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michaeldr

Blighty's Bread

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michaeldr

Several speakers in the Gallipoli Memorial Lecture series (published as 'The Straits of War - Gallipoli Remembered') mention as one of the objectives of that campaign, achieving access to the Black Sea and thereby to Russia's grain harvests; this aim was supported by the cabinet, by the India Office/the Viceroy and by the King.

As I cannot recollect hearing this argument put forward before, I wonder if anyone has any info relating to Bread Shortages, Bread Rationing or Bread Price Inflation in the UK early in the war?

Michael D.R.

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Sue Light

Michael – I have an extract from a book called ‘Women on the Land’ by Carol Twinch [Lutterworth Press 1990] that seems to indicate that in July 1915 the Government were still convinced that there was no serious threat to our food supply:

‘On the 16th July 1915, Mr Asquith answered Lord Selborne’s personal plea for the food situation to be taken seriously. There was not, in his opinion, ‘the least fear that any probable or conceivable development of German submarine activity can be a serious menace to our food supply.’

And in the autumn of that year:

“A secret Enclosure, printed only for the use of the Cabinet, emphasised a new awareness:

‘We cannot make war without taking risks, but there are some risks which we have no right to take if we can make any provision against them. One of those risks is invasion, and another is shortage of the food of the people. The war may possibly come to an end before the harvest of 1916, but I am afraid that it will not be so. Certainly we cannot be sure that the war will be over by that date, and therefore we must consider the conditions under which we may be waging war subsequent to 1916’

I don't know if this helps at all - there's a lot more about it, and the subsequent plans for the increase in national production of cereals etc.

Regards - Sue

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Terry_Reeves

RATIONING No 1

Rationing? The postcard artists were quick to make a meal of it. As for the bread........

post-6-1058012546.jpg

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Terry_Reeves

RATIONING No 2

....it seemed to be pretty dodgy stuff. But it appears there was rationing in other areas as well........

post-6-1058018893.jpg

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Terry_Reeves

RATIONING No 3

.........be interesting to see if anybody really did take take their rifle shopping!

post-6-1058019033.jpg

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Guest Simon Bull

I cannot offer any contribution about the specific question raised. However, when I was recently discussing the Great War with my grandfather (born in 1911) he spoke with considerable passion about having, literally, not had enough to eat in the last year or two of the war, so I suspect that (at least for those living in urban areas) food was in extrmely short supply. My grandfather's family were poor, but not desperately so, so I think it is likely that it was availability of food rather than a lack of money which was the problem.

Simon Bull

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HERITAGE PLUS

Michael

A village in Wiltshire actual has stones set in the wall of the church-yard recording at regular intervals the cost of bread iincluding the large wartime rise in price.

I have the info somewhere and will look it out and post the details on the forum.

Dave

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Frank_East

In the third year of The Great War,The Germans were told that the German population could buy 2.5kg of bread for one German mark as against 1.8kg in England and 2.3kg in Russia for the same equivalent money.The problem was that this commodity was not available in the market for the population at the bottom end of the social scale and this general food shortage became more accute as the Allied blockage of German ports took hold.

The German Government introduced the Kriegsbrot (warbread) which by law should have contained 20% potato flour but in 1916 the potato harvest failed and in the end bread consisted of rye flour which was eventually replaced by turnips ,wheat flour and a range of substitutes,ie fillers which could be bulk such as sawdust.The bread ration which had been set at 225 grams per week in 1915 fell to 160 grams from 1917.

In both The Great War and WW2,The Germans saw the vast grain growing territory of Russia but particularly,the Ukraine as the answer in feeding the home population.In both cases the supply of foodstuffs to the Germany from this area was proved to be unreliable.The logistics of a different railway gauge appeared to be one stumbling block apart from military issues.

.

German meat consumption which stood at 1050 grams per week before the war was rationed and down to 135 grams by 1918 as animal feed supplies became adversely effected.

Of course the Kaiser and his Kaiserin enjoyed their Kriegsbrot.,the German population were told so.

Coffee was made from several substitutes such as carrots and turnips.I do not know if the Germans went as far as using ground acorns as they did in WW2 for ersatz coffee.

Food shortage was not confined to Germany.In the West Riding of Yorkshire,alleged unfair distribution of food,particularly bread to the working classes led to public unrest and a fairer system had to be introduced.I think that there was some evidence of food rioting.

No doubt in Britain and mainland Europe in both conflicts there were thriving black markets in all commodities.I cannot see that the USA would have had a food problem.

An interesting subject.

Regards

Frank East

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michaeldr

Sue, Simon, Frank,

Many thanks to all, for the info and for those insights (kriegsbrot does not sound appetizing at all!)

Terry, I loved the post cards. A new slant on this site's title in No.1 and for some reason No.2 made me think of Mrs Bridges

Dave, if you find that inflation info then I would certainly be interested to see it

Thanks again all

Michael D.R.

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michaeldr

A brief digression:

Since writing the above I have taken a break from the keyboard to glance at the newly arrived copy of 'Fortune' magazine and my eye was caught by an article there entitled "Food For Thought" Here are a couple of quotes

"Used to give red, pink and purple colour to everything from ice cream to lipstick, carmine is made from a pigment called cochineal. Cochineal, in turn, is extracted from dried female insects...."

"An amino acid, 1-cysteine is used to enhance the stretchiness of dough, which facilitates its rapid processing by machines into cookies, pizza crusts, bread...........................

A spokesman at Puratos Group, a Belgium-based supplier of bakery ingredients was friendlier: 'Very commonly 1-cysteine is from human hair,' he conceded, 'but I'm 99% sure that ours comes from duck feathers.'"

After that, Kriegsbrot made with turnip and potato sounds almost normal and perhaps even appetizing?

Regards

Michael D.R.

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HERITAGE PLUS

Michael

As promised her are the details form the churchyard wall at Great Wishford Village, Wiltshire.

Dave

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Frank_East

From a passage in "The German High Command at War"

It reads, As of the April 1917 over 1 million German soldiers had been killed ,against total casualties of over 4 million.Although troop morale was still satisfactory,troop diet had become meager.No more was there thick soap with noodles and meat,bread and sausage.Bread was made of dried turnips and sawdust, spread with a turnip paste called "Hindenburg fat".Front line soldiers ate a goulash of horsemeat mixed with dried vegetables,mostly carrots, cabbage leaves,turnips,peas and even stinging nettles. Troops called the mobile kitchens "goulash guns" and the dried vegetables "barbed wire entanglements".

Hindenburg stressed that there was no real difference in the food issued to troops and officers alike at the front to that issued to staff officers.The latter had better food preparation.

The average German citizen was receiving 1,200 calories a day ,only enough nourishment for a young child.

I do not think that conditions were as harsh as this in Great Britain although I cannot recollect a reference detailing the Home Front situation.

Regards

Frank East

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michaeldr

Dave & Frank,

Many thanks for your helpful replies

Very sorry for the long silence at this end of the line, but I have been away from web for a couple of weeks while my son was in hospital. He's now much improved and the stitches should come out tomorrow, though I think that his convalescence means I have slim chances of getting much time on this machine for the next month or so

Best Regards

Michael D.R.

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HERITAGE PLUS

Michael

Whilst helping my son with his homework a came upon the following figures:

1913 - Wheat £1.11.8 per quarter - about average harvest of all crops

1914 - Wheat £1.14.11 per quarter - above average harvest of wheat & barley

1915 - Wheat £2.12.10 per quarter - Winter wheat above average but spring affected by drought.

1916 - Wheat £2.18.5 per quarter -winter cereals below average and spring about average

1917 - Wheat £3.15.9 per quarter - average crops - Corn Production Act passed tp guarantee minimum price for wheat and oats and a minimum wage for farm workers.

1918 - Wheat £3.12.10 per quarter = winter crop average but spring crop well below average

1919 = Wheat £3.12.11 per quarter Spring crop above average , winter below average

Dave

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michaeldr

Dave,

Many thanks to you and your son for the above figures

With the pre-war 1913 price rebased at 1.00 the inflation in wheat prices looks like this

1913: 1.00

1914: 1.10

1915: 1.67

1916: 1.85

1917: 2.40

1918: 2.31

How does the wheat market work? Does it reflect crop yields or anticipate them?

I'm not an economist but at first sight there seems to be little relationship between the crop yield and the price for that same year

1914: above average crops, but price rise of +10%

1915: one crop above av., one crop below av., but price rise of +50%

1916: also one above av. and one below, price rise of +10.5%

1917: two av. crops but price rise of +30%

Other factors must have been at work here

This thread started with mention of the Gallipoli campaign and one of its aims being access to the Black Sea and thus to Russia's grain harvests. As that campaign ground to a WF style stalemate in 1915 and its objectives slipped from the allies grasp, it is interesting to note that that year also saw the steepest single rise in wheat prices;+50%

The second biggest rise was in 1917; +30%. That year saw food shortages including bread and in April 1917 'The Observer' newspaper noted that the police were brought in to control the queues. No doubt this impressed the government which introduced the measures mentioned by Dave above. Rationing began early the next year and by May 1918 the queues were getting smaller and the price of wheat actually fell that year. This despite one crop being only average and the other 'well below average' that year.

Is there by chance a Pal who also an economist and who can give us any professional insight here?

Regards

Michael D.R.

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Terry_Reeves

Can't help with the economics, but I have in front of me a National Ration Book for October 1918. The rationed items were: butchers meat (as opposed to processed meat), butter and margarine, sugar, jam, bacon, lard and tea. No mention of bread strangely. As an aside, there is also a an advertisement for the Imperial War Museum, asking for photographs, biographical material, sketches and poems ect.

Terry Reeves

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Peter Beckett

I could not help noticing that the bread in

details form the churchyard wall at Great Wishford Village, Wiltshire
is measured in Gallons?

I thought that gallons was a liquid measure.

The mind boggles at the idea of a Hovis Tanker delivering bread :P

Can anyone explain and also when did we change to weight ie 1lb loaf?

Peter

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Gary Samson

I must admit, Peter, this puzzled me too. Hopefully, Dave will come back to this thread to enlighten us.

Gary

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michaeldr

Until Dave gets back let me have a go at half an answer

The 'how' is easier to answer than the 'why'

Grains were measured not by their balancing weights put opposite them on a set of scales, but by 'capacity' or whether they filled a container of a known volume

Thus the table of British Capacity Measure used to look like this

2 pints = 1 quart

4 quarts = 1 gallon

2 gallons = 1 peck

4 pecks = 1 bushel

8 bushels = 1 quarter

Regards

Michael D.R.

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michaeldr

Examples of the weekly ration per person;

Meat - 425 g

Bacon - 142g

Fat (butter/margarine/lard) - 113g

I agree with Terry that it is strange that bread does not feature on the 'rationed' list, especially when one reads of police having to control the queues for it. A couple of weeks after 'The Observer' piece mentioned above, the 'Daily Sketch' had a photograph of 2000 people in a queue for potatoes. A week or so later, in early May 17, King George was reported as asking those who could afford to, to buy better things and to leave flour, potatoes, eggs, etc. for those who could afford nothing else. The Germans had bread rationing and even massive strikes when it was proposed to reduce that ration in April 1917. I wonder if the British government thought that 'the staff of life' was too sensitive to be put on the ration list? Too negative for morale perhaps (if bread is rationed, well then, we MUST be in a bad way) ?

Another aspect of government policy which I find strange is that after 4 years of rising prices and with the price of wheat at 2.4 times the pre-war level, they should have found it necessary in 1917 to guarantee a minimum price for it. A guess at an answer to this would be, was this a quid pro quo (inexpensive to the government in view of the already high prices) offered to farmers in exchange for imposing a minimum wage on the industry?

Regards

Michael D.R.

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Guest Pete Wood
Thus the table of British Capacity Measure used to look like this

2 pints = 1 quart

4 quarts = 1 gallon

2 gallons = 1 peck

4 pecks = 1 bushel

8 bushels = 1 quarter

When will Sainsburys start to give us 4 pence off a litre of bread then.......?? ;)

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Guest paddy

Is there by chance a Pal who also an economist and who can give us any professional insight here?

Only to point out that an earlier examination of "chucks" may have raised another consideration.

Early in WW1 embargoes were placed on Australian Primary Production. Meat could only be sold within the Empire. Wheat & flour had to "go" to Britain unless a special permit was obtained. Later [c 1916] the British Government contracted to buy the total wool clip for the duration.

Drought had kept the wheat supply low until about 1916, but the remaining war years saw record harvests.

So what about the chooks?

Well with all this produce, and the odd Digger, needing transport across the world, and a shortage of ships, there got to be stock-piles of wheat EVERYWHERE. Chooks like wheat and so it was easy to scrounge a feed for them. Unfortunately, mice do too and we suffered plagues. It was particularly nasty around the dunny, which was strategically placed near the chook yard & wood heap. [implementation of findings from early time/motion studies]

I seem to remember reading that Canada produced wheat also, and they should have been able to get it to the Mother Country a bit easier than us.

Sorry if the above ain't too professional.

ooRoo

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michaeldr

Paddy,

Many thanks for your insights here

So from 1916 at least, there was no shortage as such, but very real storage and shipping problems

By the way, my first years were spent living with my grandparents in an agricultural labourer's tied cottage - only one tap in the house, but running water in every room (down the walls)

On the Northumbrian farm the 'conveniences' were also across the other side of the yard, tricky to get to in winter's snow and ice, dark and not very warm either. But yes, the chucks were good company for a littlun.

All the best

Michael D.R.

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Roy Evans

In his book ‘History of World War 1’ A.J.P. Taylor has a graph of “Rise in food prices, 1918, Allied and Neutral countries, percentage increase since mid-1914”.

Sorry I can’t scan it; the ‘office’ is being decorated this week.

The graph shows the following increases (amongst others)

France (except Paris) + 144% (Paris + 106%)

United Kingdom + 110%

Canada + 75%

U.S.A. + 65%

New Zealand + 39%

Australia + 32%

Another chart shows the decrease in food production in the UK 1914 - 18 as

Meat 17% less

Milk 20% less

Sugar 35% less

Fish 40% less

Roy

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Guest paddy

G'day Agen Michael.

I had not read your initial post when responding to your Emu [very large chuck] taunt. [was it yours or pale'uns]

Anyway, Dr Robson, in his "Australia & the Great War" comments:-

'In the case of the wheat industry, the harvest of 1915-16 promised to be the largest in Australia's history. It was. Britain was prepared to buy this crop because of the reduction in supply of imported wheat from Russia and the likelihood of the failure of the North American harvest. These facts, together with the scarcity of shipping...

[led to formation of Wheat Board] In addition Britain bought the whole refrigerated beef and mutton supply for the rest of the War'.

Robson appends relevant parliamentary papers, in which PM Hughes,on 10/11/15, explains the "scarcity of freight" as being a consequence of 25% of the world's tonnage being locked up in enemy ports, or at the bottom of the sea, [with] a further 20% being requisitioned by the British Admiralty for transport and war purposes.

Admittedly these "events' occured well after the Dardanelles Campaign began, but do make specific reference to the Russian crop. Your "unheard of reason" could be strengthened by the fact that significant measures were implemented only in November 1915 by which time the Russian wheat would be seen as improbable.

Although not specifically stated, I have always believed that Britain bought the total wheat crop, less domestic usage, for the duration.

ooRoo

Pat

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