A NEW history book released to coincide with the Pershore Plum Festival’s Fayre Day explores the role the town played in keeping soldiers strong and healthy during the First World War.
Research in the book, titled ‘How the Pershore Plum Won the Great War’, looks at how the humble plum was turned into jam and supplied to troops and communities in the 1914-1918 conflict.
It details the lengths people went to preserve the fruit and the changes war brought to Belgian refugees, German prisoners of war and Irish workers, who were made to help with the town’s harvest.
It also tells how the Women’s Institute was founded to help housewives produce, prepare and preserve food for their families.
The book is the result of a two-year collaboration between University of Worcester students, academics and Heritage Lottery funded projects, carried out by Pershore’s Women’s Institute and the Heritage and History Centre.
Lead author Professor Maggie Andrews said: “The plums in Pershore were an example of how, despite traditional perceptions that the First World War took place purely in the trenches of the Western Front, food was in fact a vital ‘weapon of war’.
“Pershore was a microcosm of experiences across the rural Home Front when food was so important. This was the first time submarine warfare restricted the imports Britain depended on.
“Boy scouts from across the country would camp in the fields to help with the harvest and one soldier was even granted leave during the Battle of the Somme, so he could return home to help with the harvest.
“Soldiers needed calories. It was the ability to feed troops and the people at home, so soldiers didn’t get letters saying ‘we’re starving’, which was vital for morale and kept the British fighting to the bitter end.”
More information on the book will be available at an exhibition in Pershore Town Hall from today (Sunday) to Monday (August 29), as part of the Plum Festival’s Fayre Day.