Souvenirs and ephemera

Maconochie stew

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.

Photographs

Field kitchen on the Somme

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

Photographs

Food during the Somme

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

Equipment

Rum jar

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'.

Photographs

Canteen

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

Photographs

Preparing Christmas Dinner

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

Photographs

Distributing food

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

Equipment

German food container

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

Photographs

Bringing food to the front

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.

Photographs

German field bakery

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

Souvenirs and ephemera

Army biscuit

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.

Photographs

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, France, September 1918.

Photographs

At a store house

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

Equipment

British mess tin

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.

Photographs

WAACs with their rations

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

Photographs

Potato rations on board

Potato rations are issued on board a British Light Cruiser.

Photographs

Christmas on the Western Front

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

Related content

The trails of an aircraft circling in a large expanse of sky, without apparent sight of the aeroplanes themselves. The scene is surveyed from the bottom left corner by a black cat, sitting on a wall.
© IWM Art.IWM ART (LD 485)
Arts and Culture

10 Artworks Exploring War From Above And Below

Long before it was ever possible, people have dreamed of flying. At the start of the twentieth century there was much anticipation around the potential of new flying machines. The following selection therefore extends the theme to include different perspectives of war including surveillance, submarines and tunnelling.

Square hard tack 'army biscuit' with central section recessed to accommodate a family portrait photograph, a length of pink cotton thread is threaded through two of the perforations at the top of the biscuit to hang the 'picture'.
First World War

Life At The Front In 14 Objects

The daily routine of front line service varied from the mundane to the dramatic. A typical day would begin with 'stand to arms' at dawn, with all men manning the front line trench. A unit would spend a few days in the front line, followed by periods in reserve and rest. Here are 14 objects from life at the front.

THE HOME FRONT IN BRITAIN DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR
Home Front

Rationing and Food Shortages During the First World War

Hunger stalked the civilian populations of all the combatant nations. Agriculture and food distribution suffered from strains imposed by the war and naval blockades reduced food imports. 

A long line of British troops on a march during the First World War.
Image: IWM (Q 69587)
First World War

How clever packing helped win the First World War

Soldiers who enlisted during the First World War were not able to take many personal belongings with them. Almost all space in their kit bags and pockets was taken up by items crucial to survival and duties on the front. We explore the standard kit that soldiers packed for the front line, its uses, and some unique ways soldiers personalised their kit.