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4.8 out of 5 stars
Wartime Farm [DVD]
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Like the earlier Farm series, Wartime Farm has a genuinely warm cosy glow about it. Each of the eight, hour-long programmes makes for satisfying, uplifting viewing as the trio of regular presenters get to grips with rural life as it might have been lived between 1939 and 1945. However, the emphasis in this series is quite different to the earlier Victorian Farm [DVD] and Edwardian Farm [DVD] programmes - it's much more about the social effects of the war on the countryside community, and the agricultural aspects can take a back seat in some episodes.
Instead of living out a full farming year, the team re-enact different years of WW2 in each episode, reflecting the restrictions of the time and the effects of a long war on our isolated island. As usual, Ruth, Alex and Peter bring their historical knowledge and hands-on expertise to tackle the tasks of the time with a cheery enthusiasm and practical application which do them no end of credit. If ever there was a 'blitz spirit' then these guys have got it.

The series covers some of the radical measures which were taken to boost wartime food production; covers the shortages and extreme measures of rationing and how normal folk dealt with them; investigates how farmers fell back on traditional techniques and simultaneously experimented with new technology in a frantic scrabble for survival. So we learn how to make tiles to re-roof farm buildings that will house evacuees, and then experiment with running vehicles on coal gas to beat the petrol shortages. The series focuses on the desperate measures of wartime which affected country communities, like Operation Starfish, with decoy fires being lit in farmland to draw bombs from the cities, or establishing farmhands as guerrilla units in the event of invasion. The programmes are extremely varied: one moment we're making silage or forking manure for fertiliser - and in the next we're shopping on the black market.
We learn about how farming output had to be raised to replace the imports being lost at sea; how some conscientious objectors worked on the land; how women took on heavy duties while the men fought on the front... and see how long-established social models were disrupted (working women; eating out, etc), leading to sustained and substantial changes in normal life during the second half of the 20th century. It underlines how much of modern Britain was influenced by the experiences of WW2.
Wartime Farm is unlike the other Farms series, because it deals with a much more recent, very familiar and frequently examined period of time. The 1940s are within living memory and indeed the programmes include testimonials from living people, relating their experiences of the time (as well as the usual range of specialist historians).
This has an undoubted influence on the tone of the programme, and sometimes I became very aware that we were interpreting the behaviour of the 1940s through 21st century eyes. For instance, a conscientious objector explained his reasoning behind refusing to fight and related his experience of working on a farm instead. I couldn't help wondering how the farming women might have felt, given that their sons and husbands were probably fighting on the front...
The voiceover for this season is a bit irritatingly dramatic, as if to keep hammering home the message of threat and danger (which is frequently defused by the general jolly tone of the trio). There are also some staged scenes which didn't work so well; the Christmas party with toasts to The King and Absent Friends felt somewhat awkward. But these are few and far between: overall, each programme clips along with remarkable good humour. It's also lovely to see Ruth's daughter make an occasional appearance. I'm not sure it was entirely wise to demonstrate how easy it is to brew up hooch, however!
Wartime Farm doesn't shrink from showing some of the less cosy moments of rural life, either. It demonstrates in a matter of fact way that if you have livestock, then at some point you have dead stock, and always underlines that the animals are being raised for food, not for fun. Similarly, the conflict between the Men from the Ministry and some farmers is examined in fair -- but grim -- detail.

So like its predecessors, this series is extremely enjoyable and sneakily educational. It's also pleasingly free of the artificial conflict which afflicts most modern 'fly on the wall' documentaries. Unlike most series about WW2, it doesn't dwell on military history, but instead uncovers some of the strange ways in which normal people coped with the war. I learned something new from almost every programme -- and it's ideal for viewers of all ages, providing they can cope with seeing rabbits doing what rabbits naturally (and enthusiastically!) do.

9/10
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2012
This DVD brings back memories as my husband's family were farmers during the war. As we know farmers had an important job to do to ensure our survival.

We saw 'Wartime Farm' on the TV and just had to buy the DVD.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2012
Excellent product.

Like the others in the series this is a really interesting and well presented programe.

I like all three of the presenters they each are obviously very interested in their subject and this shows in their presentation.

Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2013
We don't have terrestrial television (because most of the time it's rubbish) so I do miss the occassional gem like this one. I loved getting a flavour of how they coped in the war, and I thought that a lot of what they said is true of today also (especially about the amount of food imports that we rely on - back then it was 70% and I don't expect it's much less now - a sobering thought when you realise how close to war we are most of time). One of the things that irritated me a little was their instant access to up to date machinery, that surely would have depended on how much money you had to spare, at least at the beginning before renting machinery became available. It was great that they had an hour for each episode and time period, but I think they could have doubled that time and still had to leave things out. However, this is because I am a fan of this type of programme, for someone who didn't know much and was only 'generally' interested this was a great programme as they covered a great deal in a short space of time. The group were very good at explaining what they were doing and why and we also got to see some of the many pamphlets that were about during the war. I would have loved to see more of the house and the work that the women had to do to keep their families together, but that is my interest and the programme was called 'Wartime Farm' not 'Wartime Kitchen'! If anyone out there is listening......
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is a subject I have never even thought about. Yes, we learned in school about the Blitz, about the devastation wrought on London, about women and children shipped into the countryside for their protection. But the nuts and bolts of keeping everyone fed, clothed, SANE? Nope. The sacrifices on every corner of the British Isles, to keep people alive and fed and to keep the country ticking and going and fighting - this is something that's important to remember and to learn about. Even when it's another nation, another country, this is valuable information.
I really ought to bring this DVD to schools, shouldn't I? :)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2013
This is not just about history but how things were at a "grass roots" level during this time.
Ruth, Alex & Peter have previously made Victorian & Edwardian Farm but this is the best.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2014
Having seem part of this series on TV I was keen to get the whole lot and I haven't been disappointed, though I have to admit I have yet to see all three discs - circumstances overtook me.
Anyone who is genuinely interested in how things were "back then" can't fail but to be amazed at the resourcefulness and resolution of so many people who lived through these times.
A very good series - congratulations to all concerned.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2014
Our three favourite Historians go to a rural working farm in Britain, to live & work on the land for 1 year, under the same rules & challenges as those had to endure during WWII. The series takes you through the seasons, and gives you amazing first hand look as to how it was, following tight regulations, food rationing, farming restrictions and land cultivation. The series is compelling, fun and humbling too. Don't miss it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2013
When Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn tackle a time in history, you know it's going to be good. As they did with their previous "Victorian Farm" and "Edwardian Farm" series, they take their viewers into the life of a farm -- in this case, a World War Two era farm in the south of England. There is new technology to explore, as well as "making do" with rationing and shortages. As the presenters note during the series, this one is a bit more challenging, in that it is still part of living history: they treat the era with respect as well as boundless hands-on curiosity, as we all get to learn something while being thoroughly entertained. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 2014
I have all the collections of the farms series but this one make you really think how lucky we are now.
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