Wartime Farm (2012) s01e08 Episode Script

Episode 8

The great British countryside.
The setting for one of the most pivotal battles of the Second World War.
Churchill called it the "frontline of freedom".
And it was fought by the farmers of Britain.
Timber! When war broke out, the Nazis attacked British shipping, attempting to cut off food imports.
The Government turned to farmers to double home-grown food production.
If they failed, Britain could have been starved into surrender.
Now, historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn are working Manor Farm in Hampshire as it would have been in the Second World War.
Ohh! It's summer, and the team must bring in the wheat harvest - the climax of their farming year.
But they face the conditions of 1945, when despite Allied victories, the Nazis were hitting back, creating growing uncertainty about when the war would end.
Food production came under greater pressure than ever before.
We've got to put some heart back in the land and this machine will do it.
After six years of conflict, Britain's fields were exhausted and output was falling.
So the team must restore fertility to their land and ensure that every last scrap of wheat is brought home.
It is the battle for food.
And this is the final push to get this in.
A new food crisis looms on the Wartime Farm.
The team are hoping that in a few weeks, all their work on the farm will pay off when they bring in the wheat harvest.
The joys of summer, Peter.
Good to see the sun on the wheat.
Yeah, it's the first time this year, basically.
It's been the wettest summer for a century.
Their flax crop has already failed.
Everything now depends on the success of the wheat.
Still pretty green, is it? Still pretty green.
See, that's really wet.
Yeah, isn't it? That's a long way off.
We've got, what, another few weeks on this? I would have said so.
What are we gonna harvest this with? Well, I think we should go for one of the new-fangled machines of the day, the combined harvester.
Something that not only cuts it, it threshes it in the field.
It will combine cutting and threshing.
Using a combined harvester will be crucial to getting every last scrap of wheat from the field, a job that in 1945 was more important than ever.
All through the war, wheat yields had been rising.
But now they started to fall.
After five years of record crops, the fertility of Britain's fields was in decline.
To compensate, imports would have to increase.
But there was a new threat to shipping.
Early in the war, U-boats like this destroyed shipping.
But in 1945, the Nazis launched a high-speed version, posing a major new threat to imports.
Braced for a crisis, the government ordered farmers to restore fertility to their fields.
There she is.
Well, well! Hi, Ruth.
The team are using a muck spreader.
We've got to put some heart back in the land and this machine will enable us to do it.
We'll load you up and send you off.
Muck, or animal dung, is a crucial source of nutrition for the soil.
It improves soil structure and adds organic substances to help plants grow.
It's the wind! You're downwind! What can I do? Mitigate against it.
Vicious, isn't it? It's giving a good even dressing, isn't it? Really chopping it up.
Although it was desperately needed, the amount of manure available to farmers declined sharply during the war.
Early on in the conflict, the government had brought in a policy of slaughtering livestock that could not be fed.
Millions were culled, and the knock-on effects were now being felt.
Towards the end of the war, many farmers were beginning to ask whether it had been wise to lose so many animals from British farming.
We'd seen so many sheep and so many beef cattle lost in agriculture.
As a consequence, we'd lost their manure, we'd lost their dung, and that for years, centuries, had been used to put heart back in the land.
With the land exhausted and crop yields in danger, the government knew that record food production couldn't be sustained through another year of war.
Then, in the spring of 1945, the Russians broke through into Berlin.
It seemed likely the Nazi regime would soon fall.
On 7th May came the news Britain had been fighting for for so long.
Germany surrendered.
This is the BBC Home Service.
We're interrupting programmes to make the following announcement.
It is understood that in accordance with arrangement between the three Great Powers, tomorrow, Tuesday, will be treated as Victory in Europe Day, and will be regarded as a holiday.
Well, beginning of the end.
Hard to think, really, of the relief people must have felt.
To be told officially that, you know, victory was about to happen.
The V word.
That sort of cessation of danger.
Yeah, the killing has stopped.
- The killing has stopped.
- In Europe.
Only in Europe, yeah.
It must have been strange for them.
Living in this world where you go out at night and there's not a single pinprick from any house.
There's never been any fireworks, there's been relatively few parties.
All of a sudden, the next couple of days, it must have just erupted.
And as you say, the sheer relief.
Maybe we should have some sort of celebration.
But perhaps try and bring in people who do have some memory of Victory in Europe, and really see how they remember it, see what they think.
Yeah, that's a very nice idea.
You might need a scrub up, though.
- I know.
- And I need a new collar.
Here's to Victory in Europe.
To Victory in Europe.
Though Britain was still at war with Japan, the end of the conflict with Germany meant the end of the threat of bombing at home.
Blackout precautions could come down.
I imagine one of the first things you must have done was take this tape off, let the sunlight back into your house.
But in other areas of life, restrictions were still in place.
In May 1945, there was no immediate change to rationing.
So anyone preparing to throw a party had to be ingenious.
I got a copy of the Home And Country magazine, which was the WI magazine.
There's some really interesting recipes in here.
Particularly a series of pastries that use next to no fat.
I've got a wonderful one here for baked potato pudding, which sounds really economical.
Fat was heavily rationed.
So this pastry uses just one third of the amount normally required.
Just that much fat for all that flour.
Instead of water, I've to put in golden syrup.
I've never made pastry like this before.
The wheat crop is still a few weeks away from being ready to harvest.
So Alex is working on restoring fertility to another of his fields, this time using the cows themselves.
There was a product that wartime farmers could call on to make this simple.
This is the field, Philip.
It looks nice pasture land in there.
Philip Thornton-Evison is an expert in historic technology.
He has come to help Alex set up his very first electric fence.
Electric fences were first officially recommended by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1939.
In the battle to restore fertility, they were an important weapon, allowing farmers to divide their fields into strips.
I do like nice straight lines on a farm.
This meant cows could be placed in one section at a time, ensuring an even spread of manure across the whole field.
I mean, you know, if I wanted to do this prior to this technology, would I lay a hedge? It takes six years to grow.
Dry stone walling, in a county which doesn't have any stone available.
Build a fence - I'd need a lot of timber.
And manpower.
And, of course, manpower was something that actually after the war was lacking.
So this really is opening my eyes.
That'll do.
A world without it is probably hard to imagine for farmers today.
With the stakes in the ground, it's time to string up the wire Keeping that tension on there all the time.
before connecting it to the fencer unit which will provide the power.
That's all.
That'll hang there quite happily.
What does it say? "Warning.
Battery operated only.
" "Six volts.
" The electric fence was invented in the 19th century.
But portable battery-powered units were relatively new.
Earlier designs had been powered by unwieldy sources like steam engines.
The new technology was accessible to all.
- We've got a ticking sound.
- The ticking sound is the unit operating.
Tick, tick - it's sending pulses of high voltage along the fence.
When you or the animal touches the wire, you make the circuit between here and ground so you get the shock.
How do I know that's working? The countryside way of doing it is with a blade of grass.
All you need is a nice blade of grass.
Just rest the grass on the wire so you are now completing the circuit.
- That's nasty.
- It is.
A nasty little nip, that is.
I don't think it would take many shocks for a cow to think It wouldn't.
That's great, really fantastic.
- We'll be able to muck evenly the field.
- Exactly.
And that's what wartime Britain desperately needed.
It needed that fertility back in the soil.
Preparations for the VE Day party are underway.
And Ruth's putting the finishing touches to her baked potato pie.
The odd thing about this recipe is that it calls for orange juice and orange zest.
I don't know where I'd get an orange living in the countryside during the war.
I had a scout around and have come up with a recipe for mock orange juice, which I think will do the trick.
It's swede, really, that you peel and slice and then sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of sugar over and then leave overnight.
The juice of the swede comes out.
That is supposed to taste slightly orangey.
It smells like swede.
But there is a certain orangeyness about it.
It's quite amazing.
I'm just going to put a splash in, I think.
Right, I'm to spread jam and then my mixture on top.
Hopefully, people will like it.
With the fence up, it's time to bring in the cows.
- Come on.
- It's not easy.
There's better grass in the field.
- There they go.
- Straight to the fence.
- Did she get a shock? - Steering clear of the fence, aren't they? They are.
Thank you very much.
Thanks a lot, Philip.
The VE Day celebrations have begun.
That's the one! 25! What is that? Baked potato pie.
- Are you sure? - I am.
Do you want a bit? I can't work out if that's good or not.
OK, everyone.
Come and gather round.
Up and down the country, people joined together to pay tribute to Britain's war leader, Winston Churchill.
And now, oh, what wonderful luck! At this moment, how wonderful.
Mr Churchill has come out onto the Ministry of Health balcony.
He stands now in the floodlight, and is giving the victory sign with all his might from the balcony.
Your victory.
Victory of the cause of freedom.
Well, I think Winston Churchill deserves a rabble-rousing chorus of For He's A Jolly Good Fellow.
One, two, three Hooray! The team have invited along guests with first-hand memories of VE Day - Mary Davey, Anne Stamper and John Curtis.
What was it like in the countryside, VE Day? I've only ever seen it from the perspective of Trafalgar Square, London.
It was quite good fun in the country.
All the little villages and towns had their celebrations in the streets and things.
Dancing went on for ages at night.
Everybody was chuffed to bits.
The big party was on the recreation ground with a firework party.
There was a set piece with fireworks going off.
Oh, right, OK.
That was really the first time I'd ever seen anything like that.
And the thing I really remember about it, was that one of these set pieces was an elephant.
When it went off, the trunk moved and I think the tail moved.
I can remember everybody laughing and clapping.
I'd never seen anything like it and I just thought that was wonderful.
Very clear memory still.
Many people on VE Day were looking forward to loved ones coming home.
But for those with relatives fighting in the Far East, the end was not yet in sight.
Mary Davey's father had been sent to Malaya.
On VE Day, her mother had no idea where he was.
She actually put an advert in a local paper talking about my dad.
She said, "If anyone lately returned from Malaya can give any information, I will be most grateful.
" With a photograph of my dad.
- A heartfelt plea, isn't it? - Yes.
And from that came a letter from a Captain Pearce.
He says, "I was for a time at the camp in Thailand.
He died on 21 st September, 1943.
" This was 1946 by the time my mum had this information.
So she was a long time not knowing.
Is this you at the time? Yes, this is my brother Jimmy and I and herself.
So, on VE Day, then, her husband's missing, she hasn't a clue what's going on, she's looking after two small children, and yet somehow, in the midst of all that, she manages to find reasons to be cheerful.
She was helping to put on this street party.
But for her, it wasn't over.
There's a certain strength there, isn't there? For farmers too, the battle was far from finished.
I found this lovely bit of editorial here from Farmers Weekly.
It's 1945.
May 11th, so it's the first edition after VE Day.
And, of course, the headline is "Victory".
But the key message in here is about the fact that the struggle still goes on.
It says here, "The soldier returns from battle; the farmer's battle goes on.
It will be a very long time indeed before his unending fight can see its own kind of victory in a healthy, strong, well-fed population throughout the countries of the world.
Tomorrow we must face a future, exacting and difficult as anything we have known in the last five years.
We know that and we do not propose to evade it.
" After VE Day, a new food crisis began.
Across Europe, farmland and infrastructure had been destroyed.
And many war-torn nations could no longer grow their own food.
Mass starvation loomed.
Britain's farmers were called upon to intensify their efforts, as the nation suddenly had to send thousands of tons of food abroad, including, as an occupying force, to Germany.
The wheat crop of 1945 now became even more critical.
Manor Farm's wheat is almost ready to harvest.
Alex and Peter are making plans for the arrival of the combine.
I carry my measuring stick with me, Peter, just in case we need to size up any problems that we are confronted with.
So over 12 feet long.
Which means we should be able to get it in here.
We might just have to pin back some of the shrubbery.
Before they get the machine in the field, there's another problem to address.
Until the invention of the combine, harvesting machinery simply cut the wheat and left it to dry in the field.
Only after drying would it be threshed.
Now the combine would cut and thresh in one go and the drying stage would be missed out.
This meant the grain could be too wet to store away.
Farmers had to find a solution.
We should be able to make quite an easy makeshift grain drier.
Something quite simple.
I think it'd be a good idea.
If we did bring the grain in moist and hadn't made a grain drier, the Ministry of Agriculture would be breathing down our necks asking us why.
Making a grain drier will require some ingenuity.
After VE Day, a huge rebuilding programme got underway in Britain's bomb-damaged cities.
Conventional building materials had been rationed throughout the war and were now even harder to come by.
- Hi, Pete.
- Hi, Colin, how are you? Conservation officer Colin Richards has come to help the team improvise.
These are the bits and pieces which should hopefully make the grain drier.
I notice they're all irregular in shape and size.
Sorry about that.
We're going to have to scratch our heads as to how we can make this old gate our platform to dry the grain on.
We've got to create a platform with a fire underneath, drive off the moisture, and that's our grain drier.
The first job is to dig a hole for the fire to sit in.
But before long, the rain arrives.
This is why we need the grain drier.
Almost there.
All year, we've been battling with the weather.
We've had so much rain this year.
It has not been fun.
It's a nightmare.
It's been the worst year on record for weather.
It really has.
And I can only hope those heroes of wartime farming are looking down on us now, Peter.
And laughing.
Last turf.
The base of the grain-drying platform will be a layer of scrap iron.
But it needs to be flattened.
I'll give you a rhythm.
Come on.
Know the lyrics to Camptown Races? Perfect.
Look at that! - Flat enough for you? - Brilliant, Peter.
In 1945, with the threat of German invasion gone, land defences were broken up, leaving behind handy debris.
- That's perfect, isn't it? - Yeah.
This is the type of material that was round in 1945, when they started to dismantle the roadblocks and the checkpoints.
It was a ready source of material, it's recycling at its best.
Well, we'll have some more of this, then, Peter.
The platform will be supported by pillars.
Takes me back to my scrum half days.
Number eight.
Hurgh! What we're doing is separating the fire from the grain.
And the bricks act as a radiator, radiating that heat through the grain, drying it and allowing you to sort of store it without it going mouldy.
The drying surface must be perfectly level to ensure the crop is dried evenly.
You know he's cock-eyed, don't you? We first started out with a whole bunch of scrap metal, blocks of concrete, an old gate and we're actually attempting to do a very technical thing in reducing the moisture level in grain.
I was really sceptical.
But now looking at this, I feel a bit more confident about getting this grain to the right standard for the Ministry of Agriculture.
When the grain drier's finished, the team will be prepared to harvest the wheat.
By 1945, farming had been controlled by the government's War Agricultural Executive for six years.
They dictated almost every aspect of farming, from where to grow crops to what to feed chickens.
Then in July, just a few weeks after VE Day, farmers were given the chance to shape future food production when a general election was held.
- Hello.
- Hello, it must be Nick.
Nice to meet you.
Come on in, I think we've got the kettle on.
Historian Nick Mansfield has studied the election.
- Peter, Nick.
- Pleased to meet you.
- Cup of tea? - Yes, please.
Wartime Britain was governed by a coalition led by the Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Agriculture was central for both main parties and farmers were faced with a stark choice.
So we've got Mr Churchill's declaration to the electors, the Tory one.
That's the Tory Party.
The emphasis is on the Empire, which will bring in food and so forth.
They then went on to say, "The wartime directions and controls will be progressively reduced as our food situation improves.
" So the Tories, then, are proposing to sort of be very hands-off and leave it to market forces? That's right.
Whereas Labour are saying, "In war time, the County War Executive Committees have organised production in that way.
" As you know, they brought in mechanisation on a huge scale, fertilisation and so forth.
Now, "The Labour Party intends that their work shall continue in peacetime.
" Bearing in mind that we've got the Tory Party suggesting we should go entirely with market forces in the countryside, and the Labour Party suggesting that we should hang on to the government procedures that have been in place during the war What do you think? In 1945, what would you have gone for? It is a very tough question.
Because I can see the benefits of getting rid of the War Ag, but equally I can see how keeping the status quo was definitely working.
The government has put up a framework in which farming can operate.
So maybe you're thinking, "Actually, this is working.
" Well, the first line of the Labour Party manifesto: "Agriculture is not only a job for the farmers, it is also a way of feeding the people.
" It's still calling on that whole wartime "We're all in it together" sort of a spirit.
The Labour Party emerged victorious with one of the biggest landslides in election history.
The party won more purely rural seats than it ever has before or since.
The idea of government control over farming in peacetime would now be enshrined in law.
Nothing was ever the same again.
When the Conservatives returned to power in 1951 again, they accepted the Agricultural Bill entirely and the rest is history.
It's the basis of post-war prosperity for British agriculture.
Many aspects of the 1940s legislation are still in force today.
The grain drier is built and the wheat is almost ready to bring in.
But before they begin cutting, the team have one last job they want to tackle - setting up a party to celebrate the harvest.
There's a wartime scheme they're using for inspiration.
Holidays at Home was a government initiative to counter extreme wartime working conditions.
With many factories operating 24 hours a day, employees often worked seven days a week.
Ministers knew people would become exhausted without regular breaks.
But they didn't want to encourage travel as the roads were needed for troops and freight.
The answer was Holidays at Home.
Anyone home? Local volunteers were asked to put on festivities.
You might have seen these around.
Oh, yes, Holidays at Home.
Dog show - we can definitely enter the dog show.
You're in for that, no problem? Holidays at Home will be the perfect way to round off the harvest.
And Alex wants the party to go with a bang.
Hello, Steve.
Thanks for coming along.
He's enlisted the help of pyrotechnics expert Steve Allison, to put together a wartime fireworks display, in the shape of an elephant.
I've heard about elephants being used for exactly these purposes.
I'm really intrigued to see how the whole thing works.
Yeah, it was quite a popular lancework, the elephant.
- You say lancework? - Lancework, yes.
Lancework is pictures in fire.
Got to bear in mind that fireworks weren't quite as spectacular, and this was the way of getting a sort of moving picture, as it were.
So it's got moving parts, has it? It has.
Hopefully the trunk's going to be moving at the end.
So you're working from a template that you've sketched out here? And then the fireworks will be placed on the outline.
When they're lit, you'll see the pinpoints of light and the picture outlined.
So the ears.
We're going for African elephant or Indian? That ear size is just perfect.
I think the African elephant.
The African elephant? OK, fine by me.
- Happy? - That's looking good.
Fireworks were banned at the start of the war, and all existing supplies had to be handed over to police.
Factories that made them were converted to produce munitions.
The business end of this structure - the fireworks.
You've got some on display.
Are these the ones we'll be attaching? I don't think so.
The ones we're attaching are much plainer.
These are pre-war that would have been in the shops, like a selection box.
So these are the sort of thing that had been banned by the time we get to 1939-40? Absolutely.
"War in the air".
The shape of things to come, unfortunately.
- Rather prophetic, actually.
- Very much so.
This is the Jumping Jack? You'd light that and it would chase you round the garden.
But we're not going to use these fireworks to attach to our elephant? - No, we're going to go for plain white.
- Right, OK.
That's your lance, like a cigarette.
But I wouldn't smoke it.
The lances will be fastened to the trellis with double pointed nails, and linked together with quick match - cotton, covered with gunpowder mixture, covered in paper.
This is all incredibly technical.
Your worst-case scenario is you light one corner of this, it gets halfway up the leg and then just goes out.
You certainly wouldn't see an elephant.
Bit of a disaster, really.
It'll take several hours and 180 lances to complete the firework elephant.
For three months after VE Day, Britain remained at war in the Far East.
Then, on August 6th, a terrifying new weapon was unleashed over Japan - the atomic bomb.
Japan soon surrendered, marking the end of the Second World War.
Wild celebrations erupted in the USA.
But in Britain, a new set of challenges emerged.
Since 1941, the government had been dependent on financial support from America and this was soon cut off.
Britain was essentially bankrupt and unable to afford imported food.
So the nation's farms, exhausted from the conflict, were called on to step up production to even greater heights.
At the farm, the crop is ready to cut.
The Wartime combined harvester has arrived.
It's gonna be tight.
Look at that! Ooh-ho-ho! We are talking about half an inch, there.
Half an inch, but we're in.
You are through.
The Allis-Chalmers All-Crop 60 was manufactured throughout the 1940s.
Its owner is local farmer Lou Hazel.
So this is the combined harvester? This is the thing that's combining not only the cutting but the threshing of the crop? Correct.
You're gonna show me how this works? Quite simple.
The knife there goes backwards and forwards, cuts the grain.
- The reel goes round and round - Sort of knocking it into the blade? As soon as it's cut, it falls back onto the canvas, which conveys it up to the top.
And it goes into the threshing cylinder.
The threshing cylinder removes the grain from the ears of wheat.
- So that cylinder goes round - Oh, I'm with you.
It contains iron bars coated with rubber.
The rubber covering there gives the seed a gentle thrash.
So it's not making aggressive action to it to crack the kernel.
It doesn't bruise or break the seed? Correct.
Once the grain has been knocked out, it's separated from the straw by slatted conveyors moving towards the other side of the combine.
Finally, the grain encounters a series of sieves, which get rid of any remaining straw.
All of those processes that had once all been done back in the threshing barn, are all being done here on the back of the harvester.
"Does it work?" is the question.
- Oh, yes.
- OK.
They claim it will thresh over 100 different crops.
It's got about 100 different plants out there to thresh through, what with all the weeds.
Let's hope we just get some grain in the bags.
All right, well, let's see it started.
Modern combined harvesters are self-propelled.
But this one is pulled by a tractor, which means there are two engines to start.
If I never see another crank handle as long as I live, Lou, I'll die a happy man.
Two or three minutes for the engine to warm up.
Then we can start cutting.
Put it on that one.
As is always the case with these things, incredibly tense for Peter and myself.
This is a whole year building up to this harvest.
And the thing is, you're working with kit and equipment which is over 70 years old.
But here we go.
The combine is off to a good start.
We've made some progress but there's so much green material in the bottom there.
But the weeds in the crop could cause trouble.
Something's burning.
- Something is burning.
- It's the belt.
That belt is burning.
Damp grass is all jammed in under the reel.
We had a jam and the problem is there's so much filth.
There's so much weed in the base of this crop, that the cutter's struggling to get through it.
Wet grass, losing traction.
- It's not going well.
- No.
Weed-ridden wheat was a symptom of the wartime directive to plough up land that had never been used to grow crops before.
This is the type of land you wouldn't dream of putting a crop in outside of wartime.
It is the battle for food.
This is the final push to get this in.
And it's gonna take a Herculean and heroic effort to get it in, isn't it? How's it looking? - Terrible.
- Terrible? - That's not the word we like to hear.
- At least he's honest.
If they can't get the combine working, the team will have to harvest the field by hand, taking around four days to cut and two to thresh.
The combine is capable of doing both jobs in less than one day.
Ruth's setting up the harvest celebration.
Holidays at Home.
The government issued guidelines on how to get the most out of time off.
Have you seen this menu leaflet suggested for Holidays at Home? It's quite incredible.
I like this bit.
"What about Mother? Too often she has to spend long hours in a hot kitchen, trying to cope with the tremendous appetites of the family.
This is all wrong.
Mother needs a change from the kitchen, just as much as Father needs one from the office or the children from school.
" But how can this be managed? By careful menu planning.
Basically, you've got to spend the week before your holiday doing extra work.
Mmm, some holiday.
I thought we'd have a go at Monday's sandwiches suggestion.
"Sandwiches made with pilchard and cabbage spread.
" Oh, that sounds horrible! The recipe calls for pilchard, cabbage vinegar, salt and mustard.
That looks less appetising, doesn't it? I should be brave and taste a little bit.
Here goes.
Actually, it's all right.
Genuinely, that's all right.
It is, actually, it's very good.
I might try making that.
Are we ready to go or what? An hour of adjustments have unclogged the combine and the harvest can continue.
Our first bag.
This is it.
You just put your hand in, you can feel the moisture.
It feels damp.
We'll have to get this dried pretty smartish.
But, having said that, this was beyond our wildest expectations about a month ago.
It really is.
This is fantastic.
There we go.
To the grain drier.
Colin's on hand to get the grain drier up to temperature.
I like this, Alex.
This is you? Yeah, a little message there, thought it was quite pertinent.
The fire needs to die down before the grain can be dried.
Blinking heck! When you said a grain-drying kiln, it's not quite what I had in mind.
No, it's incredibly makeshift.
Ruth's brought along a batch of the pilchard sandwiches.
I'm starving.
This is definitely one of those recipes I was really worried about but it seems all right.
- Delicious.
- Good, aren't they? Taste the sea.
- We're gonna have a lovely Holidays at Home? - We will if the weather holds.
We've got fireworks as well.
But we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us.
- They didn't last long, did they? - That was delicious.
The fire's under control and the drying surface hot.
But before the team can dry any grain, there's one final calculation they must make.
The wartime target was to store grain with a moisture content of around 14 per cent.
Any more than that, and there was a risk it would go mouldy over winter.
- You got it? - Yeah.
The team need to know how wet the crop is to start with.
Historian John Martin has come to help with this crucial stage.
- Hello, John.
How are you, all right? - Yeah, not too bad.
It's not the prettiest grain you'll ever see.
That's typical of lots of the grains that were cut in the war, weeds were really quite common.
- So as a wartime crop, it's not looking too bad? - It looks reasonably good.
John's plan is to measure out three pounds of the grain - That's better.
- On the nail.
dry it and then reweigh it.
The amount of weight that's been lost will be the amount of moisture in the original grain.
We've just got a set of scales here, and we're doing a very arbitrary test.
Surely the Ministry would have had much more hi-tech equipment? They would, but because it was in short supply, it wouldn't have been available for all farmers.
They've got to kind of, in the war, improvise as best they can.
You can feel the heat in that.
That is really drying quite quickly.
The grain's beginning to feel different.
Can you feel it? The team are about to find out how much moisture is in their precious crop.
We have got here two pounds and four ounces.
The grain has lost around a quarter of its original weight, meaning it had a moisture content of 25 per cent.
This would have been too high for the Ministry of Agriculture, who were looking for it to be around 14 per cent.
OK, so we know what we've got to do now in terms of drying on here.
We know the thickness of the bed of grain we need, we know how long we need to cook it on here, and what type of heat we need to keep up.
We've got a lot of sacks to get through.
So I think we should start by getting on with it.
With the makeshift drier working, the farmers are on course to bring in the crop at a standard the Ministry would have accepted.
Back in the day when men were men, Peter.
Right, Peter.
Hold fast, man.
On it goes.
That's good.
We're getting there.
There's another dozen of them sacks.
How are you feeling about this, Colin? If we do this for sort of half an hour or an hour, then I think we'll actually dry this batch.
That's good news.
Let's get drying.
Know what this calls for? - A beer.
- A beer? Oh, my word.
Thank you.
The success of the food production campaign went far beyond officials' pre-war plans.
Never before had output increased so rapidly in such a short period of time.
John Martin is one of the country's leading authorities on wartime farming.
Let's get this straight.
If we were to try and rank the battle for food and the battle for harvests, as you call it, up against things like the Battle of Britain, Dunkirk or D-day, we can see it as a success, a victory won.
I think it was a clear victory.
It saved us from malnutrition and really starvation.
It's a crowning achievement - Britain entered the war with two-thirds of its population being fed on imported food.
As much as it must have been hard, it must have given so many people a purpose.
I think that's very true.
It's a neglected story that people committed themselves to a war effort and the countryside committed itself to winning the war.
Well, I think we are sitting on the brink of our own victory.
Everything seems to be going to plan.
- So, cheers.
- Fingers crossed.
Here's to the heroes of wartime farming.
- Cheers.
- All of 'em.
By the end of the war, the fields of Britain were producing double what they had in the 1930s.
It was an unprecedented accomplishment.
But it created a legacy which has never left the countryside.
Tractors enabled 6.
5 million acres of grassland to be ploughed up in areas often now protected by law.
The use of chemical fertilisers nearly tripled.
They've remained part of agriculture ever since.
But despite increasing yields, some people feel the chemicals have caused irreparable damage to the farming landscape.
These are all implements that actually do allow you to grow crops in areas that you probably wouldn't normally have grown crops.
It's almost as if you've become absolute master over that landscape.
That's frightening.
The policy of slaughtering animals that couldn't be fed caused livestock numbers to plummet.
Many livestock now classified as rare breeds became rare because of the wartime cull.
The focus has been not upon the farmyard and the farm stock, but out in the fields.
That's felt quite different.
A yard that's empty of animals, empty of that routine a very quiet farmyard in some ways.
The war forged a link between government and farmers that was closer than ever before.
Governmental control at this sort of level, it was a necessity.
And to be brutally honest, it worked.
What it did ensure is that we did have enough food to feed every single person on this island.
As a result of the wartime agricultural revolution, farmers in Britain found themselves on a technological treadmill, constantly seeking to maximise output.
Eventually the revolution became the basis of agriculture as we know it today.
With the combine making quick work of the field and the grain drying going well, the team's work on the farm is coming to an end.
The harvest celebration is underway.
Holidays at Home.
- Wow! - Whoa, look at that.
That's quite a sight.
Weather like this, I'd have a holiday at home.
Decent location for our fireworks.
What have we got, though, for fireworks? You'll have to wait and see, won't you, Peter? - I'll have to wait and see.
- It's a surprise.
The Holidays at Home harvest celebration is underway.
As well as transforming agriculture, the war caused social upheaval across Britain.
That summer saw the first wave of people released from war work.
Among them were some of the two million women who'd been mobilised, often into jobs traditionally done by men.
Women's lives were so turned upside down during the war.
I know immediately after the war things seemed, for a while, to go back to exactly the same way they had.
But they didn't really, because inside people's heads, something had changed.
It could never completely go back.
But there was no let-up in shortages of everyday items.
Food rationing would continue until 1954.
Other commodities, like clothes, also went on being rationed.
The wartime mentality would have to endure long after the conflict was over.
I think the thing I've enjoyed most about the year is the resourcefulness.
There's no doubt about it.
Come on, then, winners! Come get your prizes.
There just didn't exist a concept of throwing things away.
And that, for me, is probably the biggest lesson that I can take away from that period.
- Have your dogs go down.
- Down.
Good boy! I hope he's not giving marks for handler's appearance.
And the winner is Henry.
We've forgotten the austere measures that people had to take during this period.
They had to sacrifice things, they had to make do and mend.
It's not just a mindset that was in the individual.
It was a mindset of the nation.
There was a collective "Let's just do it".
As night falls, it's time to reveal the firework elephant.
Are we ready? Oh, yes! That is brilliant! It is brilliant and what a fantastic way to end our year.
You know, after six years of war, seeing something so magical.
Bravo! You can read about the Second World War in books.
But to actually come out here, to actually try and walk, even just for a few footsteps in their shoes, to really understand what it must have been like to be in this country, to be up against it it does change you.
It feels like being demobbed.
- It is a bit like that, isn't it? - Back into civvy street.
I should have worn my spare pair of clothes, you know.
Look a bit smart, finally.
I think the thing that has had the biggest impact on me this year has been that talking, that connecting, with people who were really there.
I don't think I'd ever really truly done that.
I just feel a sense of connection with that generation that I never thought I would.
It's been a great year.
Enjoyed yourself? Yeah, I'm really sad to go.
Of course, it's a countryside that will never be the same again.
Changed forever.
It's so basic, isn't it, food? It underpins everything.
- Is that it? - That looks like our ride.
I've really found myself admiring the feats of the people that worked on the land - the farmers, the War Ag, the land girls everyone who contributed.
I lift my hat to those people, they really did win the battle for food.
Ding, ding! Where to next? I think the seaside.
- Seaside, Ruth? You fancy that? - That'd be good.

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