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Dig for Victory

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Dig for Victory was a Response to a Wartime Problem of Food Shortages

Throughout history one of the main reasons wars were lost was caused by lack of food. Sieges were used throughout history as a means of depriving the state of food until a surrender had been reached.

In the years leading up to World War 2 Great Britain had imported seventy five percent of its food a year or about 55 million tonnes a year.

In September 1939 at the start of World  Second World the shipping that was importing this food supply was being attacked by enemy submarines.

These ships were also carrying war materials so the import of food was being lessened both by reduction of food supplies and the amount of space available on the cargo ships.

In October 1939 the Government launched 'The Dig for Victory' campaign. People were urged to use gardens and every spare piece of land, such as parks, golf clubs and tennis courts, to grow vegetables.

By November 1939 the Phrase Dig for Victory had entered into the public consciousness When the Minister for Agriculture encouraged the project by saying, "Let Dig for Victory be the motto of everybody with a Garden".

The Tower of London was used to grow vegetables to promote the dig for victory.

Even the moat at the Tower of London was used to grow vegetables. Victory gardens were growing their own food in very tight compact spaces as a response to food shortages due to the wartime restrictions on food imports.

Rationing in the United Kingdom is the series of food rationing policies put in place by the government of the United Kingdom. At the beginning of World War II, the UK imported 55 million tons of foodstuffs per year (70%), including more than 50% of its meat, 70% of its cheese and sugar, nearly 80% of fruits and about 90% of cereals and fats.

It was a main objective for the Axis Powers to destroy the ships carrying cargo to the United Kingdom. This strategy could potentially starve the country and cause it to submit to the Axis powers.

Each person would register with their local shops, and was provided with a ration book containing coupons. The shopkeeper was then provided with enough food for his or her registered customers. When purchasing goods, the purchaser had to give the shopkeeper a coupon as well as money

Food rations in 1943 Britain per person
  1 shilling
 2 penny
(1 lb 3 oz or 540 g) of meat (offal or sausages were  rationed later on from 1942-1944)
 4 oz (113 g) bacon
 3 pints (1.7l)  milk each week or 1 packet of milk powder per month
 1 egg (week) egg powder made 12 eggs or 1 packet allowed per month (vegetarians allowed two eggs)
  2 oz (57 g) fat or lard
2 oz (57 g) loose tea leaves (teabags were not in common use in the UK at the time)
2 oz (57 g) butter
2 oz (57 g) margarine
2 oz (57 g) jam
 3 oz (85 g) sugar
 1 oz (28 g) cheese (vegetarians could have 3 oz (85g) of extra cheese because they did not use their meat ration)
 3 oz (85 g) sweets
ration book cover

Dig for Victory allotment gardens and what to grow on them.

People were encouraged to grow what they liked to eat. The mainstay crops were:

Brussel sprouts,
dwarf and broad beans
Globe beet,
Kale, Swede,
Runner beans,
Sprouting broccoli,

dig for victory poster  

Government leaflets were published and regular updates based on seasonal considerations were delivered to the population as well as instructions on using tool sheds, seed bed planting and composting.

Effort was made to promote recycling and good land management. One method that is still used is to build walls in a square and fill this with soil. This allows for deep rooting food plants to be put in tight places not normally available for these type of plants.

Companion planting was introduced, this is a method of planting different plants in the same bed. Different plants attract different pests and diseases so by planting them next to each other insects can be repelled or attracted as needed for the plants satisfactory growth.

An organic approach to gardening was introduced more to increase the yield and nutrition of crops than for environmental reasons, however many of these methods remain in use because they worked so well.

The plots also made use of discarded household items. Things like Egg cartons and toilet roll tubess could be used for germinating seedlings and old window frames placed over young plants made good cold frames.

Net curtains for netting provided protection for the young from birds and hot sun by deflecting the suns rays away from the young plants.

In WW2 British Restaurants were exempt from rationing

Restaurants were exempt from rationing, which led to a certain amount of resentment as the rich could supplement their food allowance by eating out frequently and extravagantly.

Rules were created to stop this. meals had to be sold for under five shillings (about 25p) and restaurants could not have any menus that included meals of more than three courses

Local Authorities set up what were known as "British Restaurants." The Restaurants gave their clientele the experience of going out for a restaurant meal and breaking up some of the monotony. British Restaurants were run by local authorities, who set them up in a variety of places from schools to church halls.

Three course meals were priced at 9d (about 0.04p). The meals varied greatly in quality from place to place but the good ones were well liked and a large number of people used them regularly.

A Dig for Victory garden cook book.

New recipes had to be created in World War 2 to make the best use of rationing and the produce from victory gardens such as: Woolton Pie.


1lb cut potatoes,
1lb cauliflower,
1lb sliced carrots,
1lb, sliced swede,
3 spring onions
A teaspoon of marmite,
1 tablespoon oatmeal,
Some chopped parsley

Woolton Pie

Put everything in a pot just enough water to cover the ingredients and heat. keep stirring the mixture so as to stop it sticking to the sides of the pan. Take of the heat and allow to cool.

Put the mixture into a pie dish and put on a little chopped Parsley.

Put on some sliced potatoes or top with some whole wheat pastry.

Put in a moderately hot oven and bake the wollton pie until the top goes a gold brown colour.

Serve hot with gravy.

Woolton Pie

dig for victory poster of a child with a garden hoe and spade


This recipe was created by the Chef of the Savoy hotel and named after Lord Woolton, head of the Ministry Of Food

Carrots help you see in the dark

At one point there was a glut of carrots, and the Government let it be known that carotene, which is believed to help night vision, was largely responsible for the RAF’s increasing success in shooting down enemy bombers.

The general public took this to heart and began eagerly eating more carrots. After all there were blackouts at night which meant all street lights off and all windows blacked out. Carrots seemed to be the obvious answer to this problem.

This not only solved the problem of a carrot glut but also disguised the reason that the RAF's improving success rate was largely due to the improvements in radar and its ability to be used in planes.

  a dig for victory garden made in a bomb crater

Dig for Victory garden made from a bomb crater


During WW2 the British were making Victory gardens anywhere available and parks, village and town squares in fact anywhere where food could be planted. The Dig for Victory campaign allowed food to be grown in increasingly small and tight little areas.

This added to the creativity and problem solving of the nation as they struggled to support themselves in the time of great food shortages caused by the restrictions on food supplies from overseas.

The end of the twentieth century saw a resurgence of these ideas. With growing concerns about the availability and quality of foods and a general public awareness of the damage caused to the environment a rethink on food production had become relevant.

By transporting food around the world use of chemicals and a change in climate it was and is necessary to produce more food locally.

A resurgence of allotment use and organic growing methods have drawn much inspiration from the techniques used in the dig for victory campaign. A wealth of websites and forums have built up around this subject

Wartime dig for victory principles of eating seasonal food grown locally and organically have a message for us now. The information is still completely current and with the constant fears of food shortages, environmental issues and economic problems there is a new interest in these techniques to grow more of your own food.