Thursday, 12 January 2017

Dig for Victory Garden at Newark Air Museum

Dig for Victory Garden Newark Air Museum Anderson Shelter
The flat lands of this part of Nottinghamshire made for the perfect location of a RAF base in the Second World War. Known then as RAF Winthorpe it is now the Newark Air Museum and has been open to the public since 1973. The collection of planes, helicopters and other flying machines takes in commercial and military aircraft plus a few weird and wonderful inventions! Of course with such a history the museum has quite a strong wartime feel to it. A newer exhibit is the Dig for Victory Garden complete with Anderson Shelter.
When World War Two started Britain was a country that had long been importing food from around the globe. Much of this was to help Commonwealth countries but those supply lines were not longer a viable option. With rationing of food affecting all parts of the country the nation was asked by the Ministry of Agriculture to Dig for Victory. This involved turning front and back gardens in vegetable and fruit plots to grow much needed fresh and nutritious food. By growing food at home it also meant that the supply ships could be used for transporting war materials.
A number of information films were made with such titles as 'How to dig', 'Sowing and planting' and 'Cultivation' to help the many novice gardeners throughout the country. By 1943 over a million tons of vegetables were being grown in gardens and allotments. With many people sensing an end to the war in 1944 it seems that the Ministry of Agriculture had to make a plea to the country to keep digging. Since rationing in the UK didn't stop until nine years after the war finished it's not surprising that they were keen for people to keep growing their own food.
In 2014 the Newark Air Museum received a grant to support and enhance various educational activities. Part of this funded the building of a new Anderson Shelter and then plant a Dig for Victory garden around it. The Anderson Shelter was named after its inventor Sir John Anderson. They were designed to house up to 6 people and could be incorporated into back gardens for quick and easy access to a safe place during air raids. If you had a household income of less than £250 a year you could get an Anderson Shelter for free but for those with a higher income the cost was £7.
January isn't the best month to show off a growing garden but the leeks were looking good and the whole space very neat and tidy. In summer the gooseberries are picked and then preserved as part of the 'Jambusters' project inspired by the Women's Institute. The jam is then used at one of the annual theme days at the museum. There's also rose bushes to bring some much needed colour and cheer to what was a very bleak time. I'd be interested to see how the garden looks in the summer – perhaps a good excuse to go back on a theme day and dress up!

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