The Clerk in the Country

Tuesday 2nd June 2020
Lockdown eased

The commemoration of VE Day, the gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions and scenes of more people out in the countryside have echoes of the situation round here 75 years ago, when village celebrations (a sports day) were followed by the beginnings of a return to “normal”. Farms which had struggled through the war years with a reduced staff of Land Girls, working alongside the few men not conscripted, found that there was now increasing manpower available to do the work. Men’s voices were heard again in fields and farmyards … but many of them were speaking Italian and German.

In the months after the end of the war up to a quarter of agricultural work in the UK was done by prisoners of war. A local POW camp near Selby sent out teams of men on a daily basis; a few individuals were even allowed to live out on farms. Although still prisoners facing a long wait to return home, for these men being out in the open air and doing productive work must have been a welcome easing of “lockdown”.