Farming was vital to the war effort, especially during the blockade by German submarines. This page contains memories of wartime farming in Hemyock. It is an extract from the book Memories of War. Other pages in this series:
Hemyock was a small and peaceful village. Many residents were involved in agriculture, even those not farmers themselves would help the farmers during the busy times of the year such as during hay-making and harvest. Most people were employed in the local area. Everyone knew everyone else, practically anything could be bought or mended in the village. With the outbreak of war life began to change. Daily work and life still continued despite the fact that Hemyock was surrounded by airfields and army camps.
Due to the blockade around our shores much more food had to be grown at home as there were very few imported foods. This food had to be of the highest nutritional value. Farmers were helped and encouraged to grow what was needed. Private citizens turned their flower gardens into vegetable plots. (This must have been a great sacrifice in Hemyock where there are so many beautiful flower gardens). The school children had plots at the school where under the guidance of the teachers they grew vegetables. Labour was short as many of the men had been called up. Women and children had to take their place working on the farms.
Several Land Army girls came to work on the farms of Hemyock and they made a very valuable contribution. Some of them were from towns and this was their first experience of an agricultural life. They must have felt very strange and homesick when they first came to board in the village.
As the farms were settling down to a wartime routine, disaster struck. In 1942 the dreaded Foot and Mouth disease hit and soon swept around Hemyock. All farms with the disease were isolated, police were on duty at the entrance and only the vet could enter after he had stepped through a bowl of disinfectant. If a farm was hit, all the cattle had to be destroyed. This must have been heartbreaking to the farmers at a time before "Factory" farming when milking was still by hand so farmers perhaps had more of a relationship with "Daisy", "Iris", "Tulip", "Buttercup" and "Blossom". Several residents of the time can remember the shots ringing out as one shot after another killed the cattle of the farm where Hollingarth estate now stands. After they had been shot the bodies were buried in big pits with quicklime to kill the infection. One of these "Foot and Mouth graveyards" lies under part of Castle Park Estate. The farmers were not allowed to restock with cattle for three months — a financial disaster for this area so dependent on cattle. Very few Hemyock farms escaped the disease.
Several war time Scouts still live in the village today — Norman Lowman, Eddie Tartaglia, Brian Redwood, to name but a few.
An important task undertaken by the Scouts was to collect waste paper. They would assemble down at the milk factory where they would collect the handcart. They would then push this up Pencross Hill, along to the turning down to Culm Pyne and take the road to Whitehall. Next up Black Pit to collect from the rest of the village. This waste paper was important to the war effort, as due to the blockade there was a shortage of imported timber for making paper. Much extra paper was needed for printing all the necessary ration books, coupons, identity cards, instructions, warning posters to name but a few examples.
Apart from this, like the women and the other young people they helped on the farms. They helped throughout the year, but one task they did that is not done now was to pick up acorns. Every October they would go out in groups and collect the acorns that had fallen from the oak trees. These they would sell back to the farmers to feed their pigs.
Mr Brian Redwood who was a Scout during these years, can still remember how his legs were rubbed by the stiff khaki material that their Scout Master managed to acquire from Fox's in Wellington for their uniforms!
At the start of war any property with metal railings not protecting vegetable gardens had them confiscated to be melted down to make war munitions. You can see in Station Road at Bowling Green Terrace and the Manse, where the railings were never replaced.
The memories were published as a 65 page, A4 booklet, illustrated with many photographs. All profits went to the Royal British Legion.
At present the booklet is out of print. We are considering producing a revised version, possibly as an "e-book" or on a CD-Rom.
Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, CULLOMPTON, Devon, EX15 3RJ, UK.
© 2001 - 2015. Prepared and published by Curlew Communications Ltd.