March 1917 saw severe food shortages across Britain. The country needed to become self-sufficient in crops, particularly corn and potatoes, to feed the population in order to win the war. But farming manpower was sparse due to recruitment into the army and farmers were unwilling to work with novices. In Scotland, Neville Chamberlain, appointed Director of National Service identified 12,000 men in city jobs across Scotland who had previously worked in agriculture. He urgently requested their temporary release to help farmers to plough the fields and plant crops before the end of April, with just 6 weeks to complete the work. He identified policemen as having previously worked in agriculture and galvanised Glasgow Corporation into releasing around 90 of their police force to help on farms. Other local authorities in Scotland also contributed, so that by the end of April around 230 policemen had been released to help farmers, accounting for around 5% of the substitutes into agriculture in Spring 1917.
As a result, agriculture in Scotland was able to increase its production of crops, compared with the harvest of the previous year, as shown below:
|*The crop of oats was an all-time record. These significant increases gave hope that the nation would not starve despite continued food shortages.|
|But increased manpower was also needed for the harvest. Help came from 2,000 schoolboys, 15,000 soldiers, 500 policemen and other civic employees, so that the number of policemen released into agriculture had doubled by the harvest, and 450 men lent by private employers.|
101. The National Archives [TNA] CAB 24/33/22; [TNA] CAB 24/34/96
Sixth report of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland for the year ending 31st December 1917. Cd. 9069. Parliamentary Papers.