World War Two, 1939-1945

The WI carried out a great deal of food preservation work during the war

We looked into the history of the village during World War Two and found that Abberley WI disbanded between 1940 and 1943, because all the available meeting halls were requisitioned for war use.

Topics we explored included

  • Evacuees & evacuation
  • Preservation clubs: jamming & canning
  • Meat pies for agricultural workers (extra ration)
  • Food education & rationing
  • Pig Clubs & chickens
  • Make Do & Mend & knitting for the troops
  • Land Army & conscientious objectors
  • Prisoners of War
  • Local defences or relocations & undercover Maquis network

We looked at many of the following sources


  • Worcs Federation of WI Archives
  • Abberley WI minutes/record book
  • Abberley Roll of Honour
  • Worcs CC War Emergency Committee
  • School records
  • Electoral Registers (servicemen away from home are indicated)
  • Oral history collection at WAAS
  • MACE film archive
  • village Oral history & reminiscence
  • Photographs
  • Historic Environment Record

There are dozens of possibles – the Imperial War Museum website is brilliant as are their publications. Of particular use are:

  • The People’s War: Britain 1939-1945, Angus Calder
  • Wartime: Britain 1939-1945, Dr Juliet Gardiner
  • BBC People’s War
  • The Women’s Institute, Cicely McCall (1943)
  • Wartime Farm: Rediscovering The Skills & Spirit Of World War II , Peter Ginn, Ruth Goodman & Alex Langlands
  • History of Abberley School, Jo Roche
  • The Mercian Maquis, Bernard Lowry

National Federation of Women’s Institutes resolutions and actions

1938: NFWI held WI War Week, when plans were made to organise evacuation at the time of the Munich crisis. Lady Denman was asked by the Minister of Agriculture to become Director of the Women’s Land Army, which she accepted whilst remaining Chairman of the NFWI.

1939: The Produce Guild was formed, with funding from Government, to encourage more home grown food & to preserve more fruit & vegetables.
WIs help with evacuation scheme.

1940: The Ministry of Food allocated sugar to NFWI to be distributed to WI Preservation Centres in order to make jam & can produce which would otherwise go to waste. All the produce then went into the nation’s food supply.

1941: NFWI published a report based on a survey carried out amongst WI members who housed evacuees, Town Children through Country Eyes. This stimulated a national debate about support for families ultimately leading to the setting up of family allowances after the war.
WI members raised money for ambulances

1942: NFWI evacuated the London Headquarters to Herts & then Pudiphats Farm, Surrey

1943: The first AGM since 1939 was held; resolutions discussed included urging the Government that equal facilities for full education at all levels should be provided in town & country & a demand that men & women should receive equal pay for equal work.

1944: WI members helped to make potato baskets for the Ministry of Agriculture & collected herbs for medicinal purposes.

1947: Operation Produce was launched during this year, to encourage WI members to grow more food in their gardens & small holdings, as rationing continued.

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