Cat no. 9761

The Challenge to Hunts W.A.E.C.

Running time37:57 Black & White Sound 1950s Cambridgeshire

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The land reclamation efforts of the Huntingdonshire War Agricultural Executive Committee.



Documentary looking at the land reclamation efforts of the Huntingdon War Agricultural Executive Committee (W.A.E.C.) during the Second World War. A commentary regarding the history of the committee and its achievements is accompanied by photographs, archival film and newspaper clippings.

After an introduction from committee chairman Sir Richard Proby regarding the problem of derelict land in the Huntingdon area, the film surveys the farms which were reclaimed (including Moonshine Gap, Speed the Plough, Woolley Hills, Beltons Mill, Hardwick Farm and Raveley Roughs) and details the processes undertaken to clear overgrown woodland and prepare the ground for agricultural use.

The equipment used is described in detail, as is the influence and involvement of both the Ministry for Agriculture and American agricultural experts and their lend-lease programme. The role of volunteers is also covered, with particular focus on the important role carried out by the land girls. The film concludes with the impressions and reminiscences of Lord Walston, who was Chairman of the Machinery Committee throughout the war.

Background Information:

"The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has appointed a War Agricultural Executive Committee for each county in England and Wales and has made an Order (The Cultivation of Lands Order, 1939) authorizing these committees to exercise on his behalf certain powers conferred on him by the Defence Regulations for the purpose of increasing home food production in time of war. In a Circular Letter to the committees, the Minister states that they will be given as free a hand as possible to proceed as a matter of urgency with all possible steps to increase the production of foodstuffs in their areas. Their immediate task is to see that additional land is brought under the plough with all speed. The aim is to obtain for next year's harvest an increase of about 1½ million acres in the tillage area in England and Wales compared with the acreage in June last. Each county has been allotted its share of this total, and the committees have been urged to see that every effort is made to complete their allotted tasks and, if possible, to exceed them. The committees have already been holding informal meetings and have made good progress with their preparatory work." - Nature, 144, 473-473 (09 September 1939) [From:]


Although the film covers activity during the war (and many of the titles refer to 1940), the audio commentary - which describes some of the people shown as being deceased - suggests the film was made between 1957 and 1962. Audio is problematic, and cuts out abruptly at the end.

Featured People:

Sir Richard Proby; Mr Waterworth; Mr Lenton; Robert Hudson, MP; Mr Gavin; Bernard Fitzalan-Howard, 16th Duke of Norfolk; George Montagu, 9th Earl of Sandwich; Sir Christopher Addison; Mr Mansfield; Mr Bullard; Miss Bosley; Mr Gibbons, Executive Officer - Hunts W.A.E.C.; Messrs Bath; Lord Walston, Chairman of the Machinery Committee

Featured Organisations:

Huntingdonshire War Agricultural Executive Committee; Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

Featured Buildings:

Woolley Rectory

D. Johnson; F. Smart; C. Spencer-Thomas; Capt. Cartwright

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