the ‘Ministry of Food’ exhibition part 2: Digging for Victory

February 17, 2010 at 10:26 pm 17 comments

…so you know I visited the Ministry of Food exhibition last week?  After catching a bus at stupid-o’clock I arrived on the steps of the Imperial War Museum snow flecked, cold and very early.  I was wondering how best to phrase a plea to let me in early when a member of staff arrived beside me swipe card in hand.  In a perfect moment of serendipity (making a fortunate discovery by accident) when I asked if she could let Lisa, the Press Officer, know I’d arrived she answered ‘I’m Lisa, come on in‘.

While Lisa and her colleagues made a few final preparations I introduced myself to another early bird called Steve.  We exchanged stories about how we came to be there and immediately I was struck by how many fascinating tales I’d be leaving London with.  This is Steve’s story (I hope I tell it as well as he did and rest assured Steve you didn’t bore me one bit!)

I’m no celebrity snapper:  Steve Thomas is not a household name but his great grandfather was during the Second World War.  Well not a household name exactly:  if you google William Henry McKie you won’t find any clues to his notoriety.  Steve’s great grandfather was the oldest member of the Acton Gardening Association in 1941 and very well known locally for the prizes, medals, firsts and specials awarded for his flowers and vegetables.  But it was being photographed driving a spade into the ground on his plot in Acton, West London that his legend was made.  W H McKie was the owner of the iconic booted ‘foot all the Nation knows‘ on the Ministry of Food’s ‘Dig for Victory‘ poster.

Thanks for sharing your great grandfather’s story so enthusiastically Steve and sending me the newspaper cutting below (tickled by that advert for the three piece suite too!).  Feel  free to add anything I missed in the comments!  (For readers who find the news print a little small to read click on the image to magnify it). 

The Acton Gazette, 7th February 1941

If you’re still undecided about whether the exhibition is worth the trip to London take a look at what some of today’s household names had to say about the exhibition on the opening night 

© Ministry of Food poster – Imperial War Musuem
See The Imperial War Museum’s YouTube channel for other interesting videos

Entry filed under: away from the plot, great people.

perfect pancakes after the snow

17 Comments Add your own

  • 1. miss m  |  February 18, 2010 at 2:05 am

    That is utterly fascinating, Nic ! You met the foot’s great-grandson ! How cool is that ! That foot is such an icon. 🙂

    Great post ! (Enjoyed the celebs interview too).

  • 2. maria  |  February 18, 2010 at 8:26 am

    it really is a different thing altogether to put a name to a photo, isnt it?!

    will there be a part 3?

  • 3. Bilbo  |  February 18, 2010 at 8:54 am

    What an absolutely wonderful start to my morning. How great to meet Steve and to know about his grandfather. Am impressed that the organisers at the IWM not only had the information about whose foot was photographed but that someone made the effort to find his family – looking forward to more tales of your visit.

  • 4. Ann  |  February 18, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Fascinating post, the ‘dig for victory’ idea has always interested me. It’s great to see veg growing in fashion again these days, our neighbours now have a little veg plot too, most of the gardens near me are just long, narrow grassed areas, what a waste of good, veg growing ground.

  • 5. Steve Thomas  |  February 18, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Thank you so much for the great write up Nic! You’ve definitely convinced me that you weren’t bored by any if it!

    Having read some of the comments, people might be interested to know that I went to the Imperial War Museum with my family between Christmas and New Year and told them the story of my Great Grandfather’s foot. The Imperial War Museum were really interested telling me they’d had no idea of the story of the poster or the owner of the foot until I told them. I also sent them the item from the Acton Gazette with the picture of my great grandfather with his grand daughter, my mother! The newspaper’s been in my family throughout and my children have both taken it into school for history projects!

    The people at the Imperial War Museum have been great, keeping in regular touch since my visit in December and looking after me really well at the launch events for the new exhibition. I’m really pleased to have been able to contribute something to it!

    Thanks again Nic, you have a new avid reader of your site!

    Steve Thomas

  • 6. Nip it in the bud  |  February 18, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Miss M – glad you enjoyed it as much as I did :o) I liked what Monty Don said about it being a historical record but looking forward too.

    Maria – there will, when I get round to trying the wartime recipe for mock goose!

    Bilbo – that’s the lovely twist in the tale – Steve told them. I love magic moments like that when ordinary people add sparkle to a story.
    Thanks for posting a link x

    Ann – ‘grow your own’ is a movement fast picking up pace but the principles of Dig for Victory are exactly the same. Just shows there is no such thing as a new idea!

    Steve – I’m sure you feel proud of your great grandfather but I hope you feel proud of yourself too for sharing a little piece of history. I’m so pleased you added a bit more flourish to the story by joining our chat here. I loved what you told me about your great-grandparents and their music hall double act too.
    Thanks for the kind words about my blog – I’ll look forward to seeing you pop by again :o)

  • 7. Johanna GGG  |  February 18, 2010 at 11:49 am

    great story – wonder what became of the boot!

  • 8. Rufus  |  February 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Nic, your avid readers also need to know that once inside the war museum grounds they could be there all day. I went there in December and after 3 hours I’d only covered 2 of the 4 floors! The War museum is free to enter so why not make a weekend of it in London.

  • 9. Choclette  |  February 18, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    It just gets better – what a great story and good to hear from Steve too (although I think I might be thinking of that fantastic greenhouse in your last post and not so secretly coveting it for a long time to come).

  • 10. Peggy  |  February 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Another great post, I hope to visit during the summer and it will be even more interesting with all that background. Steve’s story is terrific and makes great reading, I would be worried about him giving the newspaper to the children to take to school! That is a piece of history and should be treasured for future generations of his family!

  • 11. Steve Thomas  |  February 21, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Hi Peggy, you’re right of course! They only took copies into school! The original is now all tucked up again for posterity after its outing to the Imperial War Museum!

  • 12. Nip it in the bud  |  February 23, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Johanna – I wonder. Perhaps Steve knows…

    Rufus – I agree. I managed a couple of other collections before my feet called a strike.

    Choc – it’s lovely to have Steve chipping in to fill the gaps. I’m coveting that greenhouse too – green with envy pure and simple!

    Peggy – it was a great story to start with and told itself. Delighted it’s inspired you to consider getting on a plane/boat to visit.

    Steve – phew ;o)

  • 13. Hattie the Hen  |  March 11, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Hi there nipinthebud,
    So glad you popped in to The Easy Garden In the US (although I live in the UK, near Oxford). I enjoy pottering around my garden as well as my laptop which was how I found your entertaining blog. I added a link to it in the thread I’m compiling on Allotments & Vegetable gardens around the world. Many thanks.


  • 14. Nip it in the bud  |  March 11, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Hi Hattie, my pleasure and thank you for your kind comments on my blog (as you’ll see I’ve been a little quiet of late so it’s encouraging to see people are still stumbling my way – and now signposted by you). I’ll add a link to the Easy Garden site as some of my readers will no doubt find your posts valueable.
    cheerio, N

  • 15. Hattie  |  March 13, 2010 at 3:59 am

    Thanks for your reply. I have been looking at your splendid evocative photos of Anthony Gormley’s statues on the beach. I have loved his work for years, Have you seen the figure in the crypt of Winchester Cathedral — I think it is called ‘Sound’. It is often surrounded by water as the crypt gets flooded. Here, have a look at it on this link:
    Sound II sculpture by Antony Gormley

  • 16. Nip it in the bud  |  March 13, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    I’ve not seen the Winchester Cathedral installation but it made me think of Gloucester Cathedral’s crypt. I saw ‘Field’ in the cloisters there several years ago and the Another Place photos are from a few weeks ago. Well worth a visit to Crosby Beach and I can recommend a nice hotel in Liverpool!

  • […] sweet richness to the gravy. Other posts in the Ministry of Food series you might be interested in part 2: digging for Victory part 3: thrifty war time ways to feed your […]


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Welcome to my once-about-gardening-and-cooking blog that is now mostly about our life in Gloucester with a boy, a baby and 3 cats.

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