The War Years: Abberley’s Food Production Club and Civil Defence

Jo Roche found the following extracts relating to Abberley during World War Two in the minutes and correspondence of the Parish Council.

Horace Ballard making hay at Home Farm, Abberley

Horace Ballard making hay at Home Farm, Abberley

Food Production Club

Prior to WWII Britain imported 70% of its food from the Empire and countries such as Canada, America and New Zealand. Even basic vegetables such as onions were imported with only 9% grown in Britain. There was a real possibility of the country being starved out by a sea blockade as experienced at the tail end of the Great War when German U-boats targeted merchant ships as they crossed the Atlantic. This had a drastic impact on food supplies and by April 1916 there was only six weeks of wheat left in the Nation’s coffers.

In October 1939 the Ministry of Agriculture focused on a “Grow More Food” campaign among farmers and a “Dig for Victory” among private garden owners and potential allotment holders in the towns. The Government urged ‘not only the big man with the plough but also the little man with the spade to get busy this autumn.’

Later, Worcestershire County Gardens Committee was set up under a new Ministry of Agriculture Scheme and all inhabitants of rural and urban districts not included in previous schemes were targeted as it was plainly evident that food production was of major importance.

As a result, a Food Production Club was established in Abberley in November 1942 with the aim of encouraging cultivation of all garden and allotment land with suitable crops and the keeping of poultry, pigs, rabbits and goats. These Clubs were encouraged to apply to register with the Land Fertility Committee which allowed them to purchase lime under Government subsidy, seeds and seed pots, manure, spray materials and other necessary garden requisites which may be bought in bulk for the benefit of its members.

Civil Defence Corps

The badge of Britain's Civil Defence Corps.

The badge of Britain’s Civil Defence Corps.

On the 10th August 1949 Civil Defence regulations came into operation delegating Civil Defence functions to Local Authorities as a response to the advent of the Cold War. It was a civilian voluntary organisation whose role was to take control in the aftermath of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack. Each organisation consisted of five sections: Head Quarters, Warden, Recue, Welfare, Ambulance and First Aid.

Horace Ballard was the local representative and was required to find four wardens and four volunteers for the welfare department. In the event of an attack the wardens would be responsible for local reconnaissance and reports and would be required to show qualities of leadership, organisation in dealing with the public. Abberley was designated as a reception area and would have been responsible for dealing with the homeless and evacuees by providing them with accommodation, feeding, sanitation, clothing, nursing etc. At a meeting held on the 14th November 1949 the Parish Council noted:

“Volunteers for the Welfare Section could, of course and preferably so, be women.”

A basic training course would have to be attended covering a period of approx. 40 hours over 8-10 weeks and the volunteers, both men and women, were issued with dark blue battledress and berets.

Almost three years later it is noted in the Minutes that Messrs. Turbult, Rollason, Ballard and Siviter had put themselves forward as Wardens whilst Mrs. Norwood, Mills and Siviter were heading up the Welfare department.

The British Government disbanded the Civil Defence Corps in 1968.

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