Friday 29 August 2014

Food and logistics of feeding an army in WW1 ...

How did they, what with, and when … feed the British Army of World War One – ever considered it?  This post refers to the Army and its entourages only … and not the Royal Navy, nor Royal Air Force, nor other necessary personnel at home … I can’t really conjecture about those.

John Nash: Over the Top

 I had thought about the food pre war – which would have been basic for most people, but gourmand still for many … as large parties continued to be held at the wealthy and nobles’ estates … as Escoffier’s La Ligue des Gourmands shows us:

The Savoy - Escoffier's
first London hotel -
later he managed the
Carlton and the Ritz

Escoffier (1846 – 1935) was a French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer … and still is a legendary figure among chefs and gourmets.  He founded La Ligue des Gourmands – a dining club for his friends in 1912.

This club spread throughout Europe and attracted thousands of members – it is notable for the Diners d’Epicure – menus that were served simultaneously in many restaurants.  The first was served to 4,000 members in 37 European cities – the last held in July 1914 in 137 cities and to 10,000 diners …

German Submarine zone 1915

… and as you will know: the ‘Great War’ began on 28 July 1914 with Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war with Serbia … Britain entered the war (together with the Commonwealth countries ‘by default’) on 4 August 1914 – after Germany had invaded Belgium on 3rd August 1914.

That first menu included Dodine de Canard au Chambertin, a duck casserole cooked in a dodine – looking that up it appears more to be a method (galantine) – a recipe and some infocan be found here.

A BBC tv programme on Mrs Beeton 2006
I got side-tracked as is my wont …

Really up until the First World War a cook’s life in the UK had been ruled by Mrs Beeton (if you could access some of her work), local seasonal food, and lack of refrigeration …

Women weren’t working but were doing the home chores … most did not have a cook, or scullery maid (or servants galore) … national newspapers had a women’s page with bossy exhortations on what to do and how to cope in those early years of the 20th century.

Fray Bentos label from a tin
The early 1900s saw tinned food, including Heinz baked beans, Bisto gravy and Bird’s custard, introduced as new commodities, while ice closets were being added to the kitchen … also food was being shipped in from distant corners of the world … particularly corned beef from Argentina.

Electricity was not up and running – so much was still done by candlelight and cooking on coal/coke stoves, or braziers etc … electricity really only spread into homes during the 1930s …

Back to WW1 and the logistics of feeding the Army … most of this information comes from Jasper Copping’s article in the Daily Telegraph of 19 May 2013 which references the Guide by Andrew Robertshaw, curator at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, to the food eaten by British Soldiers of the First World War with recipes for some of the meals.  Check out Amazon for a book – while the article will give you a fuller overview.

Apparently the ration strength of the British Army was 5, 363, 352 people worldwide, including over two million on the western front.  To feed these men the Army Service Corps had allocated 12,000 officers and 320,000 men …. as a side note: this was the size of the entire British Army sent to the continent at the outbreak of war.

The food was pretty good considering all things and very likely better than they had at home … but … the diet was high in protein, leading to ‘erh’ problems – with men suffering from boils and becoming, in the army euphemism “bunged up” – the amount of meat was reduced!

The men were paid in local currency and were able to buy additional food when not at home … an option not available to many back in Blighty – they simply went hungry.  Food parcels were sent from home – via a very efficient postal system.

Eric Henry Kennington: Signaller off duty (1916)
 Everyone had the same rations … the horses were fed first (I guess not the same food!), then the ranks, and then the officers – even though only a fraction of the men were ever in the trenches at any one time … there were also the administrative camps logistically keeping the wheels turning …

… the logistics would have included: field hospitals, staff quarters, railways, roads, communications systems, the postal system home, stores – food, clothing, spares and munitions … etc etc

Foods on offer included – bully beef, with another tinned staple from Scotland “Maconochie”: a pork and beans meal … curry was standard fare or used to spice up the stews … cooks were encouraged to forage for nettles, sweet docks, wild mushrooms and marigold flowers with which to season dishes.

There was no official vegetarian option, although provision was made for Indian personnel, which included mixed spices, Dhal and Attar … vegetarians received additional sugar or milk, instead of milk; while other variations were produced for the Chinese, Egyptian and Fijian ‘volunteers’.

Toast and Dripping
Cooks were careful to avoid all waste … leftovers were sold as swill to local farmers, while dripping was saved for use in the manufacture of explosives.

As the front lines extended and grew, food was prepared nearer and nearer to trenches with many cooks being killed …

Some of the dishes in the article:  Brown Stew; Potato Pie; Sea Pie (a suet crusted meat pie – why called sea pie: I’ve no idea!); Curried Cod; Milk Biscuit Pudding – feeds 100 men.

Egg and chips would have been available from the French countryside - provisions for those off duty (as such) …

Trench Cake – came from Elizabeth Craig’s Economical Cookery book (not our Elizabeth!) … flour, marge, vinegar, milk, brown sugar, currants, cocoa, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, grated lemon rind … make up and post across …

Other staples at home:  Butter Beans; Braised Lettuce; Potted Shrimp Curry; Gooseberry Fool, garden or foraged fruits and vegetables … fish sausages made from leftover fish and rice

Bee on blackberry flowers
Cakes were made without eggs and were very dry – to eat dripping would have been smeared on, dunked in a cup of tea – often their only evening meal.  Blackberry leaf tea was popular …

Basic foodstuffs, such as butter, milk, sugar, meat were in short supply, while wheat flour was so hard to get hold of, that people resorted to making bread with ground-up turnips (swedes).

Rations weren’t introduced in World War One til late in the War (1918) … there was a huge black market, so if you had money you could eat – if you were poor, you didn’t.

Otto Dix: The Ravens (Dawn)

It’s incredible how little people survived on – and they wouldn’t have understood nutrition (vitamins were just beginning to be found) … so we weren’t too healthy …

Robert Graves recalled that his wedding cake was covered with what looked like icing but, due to sugar shortages, was actually a plaster cast!! Ingenious cooks were creative for the effect … apparently when it was lifted off the cake, “a sigh of disappointment arose from the guests”!

An early Ice Closet
So much changed during the 19th century and thrust forward when the War came along … the population had more than doubled since 1851 … which was difficult enough, but many weren’t healthy anyway … and then by 1916 imports of food had virtually ceased, because of the German blockades, so the nation was thrown back on its own devices.

We have come a long way … and I’ve seen huge changes in the last half century after the 2nd world war … mostly I enjoyed school food so I can’t relate to the being bored and my mother was an exceptional cook, as to what was on offer in the trenches it must have been tricky at times .. but the range and nutritional value of what the troops ate was remarkably good.

I’m just glad I live in today’s age … and can enjoy my range of food choices … and eat fresh foods  … now what shall I have for dinner?  … that thought seems almost sacrilegious ….

Note:  I will be writing about WW1 from various angles and will spread the posts … there won’t be a series as such.

The Daily Telegraph article referred to above ... is here, with recipes and all ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday 25 August 2014

Fierce Viking Chick – RIP

A Viking Ship has taken our blogging A-Z supremo, Tina Downey, to far-away shores … she will be sorely missed by many … as we are already seeing from the tributes around the blogosphere.

My heart goes out to her family, her parents, her extended family and her local friends …

She will live on … she will inspire us … as she was a live wire, a lady who loved the joie-de-vivre …

Animal prow-head of a Viking Ship

We will remember her – of that I am sure - as an amazing lady.

May we all take a moment to remember her and reflect on the many things she did for us, or the laughs she gave us … I shall miss that Fierce Viking Chick – as she called herself …

Tina's header for her blog

Life is Good – Tina’s Blog

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday 23 August 2014

Urban Meadows, Hoovering Thunderstorms, Exuberant Nature ...

Wildlife has come alive this year … the previous seven years have been dismal for plants and wildlife … so while we ponder in amazement at the fact our seawater temperatures were as high as those in Califiornia … 68.7 degF (20.4C) off Devon.

Godrevy Lighthouse in St Ives Bay - could have
done with that temperature when I was growing up!

We had that mild but drenching winter, the wettest in 250 years, which has helped our wildlife, but threatened our coasts and vulnerable landscapes, which are recovering …

All sorts - phytopia (phytoplankton)

Microscopic plants, the phytoplankton and the large plants like kelp enjoy the warmer sea temperatures – as too jelly fish … and a magical display was put on by dolphins in St Ives Bay … near Virginia Woolf’s lighthouse at Godrevy on the northern edge of the Bay.  We used to swim there as kids … and we never saw dolphins!

The warm seas have brought leatherback turtles into our waters to feast off the jelly fish … and humpback whales have been sighted in the Irish Sea cruising north towards Scotland – the whales and basking sharks follow their food, plankton and small fish which migrate as waters warm.

Dolphin sighting off beach at Gwithian, St Ives Bay

It’s been bliss for butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies … I’ve seen them down here this year … 

... bumblebees, moths and hoverflies are also doing well … while wasps are a necessary evil as they devour aphids and caterpillars (but they are not doing so well, after the cold springs of 2012 and 2013 – probably resulting in the death of queens): but I might have spoken too early!

Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly
Biting insects are around … mosquitoes seem to be more prevalent … I’ve seen clouds of midges, clegs (horsefly) and other species of flies are certainly abounding now … but these bode well for the migrating insectivorous birds …

A tick - notice it's got 8 legs
I can attest to the biting insects – some 
young friends went off to the New Forest for a wedding – it was an outdoor wedding, laid back and relaxed … but outdoors and camping!  

Fifteen of the party had to go to hospital with tick bites – that need to be treated with a great deal of respect and removed properly … lime disease can be a consequence.

Green Woodpecker

Creepy crawlies, slithery slugs, alarming ants are all marching and eating their way to fatness – before a seagull, pigeon or jackdaw round here (and if we’re lucky a green woodpecker) pecks them up … or swoop upwards as the flying ants swarm …

It’s great having a good summer at last, but we need a very cold winter too (though last year suited me fine – warm!), because it kills off the species we don’t need and which aren’t used to the cold, before they interbreed with our native species.

Bursting Brambles from the hedgerows
Grapes, cherries and strawberries are abundant and profuse at farm shops or vineyards … the hedgerows are falling over themselves with insect life, plant and grass flowerings, brambles full of blackberries … apples, plums, pears are all overflowing with fruits …

Grasses:  Browntop Bent, Red Fescue,
Crested Dogstail, Meadow Fescue, Smooth
Stalk Meadow Grass, Yorkshire Fog - while
the tall rye grass will grow too
c/o Lovely

The changeable weather, is not unusual, the jet stream will draw insects and birds from the south, the strong thunderstorms will hoover all in their paths and noisily dump strange insects into our midsts … the increased competition for food forces the insects to disperse in search of new supplies …

Hedgehog enjoying the bounty of insect life

The meadows are in full flower and abuzz with insects, fruit is abundant and ripening, and birds are feasting on the bounty … while the fields look to give farmers a good harvest.

Swallowtail (Papilio Machaon)
- trailing edges of the hind
wings resemble swallow tails

So from the south coast of England … on a Bank Holiday weekend … before Autumn arrives completely … I shall leave you with the scattering of photos and annotations through the post … encourage birds, bees and butterflies et al to flourish …

… and a note – please do not kill flora or fauna with nerve-agent pesticides known as neonicotinoids …

Happy weekend to one and all: nature needs us to protect it …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday 15 August 2014

Commonwealth Games Creativity – part 3 of 3

I inadvertently titled this post Commonwealth Games Creativity because within this transmutational group we have been discussing how to ring some changes to our blogs …

Dragons who can read long posts!

I could start with 'there be dragons', or more appropriately this be long! …

At and after the London Olympics one of the calls to the populace has been “Get Inspired” … the Commonwealth utilised the same ideas … there was the sport, but there were festivals, art exhibitions; the city had museums, parks, buskers … lots of interesting ideas and places to keep all amused …

I’ll share some of the inspirational stories that came from the Games, along with a couple of other posts that have appeared on my radar …

I wrote about the Cultural Olympiad being held during the London Olympics in 2012 which gave an overview of the Olympics and the Greek Olympiad … reminding us that originally the Greek Olympics were the “Pentathlon of the Muses” … and why the cultural element is an essential addition to a sporting games.  Hence think beyond sport … and what else can be learnt …

Get Inspired” is the slogan the BBC used at the Olympics and has continued on with other sporting events … however this article and particularly the title by-line made me sit up and realise it was so applicable to us …

“Maybe you’re great and you just don’t realise.  Maybe there’s a painter buried deep inside. A pianist? A pilot? A poet?” …. Stephen Way was a smokin’ and drinkin’ man – now he’s a marathon runner – and a good one … he’s also a healthy one you can read his story here on the Get-Inspired post … he came 10th in the Commonwealth Games marathon.

Note – the story-post could be used for our ‘get-on-with-it’ nudges … but it also highlights seven people who were late developers … it’s worth a read (I think) from many aspects.

Creativity was needed in a city that did not have an international athletics track and stadium … what to do? 

‘The Glasgow Solution’ – an out of the box thought … adapt one of the football stadia, where all the facilities were in situ … this solution is now being evaluated  as a way to deliver track and field sports events in other countries.

The surface was raised 1.9m (6’ 3”) on a bed of 6,000 structural steel stilts, flat-bedded, then covered with stone, followed by asphalt before the track and grass were laid … problem solved! 

Some views of the village can be seen here courtesy of “Insidethe Games” – sustainability was key for the organisers … some of the London Olympics fixtures and fittings were recycled …

Overcoming handicaps and rising to the occasion

An article on para sports with the emphasis on the Commonwealth Games can be found here.

An iphone copy

The Scottish man of steel – Micky Yule lost his legs in Afghanistan … but he competed in the Power Lifting – he came fourth, but as he said … there are other fixtures ahead to keep him focused and positive … and help him through the operations he continues to need (after 45 already) …

Another local heroine – Erraid Davies (13), a bronze medal winner in the Para 100m breaststroke, is the youngest ever medal winner … she struggled to walk and started swimming to help her rare hip condition (Perthes Syndrome).

Erraid in action ...

Erraid had not told her class mates that she was competing in the Games ... 

... and she was so excited about going home to show her friends her medal.  She lives 25 miles from her nearest pool in the remote Shetland Isles.

Which country speaks Gilbertese?  And who decided to live away from home for 4 years to achieve his gold?  The answers are the tiny Pacific island of Kiribati and David Kataotau who achieved his country’s first gold in weightlifting’s 105 kg Group A.

So pleased!

Another Kiribati – the teenager Taoriba Biniati had never been in a boxing ring before arriving to fight in Scotland.  Her national boxing club consists of a punch bag hanging from a breadfruit tree … know what one of those looks likes – look left or right!

Breadfruit tree

She has a fascinating history … it’s really interesting and worth reading to find out how she lives and then grabs the chance when she had one.  Check out Biniati’s story hereand see a little of Kiribati.

Kenya’s Vincent Onyangi had never swum in open water before diving into Strathclyde Loch for the triathlon.  Twenty minutes later he was bobbing around doing breaststroke while the leaders were onto their bikes and away …

Weightlifters need shoes … Fred Oala, a 17 year old 56 kg weightlifter from Papua New Guinea had to borrow a pair of shoes from a Clyde-sider – a volunteer – after his own footwear disintegrated.

Papua New Guinea
(Indonesia border as shown, Australia's
Great Barrier Reef to the east of
the triangular Cape York Peninsula of
the state of Queensland

His shoes were owned by two people before him and had been held together with yellow tape … he achieved a national record of 118 kg in the clean and jerk.

YouTube – how about learning how to achieve gold via YouTube?  That’s what Julius Yego from Kenya did … to improve his technique in Javelin throwing …

Rwandan cyclist, Adrien Niyonshuti, rode in the time trial – he is a Rwanda genocide survivor.  The 27 year old lost six siblings during the mass murders of 1m people in the East African nation 20 years ago.

While Dieudonne Disi, taking part in the men’s marathon, witnessed the killing of his entire family aged 14 and ran 50 km to neighbouring Burundi to escape the atrocities.  He came in 18th

an iphone pic
To uplift us a little: Cook Island competitors celebrate victory in lawn bowls … just by chance did their wonderful hats improve their bowling rolls?   Had to include these two cheerful ladies – I love their hats!

I’ve never got my head round the biased balls they use in lawn bowls … but you have to admire a sport that’s been around for 800 years … and is a core sport of the Commonwealth Games.

There are core sports and optional sports – selected by the host nation – subject to approval by the CG Federation.  Some team sports are/can be included.

Netball in action

There was competition in 18 sports (with 22 medal events for the Para-Sports up for grabs) … do you know what each one involves … here’s the Wiki Commonwealth Games link to check out each one …

Athletics – core event  (+ para medals)
Badminton – core event
Boxing – core event
Cycling – optional  (+ para medals)
Diving – optional
Gymnastics (Artistic) – optional
Gymnastics (Rhythmic) – optional
Hockey – core
Judo – optional
Lawn bowls – core (+ para medals)
Netball – core  (women only)
Rugby Sevens – core  (men only)
Shooting – optional
Squash – core  (the sport I enjoyed and played a lot when I was in South Africa)
Swimming – core (+ para medals)
Table Tennis – optional
Triathlon – optional
Weightlifting – core (+ para medals for Power Lifting)
Wrestling – optional

Ladies' Squash Doubles -
a devlish game!

Other sports are recognised … but only so many can occur in each Games …

Some more trivia questions - which might lead to a post or two – or provide an opportunity for some extra geography lessons (for you) or for your children?!
I believe this is the flat world!   With the
Commonwealth areas in colour

Where are the 71 participating countries?  At least I’ve given you a clue:

Africa – Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, Zambia.

Americas – Belize, Bermuda, Canada, Falkland Islands, Guyana, St Helena

Asia – Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, India, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka

Caribbean – Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks & Caicos Island

Europe – Cyprus, England, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Malta, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales

Oceania – Australia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuata …

Check out the country venues …

Barry Buddon Shooting Centre near Carnoustie Golf Course …

Strathclyde Country Park

Find out more about Glasgow, and how it started life as a fishing village way back when, then exponentially grew during the Industrial Revolution – being famed for the Clyde River and shipbuilding –  and becoming the second city of Britain for much of its history.

Love the logo
Culturally it holds its own in a diverse range of interests … museums, art galleries, universities, the largest public reference library in Europe, theatre, opera, festivals and performing arts, exhibitions … and as we can see plenty of sports facilities …

Well if I’ve bored you … what will a smile do? = bring out the best in most of us, brighten others’ lives and give our endorphins a lift …

... this will make you smile (I’m nearly at the end?!) … where next? Here’s where … Denise Covey is waiting to welcome us on the GoldCoast in Australia?!

Denise is with Nas Dean at the moment .. no doubt they'll check in in due course ... they're brushing up on their writerly skills, and then the chatterly skills!

Norfolk Island - looks good to visit?

A few of the many admirable, heart-warming stories of overcoming adversity, or just performing above and beyond expectations …

… or reminding us there are other places on this earth where excellence can be found, and where sportsmen who do succeed, do not want glory per se, but want to give back to their homeland and to their peoples … improving their lives and offering hope for a new future.

A Tunnock Teacake - cut in half or perhaps
bitten in half .. but not by me: though I did see
some in Waitrose and might buy some for
 the Nursing Centre staff for the Bank Holiday
Humbleness more often than not prevailed in ‘the Friendly Games’ … ‘the Everyman Games’ …

I mentioned Steve Way the marathon man who ran his way out of smoking, obesity and from alcohol … then this mathematician caught my eye … and again is an inspirational story that caught my attention …

A cooked haggis ready to be
eaten - not sure how the
mathematician got the haggis!
From “What it Takes to Win the World’s HighestComputer Science Honour” … it’s not about the Iranian lady recently recognised with the Nobel Prize … but the whole is applicable to those of us who wish to achieve … yeah he’s slightly cleverer … but this down-to-earth story is worth a read.

This is long … but we all need to think creatively and I hope some of you, many of you, can find some inspirational ideas here …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories