Sometimes a chance encounter or random occurrence will start a whole new train of thought that may rekindle childhood memories, bring to mind people long forgotten or lead on to something entirely different. At the ploughing Nationals in October on a wet morning a neighbouring exhibitor Eric Ovenden, who we had first met on arrival the day before bought over a few copies of 'Agriculture' The Journal of the Ministry of Agriculture from the nineteen forties. One of these dated March 1944 contained a quarter page advertisement placed by The Ford Motor Company Ltd of Dagenham.
It rather surprisingly depicts a Ford 2N on rubbers and not the Dagenham made Fordson that was still selling well. It is a typically stylised advertisement of the period showing a very well dressed tractor driver bidding a pretty land army girl adieu and starts "Until then…'Good -bye Miss Land Girl…we won't forget you and all you did in helping us win the war. '… Which surely is a bit premature as the war was not by then over let alone won. 'Operation Overlord" now usually known as D-Day was not launched until 6th June 1944 and V-E day, Victory Europe, the unconditional German surrender, was more than a year ahead on 9th May 1945.
However, tractor numbers, as indeed the mechanisation of agriculture, increased dramatically as a result of both the Great and Second World War. The table below is from a paper by Dr Paul Brassley that interestingly contains a myriad of other agricultural facts and statistics. It is interesting to see the dramatic reduction in the number of horses employed and the rapid growth of tractor use to compensate for their loss.
The decrease in the number of agricultural workers due to the pressing need for the manpower thus released to be redeployed in the armed services and for the manufacture of munitions. Horse use was already in decline by the thirties and was accelerated both, to a limited extent by military requirements, but mainly because increasing the mechanisation of agricultural production became essential to prevent the starvation of the population that was threatened by the blockade, thereby releasing horse pastures to be used for human food production and by reducing the manpower required to grow and harvest it.
Incidentally the decline in agricultural workers has continued and from ministry figures for 2016 the number had shrunk further to 176,000. Unfortunately there seems to be no official statistics as to the number of tractors then in use.
The journals are packed with information and advice for farmers and were of course issued by the ministry in part as a propaganda tool but primarily to help boost food production by providing advice and information. There is much about the County War Agricultural Executive Committees known as 'War Ags' that had quite extensive powers together with topical advice on all types of livestock husbandry, horticulture, crop diseases, fertiliser use, woodland management and other related agricultural topics, much of which is still valid today. However an "Official List of Approved Insecticides and Fungicides" would certainly raise eyebrows these days, they were grouped together under the following headings:-
Group A: Lead Arsenate Powders
Group B: Lead Arsenate Pastes
Group C: Lime Sulphur Washes
Group D: Miscible Tar Oil Washes
Group E: Organo-Mercury Dry Seed Dressings
As with many publications from the period photographs were little used but one, reproduced here complete with original caption, is quite striking. It is of a lone ploughman, presumably published to further the campaign to plough grassland, although I don't think the ploughman's work would have been very highly placed at the National Ploughing Championships but, in mitigation, he might have been more concerned about dodging incoming gun fire than drawing a perfectly straight furrow!
The publications also brought back boyhood memories. At home, old rituals such as the 'Harvest King', elected annually by the men, were dying out. The head horseman still carried considerable clout even though his charges of Suffolk Punches and Shires were down to about thirteen. I remember the German prisoners of war billeted in one of the barns and that they were always very kind to us children. Of seed corn being dressed with the dreaded pink powder, the men didn't wear masks in those days nor do I remember any washing of hands before eating their 'nineses'. In the winter this was usually taken in the swill shed hopefully with the potato boiler alight for preparing pig feed and providing an illusion of warmth. On rainy days jobs such as mending sacks and mixing straight fertilisers on the barn floor with shovels, much of which needed breaking up with mallets first, as it had gone hard in the bags, to form the compound fertilizer. How things have changed for the better since then; of weeks in the winter spent digging out ditches and hedging, father reckoned to get around the farm's ditches within ten years. Cutting kale for stock feed on frosty mornings and mucking out pigs and cattle, which was all done by hand, no fore loaders or forklifts. I don't recall steam tackle working at home but saw it occasionally on neighbouring land. The threshing crew, in our part of the world did the rounds pulling the drum behind a tractor. I do remember a Gyrotiller being hired to grub out a redundant orchard and hedgerows, it seemed a huge machine to me but then it was. I often wonder what people really mean when they speak of the 'good old days', things were certainly different, some were better but most certainly were not; but every generation talks about them as if they really were a halcyon time and, given the chance, will tell the next generation that they don't know they've been born or what hard work is.
The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) has highlighted concerns regarding the possible risks to older vehicles due to the forthcoming introduction of E10 petrol. E5 petrol containing 5% ethanol has been on the forecourts for a while now, appearing from 2008, but the government is pushing suppliers to move to petrol containing 10% of non fossil fuels. In this country that means ethanol made from wheat, this proposal is a climate change control measure. Most of our members will be relatively unaffected as for the last sixty odd years tractors have largely been diesel powered and even if they had spark ignition engines these could hardly be described as high performance types requiring petrol with high-octane levels. However, there are still a lot of petrol/TVO machines and some petrol only ones.
The problem appears to be ethanol's ability to attack cork and rubber putting gaskets, fuel pipes and pump diaphragms at risk of failure that could result in a disastrous fire. It is also alleged to attack brass and aluminium, although this claim as yet seems to be unsupported by research, but if found to be the case would lead to carburettor malfunction and ultimately an engine that cannot be run. Ethanol is hygroscopic, as is break fluid that similarly results in corrosion of system components, for example of steel and other metal parts, incidentally it also destroys fiberglass fuel tanks. It is alleged to cause varnish formation but this has always been a problem with 'stale' fuel.
When E10 is finally introduced The Department of Transport is only proposing a temporary 'protection grade' set at 95RON (Research Octane Number) for two years, not 97RON as when E5 was introduced that lasted until the end of 2016. So basically any action required to prevent possible harm to your pride and joy is down to you. The FBHVC has recommended the firms listed below for the supply of fuel additives suitable for use with petrol containing non fossil fuels - their use may well prove to be a cheap form of insurance until the actual risk is known - I have already bought some: -
From Around the Country:
Newark Vintage Tractor & Heritage Show held on Newark Show Ground 10th and 11th November. The layout of the show was rather different this year as the long feature marquee of recent years was replaced with two much smaller ones one featuring '70 Years of Nuffield' and the other 'First 50 Years of John Deer' that was rather light on examples from the earlier years. The number of entries was noticeably down show wise, for instance, the George Stephenson Hall that displays the 'Nominated Entries', Concours D'Elegance as well as club and horticultural features was not as cramped as usual giving more space to comfortably view the exhibits that were, this year presented to a very high standard. The number of traders outside was also less than usual and the rare breeds were frankly disappointing.
The Club was in its usual position and bucking the show trend, we had more tractors on the stand.
We also introduced lorries that had brought some of the tractors to add to the display. One of which Pauls Cooper's lovely Bedford TK won a richly deserved prize; to my mind his E27N also merited recognition but that was not to be.
The tractors ranged from a Fordson F up to New Holland TM125 and made an interesting line up that included an E1A Major fitted with a Gardner diesel. I know that some of you disapprove of fitting 'exotic' engines to tractors and consider it to be a form of desecration but when executed as neatly as in this case, surely we can all admire the engineering skill?
Nick Bryne who exhibited his 1927 Fordson model F was awarded 'The Newark & Nottinghamshire Agricultural Society Award for The Best Nominated Entry'. It was Nick's first time at the show and his 450 mile round trip from Somerset was certainly not wasted. He and his family are long term active supporters of the vintage tractor movement and it was good to see his hard work and dedication recognised, a really well-deserved award.
Representatives for our Future:
Jane Broomhall, our Treasurer writes:
The success of any organisation is due to its product, the promotion of that product and the after sales back-up provided by the people who deliver these services on a daily basis. Our Club, The Ford and Fordson Association and the Ford and Fordson Tractors magazine, produced and distributed by Kelsey Publishing are no different.
Whilst the Association has been in existence for some time, in early 2016 the FFA became independent whereby, to join the Club, a member must pay their subscription directly to us, we then pay Kelsey for each magazine distributed to them on our behalf.
As a result, an excellent member base has been established - both UK and overseas - and our relationship with Kelsey is very strong.
The Club has an enthusiastic committee with diverse skills, and area representatives, who work well together at shows and working events throughout the year. Members are encouraged to exhibit their tractors, we enjoy engaging with them for a chat and providing advice and technical support where possible. We have lots of fun too. However we must strive to strengthen our network of representatives both at home and abroad and this cannot be achieved without your help.
Do you have local vintage tractor events, which you currently support, with your Ford and Fordson tractors? Perhaps you also have like-minded friends and feel that you could establish a satellite on behalf of the Association and expand the events into a greater celebration of the tractor?
It really doesn't have to take a huge amount of your time. Events can be advertised in the Club magazine, entry fees met, and promotional materials, including a Club marquee, and merchandise provided.
Coverage in Scotland and the north is currently a challenge for us and with Tractor World, Scotland firmly established on the calendar finding a local representative is a priority. If you are interested in representing the FFA in your area, or just running a show on behalf of the Association, please give me a call on
You will know from Issue 86 of the magazine that John Skipper recently became our representative for the South of Wales and attended the Pembrokeshire County Show.
He already has an ambition to see the vintage display at the show more centrally located and has other local events in his diary for 2019.
I am pleased to let you know that Wouter Croquey is our new representative for Belgium and we have new overseas representatives in Germany, New Zealand, Southern Ireland and the Netherlands, details of whom can be found on our website; Dawn and Barry Milsom have, of course, represented us in Australia for many years as has Gianfranco Bisson in Italy. I am also in touch with members in Canada, France and the USA and hope to confirm representatives for these in the coming weeks.
I believe it was Aristotle who said 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts' meaning something is better than you would expect from the individual pieces, because the way they combine adds a different quality. This is certainly true of many organisations, the Ford and Fordson Association is amongst them.
A letter of introduction from our new representative for Belgium Wouter Croquey
My name is Wouter Croquey, I'm 44 years old, married and father of two children (a girl of 14 and a boy of 10). I'm a mechanical engineer in daily life. I have been member of the FFA for four years now.
My love for Ford tractors has its origins in my grandparents on father's side. They had a farm with two Fords - a '64 3000 Super Dexta and a '76 4600, both of them still being within the family today. Next to this, my father has worked for many years for a local contractor during the Summer months, for whom he drove a 5000 Super Major and later on a 6600 with Dual Power powering a Clayson baler.
So, a lot of great souvenirs of looking at Ford tractors at work and also of driving them.
At every gathering or when reading articles or reports from events, I'm always delighted about the fact the love for blue tractors is still so strong, despite the fact that the Fordson and Ford brands as such do not exist anymore today.
For me, Ford has always stood for high quality and innovation, really answering the farmers' needs.
I'm happy to be the country representative for Belgium, moreover as my country has played and still plays an important role in the Ford and New Holland history. Let the FFA help us to live our passion and to bring enthusiasts together to meet and to discuss.