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Feeding the Workforce during WWII

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Under the strenuous conditions of war, the canteen service became vital. By 1939, the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) had built up a well organised system of canteens for staff at depots, garages, works, and at places where meal reliefs were taken on the road.

Farm workers Mary Howe, a former art student, and Gwen Seale, a former GPO employee, pose in a cabbage field during Second World War. 8 September 1944. Image courtesy of London Transport Museum. LTM 2001/13131

With the outbreak of war, special emergency arrangements as well as a great expansion of the canteen facilities became necessary. Emergency field kitchens were constructed at all canteens, in case of gas and water supply issues. 70 blast proof equipped shelters enabled a refreshment service to be maintained during the air raids. The number of canteens was increased from 113 to 150, employing 1,930 staff.

Exterior of a mobile canteen at an Aldgate lay-by. 11 August 1942. Image courtesy of London Transport Museum. LTM 1998/87578

To supply the increased number of canteens, farms were established at Brockley Hill, Little Bushy, and Staines.

Article on farming practices at Brockley Hill Vegetable Farm, which supplied London Transport's Canteens. June 1941. LT000030/078 Pennyfare_021_00002

By 1943, 130 acres of farmland (spread over 5 farms) was supplying over four fifths of all the food required by the canteens. To cater for the canteens, 12,000lb of vegetables were needed for harvest each week.

Article describing the work happening on London Passenger Transport Board victory gardens. January 1943. LT000030/078 Pennyfare_040_00001

By the end of the war, over 100,000 meals were being served daily in the canteens, using 5 cows, 30 sheep, 4,000 dried eggs, 100 sacks of potatoes, 130 sacks of cabbages, 30 sacks of flour, 1,200 loaves, 1,600 gallons of milk, 105,000 cups of tea, and 63,000 cakes!

Article describing the valuable contributions to the food supply by London Passenger Transport Board's vegetable farms. June 1945. LT000030/078 Pennyfare_069_00003

LPTB helped with the 'Dig for Victory' campaign. It turned over free land including railway embankments, for agricultural purposes. 850 staff were allocated individual allotments for a nominal fee.

This poem describes an "agri-transport" vision to grow plants along the rail network, so that it's "not 'Mind the doors' but 'Mind the plants.'" December 1939. LT000030/078 Pennyfare_003_00004

This humorous article summarises London Passenger Transport Board's efforts to join the "Grow-More-Food battalion" by gardening railway embankments.

Dispatch on vegetable gardens from B. Russell Sprout. December 1939. LT000030/078 Pennyfare_003_00004

Article inviting readers to rent an allotment in order to increase the supple of home grown vegetables. October 1939. LT000030/018 Pennyfare_Oct_1939_00002

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