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Historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn face up to the challenges of the biggest revolution ever seen in the history of the British countryside as they turn Manor Farm back tohow it was run in the Second World War. When Britain entered the war, two-thirds of all Britain's food was imported - and now it was under threat from a Nazi blockade. To save Britain from starvation, the nation's farmers were tasked with doubling food production in what Churchill called 'the frontline of freedom'. This meant ploughing up 6.5 million acres of unused land - a combined area bigger than the whole of Wales.

Genres: History | Lifestyle
Station: BBC Two (UK)
Rating: 0/10 from 0 users
Status: Ended
Start: 2012-09-06

Wartime Farm Season 1 Air Dates


S01E01 - Episode 1 Air Date: 05 September 2012 23:00 -

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In this first episode, the farmers find themselves in a new location, a new time period and with a new team member. There is a new farmhouse to modernise, strict new rules to abide by and air raid precautions to contend with.

The team begin by reclaiming badlands to grow new crops. Peter works with a blacksmith to design a special 'mole plough' to help drain the waterlogged clay fields. Ruth and Alex get to grips with a troublesome wartime tractor - and must plough through the night to get the wheat crop sown in time.

On top of farmers' herculean efforts to double food production, their detailed knowledge of the landscape also made them ideal recruits for one of the war's most secret organisations - the 'Auxiliary Units', a British resistance force trained to use guerrilla tactics against German invasion.


S01E02 - Episode 2 Air Date: 12 September 2012 23:00 -

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The team tackle the conditions faced by British farmers in 1940, when the full impact of rationing took hold and which also saw Britain face the onslaught of Nazi bombing in the Blitz.

Ruth finds out how about the impact rationing had in the kitchen as food became strictly limited - and also explores the temptations of the black market.

Alex and Peter are confronted with vastly reduced supplies of feed for the animals, so attempt a method encouraged by the government: making "silage". This involves not only finding alternatives sources of feed to store for winter, but also creating a container to store them in. And for this they find out how the Women's Land Army could be of help. Along they way, they also discover how racial prejudice reared its ugly head during Land Girl recruitment - only to be overcome by the actions of a local farmer.

Ruth goes on a canning drive - gathering fruit to preserve and donate to the war effort - with the local Women's Institute.


S01E03 - Episode 3 Air Date: 19 September 2012 23:00 -

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The team tackles the conditions faced by the British farmers in late 1940, when Britain's cities were heavily bombed by the Nazis.

The Blitz resulted in one of the biggest mass movements of people in British history as three million city dwellers fled to the countryside. To make outbuildings habitable as refugee shelters, Alex and Peter resort to the age-old craft of making tiles by hand - which means camping out for two days and nights in freezing cold to tend the tile-making kiln. They are visited by a 94-year-old conscientious objector who was conscripted as a farm labourer because he refused to fight on religious grounds.

Ruth gets involved in the work of the Royal Observer Corps, who often enlisted farmers in the work of spotting enemy planes. Alex and Peter also learn how to set up 'decoy fires' to lure German bombers off target, a project known as Operation Starfish.

With December approaching, the team look forward to celebrating Christmas 1940-style. People were understandably eager to put the horrors of war behind them - if only for a day - but this was the first Christmas under rationing and compromises had to be made. Alex looks at government solutions to the national 'toy shortage', whilst Peter discovers that soap had become the nation's favourite Christmas gift. With turkeys few and far between, Ruth cooks up an alternative - known as 'mock turkey' or 'murkey' - made from apples, onion and a dash of sausage meat, with a pair of parsnips for legs.


S01E04 - Episode 4 Air Date: 26 September 2012 23:00 -

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The team discovers that Wartime Farmers could lose everything - their home and their land - if the government did not think they were productive enough. Over 2,000 farmers deemed 'not good enough' were thrown off their farms during the war.

Ruth, Peter and Alex face a World War Two-style government inspection, meeting an expert who tells them to grow and to get their milking operation up and running.

In the process they confront the wave of mechanisation that government regulation brought to wartime farming, grappling with a new tractor and getting to grips with a milking machine. Yet they are dealt a bitter blow with the loss of a prime dairy cow. Peter also launches a rabbit-breeding concern and they take in the latest release from the Ministry of Information, who made films urging farmers to use the very latest techniques in the fields.

The team also discovers the chilling story of a local farmer who lost his life in a dramatic shoot-out with the police after the authorities tried to remove him from his farm for failing to meet his required targets.

With their hard work completed the inspector returns to judge the state of the farm and award them their all-important official 'grade' - determining whether their efforts have been a success or a failure.


S01E05 - Episode 5 Air Date: 03 October 2012 23:00 -

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The Wartime Farm team tackles the conditions faced by British farmers in 1942, when Hitler's U-boats continued to attack British ships, slashing imports and inflicting massive shortages on the country.

Ruth finds out how Britain coped with shortages of the wood vital for the war effort in the building of aircraft, ships and rifles, as well as pit props for crucial coal mining. With her daughter Eve, she travels to the New Forest and discovers how women known as 'Lumber Jills' were drafted in to fell trees in the Women's Timber Corps.

Meanwhile, Peter and Alex face up to the wartime petrol crisis. Peter embarks on an ambitious plan to convert a 1930s ambulance to run on coal gas. Alex experiences the conditions faced by the Bevin Boys - conscripts who were sent to coal mines instead of the armed forces because the need for coal was so great. Having converted the ambulance and collected the coal to run it, Peter faces the question: will it work?

Also in this episode, the boys revert to a Victorian solution to the shortage of animal feed - using traditional horsepower to operate a root slicer - whilst Ruth sets up an Emergency Feeding Centre. Subsidized by the government to provide cheap food off ration for air raid victims, these 'British Restaurants', as Churchill dubbed them, quickly caught on. Eating out had traditionally been the preserve of the upper class and most ordinary people had never eaten in public before - many even felt embarrassed at the prospect. The 'British Restaurants', envisaged as a short-term response to food shortages, made a lasting change to the nation - introducing the concept of high street dining for the masses.



S01E06 - Episode 6 Air Date: 10 October 2012 23:00 -

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The Wartime Farm team tackle the conditions faced by British farmers in 1943, when food imports slumped to their lowest level during the war. The government feared a crisis and after four long years at war,Britain's farmers were challenged with somehow increasing food production yet again. There were renewed shortages of animal feed so Alex and Peter resort to producing a hay crop from grass in the church yard and use some clever 1940s technology to get the job done.

With tasks mounting up on the farm, the team turn to a popular source of additional wartime labour - children. Children's harvest camps were set up by the Ministry of Agriculture to release kids from school during periods of urgent need on farms, and over 70,000 pupils took part, paid six pence an hour to avoid accusations of exploitation. Ruth enlists eager child labour to collect herbs that were desperately needed by the pharmaceutical industry to make medicines during the war. But once the job's done, she has to feed them.

A rat catcher helps Alex deal with the farm's rodent problem, a job which usually fell to Land Girls. It is estimated that rats destroyed two million tons of crops during the war, costing the country £60 million a year. Alex also tries his hand at making a much needed sugar substitute - honey.

Ruth discovers the methods women used to look good despite the restrictions of rationing. After making a new dress from old flour sacks, she gets a makeover from a pair of wartime hair and beauty experts. While Peter is getting to grips with a vintage hay baling machine, Ruth and Alex attend a party at the village hall, where they experience a new dance phenomenon brought to Britain by African-American GIs, the jive.


S01E07 - Episode 7 Air Date: 17 October 2012 23:00 -

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The team face the farming conditions of 1944, when Britain had been at war for five long years and the fields surrounding Manor Farm filled up with thousands of troops as the Allies assembled the largest navaltask force in history for the D-Day landings.

Farmers did their bit by growing vast amounts of flax, which was used to make parachute webbing, fighter aircraft fuselages, tents and ropes, with production in Britain increasing from 1,000 acres to 60,000. But the wettest summer for a century has devastated the crop at Manor Farm, and if Alex and Peter are to save it they must take drastic action.

This wasn't the only way farmers helped the D-Day preparations. Racing pigeons were requisitioned by the military to carry vital intelligence to and from occupied France. Ruth revives the traditional craft of basket making to create a pigeon transporter while Alex and Peter head out into the English Channel to find out how birds were trained for their long missions.

The war brought farmers face to face with the military as never before, and artist Leo Stevenson follows in the footsteps of the war artists commissioned by the government to capture the wartime landscape on canvas.

As D-Day drew ever closer, 3.5 million troops packed into southern England. Foreign troops formed close bonds with the locals, drinking together and playing games. The team recreate a baseball game that the Americans played here in 1944 and conclude that the villages of Britain had never been so vibrant.


S01E08 - Episode 8 Air Date: 24 October 2012 23:00 -

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The team face the conditions of 1945 and prepare to tackle the most crucial event of their farming year: harvesting the wheat crop. They grapple with weeds, one of the wettest summers in memory and wartime machinery to bring the crop home, but take a giant leap into the modern era with the arrival of a 1940s combined harvester.

As ever, on the wartime farm the goalposts are constantly moving. The team discover that as the conflict drew to a close, the need for home-grown food became greater than ever. Exploring countryside memories of VE Day, they discover how pressure on farmers increased throughout the final dramatic year of conflict.

Victory in Europe meant that Britain had to share the responsibility for feeding populations across the war-torn continent whose food supplies had been devastated. On top of that, as soon as the war ended, American aid stopped. The financial cost of war left Britain bankrupt and struggling to afford imports, leading to a burden on farmers that remained long after the war finished. Rationing lasted well into the 1950s.

As a fitting send off, the team celebrate the harvest with a 'Holiday at Home' - inspired by a government scheme to encourage exhausted workers to make the most of time off without travelling anywhere. Alex has a surprise up his sleeve to make the party go with a bang, as the team prepare to leave the Wartime Farm.


S01E09 - Wartime Farm At Christmas Air Date: 18 December 2012 20:00 -

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Wartime Farm Actors

Ruth Goodman(Historian)

Alex Langlands(Archaeologist)

Peter Ginn(Archaeologist)



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