As I wind down November and the wartime theme, I will conclude the month with a fantastic series: Wartime Farm. Our friends Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, and Alex Langlands work a farm as it would have been worked during World War II. This time they are joined by Henry the Sheepdog. This team will work together on the farm for a full calendar year.
In the first episode, the peace is about to be shattered. The farm was going to be an additional front line in the war. Britain imported 60% of its food. It would have been easy for the Nazis to surround the island and sink any ships that tried to bring the British food. Great Britain was in a precarious position. British farming had been in decline for the past 20 years. As a result, there needed to be a revival in farming.
Britain farmers, due to cheap cereal imports, focused on animals. They raised pigs, cows, beef cattle, chicken, and sheep on their farms. This needed to change because you could feed more people with cereal crops than you could with animals. The farm manager takes Ruth, Peter, and Alex on a tour of the farm. Ruth is delighted to discover that the dairy is modern; modern for the late 1930s.
The team then tours the house where they will live. Ruth announces to the boys what type of stove she wants. She wants an electric cooker. Alex comments that the “lady gets an electric cooker because it is all part of the war effort.” Then each Ruth, Peter, and Alex talk about what they want to take from the experience.
The first thing that Peter and Alex do is to survey the fields. Alex is a landscape archeologist and is doing the survey. The landscape on the farm contains dips in the land and these dips hold water. They will have to try to come up with a way to drain the field. The narrator highlights that the farmers were ill-equipped and did not have the machinery to follow the government’s demands. As a result of the soggy fields, Alex and Peter will have to come up with a mole subsoiler to help drain the fields. This highlights the farmer had to have make-do and mend skills.
In the meantime, Ruth does some work on the house. Women were drafted to help with the labor because of the shortage of men. So there was a need to reduce the amount of housework that the Farmer’s wife did. Ruth talks with an expert in Wartime kit. Ruth’s wish for an electric cooker will sadly be unfilled. Farms were not on the main grid so they could not get electric cookers. They set up a generator and Ruth has electricity in the cottage. Ruth gets a radio and checks it out. The radio was how people got news about the war. She also checks out the electric iron and is thrilled to use it. Instead of an electric cooker, Ruth will get a paraffin stone. Ruth is thrilled to see the stove. It is just a free-standing cooker with paraffin lamps. The design helped people adopt the technology.
Continue to watch on to discover more about how Ruth, Peter, and Alex set up their farm for wartime conditions.
This would be an excellent series to show to your class when World War II is being studied. I am sure you can generate plenty of discussion with your students in regards to their grandparent’s memories of World War II. There are plenty of episodes to select from but if you are pressed for time, I would recommend showing the first episode. It is a great setup on how farming and the fight to grow food shaped World War II.
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