How did blackberries help the war effort?

First question we need to answer is – what was the Great Blackberry Pick? And how many children were involved?

Girls from the National School, Worcester, getting ready for a blackberry pick in 1917.  Image from the Berrows Journal.
Girls from the National School, Worcester, getting ready for a blackberry pick in 1917. Image from the Berrows Journal.

Professor Maggie Andrews from the University of Worcester told us that there were so many food shortages during 1917 and 1918, that schools stopped lessons for two half days in the autumn to gather blackberries.  All of the berries were turned into jam to feed the soldiers on the Front.  Worcestershire was already famous for its orchards and soft fruits, but this was a wild crop that anyone could pick.

There are accounts of blackberry picking taking place all over the country.  For example, here is an interesting blog post from the East Sussex World War One project which describes how the school children in Willingdon were mobilised to help out.

We know a little bit about the Great Blackberry Pick in Worcestershire from Worcestershire’s War: Voices From the First World War by Maggie Andrews, Adrian Gregson and John Peters (Amberley Publishing, 2014).  Records from Hindlip C of E Primary School reveal a little bit about how children were involved in fruit picking and the farm harvests.  We also know that, during the war, there were at least 3 jam factories in Pershore which were busy preserving fruit to send to the Front. So far though, we don’t know if our blackberries were sent there to be turned into jam.

We really want to know more.  So we will be looking at school records, local newspapers and other records in the archives.

If any of you reading this blog have any information that might help us out, any family stories or mementos, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please feel free to contact us!

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