Children’s eyes glistened when they heard that chocolate cake was more wholesome and more nutritious than bread

Food shortages led to attempts to teach working class somen new methods of food preparation. Hayboxes acted as a combination of slow-cooker and thermos flask, to allow a cooked dinner to stay hot all day, and also saved on fuel.

A meeting was held on November 5th, at the Old Schoolroom at which were present Mrs. Bennett, Vice-President; Mrs. Noble, Hon. Sec.; Mrs. Wedderburn; Mrs. Chenery, Hon. Treasurer; and a large attendance, to bear a lecture given by Mrs. Hallam on Children’s Diet and Pocket Lunches. The relative values of various foods were fully explained, and the mothers were strongly urged to alter their methods of prearing food and to adopt the advice of London Food Committee whose President, Mrs. Peel, supplied practical instructions.

Several children came early and heard the lecture and their eyes glistened when they heard that chocolate cake (made with cocoa) and madeira cake, were more wholesome and more nutritious than bread – and that hot potatoes and cheese formed a nourishing meal, without meat.

The wives were advised to send out their husbands provided with small portable hayboxes, that they might have a hot dinner in the middle of the day during the cold winter months.

The Lecture was received with warm approbation.

A generous tea followed, given by Mrs. Bennett – assisted by Mrs. Chenery and other helpers.

Wargrave parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

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Not much to grumble at

The Governor of Reading Prison was defensive about complaints about the food put forward by one of the Irish internees.

Place of Internment
Reading
29 May 1918

W L Cole

1. The Commissioners’ instructions are – no letters in or out – no visits.

2. When formerly here, the Home Office allowed parcels of food &c. Now food is controlled & parcels mean letters to acknowledge.

3. By Commissioners’ orders these men were on Local Prison diet. This does not carry tea or coffee. Further as tea is rationed in Reading, 1 ½ oz per head per week, they could not buy it without coupons, and they cannot write [for it]. Now the diet has been altered – as for the remainder of the interned aliens – they can have tea for breakfast or coffee.

4. They receive 3 ½ oz a head a week, the same as other interned men – Reading maximum ration is 4 oz per week. They receive 14 oz of bread daily, the same as other men. Cereals are limited to 117 oz a head a week.

5. They receive potatoes daily and on most days of the week a second vegetable – leeks – or something else as well – where procurable.

I will give their food today – not much to grumble at. They can supplement that by purchasing non controlled articles.

Breakfast – 6 oz bread, 1 pint porridge, ¼ oz margarine, 1 pint coffee.

Dinner – 2 oz bread, 1 ½ oz salt pork, 4 oz haricot beans, 16 oz potatoes, 4 oz stewed rhubarb (fresh), 4 oz leeks (from garden).

Supper – 5 oz bread, 1 pint cocoa, ¼ oz margarine, 6 oz potatoes, 1 ½ oz salt pork (alternatively with cheese).

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

Moving from billet to barn, from barn to billet

Sydney Spencer hosted a big dinner.

Sydney Spencer
Thursday 16 May 1918

I was orderly officer today so that today’s diary means: Reporting B HQ at 8.45, inspecting billets from 9.30-11.30, censoring letters from 11.30 till 12.30, inspecting dinners. After lunch a lie down, a short read, mounting guard at 3.30. Dismounting old guard. 4 pm tea.

After tea preparation for dinner guest night. Dinner a huge success. Consisted of soup, choufleur au gratin [cauliflower cheese], salmon mayonaize (don’t know how to spell it!), pork with baked potatoes & cauliflower, and sweet of plum pudding & custard – savouries of hard boiled egg etc on toast, coffee, biscuits, chocolate & cheese, port, sherry, whiskey & lime juice, & smokes. Do not think, my dear old diary, that I am a gourmand! I hate remembering what I have eaten. But I just put it down as a curiosity in this year of the war 1918!

Took staff parade, visited guard. Mess crowded with officers & all company & when I got to bed they had a jolly time.

Percy Spencer
16 May 1918

Cash. I went to Beaucourt to draw cash. Met Anderson who asked to be remembered to WF [Percy’s sister Florence Image]. Spent day in moving from billet to barn, from barn to billet.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

“A Pacifist peace means Armageddon for our children”

Cambridge don John Maxwell Image struggled with the newly implemented food rationing. John Rawlinson, an Old Etoniam and alumnus of Image’s college, Trinity, was MP for Cambridge University (a constituency specifically to represent graduates across the country). A former international footballer, he was patriotically dieting.

29 Barton Road
25 March ‘18

This morning have arrived our Food Tickets. Oh, I gape! Florence professes to understand them. All I can utter is ‘Pests’. Cnspuez Rhondda!

Yesterday, in the Bowling Green, we met Rawlinson, MP, who vowed that he had for weeks been existing on a hebdomadal 1/3 of meat (so at least, he seems to say), and that he found the Fellows far too fat and well liking to have been loyal.

A Pacifist peace means Armageddon for our children. Who in honesty denies that?

Veni sancta Columbia.

And you prefer Margarine to Butter? I haven’t yet, to my knowledge, tried it. Devonshire Butter I count the noblest relish on earth. We can’t get Cheese, off which I regularly used to lunch.


Ever yours
Bild

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

The necessity of an equal distribution of all foodstuffs

Newbury was preparing to implement food rationing.

Meetings of the [Food Control] Committee and Sub-Committee were held on the 22nd December 1917, the 7th, 16th, 23rd, 25th, 28th and 31st of January last, and the 11th, 15th and 19th of February inst.

A meeting of Representatives of the Food Control Committee for the Borough of Newbury and the adjoining Rural Districts was held on the 21st of December, 1917, at which meeting a resolution was passed that it was desirable that a general rationing scheme for the Areas should be prepared, which was accordingly done, and approved by the Food Control Committee. At a further meeting of the Representative bodies on the 31st January last, it was resolved that steps be taken to obtain immediate official sanction of the scheme, which it was proposed should be brought into operation on the 25th March next.

Subsequently, the Divisional Commissioner having declined to approve the scheme on the ground that it was now proposed to bring in a general scheme for the whole of the South West Division, based on the London and Home Counties Food Scheme, to come into operation on the 25th March next, the Committee decided not to press forward the local scheme, but to make the necessary arrangements for bringing into operation the Divisional Scheme on the above mentioned date, and appointed a sub-committee consisting of the Mayor, Alderman Lucas, Councillor Geater, Mr Godding, and Mr Draper, with power to add to their number, to consider and take such steps as might be necessary with regard to the matter. The Committee at their meetings had also under their consideration the following matters:

1. The distribution of margarine based on the sugar card system, and the arrangement made by the sub-committee in charge of the distribution have now been effectual in preventing the assembly of any queues.

2. A fair and equal distribution of the meat supply, which presented very considerable difficulties, having regard to the quantity which the retail butchers were permitted to sell per week, and to the large numbers of people from areas outside the Borough, but who now come into Newbury for their meat supply. The difficulty has been more or less overcome by the retail butchers being permitted to supply only 3/4 lbs of meat per person per week, and on production of sugar cards, which were to be marked; it is apparent, however, that a satisfactory distribution can only be obtained by means of the introduction of rationing cards.

A Deputation of the National Union of Railwaymen, on behalf of their Society and the general working men, attended the meeting of the Committee on the 11th February last and urged upon them the necessity of an equal distribution of all foodstuffs, including cheese, and other kindred matters, which were fully discussed with the deputation, who were informed as to the exact position of the meat and margarine supplies, and assured that everything was being done by the Committee to bring about the desired end, and they expressed themselves satisfied with their interview.

The Enforcement Officer of the Committee reported from time to time upon the work undertaken by him, and prosecutions were ordered for breaches of the Orders issued by the Ministry of Food.

The Sub-committee appointed to take charge of the arrangements in connection with the rationing scheme, decided as follows:

Application forms to be delivered to every householder in the Borough, by a sufficient staff of volunteer helpers, who will at the same time bring away the application forms completed, and where necessary, assist the applicant to fill up the forms.

This to be done by the 5th March.

Each Volunteer will then apply to the Local Food Office for ration cards, for the applicants in his district, and after filling up the same, will deliver same to the Food Office for stamping.

After the ration cards are stamped, the same will be distributed to the applicants, on production of their sugar cards, at the Corn Exchange, at a date to be publicly announced: –

And have issued a public notice to the above effect; they propose to follow the same course as was adopted in 1915 for the distribution of the National Registration papers, and have approached the Education Committee for the enlistment of the services of the teaching staffs in the schools, with whose co-operation they have no doubt of being able to carry through the necessary arrangements to a successful conclusion.

Report of Food Control Committee to Newbury Borough Council meeting, 26 February 1918 (N/AC1/2/9)

Women tip the Tommies to shop for them as they can get ham & cheese where the women can’t

Still training in Wiltshire, Percy Spencer wanted a special lamp to take back to the Front. He had also had a surprise reunion with younger brother Sydney – and was unimpressed with their other brother Harold’s attempts to sponge on good-natured Sydney.

21st Res Battalion London Regiment
G Lines
Chiseldon Camp
Nr Swindon

Feb 11, 1918

My dear WF

I’ve just returned from 48 hours leave, a frightful scramble, but the break is worth it.

Luckily I was able to catch Dot in town and we went together to “General Pat” at the Haymarket, after trying without success to get into the Albert Hall to hear Carrie Tubb, Ivor Foster & Harry Dearth. She is very much better I’m glad to say.

As I was seeing her off at Paddington, Sydney turned up, and I persuaded him to take his luggage out of the train and stay with me the night in my digs. We hadn’t met for over a year so I was very glad to see him again. He doesn’t seem to have altered a scrap.

We had a talk about Harold, and Sydney is sending me a letter about him. Apparently Harold looks on Sydney as an investment from which he is entitled to expect an income. It’s too preposterous.

I expect my embarkation leave pretty soon now – probably about the time Sydney will be with you. I suppose I may come too if I have a ration card, but please let me know dear, as I don’t wish to crowd you, or add to your food expenditure. In London though the women tip the Tommies to shop for them as they can get ham & cheese where the women can’t.

All last week I was upon battalion duties and lost touch with my boys, and it was very disheartening this morning to find that they had started off badly. However I’ll soon get them going again I hope.

With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Percy to Florence
Feb 11, 1918
My dear WF

The lamp is an ORILUX, made by J. H. STEWARD Ltd, 406, STRAND, LONDON. The price including spare bulb 25/- (probably more now).

It is a first rate long life lamp, well protected from weather, most suited for wearing on a belt, military fashion, but quite suitable for carrying by hand. I think, however, Stewards could show more suitable hand lamps.

Yours ever
Percy

Letters from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/11-13)

A right little, tight little house with sandbag entrance steps and a strong sense of security

Percy Spencer told his sister Florence al about the cosy way he and a comrade had improved his current trench.

1.ii.18

Dear WF

Well, how are domestic affairs going?

We’re getting on quite well. Little by little we’re improving our “home”. Having been well strafed the other day, the map expert and I set to work to build a wall of sandbags at our end of the dugout. It’s now a right little, tight little house with sandbag entrance steps and a strong sense of security. Also we’ve got wooden gratings laid in the trenches, so we’re not so much in the mud as we were, and our home is greatly improved. You’d be surprised how each day “we” (that’s my brainy map expert assistant) make little improvements in ways and means. Now we each have a board bed off the ground, & a canvas bucket wash has taken the place of a teacup wash – by the way what would they say at home if I arose, cleaned my teeth, shaved, washed and breakfasted all from the same tin mug you sent me? But as I say, we’re gradually changing all that for the better. We took over a dirty untidy dugout open to the wind and the weather: we shall hand over a tidy, weather proof and shell proof residence, and I’m glad we shan’t hand it over to the people who left us such a miserable legacy. The best souvenir we found when digging to level the earth was a German officer’s revolver loaded in two chambers, one bullet having been bored at the top to make it a dum-dum. I wish I could have kept it and sent it you.

I’ve just been arranging a mouse trap on the tip cat system. We’ve made a beauty and the map expert with a bloodthirsty glint in his eye is toasting some cheese in the candle.
[Censored]

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/93)

“It is a long time since bread from England has arrived without being mouldy”

Albert Cusden, one of four Reading brothers interned in Germany, and a talented amateur artist, wrote to his parents. They were dependent on food supplies sent from home, as their captors had little to go around due to blockades of trade. Some of Albert’s Ruhleben drawings are in the BRO archives.

Aug. 14th 1916
My dear parents

Since my letter to Lucy, very many thanks for parcels from S to X. Everything arrived in good condition with exception of bread. As I mentioned before, it is a long time since bread from England has arrived without being mouldy. Everyone makes same complaint, so it must be weather. The Swiss bread has been coming regularly to Arch & Dick in good condition and is sufficient for us. I presume that before receiving this you will have stopped sending any more from England as advised. Could someone drop a card to Mrs Miller and inform the Sawyers not to send any more bread either. Arch wrote to Mrs Miller a week or two back asking her not to send any more with cheese as she had been doing, but now it is better than none at all. The Sawyers’ toasted loaf had been coming all right, but last twice has been bad, so would be better not to risk any more. As an example, on Saturday four parcels came for us, being from home, Mrs Miller, Mrs West & Aunt Eliza. Each contained bread, I think seven loaves in all, which had to be thrown away being mouldy right through. So it would be a pity to risk any more, and as said before the Swiss is enough. Could you perhaps also drop card to Mrs West thanking her for parcel, as I cannot write her this week, and it would stop her from sending any more a little earlier. The biscuits she sent with bread were all right. The home made jam was extremely nice. Congratulations to Edie from us all. Hope she and the baby are both getting on perfectly. I must say you kept it very secret, no-one having a word of the coming event….

Dick received parcel from Poole through Mrs Ward of Donnington Gardens and acknowledged it to Mrs Ward as he had not Poole address and suggested she might send letter on. Since your letter came to me, he has written Mrs Ward, so I suppose it is now all right.

Probably this week will send off some sketches, mostly head studies. Should like you to put them by for me until I return, whenever that will be. I have been doing a deal of portrait sketching of late, and in most cases the fellows have sent the sketches home. I get the practice, the sitter the sketch, and I have no trouble in finding sitters. In one or two cases have later on commissions. We are keeping well, and you are all the same?

With love to all,

Your affectionate son,

Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to Mrs J Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/2)