IWM Staff
Monday 8 January 2018

Maconochie stew

Empty tin of Maconochie's 'beef and vegetables' ration
© IWM (EPH 4379)

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.

Field kitchen on the Somme

British troops receiving dinner rations from field kitchens in the Ancre are of the Somme
© IWM (Q 1582)

Field kitchen on the Somme

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.
© IWM (Q 1580)

Food during the Somme

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

Rum jar

First World War period British rum jar bearing the letters 'SRD', which stood for 'Supply Reserve Depot'.
© IWM (FEQ 802)

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'.

Canteen

A Divisional wet canteen at Zillebeke, 24 September 1917.
© IWM (Q 6011)

Canteen

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.
© IWM (Q 26537)

Preparing Christmas Dinner

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.
© IWM (Q 4596)

Distributing food

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

German food container

First World War period German Army issue food container used to carry hot food to the soldiers in the trenches.
© IWM (FEQ 803)

German food container

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.
© IWM (Q 23700)

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.

German field bakery

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

German field bakery

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

Army biscuit

British Army issue ration biscuit made by Huntley and Palmers
© IWM (EPH 2012)

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.

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.
© IWM (E(AUS) 3489)

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.

At a store house

Troops loading onions into sacks from a large pile in a store house, Calais.
© IWM (Q 4808)

At a store house

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

British mess tin

British Army issue mess tin
IWM (EQU 1614)

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.

WAACs with their rations

WAACs with their tinned rations in German steel helmets at Etaples, 26 April 1918.
© IWM (Q 8742)

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.

Potato rations on board

Issuing potato rations aboard the light cruiser HMS Concord.
© IWM (Q 18672)

Potato rations on board

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
© IWM (Q 1630)

Christmas on the Western Front

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

Related Content

a monstrous blue bird-like figure hovers over a desolate landscape. Clouds of smoke rise from rocky shapes on the ground. A group of figures cower in terror among the ruins of their homes.
Blue Baby, Blitz Over Britain, 1941, by Edward Burra. © The artist's estate