Wartime Leicestershire
Wartime Memoirs

Spud Picking

During the war years there were all kinds of food shortages and we relied very much on home farm production. This was made more difficult by the recuitment of farm labourers into the armed forces. The shortfalls were were made up by the Womens Land Army and later in the war by the use of Italian Prisoners of War. The shortages were more noticeable in the cities and everyone became used to joining a queue in the hope of getting something a little different for the table. Most houses with a little bit of ground tried to grow some vegetables or kept chickens or rabbits to supplement the meagre rations.

I was a pupil at Alderman Newton's school and well remember shool lunches that sometimes consisted of nothing more than mashed swede and potato with gravy.

There was a scheme where pupils of 14 and over were permitted to go to local farms during the school term for the purpose of harvesting the potato crop, otherwise they may well have rotted in the ground.

We enjoyed the bus rides out to the farms and were put to work following the horse and plough and filling baskets with the turned up spuds which were then transferred to a cart to be towed away by a tractor. This was extremely hard work for soft city dwellers but we were rewarded at lunch time by great chunks of bread and more cheese than we would normally see in a month. Then at the end of the day by being paid a few shillings for our labour.

We worked alongside the Italians who were a truly cheerful bunch and obviously happy to be out of the war. The Land Girls did the ploughing, loading and tractor driving and we got along just fine. The Land girls were really tough and not affraid to get stuck into anything.

This was a bit of a holiday for the pupils and almost certainly for their teachers, most of whom were of retiement age or had been called back to teaching from retirement. We had the occasional younger teacher who was recovering from some traumaitic experience but never for longer than one term, when they returned to their units. Not the best of teaching situations, but somehow we managed to scrape together an education.

By D. Neal


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