Last Bank Holiday weekend Helen and I stepped back in time to recreate the wartime efforts of our WI foremothers at Middy at War in Suffolk. To pay tribute to all the hard work of WI women on the home front we put together a rationing and dig for victory display, complete with homemade jam of course.
With thanks to fellow living history re-enactor Jenny Gurton for these pictures of our display.
The preserving effort is the most remembered contribution of the WI during the Second World War. With an incredible 5,300 tonnes of fruit saved from the hedgerows, gardens and fields they certainly played a hugely valuable role in the country’s food production but the women of the WI did much more than make jam!
The NFWI played an instrumental role in organising the Evacuation scheme and many members housed urban women and children. A WI evacuation survey ‘Town Children through Country Eyes’ revealed the poor state of many urban children’s health and welfare and led to significant economic and educational reforms after the war. As a non partisanship organisation the WI kept their contributions political neutral, including contributing to a WI Ambulance fund, encouraging members to get involved with Lady Churchill’s Aid to Russia Fur scheme by keeping rabbits and helping raise awareness of Venereal Disease.
If you want to find out more about the WI’s history during the war then I can fully recommend Jane Robinson’s ‘A Force to be Reckoned With’, Julie Summer’s ‘Jambusters’ and this article Countrywomen in Wartime. To add an authentic touch I even put together these imaginary Ladybirds meeting minutes!
A Ladybirds event is never complete without cake so like our sisters before us we took to food production and made a stack of cakes from original 1940s recipes. Anyone for vinegar cake? I promise it tastes much better than it sounds! Here are some beautiful black and white shots taken by fellow reenactor Nick Gibson on his original film camera of our team…
Helen and I had a brilliant time engaging with the visitors who sure had a few memories to share about their own experiences of rationing and the WI. And we learnt there’s nothing like a camping trip for a bit of new President and Secretary bonding!
We’ve got exciting plans for taking our 1940s theme further this year, collaborating with local charity Cambridge Carbon Footprint on their WW2 Rationing Challenge to raise awareness of sustainable food. Several of our Ladybirds are signing up to the challenge and we’d love to get as many of our WI friends to get involved too. Head over to their website for more information and to sign up or come and see us at their Launch event! And don’t miss the opportunity to come to our joint stall at Strawberry Fair on the 6th of June where we will have a tempting array of WW2 bakes for you to sample.