John's real-time WW1 blog: Cooking up a recipe to win the war

John Dilley
John Dilley

February 19, 1918...

The hungry bellies of those involved in the ‘total war’ on the home front are the focus of many headlines in the February 19, 1918, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

Submarine War

Submarine War

Rationing of a number of basic foodstuffs means that the paper now has an entire column headed ‘Local Food Notes’ and there are numerous other stories from local, national and even German authorities.

The Food Notes column begins with news that this week’s margarine or butter ration is just 4oz but no lard will be available.

There is some advice on how to make the ration go further – words that would surely be eagerly read by the townsfolk of Market Harborough.

Apparently a ‘useful and practical recipe’ can DOUBLE the bulk of butter. “To half a pound of butter take half a pint of milk and one small teaspoonful of salt. Bring the milk to the boil and add the salt. Leave the milk until tepid and heat the butter sufficiently to work the butter and milk into a paste. Leave it until cold, when you will find the butter is twice its original size.”

NFU

NFU

There is also news of Leicester pork butchers voluntarily closing their shops ‘pending the adoption of a complete rationing scheme’ which in turn ‘is hoped will kill the queues and certainly the scramble for meat’.

There is a unique proposal news from Leicestershire county councillor J W Black who is advocates that owners of ‘fancy dogs’ are ‘taxed’. He says: “Many of those dogs are eating food which might enter into the composition of human food and at such a serious time the authorities ought to do something about it.”

His suggestion is a tax of one guinea for owning one dog, two guineas for owning two dogs, and TEN guineas for owning three dogs.

There are also stories concerning the Harborough branch of National Farmers’ Union sending a deputation to the Minister of Agriculture about the rules in selling cattle and another suggesting the German civilian population is suffering food shortages even worse than the British. The headline reads ‘Is the enemy at breaking point?’

Food notes

Food notes

And there is an advertisement which appears on a regular basis from the Director of Food Economy appealing for ‘men, munitions, money’ and, of course, ‘economy in food’.

The UK is feeling the pinch because much of its food is coming across the Atlantic from the United States on ships that have to run the gauntlet of German submarines.

The success of the ships reaching British ports is clearly so important that it warrants its own column listing the number of successful crossings. This week, for instance, a total of 13 steamers have been sunk compared to ten and nine in previous weeks.

Throughout the entire war, the allies deployed nearly 10,000 ships, thousands of planes, and more than 100,000 mines to combat the U-boat threat, which totalled some 340 submarines.

Shindler and Douglas advert

Shindler and Douglas advert

The Germans lost 178 U- boats during the war but sunk 5,000 ships.

The number of safe arrivals this week is actually 2,401 which provide a remarkable picture of how much reliance there is on the seamen who risk their lives in this new and devastating type of warfare.

There is no news of local men who have been injured or killed in action in this edition but that does not stop well known Harborough High Street store Shindler and Douglas promoting the sale of ‘mourning goods’ in its regular page three advertisement.

The advert says: “Realizing that usually mourning goods are required urgently, we at all times hold, in addition to our stock of mourning materials by the yard, a full assortment of dresses, costumes, blouses, skirts, millinery and all ready-to-wear goods.”

It also adds: “Our dressmaking and millinery departments are also staffed for the prompt and careful execution of all urgent requirements. All mourning orders receive special and immediate attention.”

This column is published every Monday by John Dilley on the Newspapers and the Great War website and will continue until the 100th anniversary of the final armistice in November 2018.

My fellow researcher and De Montfort University lecturer David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.

Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.