By Anthony Clayton
The paintings has been compiled from records within the Royal Logistic Corps Museum at Deepcut, from memoirs, letters and interviews, and from the excellent number of regimental histories within the library of the Royal army Academy Sandhurst. All royalties because of the writer for this publication could be despatched to the military Benevolent Fund, the warriors’ Charity.
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Additional resources for Battlefield Rations: The Food Given to the British Soldier For Marching and Fighting 1900-2011
Staff had deposited quarters of beef and biscuits by the sides of the roads but in the heat the meat had generally deteriorated, and the stocks were not always seen or were taken by local people, or later by advancing Germans. The Army that finally arrived on the Marne had marched on, dazed and fatigued, many staggering, some hallucinating and propped up by comrades, and all gnawed by hunger pains. Even during the First Battle of the Marne and First Ypres battle of September and October 1914 battalions were still living on ‘iron rations’ with perhaps a little jam for the biscuits but no hot food or even tea.
This ‘iron ration’ consisted of a handful of small biscuits the size of an overcoat button, a small tin containing a cube of Oxo, half an ounce of tea and one ounce of sugar. After the fierce fighting of the landings conditions did improve. By mid-September tinned, meat usually Maconochie’s stew, biscuits, occasionally rice and jam, bacon, dried potatoes and onions were being provided and small quantities of locally grown figs and melons were ‘acquired’. Tea, now sometimes with condensed milk, was in generous supply, cigarettes, however, were scarce.
In the last week the garrison was reduced to a few small biscuits per day. Surrender was inevitable and followed on 26 April 1916, with many hundreds of men dying in brutal captivity over the next two years. The second campaign, opening in December 1916 with the troops entering Baghdad on 17 March 1917, was much better organised, with a more powerful force, some 300,000 men, able commanders, and improved supply; lessons had been learnt. A ship for carrying refrigerated meat was sent out from Britain.