Friday, 26 April 2019

Food in Wartime

Col. Lord Glanusk, C.B., D.S.O published a poem in the Wanganui Chronicle on 12 January 1916. His poem not only stressed the need to be frugal, but also cautions soldiers on what it was they should be frugal with:

                “To a soldier on service these tips I explain,
                Should carry you through e’en the longest campaign,
                A very sound rule is, wherever your beat,
                Don’t part with a “biscuit” without a receipt.
                But if you take charge of it, surely it’s sound too,
                Don’t give a receipt, then, unless you are bound to.
                Care there should be, if your life you’d preserve,
                Ammunition, food, men, keep a bit in reserve.
                Don’t waste any food, and throw nothing away,
                Or perhaps you’ll go hungry the very next day.”
            (The Wanganui Chronicle, Volume LX, Issue 50248, 12 January 1916)

World War One

New Zealand newspapers during wartime published many articles about food production, contingency plans and how New Zealanders could help out.

The Colonist: 6 August 1914 – Sir Joseph Ward (leader of the opposition) suggested that the government have the power to appoint a board of control to, “regulate the price of foodstuffs”.
The Colonist: 19 June 1915 – news from London stated that discussions were being held around preparing for food production if the war extended beyond the “1916 harvest”.
The Evening Post: 17 September 1915 – a group of businesses from Sydney, Australia send war-food gifts to England.
The Evening Post: 18 January 1917 – the retail prices are 87% over the pre-war prices in England. Principal increases are in potatoes, fish, flour, butter and cheese.
Marlborough Express: 21 February 1918 – the National Economy League formed in Palmerston North adopts the slogan, “Food wins the War – Save It!” The slogan was approved by the Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Ward. The league proposed that people could save in small ways. If New Zealanders reduced their waste in approximately 200,000 households, then the country would, “save sufficient to feed the whole of our New Zealand Expeditionary Forces, whether in camps, hospitals, on transports or at the front”.

A Wellington regiment’s field kitchen near the front line. Photograph taken at Grevillers, France. 24 August 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders.                                                                     
(A Wellington Regiment's field kitchen near the front line, World War I. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013518-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22696605)
Soldiers preparing a meal near a damaged German tank, possibly at Pont-a-Pierre, France, late 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders.
(World War I soldiers preparing a meal near a damaged German tank, France. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/1-002081-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22909970)

Post World War One

The Evening Post: 30 April 1919 - The cost of food after the war was very high, especially with the basics:
                “In France 1 pound of butter cost the equivalent of 42NZ dollars,
                1 pound of lamb cost the equivalent of 22NZ dollars and 1 pound
                of tea cost the equivalent of 15NZ dollars”. Throughout the world
                there was a shortage of commodities, including butter.
Traders were asking to get rid of government control of price enforcement of commodities. This included bread, meat, butter, lard, dried fruits, eggs, tea and alcohol.

World War Two

Evening Post: 1 April 1943 - New Zealand representatives took part in a conference where delegates explored the long-range effects of war-food problems.

Ellesmere Guardian: 19 April 1940 – the Auckland district Council of Primary Production looked at three areas to explore the production of pig and butter production and heavier wool clips. R.B Tennant, director of Primary Production said that increasing production in farming should focus on farmers who were already farming as opposed to breaking in new land. Employment options were recruiting men from the Public Works Department and youths leaving school. However, a drawback was housing conditions on farms.
                Tennant stated, “to be effective, it would be necessary to provide a maximum
                number of houses on farms at the cheapest rate in the shortest time. If good
                conditions were provided, working an eight hour day over 5 days would be
                acceptable for recruits”.

Farmers were also urged to save more heifer calves to build up dairy production. Tennant called these measures, “common-sense lines for advancing production.”

Ration books were first issued in April 1942 through the Post Office to the head of each household. The coupons were cut from the book by retailers. Each household were given 52 clothing coupons per year. These books highlighted the need for New Zealanders to be frugal during wartime.

Cover of a World War Two Ration Book

Ration Book, October 1943, New Zealand, by New Zealand Government. Gift of Alison Hutton, 2008. Te Papa (GH012052)

Sugar Coupons

Ration Book, October 1943, New Zealand, by New Zealand Government. Gift of Alison Hutton, 2008. Te Papa (GH012052)

Tea Coupons

Ration Book, October 1943, New Zealand, by New Zealand Government. Gift of Alison Hutton, 2008. Te Papa (GH012052)

Post World War Two

Evening Post: 24 November 1945 – Mr R. H. Buchanan, President of the fielding Branch of Federated Farmers said that, “the total value of meat, butter, cheese etc., shipped overseas during the war period was £417,130,000, which did not take into account the amount consumed locally. 

Food & Goods Shipped During Wartime
Processed Milk
3,400,000 tons
25,900 tons
over 2,000,000 tons
Canned Vegetables
23,625 tons
over 700,000 tons
Dehydrated Vegetables
16,785 tons
625,000 tons
Other Fresh Vegetables
15,075 tons
154,285 tons
11,565 tons
55,800 tons
5,535 tons
Wool Produced
5,400,000 bales equal to 825,000 tons (4,150,000 bales shipped overseas and the balance held in New Zealand)

Written by Ani Sharland with thanks to images from Alexander Turnbull Library, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and newspaper articles from Papers Past.

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