Soldiers were needed to work on farms as food crisis deepens

Households were encouraged to save food
Households were encouraged to save food

The Galloway Gazette, November 3rd, 1917.

A meeting of the Machars District of Wigtownshire Agricultural Committee was held the Clerk’s Office, Newton Stewart.

The convenor, Mr A B Matthews, was in the chair and the first matter of business was a letter from the Board of Agricultural stating that they had contacted the War Office with a view to obtaining a supply of labour to enable farmers in Scotland to undertake the increased work in connection with preparing the crop for 1918. The letter said 5000 men of categories B and C would be released from the Army to help with agricultural work and farmers who needed help must apply at once.

Around 200 men had been send out to Wigtownshire farms in the late summer to help with the harvest and farmers who used them had been asked to send in a report on their suitability for the work and only those who had found favour would now be retained for further agricultural work. Many of these men were waiting at centres for further employment on farms but if they were not required again by a farmer, they were to be returned to their units and war service. These soldiers were regarded as supplemental to farmers to allow them to meet the increased demands on them and their land in the current food crisis.

Food shortages were not a major problem in Britain from 1914 to 1916 but the situation got much worse in 1917 when the Germans adopted a tactic of unrestricted submarine warfare. They had done this for short periods in 1915 and 1916, but in 1917 it became a concerted attack. The tactic was simple - all ships supplying Britain were sunk, whether they were British, American or any other country. The effects were devastating. Essential supplies began to run short and in April 1917 Britain was six weeks away from running out of wheat. Prices began to soar. People got very fed up with queuing, especially when the shops often ran out of food so rationing was introduced.