Victory in the Kitchen: How ‘Potato Pete’ helped Britain take on Hitler

'Potato Pete' became one of the most popular characters in Britain's 'Dig for Victory' campaign in the Second World War. We've two wartime recipes for you to try out.

The Second World War had a huge impact on the kitchens, and the stomachs, of millions of British people.

Food was ‘a munition of war’ and with imports hit hard by the attacks on shipping convoys, home-grown food became of crucial importance. The ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign was dreamt up to support that effort, with green spaces across Britain turned into vegetable patches.

One of the undoubted stars of the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign was ‘Potato Pete’. Along with ‘Doctor Carrot’, he lent a jovial image to the entire enterprise – and so much so that he gained something of a cult following, with this song celebrating his efforts becoming popular during the war.

Here’s the man who ploughs the fields.
Here’s the girl who lifts up the yield.
Here’s the man who deals with the clamp, so that millions of jaws can chew and champ.
That’s the story and here’s the star,
Potato Pete
Eat up,
Ta ta!

Potatos were used in all manner of unusual ways in the war. Those recipes and others have been celebrated in a new book called Victory at the Kitchen, published by the Imperial War Museum at £6.99.

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Victory in the Kitchen is not your usual cookbook: there are no beautiful photographs of food carefully prepared in studios, but instead a collection of simple, delightful and – to our modern palates – unusual recipes from the Second World War. It’s all beautifully illustrated with some of the museum’s collection of beautiful and often very funny wartime posters.

We’ve picked out two of the potato-based recipes for you to try – two of the pie recipes, just like your mothers, grandmothers or great-grandmothers might have made in the war.

Surprise Potato Balls

This playfully named recipe most certainly makes an otherwise rather ordinary potato become that little bit more appealing, especially in wartime Britain. This is simply a wartime take on the well-loved potato croquet.

Wartime potato poster - ©IWM (PST 3366)

Wartime potato poster – ©IWM (PST 3366)


  • 1 lb cooked potato
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • A little sweet pickle
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few teaspoons of milk, if necessary
  • Browned breadcrumbs


Cook the potatoes and beat them well with a fork. Add the grated carrot, parsley, salt and pepper. Use a little milk, if necessary, to bind the mixture, but do not make it wet. Form into balls.

Make a hole in each ball, drop in a small spoonful of pickle and close the hole. Roll in the breadcrumbs, place on a greased baking sheet, and cover with a margarine paper. Bake in a really hot oven for 15–20 minutes. Serve piping hot with good gravy.

Potato Piglets

This recipe combines potato and sausage meat to produce the perfect ‘Potato Piglet.’ The Ministry of Food, set up during the First World War, dedicated time to promote the health benefits of a wartime diet, and vegetables were regarded as the saviour of the wartime family. The ‘Potato Piglets’ recipe also serves as a compelling reminder about the importance of not wasting food during the war.


6 medium well-scrubbed potatoes
Cooked cabbage, lightly chopped
6 skinned sausages


Remove a centre core, using an apple corer, from the length of each potato, and stuff the cavity with sausage meat. Bake in the usual way and arrange the piglets on a bed of cooked cabbage. (The potato removed from each is useful for soup.)