South Shropshire News
War Walks on the Home Front at Acton Scott Farm on 27 June
4th June 2015
When the young men on the British farms went to war, they were replaced by tractors, women and German prisoners of war. Half a million horses were requisitioned for military duties.
After the War the Prime Minister Lloyd George wrote "The Home Front is always under-rated … And yet this is where the Great War was won and lost. The German home front fell to pieces before their armies collapsed."
Keith Pybus explained:
"I can’t think of a better place to tell the story of our fight to feed ourselves than Acton Scott. In 1914 this country relied on cheap imported food. About 60% of our food was imported. When more than 170,000 farm workers enlisted – one third of the labour force – they had to be replaced by tractors, by German prisoners of war and soldiers released for the harvest. The U-boats were sinking one in four ships. By 1918 sugar, tea, butter, bread, meat and flour were rationed. Without the 100,000 women, who were on the farms, this country would have starved."
As the war ground on, the shortage of manpower became acute. 500 fit young men in the Shrewsbury prisoner of war camp were far too precious not to put to productive use. Agricultural labour camps were set up in Bromfield, Clee Hill, Cleobury Mortimer, Corfton, and Ellesmere. It was planned to house them in groups of 15-20 men. The PoWs were also used in ones and twos, where a farmer could provide a dormitory and kitchen. The men would walk each morning to work and return in the evening. Work details of 10 men with two guards would also leave from Shrewsbury by train to convenient stations. Farmers were urged to apply at once in time for the harvest. After the harvest some work parties were withdrawn, but many worked until repatriation in 1919.
"Thanks to the researches of the Shropshire War Memorial project, when the walk reaches St Margaret’s Church we can see what happened to men from Acton Scott who went to the war. Edward Jones had worked in the gardens of the Hall for three years and William Carter’s mother lived in the Laundry Cottage. Two sets of brothers from the area also fell in the First World War."
Tickets cost £7 including the walk and entry to Acton Scott Historic Working Farm, plus a voucher for a cup of tea – no ration books required. Advance booking essential via Acton Scott Farm on 01694 781307.
Acton Scott Historic Working Farm is at Wenlock Lodge, Acton Scott, Church Stretton, Shropshire, SY6 6QN.