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Employment and rationing


The need to increase production of war materials and, at the same time, expand the fighting services necessitated massive involvement from civilians; although unemployment fell rapidly, there were still insufficient numbers of workers. The shortage of labour meant that some men who had been conscripted under the impression they would be sent to fight were instead sent to work in the coal mines. 

In order to release the maximum number of men for the fighting services and increase war production, there was a huge expansion of female workers. They worked in all areas, but particularly in manual roles that had not previously been considered suitable.  By the end of the war female manual workers were labouring in agriculture (as part of the Women's Land Army), in the women's auxiliary services of the Royal Navy, Army, Civil Defence and Air Force, and in factories and shipyards across the country. Only the most physically arduous occupations such as mining remained for men only.

Food, rationing and recycling

Many of the thought processes behind government decisions that affected life on the Home Front had been tried and imagined years before. The control of food was no exception. Rationing was seen, not just as restricting supplies, but also as guaranteeing them - preventing price inflation and profiteering.

Between 1933 and the outbreak of war, a nucleus organisation was established and many of the problems of food supply in war were examined. However, in December 1936 and in February and July 1937, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence tried and failed to get the Cabinet to take action on food reserves. Rationing was not introduced at the outbreak of the war and only sugar, butter and bacon were rationed in January 1940. Meat was added to the rationing system in March and tea, margarine and cooking fats in July. The amount of food permitted under rationing varied throughout the war, with cheese, preserves and sugar varying the most while tea, bacon and ham remained fairly constant.

The Ministry of Food made a great effort to ensure everyone received a balanced and nutritious diet and suggested recipes making use of substitute ingredients. In order to maximize food production, people were encouraged to grow their own vegetables whenever possible and 'dig for victory'. Some civilians even raised poultry and livestock. Large amounts of previously unproductive countryside were ploughed to help raise food production. Later, clothing and even furniture were rationed or controlled by the government.

In order to maximize war production and reduce imports, massive schemes were undertaken to recycle as much material as possible. The public was encouraged to help finance the war effort by buying war bonds and raising money to allow individual communities to contribute to purchasing a weapons system. This was often an aircraft; an example being the 'wings for victory' campaign.