Home Front News

Agriculture on the Front, Agriculture on the Home Front


A cup of tea and fresh vegetables were extremely important to the men on the front line.  Newspaper articles from January 1917 explained what great lengths some soldiers would go to in order to attain them:


Women's Land Army

The Women’s Land Army was first established 100 years ago in January 1917 as the need for fresh fruit and vegetables in Britain became more urgent. Its aim was: “increasing the supply of women workers on the land and of securing their efficiency and employment”.

The first women were appointed as ‘Board of Agriculture’ inspectors and others were employed as officers in each county of England and Wales.

Recruitment started in March and the Land Army — a civilian organisation staffed and run by women – was registered as part of the National Service Scheme.  Meriel Talbot  was the director. She established a force of mobile workers to recruit healthy young women over 18 years of age and train them for four weeks, before channelling them into farm work. These ‘land girls’, as they came to be known, took on milking, care of livestock and general farm work. They were paid 18 shillings a week, which increased to 20 shillings a week after they passed an efficiency test.

Girls who signed on for a year were provided with a uniform valued at about 30 shillings. This consisted of breeches (to give them the same freedom of movement as men), a long tunic, boots, leggings, a mackintosh, jersey and soft felt hat. This style of dress and the fact that some young women chose to have their hair ‘bobbed’ short, shocked most country folk. The new female land workers were viewed both with suspicion and initial hostility.

By the time the Land Army was disbanded in May 1919 23,000 young women had become official full time members.

(Image copyright of Imperial War Museum - Art.IWM PST 5489)






The people of Merton were very conscious of the need to produce more food. Allotments were springing up everywhere, whilst many people with gardens were also doing their bit for food production.

Dorset Hall on Kingston Road, Merton Park, was the home of social campaigner and suffragette,

Rose Lamartine Yates. A large part of her family  garden was put over to fruit and vegetables.

(Plan: Produced by John Wallace for the John Innes Society)






The infant, Paul Lamartine Yates, pictured with Mr Friston, the gardener and his young assistant, in the vegetable garden at Dorset Hall in 1914. During this period, young children were clothed in dresses, regardless of gender.

Boys underwent the “breeching ceremony” (the move to short trousers) at the age of five or six. Many young males were also parted from their infant curls at this time.

(Photo copyright of the John Innes Society)