It was not until late 1916 that Britain started to worry about its supply of food. For decades before 1916 land had been given over to pasture for grazing livestock, while around 80% of Britain's grain was imported, mainly from America and Canada. With increasing numbers of ships being sunk by German U-boats in the last 3 months of 1916, the fear for the nation was that it would starve. This fear of the inability to obtain imports of wheat was combined with the large numbers of fit young agricultural workers enlisting in the army, to the demoralisation of farmers. In this portrayal of the national crisis of food supplies, the State stepped in to take control. The Plough Policy from 1917 allowed the State to inspect farms and to tell farmers what they should grow, as well as supplying essential manpower, equipment and fertisers.
Many sources of manpower were provided to farmers, including soldiers, prisoners of war, women and school children. However, what has previously not been shown is that policemen were also used in large numbers in many locations throughout Britain acting as temporary ploughmen and farm workers for the planting seasons and harvests of 1916 to 1918.
Many areas of pasture needed to be ploughed up to plant crops, requiring men with ploughing skills, as previously unploughed soil was heavy and with the use of horses needed a strong man to control the horses to plough a sufficiently deep furrow to turn the soil. Policemen, often recruited into the police force for their physique, particularly if they had previously worked as ploughment before entering the police service, would have been ideal.