PREPARATIONS: AsSlit trench being built near the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance.
PREPARATIONS: AsSlit trench being built near the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance.

History: Farming towns adjusted to war rations

WHAT was it like for our local farming communities during wartime?

We still have wars of course but we live in a completely different world now.

Looking back, especially at the First and Second World Wars, we can only marvel at the way people coped with these events.

In the First World War people were dependent on cable news in local newspapers or on receiving letters months after they were written.

Sons enlisted eagerly and those who did not want to go to war usually were sent white feathers as a sign of cowardice.

This act must have had a terrible effect on families as well as the recipient.

Letters from the soldiers at the Front sometimes encouraged others to join up but quite often a brother would write begging his younger brothers not to enlist.

We should remember that in the vote for Conscription the soldiers at the Front voted "No".

Most farming families had several sons so there was no problem in keeping the farm running.

There was also a close sense of community and people helped each other when necessary.

Communities were still close in the 1940s but, unlike the First World War, the Second was on our own doorstep.

Farming families were not so large then and a son going off to war often caused great hardship.

A Land Army girl might be available to help, or even a P.O.W., but this was not usual.

If the farmer was young with a small family he would probably be exempt from enlisting, even when conscription was introduced.

He would usually, however, be involved in some volunteer work in the community.

When there was danger of invasion the farmers met to discuss plans for evacuation to the Tablelands.

This included driving all stock to Tenterfield.

Rationing of petrol, clothing, and some food items was introduced.

Farmers were well equipped to cope with the food shortage because they could use milk and cream as well as churn butter for their own use.

They also had land to grow vegetables.

However, these were extra tasks for a busy farmer.

Retired family members often helped out in these cases and of course children helped too.

Children had to go to school but there was little change in their routine unless it was the loss of a loved school teacher who had enlisted.

Retired teachers were brought in to help.

Sometimes a child would lose a loved one but this was not frequent in the farming community.

The family car was usually converted to a utility so that a petrol ration could be obtained for carrying produce.

The excitement of "riding in the back" soon became the usual way of travelling for the family unless the pigs or calves were being taken to market!

In the towns there were slit trenches in case of air raids.

Bombardment from U-boats was feared at Ballina, especially after a couple of coastal traders were sunk.

Ballina's large gutters were good places to hide, though a few snakes could also have the same idea!

Centres such as Lismore had some large cement shelters.

These were later used as water tanks on nearby farms.

Planes from Evans Head caused excitement and there were a few crashes.

Some army units camped on farms prior to going to New Guinea.

This made it an exciting time for children.

Few people had battery radios - there was no electricity on most farms.

News came mostly in the local daily paper.

People coped, and the War seemed a long way off at most times.

Prepared by Geoff & Margaret Henderson for Richmond River Historical Society, Lismore.

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