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History Book Reveals the Vital Role of Pershore Plums in the Great War

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Celebrated with an annual festival, Pershore’s plums were seen as an important part of First World War efforts on the Home Front, a new book claims.

Research for the book, which looks at the Worcestershire town during wartime, has uncovered evidence of the lengths that people went to to preserve the fruit in order to supply troops and communities with jam during the 1914-1918 conflict.

How the Pershore Plum Won the Great War details the changes war brought as Belgian refugees, German prisoners of war and Irish workers were brought in to help with the harvest in Pershore.

“The army bought up the fruit whilst still on the trees,” said Professor Maggie Andrews, who was the lead author, with members of the local community. “Boy Scouts from across the country camped in the fields to help with the harvest. A soldier was even given leave during the Battle of the Somme to return for harvest.”

Professor of Andrews, said the plums in Pershore were an example of how, despite traditional perceptions that the First World War took place purely in the trenches of the Western Front, food was in fact also a vital “weapon of war”.

She said Pershore was a “microcosm of experiences across the rural Home Front when food was so important”.

“This was the first time submarine warfare restricted the imports Britain depended on,” she said. “The war was not won by fighting alone, food including the humble plum, became a weapon of war.

“Soldiers needed calories. It was the ability to feed troops and people at home, so soldiers didn't get letters saying ‘we’re starving’ which was vital for morale and kept the British fighting to the bitter end.”

The book also tells how the Women’s Institute was founded to help housewives produce, prepare and preserve food for their families.

The book is the result of a two-year collaboration between University students, academics and Heritage Lottery funded projects carried out by Pershore’s Women’s Institute and Heritage and History Centre.

It is one of many activities being undertaken as a consequence of the University’s participation in the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded Voices of War and Peace: The Great War and its Legacy WW1 Engagement Centre

This project is one of many activities which enable University of Worcester History students to work with community groups and heritage industries, helping with research, trawling newspapers and archives, documenting people’s stories, preparing exhibitions and organizing events whilst gaining skills for the workplace.

The book’s official launch in the run up to Pershore Plum Festival is in the town on August 20 and there will be exhibitions in Pershore Town Hall over the Bank Holiday weekend as part of the Plum Festival.

Graphic Design students have also played a role creating trails for children and adults to learn about wartime Pershore which runs until September.