Page 32 - ALG Issue 2 20202
P. 32

 The Creators of the Wartime Allotment Plan
It’s 2020 and the start of a new season on our allotment, but imagine now that it is 1939 and for the last three years the TV and media has been full of conflicting stories about a looming crisis in Europe.
War is now imminent and regular fresh food supplies from our supermarkets probably won’t be available, or else will be rationed. How will my cropping plan differ from previous years? Should I sacrifice luxury crops like strawberries and raspberries to give more space, and if so, for which crops and why? What are the relative importances of space, nutrition, winter availability, storage, seed availability etc. How would I get answers to these questions today? Ask my WhatsApp or Facebook Allotment group? Will the responses all agree, or be confusing to me? What about those who have no experience of growing vegetables? How will they know what
to grow in order to feed their families through this crisis?
This was the situation faced by families 80 years ago at the start of WWII. However, their questions of what to grow were answered by the Cropping Plan that was the heart of the well- known and documented ‘Dig for Victory’ Campaign. When I first came across a
copy, I was amazed by its succinctness to convey so much information so simply. It concisely gives all one needs to lay out a plot of one’s own. The what, when and where to sow. The size, spacing, harvesting and crop rotation. It is colourfully illustrated and inspiring. But what it doesn’t answer is: who made the decisions as to what to grow and on what basis? When and how were these decided? This ‘Unknown’ intrigued me and I wanted to find out who created this iconic allotment plan.
The answers were in a folder of a small subcommittee of the Horticultural Advisory Council set up at the end
of June 1939 solely for this purpose. These decisions were made in just
five meetings at 10 Whitehall Place
in July 1939, a month before war was declared. The story covers the actual correspondence between members and minutes of their meetings, which I believe have never been published till now. My feelings are that it is of interest to both new and old allotment holders. A 90-year-old mother of a friend of mine read and loved it, as it brought back
so many memories for her. She was telling me all about Parsnip Pyramids and burying carrots in sand for storage. The plan had such importance on what war children ate and has influenced our
The account of my search and the story that answers the above questions, is now available by PDF download from the National Allotment Society’s website
selection of vegetables for meals for many of us since.
Mr J.H. Robson from the National Allotment Society was one of the
first to be selected to serve on this committee and, despite being located in Lancashire, attended the three key meetings in which the Cropping Plan content was established. He explains in his letter his dilemma as to whether to attend the final ‘wrap up’ meeting as he was involved with evacuating children from Manchester and Liverpool at the time.
The committee’s Cropping Plan sustained the nation for over 14 years. This was throughout the war and continued until ‘Food Rationing’ ended on 4th July 1954. Many say it actually improved the nation’s diet. Records kept by the Ministry of Agriculture during 1940 and 1941 of a hundred 10rod allotments using this plan, showed them producing an average edible weight of vegetables of:
Spring = 11lbs weekly Summer = 12lbs weekly Autumn = 15lbs weekly Winter = 20lbs weekly
The account of my search and the story that answers the above questions,
is now available by PDF download from the National Allotment Society’s website. Look for “The Creators of the Wartime Allotment Plan” on the 90th Anniversary page.
Andrew Ball, Maidenhead
            32 Allotment and Leisure Gardener

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