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Rationing WWI

This little Butter Dish is just 4¼" wide (105mm) was made in 1917
butter dish for ten people
Message from Lloyd George asking for "economy in the use of food"
War Time Butter Dish to hold ration for a
family of ten, made in Staffordshire

Rationing was introduced in February 1918, in response to the effective U-boat campaign by Gremany during World War One. The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) was used to prevent food shortages. Self-imposed food shortages were caused at the start of the war by people panic buying food and hoarding it at home. Britain continued to import food during the war mainly from America and Canada. The merchant ships had to cross the Atlantic Ocean and in 1917, and the Germans introduced unrestricted submarine warfare and many merchant ships were sunk. This had a dramatic impact on our supplies and food had to be rationed so that no-one starved. In April 1916, bread was a staple part of most diets and there was only six weeks of wheat left. Food prices rose and, in October 1916, coal was in short supply and was rationed by the number of rooms in a house.

The restrictions failed and a voluntary code of rationing asked people to limit themselves as to what they should eat. A standard was set by the Royal Family. This did not work as anyone with money could get more than enough food on the black market. So any area that could grow food was converted to do so - gardens were turned into allotments and chickens were kept in many back yards.

In 1917, the government took over 2.5 million acres of land for farming, rising, by the end of the war, to 3 million acres. The young men who usually worked the land, had been called up, so the work was done by the Women's Land Army, and some conscientious objectors.

Despite this, the impact of the German U-boat campaign made shortages a serious problem by 1918. More food items were added to the list as the year progressed: sugar in January 1918, meat in April, then butter, cheese and margarine. Ration cards were issued and every person had to register with a butcher and grocer.


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