victory! Royal Horticultural Society appeals for anyone with photos of wartime vegetable plots to come forward for new exhibition
During the Second World War, millions of people across Britain ‘dug for victory’, planting vegetables in their gardens to feed their families.
Now the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) wants to gather photographs of the wartime fruit and veg patches and allotments to plug a gap in our historical knowledge.
At the time two-thirds of British food was imported by ship, meaning supplies were at risk from enemy action at sea.
The campaign rapidly caught on, sending the number of allotments alone in the UK from 740,000 to 1.4 million.
During the Second World War, millions of people across Britain ‘dug for victory’, planting vegetables in their gardens to feed their families. This image shows part of a poster used between 1939 and 1946 promoting the benefits of growing your own
WHAT DOES ‘DIG FOR VICTORY’ MEAN?
The ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign was set up during WWII by the British Ministry of Agriculture.
Men and women across the country were encouraged to grow their own food in times of harsh rationing.
Open spaces everywhere were transformed into allotments, from domestic gardens to public parks – even the lawns outside the Tower of London were turned into vegetable patches.
Leaflets were part of a massive propaganda campaign aiming both to ensure that people had enough to eat, and that morale was kept high.
By 1943 it was estimated that around 55 per cent of households were growing fruit and vegetables, and their efforts made an important contribution to the nation’s health.
According to War Cabinet records, annual food imports halved to 14.65million tonnes by 1941.
The pictures gathered will be used in an exhibition to mark the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the war and the beginning of the Dig For Victory campaign.
The RHS began working with the Ministry of Agriculture on the campaign when war broke out in 1939, having already begun making detailed plans in preparation for war in 1938.
Advice was distributed via pamphlets, leaflets and exhibition packs that toured towns and villages across the country.
Some vegetable plots were created in unlikely places. For example, employees at the Wolsey Motors in Birmingham made cloches out of scrap car windscreens for their workplace allotment.
Fiona Davison, head of libraries and collections at the RHS, said: ‘RHS information and advice helped get a nation growing at a time when food supplies were at an historic low.
‘Many are likely to recall parents and relatives turning previously unloved plots into efficient and prolific green spaces.
‘We’re asking the public to share those pictures and memories with us so we can celebrate the contribution of gardening to our wartime history.’