Add New Content

Please log in or register to add new content.


Report Inaccuracies

Food conference at Durham

Rationing and waste discussed in 1917

From: 14-Apr-1917

Civil Parish: Durham

Article from the Auckland Chronicle, 19 April 1917:

Food Conference at Durham

Compulsory rationing and the poor

A serious warning

A serious warning as to the position of the country in regard to food shortage, and of the grave peril confronting the nation unless the strictest economy is observed, particularly in bread and flour, was sounded at a conference held in connection with the Food Control Campaign in the Town Hall at Durham on Saturday.

The gathering, which was representative of the many organisations and societies in the county calculated to be of material assistance to the movement, was arranged by the County Committee for War Savings, and was attended by over 250 delegates.

In the absence of Sir Frank Brown, the Archdeacon of Durham (Dr Watkins) presided, and supporting him on the platform were Lady Nott Bower (representing the Ministry of Food), the Dowager Marchioness of Londonderry, Lady Boyne, the Mayor of Durham (Coun. F W Goodyear), Lieutenant Colonel J W Hills, MP for the City; Mrs H Watkins, Mrs Joliffe, Mrs H G Stobart (Witton-le-Wear), Mr H Bryett (West Hartlepool), hon, secretary, and others.

The Mayor, in extending a cordial welcome to the conference, said they all knew how necessary it was for the strictest economy in all food supplies. Waste of food at any times was to be greatly deplored, especially on that island of theirs, which grew only one out of every six loaves eaten, and in war time it could only be regarded as a crime. (Hear, hear.)

Spread of Extravagance

Lady Nott Bower, in the course of a rigorous address, said it was a curious thing that while the word economy was on the lips and in the minds of so many people they had only to make a small investigation to discover that the nation was not practising that virtue. Trades were booming, and more money than ever was being spent upon food, clothes, amusements, and other things.

There could be no question that one reason of the spread of extravagance throughout the country was somewhat ignoble, as it seemed to indicate that as they had not been personally uncomfortable because they had not suffered in their own bodies, they had not sufficient imagination to realise what their duty was at this time.

Proceeding, Lady Nott Bower said the message she had been asked to bring from the Ministry of Food was that there was a grave danger of a real shortage of wheat and flour, such a shortage as might probably mean hunger to many and if it became more serious it might be necessary to kill the cattle in the country in order to set free more grain for the population. Such an action would be very grave for the future of the country. The main problem was to do what they possibly could to make the flour ration sufficient.

Causes of shortage

It was difficult to persuade the average person that they were close – within a few weeks probably – of a real scarcity of bread, while they could go out and buy as much bread and flour as they wished. She wanted those people to be shown why there was such a shortage. It was due to the vast withdrawal of men from the land to the Armies in such great grain raising countries as Russia, Rumania, and Canada, to the almost universal failure of the corn harvest last year, and to the German submarine peril.

Alluding to the alleged wastage of food in camps, Lady Nott Bower said it was very difficult to feed great masses of men economically under abnormal circumstances without waste, and that fact should not be made an excuse for waste among individuals.

She advocated a poster campaign, house-to-house visitations, and an appeal to the children, who were excellent missionaries in the households, as means whereby the need for economy could be brought home to the people.

Difficulties facing compulsion

Dealing with compulsory rationing, Lady Nott Bower said such a system would demand the services of a vast number of officials and would take weeks and probably months before they could get it into operations. Then, too, they had learned of the very unsatisfactory results of such a course in Germany. If the people at home continued to feed as lavishly as they were doing the soldiers would in a great measure be the first to go short, because they were living under discipline. It would be a folly and a crime if the first to go short were the soldiers, of whom there were two classes – those who had come back crippled and invalided, and who needed and deserved all the additional food they could get, and those who were going out to fight and needed every ounce in order to keep them in the pink. To stint the soldiers of food would be just as stupid as to stint the guns of ammunition.

Her ladyship, in conclusion, enumerated the means proposed by the local committee to press home the need for economy which, she said, included the preaching of sermons throughout the county and the circularising of housewives, and an appeal to shopkeepers not to display articles of food in their windows.

“Back up the soldiers”

Liet.-Col. J W Hills, MP fro Durham City, submitted a resolution pledging the meeting to spare no effort to render the food control effective. Our soldiers in the field were all right, said Mr Hills. They had and were showing that no German line, however strong and however well fortified, could stand against their valour. (Applause.)

They had to be backed up at home, and it would be a standing disgrace if they had to conclude some disgraceful peace just because they at home could not stint themselves in the matter of food.

The food difficulty was caused by two reasons – the shortage of the world’s harvest and the German submarines. They had enough food to go round. It was not the consumption of food they were fighting against, but the waste of food.

Councillor T F Brass, of Sacriston, seconded.

Lady Londonderry expressed the opinion that there should be alternative food values to suit varying incomes, and that those in more fortunate circumstances should spend their money on what was considered the luxuries, so as not to rob those less well situated of the necessities of life. The children, she maintained, must not be stinted; nor should the soldier.

The resolution was carried.

Mr A C Snaith, of Langley Moor, was strongly of the opinion that tradesmen should be asked not to display articles of food in their windows, and urged that the clergy and ministers of all denominations should join the campaign.

Mr G Forster thought there should be two scales – a lower ration for indoor and a higher ration for manual workers.

What the Miners think

A representative of the Medomsley Miners’ Lodge said the people were ready for food tickets and urged that a stop should be put to “the silly method” at present in vogue, whereby those people in better positions could get food stuffs while the working people who had to do the manual work were deprived of them.

Another miners’ delegate asserted that the Government should take control of the food supply, as they had taken control of the men. They could not continue much longer getting coals if they did not get the food.

An Elemore miner miner favoured prohibition in regard to liquor so as to conserve the supply of grain and sugar, a view which was supported by Mrs Martin, of Kelloe.

In the opinion of the Mayor of West Hartlepool it would be an evil day for the poor if compulsory rationing was brought into force.

Lady Nott Bower, replying to queries, said the Food Controller was opposed to compulsory rationing because it would inflict greater hardship upon the poor. She also expressed disagreement with the Government fixing prices.

Contributed by Durham at War volunteer |

Comments on this story


There are no comments on this story yet.