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"What English People Ate During WWII" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP19 Nov 2023 7:50 p.m. PST

"Along with most of the rest of Europe, Britain had severe food shortages during the Second World War.

But because the country was never invaded, no one starved or was reduced to eating grass for many, the diet and the rations imposed led to greater health. The present-day disease of obesity was virtually unknown and while many foods were unobtainable, people did not suffer over much.

Food rationing started early in the war under the auspices of the Ministry of Food. Meat (March 1940) was first, followed by fat and eggs, cheese, tinned tomatoes, rice, peas, canned fruit and breakfast cereals…"

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Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP19 Nov 2023 8:03 p.m. PST

In one house in Glasgow, lobster was a fairly regular meal served during WW2. I was told by my mother an accompanying butter sauce was not a problem either.

My mum's parents owned a fish market & I believe a certain amount of trading took place. Say no more.

Toaster19 Nov 2023 8:52 p.m. PST

I once knew an old guy who reported supplementing the family table with pheasant during and after the war as a lad. No weapon, he just kept chasing them until they were too tired to fly, pursuit predation at its finest.


Hornswoggler20 Nov 2023 1:37 a.m. PST

Food rationing started early in the war under the auspices of the Ministry of Food. Meat (March 1940) was first, followed by fat and eggs, cheese, tinned tomatoes, rice, peas, canned fruit and breakfast cereals…"

And later bath water, to conserve energy !

Mark J Wilson20 Nov 2023 1:41 a.m. PST

Worth remembering that not only did rationing continue until 1954 but after the war bread was added to the list of rationed foods.

The other impact was the way food was prepared. Bread could not be served on the day pof baking so had to eb made with a bit mroe water, leading to the processed papp that is passed of as bread today. Much communal cooking lead to a generation who were used to food being overcooked, particularly vegetables. All my parents/in-laws, who were teenagers during the war, would complain if a restaurant served them al dente vegetables as they were 'not cooked'. Funnily my grandmother also suffered from this with my parents deliberately arriving late for Saturday lunch in the hope the vegetables would be 'properly' cooked and my grandmother grumbling as she turned the heat off that they would be 'a soggy mess'if they didn't turn up soon.

forrester20 Nov 2023 3:57 a.m. PST

My mother said she always felt tired and hungry during the school day, and her family, with farming relatives, did better than many.

UshCha20 Nov 2023 4:08 a.m. PST

Its a sad state of affirs but some folk ate far better under rationing as has been said it "forced a heathy diet"
There is a whole other story about the urge for folk to eat carrots.

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2023 7:47 a.m. PST

Rationing in the UK lasted through to the early fifties!

Walking with my mom and aunt as a teenager, I heard them discussing the foods and more importantly the things that were substituted for the actual foods during the war.
My mom grew up in northern Italy and my aunt in Germany.

You'ld be surprised at the number of things acorns wound up in!?! The word 'ersatz' or 'substitute' was used quite a bit too.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2023 2:30 p.m. PST



Nine pound round20 Nov 2023 6:10 p.m. PST

Here's a fascinating old classic, jointly produced by the British and American armed forces as an introduction for American servicemen arriving in the UK:

YouTube link

The section on rationing will be of particular interest.

Mark J Wilson21 Nov 2023 6:37 a.m. PST

@ Nine pound, this didn't just apply to the Yanks, my aunt dated [then married] a Kiwi airman. The first time he came round to stay for the weekend he was pointedly taken round to the local shop with his ration card, made out for the three days he was off the aerodrome and issued with his ration. This allowed my grandma to make the point in 5 minutes and without a patronising film. Tomatoes, in season, would have been plentiful though; my Grandad had a greenhouse and grew them.

BattlerBritain21 Nov 2023 8:43 a.m. PST

Interesting this talk of food in wartime Britain.

Not specifically to do with rationing but a sign of how times have changed is the story my Uncle Evan told me.
He and his mates were from a South Wales mining village.
They worked 12 hour shifts down a mine and had a 10 mile walk to and from the pit over hilly terrain.

Yeah I know, they used to lick the road clean as well 😋.

So when they were called up into the Army they were as fit as anything.

But the Army was the first place where they could get 3 meals a day.

Most of them put on weight after joining up.
Not so today I think.

Uncle Evan was in 3rd Monmouthshire Battalion, 11th UK Armoured Division.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2023 2:45 p.m. PST

Thanks also…


Trockledockle22 Nov 2023 1:50 a.m. PST

To confirm some of the points above. My father was evacuated at age 9 or 10 from Glasgow to Aberdeenshire and billeted with the local minister. He said that he never ate so well in his life.

Restaurants weren't initially on the ration card so if you had the money, you could eat lobster and steak at The Savoy. Some of the early work on minimum daily requirements for vitamins was done with conscientious objector volunteers. They had intakes reduced until they started to show the early signs of scurvy!

There is more detail here.


Mark J Wilson22 Nov 2023 7:23 a.m. PST

@Battler, I believe that the poor physical quality of the wartime conscripts were the driving force behind free school meals and the 1/3 pint of milk a day.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Nov 2023 11:54 a.m. PST

The poor health & lack of fitness of conscripts, particularly from urban areas, was noticed during WW1 and various schemes were proposed after the war to correct it. However none ever really got going before financial strictures tossed them into the long grass. Some local health & social welfare systems did survive though and eventually became the core of the NHS in those areas.

BattlerBritain22 Nov 2023 1:19 p.m. PST

Mark J,

Thanks 👍

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