Experimental baking

The impact of food shortages is reflected in the new recipes for bread tried at Reading Prison.

9th March 1918
Circular No. 41 – 15.2.18

Referring to the above on the subject of the use of potatoes in breadmaking, I have to report that a new supply of Government Regulation flour has this week been obtained from a local firm, Messrs S M Soundy & Son, and an experimental bake produced. The percentage of only 23 per cent. With previous flour 24 was [used?].

Noted – No doubt the percentage of grain will vary with the flour.
Is the bread otherwise satisfactory?
[Illegible signature]

Yes, the bread is now quite good, we tried adding more water to make a larger percentage, but the flour would not take it up, and the result was bad.
C M Morgan

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)


Many anti-submarine proposals have been received

An internee’s proposals for trapping enemy submarines were greeted with a signal lack of enthusiasm, while the imposition of rationing meant the Place of Internment (aka Reading Prison) had to revamp menus.

Board of Invention & Research
Victory House
Cockspur St



I am directed by the Board of Invention & Research to thank you for your letter of the 14th inst: transmitting particulars of anti-submarine proposals put forward by alien C. Slingeneyer, interned at Reading.

In reply, I beg to inform you that many similar proposals have already been received from various sources. If however the Inventor will be good enough to furnish a full description of the device to which he calls attention, the matter will receive careful consideration; and I am to ask that, if no objection be seen, alien C. Slingeneyer may be informed accordingly.

I am, sir,
Your obedient servant
Walter J. James

The Gov. P of I Reading

With ref: to the system of rationing which will shortly come into operation, the enclosed scale of dietary will be taken into use at your Establishment – as soon as you can make the necessary arrangements. The Commission desire to leave you a free hand as to the manner in which the ingredients shall be prepared and the Con: Pn: dietary is enclosed for your information. This, together with the present dietary for interned prisoners will be a guide as to the distribution of the various articles.

Fresh fish will be issued alternately with salt fish. The Commission are arranging for the supply of fresh fish to all Establishments and instructions will shortly reach you on this point.

The dietary cards at present in use will be withdrawn when the new dietary is introduced. On the introduction of the new dietary, no prisoner will be permitted to purchase rationed articles, or articles containing ingredients which are rationed. The rationed articles are bread, cereals (including flour, oatmeal, rice, tapioca, barley, beans, peas etc), meat, sugar, margarine or butter, fats, oils etc.

Signed Alfred Wall, Sec:

Breakfast Bread 6 oz
Porridge 1 pint
Margarine 1 oz
Tea or Coffee


Sunday Bread 2 oz
[Illegible] Meat 2 ½ oz
Potatoes 16 oz
Rice 3 oz (uncooked)
Jam 2 oz

Monday Bread 2 oz
Soup 1 pint (containing 3 oz clods, 4 oz peas, 2 oz vegetables, 2 oz onions)
Potatoes 16 oz

Tuesday Bread 2 oz
Fish 12 oz uncooked
Potatoes 16 oz
Rice 3 oz uncooked made into puddings

Wednesdays Bread 2 oz
Salt Pork 13 oz
Haricot Beans [1 ½ oz?]
Potatoes 16 oz
Apple rings or fresh fruit

Thursday Bread 2 oz
Beef 6 oz uncooked
Potatoes 16 oz

Friday Bread 2 oz
Vegetable soup 1 pint consisting of 2 oz vegetables, 1 oz onions, ¼ oz fish, 5 oz peas

Saturday Bread 2 oz
Fish 12 oz uncooked
Potatoes 16 oz
Tapioca 3 oz
Jam 2 oz

Suppers Bread 6 oz
Cocoa or Tea 1 pint
Margarine ¼ oz
Potatoes 6 oz
Cheese 1 oz

Fish – fresh and salt alternate days.

As the meat ration increases, the vegetable soup on Fridays will contain clods.

Fresh vegetables for part ration potatoes when obtainable.

These men can of course buy at the canteen or elsewhere such things as eggs, fruit, tinned fish &c: in fact anything that can be bought outside, not rationed, as in the past.

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

The general condition of strain consequent on the war

The Anglican Community of St John Baptist, whose headquarters was at Clewer, always fasted during Lent. But the food shortages meant they had to impose a different regime this year.

10 February 1918

The following directions were sent to all the Houses of the Community with reference to the rule of fasting to be observed during the coming Lent this year.

“In consequence of the general condition of strain consequent on the war, the Warden & Mother feel that the usual Lenten rule cannot be kept this year.

There will be dry bread for breakfast only on Wednesdays & Fridays for the first 4 weeks.

The second meatless day will be observed according to the rules of the Government (i.e. according to the days on which the Government prohibits meat to be sold in different places.)

There will be some kind of plain pudding every day.

The regulation as to no pastry being used must be in abeyance (because it has been found necessary sometimes to use pastry to make the meat allowance sufficient).

At breakfast and tea whatever can be most easily obtained should be provided, such as porridge, marmalade, jam, margarine, etc.

On Ash Wednesday there should be dry bread for breakfast & tea as usual, the rest of the food as on meatless days.”

The mitigation of the usual Lenten Rule has been sanctioned by the Bishop, whom the Warden consulted on the subject.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

A new price for butter

Newbury implemented price controls to stop retailers cashing in on shortages.

January 1st 1918

Home Defence Corps

A letter was read from Second Lieutenant F A Greet asking for the support of the Council to an effort to increase the number of the Newbury Corps so that it might be continued as a separate unit instead of being merged in the Reading Corps.

Food Control Committee

The report of the meetings of the Food Control Committee was referred to from the chair. The Mayor also mentioned that the steps taken by the Committee with respect to the distribution of margarine.

Report of the Local Food Control Committee (appended)

Meetings of this committee have been held on the 29th October, the 5tyh, 12th, 19th and 26th November, and the 3rd, 10th and 19th December.

In October last the Committee fixed the price of English Farmhouse Butter at 2s 4d per lb. subsequently at the meeting on the 19th December, the Committee having fixed a rate for Blended and Imported Irish Butter at 2s 6d per lb, the Committee decided to raise the price of English Farmhouse Butter to 2s 5d per lb….

Potato Licenses.

The Committee have granted licenses to various applicants as wholesalers and retailers. By agreement with the Butchers, the maximum retail prices have been fixed for the sale of Meat within the Area.

It having become necessary to appoint an Officer whose special duty it would be to see that the Orders of the Food Controller were carried into effect, the Committee appointed Mr G W Stillman as Enforcement Officer at a salary of 30s per week….

Complaints having been received as to the sale of Matches and Bread in contravention of the Orders dealing with these articles, prosecutions were ordered by the Committee, and the cases were subsequently dealt with before the Justices.

Newbury Borough minutes (N/AC1/2/9)

Hope for a people braver and stronger and more God-fearing for the long years of sacrifice and sorrow

A special Christmas letter from Mrs Willink offered kindly advice to the members of Burghfield Mothers’ Union.

Hillfields, Xmas 1917

Dear [blank]

In these days when the shadow of war and suffering and death seems constantly with us, the good wishes for a joyful Christmas seem almost out of place. But I feel I must send a little message of affection and friendship to my dear members of the Mothers’ Union.
I say to you all be of good courage, and may God give you that inward happiness and serenity which surely comes to those who live near him. May He fill our hearts with light and peace, so that if sorrow or loss or accident come to us we may bear them unshaken and accept them as if they were straws on the tide of life.

Bless our absent ones, keep them in life, keep them in growing honour; and, for us, grant that we may be worthy of their love. We civilians at home for whom there are no supreme moments of daring and sacrifice can yet constantly keep our courage at a high level. It has been said that victory is ultimately won, not by the troops in action, but by the spirit of the nation behind them.

We who stay at home have the duty of preserving, for those who are fighting, that heritage for which they are laying down their lives.
Dear wives and mothers, let it be your work to keep your homes sweet and clean, so that when the men and the lads come back, they may find that best happiness, a home of love and welcome ready for them. This can only be done by some self-sacrifice now; food is short, and it will grow shorter, and it is only by strict economy and thought and trouble that the food difficulty can be met, try and buy as many substitutes as you can for bread, meat and sugar, and take pains in cooking them, and you will be helping the War. You are such clever housewives that I am sure you will be able to do so.

I should also like to say especially to the Mothers’ Union members, that they should at this time do all in their power to help and influence others outside the Union, by little acts of kindness and sympathy, and by such example as can shew those others what our Union stands for, and try and persuade them to think seriously as to what it means, and perhaps in time to join it.

“In quietness and confidence shall be your strength,” and may the Christmas message of glad tidings give us that strength to work – and be patient, and kind, and helpful, and self-forgetful in the New Year that is coming, and then we may hope that the blessing of peace will return, and find a people braver and stronger and more God-fearing for the long years of sacrifice and sorrow.

Believe me always

Your true friend
Mary G Willink

Special Christmas letter inserted in and probably distributed with the January 1918 parish magazine, Burghfield (D/EX725/4)

Shot at dawn for “cowardice” caused by shell shock

John Maxwell Image wrote to his friend W F Smith, who was staying at Hindhead in south west Surrey, not far from the big army camp at Aldershot. Normally very gung-ho in support of the war, Image’s compassion had been aroused by stories of court martials and teenagers shot at dawn. The Revd Thomas Pym (1885-1945), in peacetime the chaplain at Image’s college, was serving as an army chaplain.

29 Barton Rd
6 Dec. ‘17
My very dear old man

The military cars to and fro Aldershot must surely be more or less an interesting sight.

The poor Tommy comes under this [?not clear] penalty quite frequently. Not often from cowardice, poor boy. Most often (I believe) it is from slinking off to some girl in the rear which is called “desertion”, tho’ he would have returned right enough.

Just before I was married there was shown to me a letter from a young Trin. Officer at the Front, describing a visit from one of our Trin. Chaplains, begging this young friend of his to “pray for him”, for he had to pass the night with a boy of 18 who was to be shot at dawn. Pym spoke then of a night with another poor child (of 17!) who had been shot the previous week, for what the CM was pleased to style Cowardice – though he had twice behaved with exceptional bravery, and it was only after seeing his two brothers killed at his side that on this occasion his nerve broke down. In an officer it would have been called “shell-shock”, and the interesting sufferer sent home to a cushy job in England. I know of 2 thus treated. Pym’s words brought the tears to my eyes. I see that he has told the story (slightly altered) in a book that has recently come out by him, Characteristics of the Army in Flanders.

Sir Arthur Yapp at the Guildhall last Friday. The Signora went (non ego) and returned enthusiastic – she and her Cook – over the great man’s dignity and sweetness. That evening he lectured the students (and I believe also them of Girton) in Newnham College – and left by the 9.9 for London.

One remark of his: “The vessels sunk by the U-boats during the week ending Nov. 24 (I forget how many that was) might have carried enough bread to feed Cambridge for nearly 7 years, or enough meat for 8 ½ years, or enough sugar for 64 years.”

He said that Food Tickets have changed Germany to a nation of forgers. He dreaded the like fate for England.

Yours ever

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Our fourth war-time Christmas: a joy none can take from us

Food shortages, and the use of adulterated products, had one unexpected casualty – the quality of communion bread. The vicar of Cookham Dean reflected on the fourth Christmas of the war.

The Vicar’s Letter

Since the war began I have found increasing difficulty to obtain bread suitable for use at the Holy Communion. For years I have had a special loaf sent every week from Edinburgh, but it is impossible to depend now upon its quality, and some of the ingredients with which bread is at present made are quite unsuitable for the holy purpose for which it is used. For a long time past I have used, both for sick people and on Saints’ Days, wafer bread, made as the Prayer Book directs, ‘of the best and purest wheaten flour’: Its use secures reverence, and its quality never varies, so that from Advent Sunday onward I intend to use it on Sundays also: I am obtaining it for the present from the same place that supplies the Bishop with that used by him in the Palace Chapel at Cuddesdon.

The Vicar’s Letter

This will be our fourth war-time Christmas. As each year goes on one realises how less like Christmases of former days each succeeding one becomes; and yet, beneath all the changes and turmoil of war, there must ever be the gladdening in our hearts at the thought of the Redemption of the World by our Lord Jesus Christ. We must be ready to offer our worship at the Manger Throne, and find the same comfort and the same grace as ever before at the Altar Throne if our hearts have been duly prepared in Advent by penitence and faith to seek Him, and receive Him there.

Some of the dear lads from the village will spend their Christmas very near to Bethlehem: What an un-looked-for experience for them! May they, and we, and all our dear ones, far and near, bound together in love for Him who was born at Bethlehem – ‘born for us’- find in His Presence a joy none can take from us, and thus realise in a very true way a happy Christmas.

Cookham Dean parish magazine, December 1917 (D/P43B/28A/11)

War bread makes us itch

The poor quality bread issued in wartime sounds as though it may have caused allergic reactions in some people.

29th November 1917

F.B. went back to-night enroute to Italy he expects.

I went to bed at ½ past 9.

This war bread or something has given all of us a most irritating sensation like the itch.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Russian news horrible

It was bad news at home (with additional voluntary food restrictions) and abroad, with more news of the revolution in Russia.

12 November 1917

More food vol: rations [into?] bread rather more, meat less, cereals and fats. Butter to all limited.

Russian news horrible. Petrograd in hands of rebels & Lenin!!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Food from Harvest “will be greatly appreciated by the wounded men in hospital”

Worshippers at Broad Street Church sent their Harvest Festival offerings to the Royal Berkshire Hospital for wounded soldiers.


The Harvest Thanksgiving Services, held on Sunday, September 23rd, afforded joy and inspiration to all who were able to attend. The church was very prettily and effectively decorated for the occasion. A plentiful supply of fruit, vegetables, flowers, etc, had been provided…

On the following day the good things provided were conveyed by Mr Bunce to the Royal Berks Hospital, for the wounded soldiers who are there.

Mr Rawlinson [the minister] has since received the following letter from the secretary of that institution:

“Dear Sir

Many thanks for your letter, and for the eggs, fruit, vegetables, flowers, bread, etc, which arrived yesterday.

These will be greatly appreciated by the wounded men in hospital, and I should be grateful if you would accept for yourself, and kindly convey to all concerned, an expression of our warmest thanks for this generous present.

I am, dear Sir,
Yours faithfully

Herman Burney


The annual Harvest Festival in connection with the church was held on Sunday September 23rd, and as usual our brothers contributed very liberally with fruit and vegetables from their allotments.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, October 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

It is a constant source of anxiety to know if our funds will hold out til the end of the War

The people of Wargrave contributed to help for Berkshire PoWs, including sending them bread to supplement what the Germans provided.

Prisoners of War of the Royal Berkshire Regiment

It is one of the first duties laid upon us to provide for the prisoners of War of our county regiment.

A Committee, of which Rear-Admiral Cherry is Hon. Treasurer and Mrs. Mount of Wasing Place, is Hon. Secretary, has undertaken this work. In February last it was realised by the Committee that to look after the prisoners of all the seven battalions now at the front would be more than they could undertake. It was therefore decided that this committee should only deal with the 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 8th battalions – the prisoners of the 1/4, 2/4 and 7th battalions were handed over to Mrs. Hedges, 19, Castle Street, Wallingford, and the prisoners of the 6th battalion to Mrs. Dowell, 155 Malden Road, Colchester.

An appeal was sent to the Parish of Wargrave for support and Mrs. Henry Bond undertook to collect subscriptions for the fund. Mrs. Bond’s appeal has met with a ready and generous support- the amount collected by her in the parish was £101. 2s., in sums of £5 and under.

In acknowledging the cheque Mrs. Mount writes:

Wasing Place,
August 21st.
Dear Mrs. Bond,

I really do not know how to express to you my thanks for the splendid collection you have made in Wargrave for the Royal Berks Regt. Prisoners. It is a constant source of anxiety to know if our funds will hold out til the end of the War. Our bread bill alone amounts to between £60 and £70 a month, besides which we have to find adopters for our 280 prisoners willing to pay each £21 per year for these prisoners.

Your splendid collection will go far towards removing any immediate anxiety.

Yours sincerely,
Hilda Mount.

Wargrave parish magazine, September 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

War bread is such stale stuff

William Hallam did not care for the wholemeal bread produced in war time.

13th July 1917

Wages 2£. 18S. 7d. after 10/6 was deducted. We get 10d. extra now for Sunday work. Very hot and close again. If it wasn’t for the war bread I should some times take my dinner but it is such stale stuff. Coming up here from work at dinner time tires me out. The only thing I feel older in. Coming come from work to-night I called in at the barbers and had my hair cut. I was in there awaiting my turn past an hour.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

A bathing grievance on the part of the Women Munition Workers

Public baths offered both a swimming pool and washing facilities – particularly useful for workers living in rented rooms with no bathrooms. In a more modest era, single sex facilities were normal.

Thursday, June 14th, 1917

Analysis of Flour

The Acting Inspector was requested to take action under the Order of the Food Controller and to obtain samples of the flour used by the bakers in the manufacture of Bread.

Baths – Hours for Women

The Mayor stated that there existed a grievance on the part of the Women Munition Workers in consequence of their inability to use the Public Baths on account of the hours on which the Baths were open to women. The present hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11 am to 6 pm, Saturday 11 am to 1 pm.

The Committee decided that the Baths should be open to women in addition to the above, on Tuesdays and on Sundays from 9.30 am until 12.30 pm. The baths would therefore cease to be open to men on the two evenings of the week mentioned, and children would not be admitted on Sundays between 9.30 am and 12.30 pm.

Newbury Borough General, Sanitary, Baths and Cemetery Committee minutes (N/AC1/2/8)

“If we waste bread, we are helping the Germans to win the war”

Newbury people were urged not to waste food, particularly bread.

The King has issued a Proclamation on food saving, which is being read, by Royal Command, in Church, but it would perhaps be also as well to put the case in plain language:

1. The stock of bread in the country is not sufficient.

2. The German submarines may make it still more in-sufficient.

3. Therefore we must save all the bread we can.

4. We must not catch horses with bread.

5. We must not give crusts to birds or pigs.

6. We must not throw bread into the street, canal, or dust-bin.

7. We must not cut the crusts off toast.

8. We must eat as little bread as is consistent with health.

9. If we do otherwise, we are helping the Germans to win the war.

The Soldiers’ Club is moving on June 2nd, to “the King’s Arms” in the Market Place. This Hostel must now resign itself to the provision of temperance drinks only. The ladies in charge will be glad of any help in money or kind.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, June 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)

A splendid address on Duty and Patriotism that even the tiniest could understand

Empire Day was the focus for patriotic expressions in schools across the county.

Piggott Schools, Wargrave
Empire Day

The children of the Piggott Schools celebrated Empire Day (May 24th) in right loyal fashion. They assembled at the School, and with flags flying, marched down to Church where a short service was held. The Vicar gave an appropriate address. Re-assembling on the Church Green they proceeded to the Schools and took their places round the flag pole from which the Union Jack was flying. A good number of parents and friends of the children with many of the soldiers from the hospital were waiting their return. As the boys passed the soldiers they gave them a salute in recognition of what they had done for their country.

The National Anthem was sung, and the flag saluted, and Miss. E. Sinclair gave a splendid address on Duty and Patriotism in such a way that even the tiniest could understand it. Capt. Bird proposed a vote of thanks to Miss Sinclair and hearty cheers were given in which the soldiers joined. Three Patriotic and Empire Songs were sung by the children, the Vicar called for cheers for the Teachers, and Mr. Coleby announced that Mrs. Cain had most kindly provided buns and sweets for all as they left the grounds. Hearty cheers were given her for her thoughtfulness. Cheers for the King concluded the proceedings.

Alwyn Road School, Cookham
May 24th 1917

Empire Day was celebrated today. The Headmaster addressed the children assembled in the Hall, and the National Anthem was sung. The children then went to their classrooms and ordinary lessons proceeded till 11 o’clock. Each class teacher then gave a lesson on “Empire” and kindred subjects till 11.30. This was followed by a Writing Lesson when some of the important facts were taken down.

The school assembled in the Hall again at 11.55 and after a few more remarks by the Headmaster the national Anthem was again sung and the children dismissed.

Opportunity was taken of this morning’s addresses to instil into the children’s minds the necessity of economising in the use of all food stuffs, and more especially of bread and flour.

A holiday was granted in the afternoon. (more…)