Photo story

The Food That Fuelled The Front

  • Maconochie stew

    Tinned stew was a familiar aspect of the British soldier’s diet.
    Tinned stew was a familiar aspect of the British soldier’s diet.
    EPH 4379

    By 1918, the British were sending over 67 million lbs (30 million kg) of meat to the Western Front each month. Daily rations were meant to include fresh or frozen meat, but many meals would have consisted of tinned food, like this ‘Maconochie’ beef and vegetable stew. Named after the company that made it, it was a familiar aspect of the British soldier’s diet.

  • Field kitchen on the Somme

    British troops receive dinner rations from field kitchens.
    British troops receive dinner rations from field kitchens.
    Q 1582

    British troops receive dinner rations from field kitchens in the Ancre area of the Somme, October 1916.

  • Food during the Somme

    British soldiers eat hot rations in the Ancre Valley during the Battle of the Somme.
    British soldiers eat hot rations in the Ancre Valley during the Battle of the Somme.
    Q 1580

    British soldiers eat hot rations in the Ancre Valley during the Battle of the Somme, October 1916.

  • Rum jar

    The British soldier's daily rum ration could boost morale and help some men cope with the stress of battle.
    The British soldier's daily rum ration could boost morale and help some men cope with the stress of battle.
    FEQ 802

    The British soldier's daily rum ration could boost morale and help some men cope with the stress of battle. Rum jars, like this one, were marked with the initials 'S.R.D.' The letters probably stood for 'Supply Reserve Depot', but soldiers joked that they meant 'Soon Runs Dry', 'Service Rum Diluted' or 'Seldom Reaches Destination'.

  • Canteen

    Troops at a canteen that sells beer and stout in Zillebeke, Belgium.
    Troops at a canteen that sells beer and stout in Zillebeke, Belgium.
    Q 6011

    Troops at a canteen that sells beer and stout in Zillebeke, Belgium, 24 September 1917.

  • Preparing Christmas Dinner

    An Italian woman helps British troops pluck turkeys for their Christmas dinner in 1917.
    An Italian woman helps British troops pluck turkeys for their Christmas dinner in 1917.
    Q 26537

    An Italian woman helps British troops pluck turkeys for their Christmas dinner in 1917.

  • Distributing food

    Stew is served at the edge of a reserve trench near St Pierre Divion on the Somme.
    Stew is served at the edge of a reserve trench near St Pierre Divion on the Somme.
    Q 4596

    Stew is served at the edge of a reserve trench near St Pierre Divion on the Somme, November 1916.

  • German food container

    Food containers, like this one issued by the German Army, were used to carry hot food to soldiers in the trenches.
    Food containers, like this one issued by the German Army, were used to carry hot food to soldiers in the trenches.
    FEQ 803

    Food containers, like this one issued by the German Army, were used to carry hot food to soldiers in the trenches.

  • Bringing food to the front

    A despatch dog brings food to two German soldiers in an advanced trench on the Western Front.
    A despatch dog brings food to two German soldiers in an advanced trench on the Western Front.
    Q 23700

    A despatch dog brings food to two German soldiers in an advanced trench on the Western Front. The dog is wearing a special harness on its back to hold mess tins.

  • German field bakery

    Bread is made in a German Army field bakery at Wervicq in Flanders, 1916.
    Bread is made in a German Army field bakery at Wervicq in Flanders, 1916.
    Q 45401

    Bread is made in a German Army field bakery at Wervicq in Flanders, 1916.

  • Army biscuit

    This British Army issue biscuit, produced by Huntley & Palmers, was a key component of a soldier's rations.
    This British Army issue biscuit, produced by Huntley & Palmers, was a key component of a soldier's rations.
    EPH 2012

    This British Army issue biscuit was a key component of a soldier's rations. The biscuits were produced under government contract by Huntley & Palmers, which in 1914 was the world's largest biscuit manufacturer. The notoriously hard biscuits could crack teeth if not first soaked in tea or water. Tea was also part of the British soldier's rations. It was a familiar comfort and concealed the taste of water, which was often transported to the front line in petrol tins.

  • Testing bread

    An Australian NCO checks a batch of bread before it is transferred to the bread store at an Australian Field Bakery in Rouen.
    An Australian NCO checks a batch of bread before it is transferred to the bread store at an Australian Field Bakery in Rouen.
    E(AUS) 3489

    An Australian NCO checks a batch of bread before it is transferred to the bread store at an Australian Field Bakery in Rouen, France, September 1918.

  • At a store house

    Men shovel onions into sacks in a store house in Calais, March 1917.
    Men shovel onions into sacks in a store house in Calais, March 1917.
    Q 4808

    Men shovel onions into sacks in a store house in Calais, March 1917.

  • British mess tin

    Soldiers on and behind the front line ate their meals out of a British Army issue mess tin.
    Soldiers on and behind the front line ate their meals out of a British Army issue mess tin.
    EQU 1614

    Soldiers on and behind the front line ate their meals out of a British Army issue mess tin. It was an essential part of every soldier's kit.

  • WAACs with their rations

    Servicewomen from the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps carry their tinned rations in German helmets.
    Servicewomen from the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps carry their tinned rations in German helmets.
    Q 8742

    Servicewomen from the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) carry their tinned rations in German helmets at Etaples, 26 April 1918.

  • Potato rations on board

    Potato rations are issued on board a British Light Cruiser.
    Potato rations are issued on board a British Light Cruiser.
    Q 18672

    Potato rations are issued on board a British Light Cruiser.

  • Christmas on the Western Front

    British troops eat their Christmas dinner in a shell hole at Beaumont Hamel on the Somme
    British troops eat their Christmas dinner in a shell hole at Beaumont Hamel on the Somme
    Q 1630

    British troops eat their Christmas dinner in a shell hole at Beaumont Hamel on the Somme, 1916.