Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Recommended: The Online Exhibitions of the National World War I Museum

As you might have heard, everything's up to date in Kansas City. And, if you get to visit one of Kansas City's and Americas treasures, their National World War I Museum will come to you.  They have five outstanding online in-depth exhibitions developed from their vast holdings that I highly recommend.  Here are a few slides from their presentation on food and the war titled: "War Fare."  These represent less than 5 percent of what's included in the exhibition.

PHOTO: Austrian soldiers transporting long-horned cattle destined to feed troops
in the Carpathian Mountains

Optimistic Abundance: The Early War
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary on 28 June 1914 was a spark that would engulf Europe in the flames of war only a short month later. The prospect of disrupting the rapid advance of industrialization and growing economic prosperity in Europe proved to be no match for rampant nationalism and militarism of the early 20th century. Yet, in the earliest months of the war, a certain undercurrent of optimism could be felt as troops on both sides of the conflict were well supplied and well fed.

PHOTO: A photo taken on the Western Front in France shows a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (W.A.A.C.) proudly displaying two fresh loaves of bread baked for British troops. In 1914 there was one field bakery in every infantry division. Staffed by one officer and 92 men from the Army Service Corps it could produce enough bread for more than 20,000 men.

Post-Edwardian Britannia
Like their Central Powers counterparts, the Allies shared an optimistic view on the potential length of the war. In Great Britain, the affluence and abundance of the Edwardian era was still being felt and troop rationing was generous at the war’s outset. Nearly 335,000 soldiers were sent to Europe at the beginning of the war. By the war’s end, that was the approximate size of just the Army Service Corps (ASC), the organization responsible for feeding the nearly 5,363,352 British soldiers deployed worldwide.

PHOTO: Left—A dinner party consisting of three Austro-Hungarian soldiers on the Isonzo near Gorizia celebrating completion of a bridge.  Right—German bread ration ticket.

Rationing and Rationale: Germany
While the Allies had access to food suppliers outside of their own borders, including America and other neutral countries, the Central Powers did not. German imports fell by 55 percent from prewar levels, and the country felt the earliest pinch of diverting agricultural production resources toward the war effort in the form of military conscription of laborers. The effective Allied naval blockade of Germany from the start of the war magnified this effect.

In 1915, what supplies were available were always prioritized for soldiers at the front. Feeding the civilian population was always a secondary consideration. 

PHOTO: French soldiers on leave from the trenches

Feeding the French Troops
At the outset of the war the French army was to be the most well provisioned. Rather than relying on specific supply and support personnel, line infantrymen within the various units rotated into mess duty as cooks and kitchen labor. This arrangement quickly proved to be impractical within an actual wartime theater. Combined with the massive buildup of forces—the French Army quickly grew from 823,000 at the war’s start to 3,723,000 men within two weeks, primarily through the conscription of farm laborers from the countryside—and the resulting strain on supplies, it became nearly impossible to maintain their prewar provisioning plans.

PHOTO: Turkish women having a meal at a public kitchen

Rationing Among the Central Powers
Bread rationing was introduced in Germany at the beginning of 1915. Each citizen and neutral foreign national was issued a bread card for an initial daily quota of 225 grams, or about 8 ounces.

In Turkey breadlines became a common sight around July 1915. Eventually the means of food distribution within the country would break down completely and result in widespread starvation, a tragedy that would later play out in both Germany and Austria-Hungary.

PHOTO: U.S. soldiers having a meal in a frontline trench.

Over There
In June 1917, American forces started landing in France and brought with them not only troops, but also a much-needed morale boost.

Daily Reserve Ration

1 pound can of meat (usually corned beef)
2 8-ounce tins of hard bread
2.4 ounces of sugar
1.12 ounces of roasted and ground coffee
0.16 ounce of salt
Total weight: 2.5 pounds
Total calories: 3300
A separate tobacco ration of 0.4 ounces of tobacco and 10 cigarette rolling papers was also provided, which was eventually replaced by manufactured cigarettes. The reserve ration was intended for troops who did not have access to a garrison or field kitchen.

Savory Rice from Win the War in the Kitchen: What to Eat and How to Cook It


1 cup uncooked rice, rinsed
1 small onion
1 green pepper
3 tablespoons fat (bacon fat, butter, oil)
1 cup boiling water
1 quart fresh tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt


Brown chopped onion in fat until translucent, add rice.
Keep stirring and when rice is brown, add boiling water and chopped green pepper.

When water has been absorbed, add tomatoes and salt.
Cook until rice is tender (add more boiling water if necessary).
Turn off burner, cover rice and let steam for 10 minutes.

RECOMMENDED:  Visit the Museum's Online Exhibitions Page:

1 comment:

  1. The National World War I exhibit sounds wonderful. It's really interesting to learn more about food during the War.