Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


British Pathe News Reels Show Historic War Garden Programs

British Pathe Films have recently put on-line 3500 hours of filmed history amounting to over 90,000 individual items. The Pathe Film Archive covers news, sport, social history and entertainment from 1896 to 1970. This is a treasure trove!! A brief search found the following eight unique film clips from both the First and Second World wars showing government policy supporting home food gardens in "Dig For Victory" film strips.

You have to see the clip of the chimpanzee dressed in clothes using tools to dig in his vegetable patch, or the children digging in allotments in amongst bombed out buildings after the Blitz in London. Then there are the costumed British actors advising people to prepare their winter gardens and still another film of school children watering gardens during WW1 dressed in outfits from fashion long gone, - unbelievable.

I've been looking for these images for 25 years years and here they are are on the net both as stills of frames from the moving pictures and as movies - poorer quality versions which can be downloaded free. You can buy the clips for commercial use. Use the site's search engine and enter such words as "dig for victory", "garden victory" or "war garden", or try the exact titles I have copied below. If you find more on the site, let me know. [Mike - editor]

"British Pathe are one of the oldest media companies in the world.

"Their roots lie in 1890s Paris where their founder, Charles Pathe, pioneered the development of the moving image.

"They were established in London in 1902, and by 1910 were producing their famous bi-weekly newsreel the Pathe Gazette. After the First World War they started producing various Cinemagazines as well. By 1930 they were producing the Gazette, the Pathetone Weekly, the Pathe Pictorial and Eve's Film Review, covering entertainment, culture and womens' issues.

"By the time Pathe finally stopped producing the cinema newsreel in 1970 they had accumulated 3500 hours of filmed history amounting to over 90,000 individual items."

World War 1 1914-1918

1. WW1 Children Grow Vegetables For War Effort Aka Children Grow Vegetables 1914 - 1918 1850.12
Boys and girls in garden weeding, watering.

kids watering London. World War One. On the home front. Children grow vegetables to help war effort; a la Victory Garden. Shot of several children in a garden with an iron fence and long building in BG. Girls in white fluffy dresses; boys in shorts & caps. Boy in FG with watering pail. Closer shot of same; the boy pouring from the bucket; the water coming out the holes of the spout. Pan across garden; lots of little girls crouched on ground; weeding. CU same: girl with braids sitting on ground fussing with onions or something. Agriculture; food; youth; patriotism.

2. WW1 War Garden Parade. Location of events unknown.

World War One; home front; agriculture; war work; war gardens. Produce from village war gardens on display. Opens with parade. Man leading horse pulling a wagon of produce and Union Jack stuck on front. Boy Scouts walk behind the wagon carrying gardening tools and flags. Then a local marching band. This procession comes marching into town square; as other people watch. CU lots of lettuces; other vegetables piled high on truck; pan to men standing beside truck; and another truck loaded up with marrows and potatoes and things -- less leafy than the other one; continue pan to more people and another truck -- this one is sort of decorated with vegetables and flowers hanging on it! Shot of rally/ meeting with crowd gathered in front of a building -- line of priests stand on platform in front of building's long porch and a long balcony overhead is also packed with people. More of people bringing produce -- a small donkey hitched to wagon; little Boy Scouts sit on curb; more horses; wagons; food.

World War 2

3. WW2 Blitz London. Children's Allotment Gardens
Several night shots of blazing London during blitz.

Kids digging Young boy riding small three wheeler through the street. Flowers growing on London blitz site. Young boy crosses blitz site. He arrives to a garden. Children working on allotments on blitz site. Various shots of the children working in garden. Several good shots of vegetables in allotment and after being dug up. Children keeping rabbits. Several good shots of the rabbits. Children taking their vegetables home.

4. WW2 Proceed According To Plan - Trailer
17/02/1944 1350.25
"Dig for Victory" shows you when to plant seeds to have fresh vegetables all year round.

Item title reads - Ministry of Information. Government official. 1944 Trailer - proceed according to plan.
Various shots of a mock-up military operations room, the officers inside are very vague about what to do and when to mobilise and do not have any plans. One of them telephones his "troops" and tells them to go when they are ready. Then we see a man in camouflaged helmet riding a tricycle along a country lane. The narrator says this is what could happen on the garden front if you fail to plan, shot of ladies looking disappointed when greengrocer puts up sign saying there are no fresh vegetables. M/S of the "Dig for Victory" leaflet which tells when to plant seeds to have fresh vegetables all year round. Intertitle - 'Plan before you plant.'

5. WW2 Chimpanzee Using Tools to Dig Vegetable Patch.
Unused / unissued material. - Location and dates unknown / unclear. Flashframe title reads: "Universal Newsreel - All Out For Victory".
Voiceovered American newsreel item.
United States of America (USA).

chimp Various shots of chimpanzee dressed in clothes using tools to dig vegetable patch. Part of a call to Dig For Victory on behalf of the American people.

6. WW2 Title reads: "Compost Heaps for Feeding".
Ministry of Information Government official.

compost Cartoon showing figure of Mr Middleton leaning on gate telling how to go about making compost heap, 'plant canteen', cartoon shows how compost keeps the roots fed. It's time to start making a compost heap for next season's crops. finishes with message, 'now is a good time to start'. Written message appears on the screen, 'Ministry of agriculture and fisheries dig for victory leaflet no. 7 tells you how'.
NB: item was originally part of Gazette issue 44/38.

7. WW2 Winter Greens
Title reads: "M of I - Government Official".
Ministry of Information trailer - Digging for Victory.
Filmed in a studio location.

Quirky comedy sketch: man sits a vegetable patch which has been elevated to look like a table. Man calls out to waiter and man dressed as Father Time steps forwards. Father Time makes a crop of lettuce magically appear on the vegetable patch. Father Time asks man if he would like to order his winter course now? Man jeers and sends him away. Man sitting at vegetable patch, this time it is covered in snow. Man looks distressed and shouts to sky: "Father Time, bring me some food". A plate of earth appears and man looks disappointed. CU poster "No Winter Greens Today - signed Father Time". Man curls up on vegetable patch. Father Time appears and lays a lily on him, he then speaks to camera about the importance of planting a winter food crop, he points to a Ministry of Agriculture leaflet.
End title: "Dig For Victory - leaflet no. 1".
Man is played by comedian Ted Ray.
NB: item originally part of Gazette issue 43/11.

8. WW2 Title reads: "Blitz on Bugs".
Ministry of Information Government official.

Plant growing, pest with binoculars, pests move in like an army attacking, by air, land and underground, Pest control (insect spray) wakes up and squirts the plant to kill the pests. Written message with voice over 'Tackle the Pest, Tackle Him Early, Dig for Victory Leaflet No. 16, Tells You How'.
NB: item was originally part of Gazette issue 44/46.

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Revised April 13, 2008

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture