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Tales of VE Day & Digging for Victory – Then & Now

In our original post celebrating VE Day and the Dig for Victory Campaign, we asked for your stories and pictures. We have been overwhelmed by your tales about growing vegetables and your VE Day celebrations 75 years ago. Below we’ve shared some our favourites.

Celebrating Then

These submissions are reflections on the Dig for Victory campaign throughout WW2. Submitted by those who experienced it at the time, or who have a direct connection to the wartime activities.

Every Generation Played Their Part

This was told me by a lady who will be 90 years old, later this year: “My school, South Hampstead High School, sent groups of girls to help the market gardeners (who were short of staff as so many were in the forces) and I was one of those lucky girls We camped in tents in a large field in Sussex and each day on a huge farm truck went to this vegetable farm (owned by a Mr. Muller) to help prune huge areas of tomato plants. I remember it so well, the smell of the tomatoes when we lopped them and the time when a cow, or sheep, can’t remember which, came into our tent in the middle of the night!

Submitted by Leonora

Our plots Lowlands in Mirfield are aptly named , we frequently flood ( this year 5ft 5inches!) but we carry on regardless as they were created in 1918 & helped feed the Town through WW2 , now more than ever , we need to grow & take the strain off the local shops , as we fight a new enemy, a virulent virus.

Submitted by Ruth

Family & Friends Helped

I was at school and we were pleased to have a holiday.
I now realise how difficult it had been to cook for a family. My Mother didn’t complain. My Father grew vegetables but he didn’t like gardening! We were given a small plot in the quadrangles of our school and we were taught how to cook vegetables but for a shorter time than our parents used.
People in our road Shared skills and helped each other.

Submitted by Mary

“This picture of my grandmother and mother was taken to be sent to my father, a POW in Germany. Mum and Nana decided to apply for an allotment when Dig for Victory was announced. Mum said it really helped them to eat well. She remembered one occasion when they had so much produce to bring home that they wheeled it home in their wheelbarrow. At the end of their road, they passed a group of their neighbours. the elderly chaps couldn’t believe that two women had successfully grown so much!
Dad returned safely, they married and as children, we enjoyed lots of fresh produce from our garden. “

Submitted by Jill

Public Transport Was Different

My father had an allotment where he grew all our vegetables. It was about a 20 minute uphill walk away and he use put me in his wheel barrow and wheel me up there then on the way back when the barrow was full I would walk beside him all downhill. This was during the war and after.
I also remember he used to let me put the seed potatoes in the trench when he dug it.I still love gardening today it has been my saviour during lock down as I am sure it was his. I have a little vegetable patch with a large variety of just enough for one.

Submitted by Rosemary

This is our VE day street party. About the 10th May 1945 I think. I am the boy in the front right with the silly round hat on. We lived near an aerodrome in the war so we had quite a lot of raids. The whole of my primary school education was wartime and I remember learning my times tables in the school underground air-raid shelter. One morning a fighter plane crashed-landed near us. On my way to school I went toward the crash to take a closer look when a policeman told me in no uncertain terms to go away.

Submitted by Peter

With 3 small kids and 1 panicky grandparent not much of growing (I think). However, for VE day street celebrations we had a party and fancy dress!! I was wrapped in a sheet a Garland made from tree blossom and a twig of plum tree as “Peace” and I won!!! My brother also wrapped in sheet handed a bar of soap crown cut tout as”Knight of Bath”. My sister also wrapped in sheet crowned as”Great Britton” (yes spelling!!!). Thoughts were My Daddy’s coming home.

Submitted by Frances

Of the many hundred books that I own this battered little book, ‘Simple Fruit Growing’, book product war economy standard, is one of my most precious. It was bought by my father when he was serving in the army during the 2nd World War. From it he planned the orchard that he would grow and drew diagrams on the end papers of his intended purchases and planting positions. The names are wonderful, ‘Peasgood Nonsuch’, Egremont Russet’ and ‘Ribston Pippin’. He came home safely from the war and I played in the orchard throughout my childhood. (But the birds always ate the cherries the minute they were ripe!)

Submitted by Rosemary

I was preschool at the time so memories are hazy. I do remember the Parks Department using carrots and beetroot as edging plants in the flower beds – and very pretty they looked. Sorry, no pics – photographs were few and far between in those days…
I remember Mum having to bottle blackberries without any sugar – oh dear they were not very nice…

Submitted by Sue

I can remember my mum telling me how they had a load of soldiers stopping off on their journey down south to get boats over to France towards the end of the war. At the time Mum and her parents lived in a house with loads of fruit trees, chickens and of course fruit and veg. The soldiers helped out with digging and planting up veg ready for the winter. As for my Dad. He was fighting over in France on VE Day and then spent a few months after that in Berlin before returning home.

Submitted by Jackie

Written by my mother about ten years ago. She had been a telephone operator just outside London, living with her in-laws. Always, looking back to the war years, one remembers the terrible shortages of everything. It must be difficult for people who did not experience those times, and living as we do in such an affluent society and being pressured to buy so many “things” to realise how we managed on so little (Pause while we all cry!).

Food was on very tight rationing and we really had to make the best of everything. I remember one dish we had most weeks. For our Sunday joint we had a piece of best end of neck of lamb. Then on Monday my mother-in-law, who was very clever having been a professional cook, would stew the left-over bones (literally) and make a very tasty stew with lots of carrots and onions (grown in the garden.) Another big delight was the occasional portion of liver which, being classed as “offal” was not on ration – but one did have to be on good terms with one’s butcher.

Another thing we did to augment our rations was to keep a few hens and rabbits. If we gave up our egg ration, we could get a small amount of poultry food which helped out with the meagre scraps. If a hen went “broody”, my mother-in-law put her “in clink” – i.e. the spare dustbin – until she was ready to do her duty and lay eggs. The rabbits made very tasty stews, but my mother-in-law, having looked after them, was never very keen. I was not so sensitive, being young and hungry. What with my mother-in-law at home and a very clever cook at work, I was really quite well fed.

Submitted by Sue

Celebrating Now

In addition, in the spirit of reflection on the dig for victory campaign 75 years ago, the following submissions are of people celebrating VE Day digging for victory in the present day.

Grow your own to commemorate VE Day! Apparently I look the spitting image of my Nan in this photo!

Submitted by @MadHatterGardener

Our lovely garden in Nottinghamshire, now in its 20th year in production. We have been fortunate to have broccoli , leeks and early salad leaves in our garden to get us through the last 8 weeks.

Submitted by Catherine

This is 2 mornings work, 24 brocoli and 21 curly kale plants and netting to protect against the pheasants!

Submitted by Cathy

Poppy’s for VE Day amongst my secret wild flower garden in Billingshurst high street, for my uncle and 2 cousins who served over 50 years.

Submitted by Kevin

Maia and Billy have been busy growing plants from seeds for our allotment and as part of the Gardening Awards they are working towards. We now have some surplus plants available. They have made and decorated a plant stall which they have set up in the lane beside our house. As we are learning about and commemorating VE day this week, they are asking for donations for the plants and all money donated will go to @royalbritishlegion

Submitted by @hadleyhomeschool

We are overwhelmed with the responses to our campaign to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day and the dig for victory campaign. Being able to look back at difficult times and how we deal with adversity is an important part of being human.

We have chosen to end our montage of celebrations with a poem submitted by Heather. Furthermore, Heather described the poem as reminiscent of the lessons her father taught her when she was a child;


‘Make a drill’, he said, and demonstrated.

I drew my stick along the line of string.

‘Water it.’

‘They are not planted yet.’

‘Ah! But the seeds start better wet.’

I sprinkled the tiny grains and waited.

Shoots appeared; it was no false spring

that year, with Dad on leave, when I was five.

Summer – his garden greened, alive.

He is long gone but I retain the basics

Of his lesson as I bend to thin

the rows, thank him for his quiet way –

the vegetables that I still grow today.

Take a look at our other blog posts about VE Day celebrations and the Dig For Victory Campaign.

75 Years Later, We’re Still in This Together
‘Fighting on the Homefront’ – The 75th Anniversary of Digging for Victory

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