- WAR IS DECLARED – 4th August 1914
- A general increase in the price of food resulted in panic buying across the nation as people hoarded food. 40% of meat, 80% of wheat and all sugar was imported to Britain. This lead to inflated prices rising across the board
Bacon & sausage 2d
Bread 1/2 d
Butter 4d per lb
Margerine from 5d to 8d
Eggs from1s to 1s 6d
Rice and cereals 1/2 d per day
- In August 1914, the first of many new rules and regulations were introduced to Britain under The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) for securing public safety and defence. This would eventually lead to restrictions on food production and rationing. Including an increase in sugar prices in Oswestry.
- When the war started Park Hall was handed over to the military to be used as a training base. It opened as a training camp in 1915.
- Between July 1914 and July 1916, the ‘Board of Trade’ figures showed an increase of 61% in food prices.
- In November, at the Whitchurch Dairy Association Annual Show, 1 ton of cheese was gifted to the army and shipped over to France.
- As early as December, it was realized that women would need to step away from the traditional roles and take on occupants generally thought suited only to men.
- In April 1915, there was only enough wheat left to feed the nation for 6 weeks! All food continued to be imported from America and Canada. And a general increase in freight charges caused a further increase in food prices.
- In the same month, Oswestry service League began looking for women and girls to train in ‘light farming’ at Harper Adam’s Agricultural College (40 miles from Oswestry) but initially there was little response.
- 500,000 horses were commandeered by the military, many thousands from farms and industries dependent on horse power.
- Later in 1915, some farmers began to acknowledge women’s agricultural skills. They were ploughing in Belgium and France; why not in Oswestry?
- In August the national egg collection began for wounded soldiers, with Mrs Gertrude Venables being appointed ‘egg collector’ for Oswestry.
- In September, the women’s institute (WI) held its first meeting in Anglesey. It quickly took root and gained ground, concentrating on education, cookery lessons, egg collecting, jam making and gardening.
- In December, Holbey’s Tea Rooms advertised a selection of parcels to be sent to the ‘Front’ for Christmas. Contents included plum puddings, Christmas crackers and cakes, all of which complied with the War Office regulations.
- In 1916, the government bought in the Military Service Act with compulsory conscription introduced for men between the ages of 18 and 24. Initially married men were exempt buy by May they were included.
- Heavy snow in Shropshire came in March and caused severe hardship across the country, as well as long queues outside Oswestry’s shops. Also in March, a headline in ‘The Advertiser’ called ‘Women on the land’ championed women’s ability to undertake work previously done by men.
- Poor harvest of wheat and potatoes led to another ise in food prices. Short supplies of vegetables resulted in outbreaks of scurvy in Manchester, Glascow and Newcastle.
- In May 1916, during the approach to the growing season in Oswestry, farmers were attending military tribunals to exempt their sons from ‘Call-up’. Farmers were still reluctant to employ women but by June the problem worsened and by July, women were finally being accepted. Volunteers from Birmingham University who were training to be teachers came and worked the land in the Oswestry area. Pay was: 1s a row for hoeing turnips, 3d/100 yards for hoeing mangolds, 1s an acre for cutting thistles and hay.
A man would have been paid much more.
- A photograph in the Advertiser on 26th July showed women in gymslips wielding their hoes.
- In December, Lord Davenport was appointed Food Controller. The Ministry of Food was formed in this year and closed in 1921. It was empowered to regulate the supply and consumption of food and to take steps to encourage food production.
- In January of 1917, the Women’s Land Army was formed (Land Girls).
- In April 1917, Lord Davenport (who lacked any nutritional knowledge) suggested people eat 4lb bread, 2 1/2 lb meat and 3/4 lb sugar a week. He resigned from his post of food Controller in May 1917. Also in the same month, the Food Economy Campaign advised on methods to ‘stretch’ food rations.
- With powers introduced under DORA, 2.5 million acres of land would be taken over by the government in 1917 with War Agricultual Committees formed in each country.
- In May, Shropshire Board of Education was encouraging all schools to grow more vegetables.
- Sugar shortages were so severe in Oswestry that wedding cakes were sold without icing. Instead they were covered in satin and silver decorations. (cost 10s 6d).
- The Board of Agriculture was established – their main taask to boost food production.
- A cookery demonstration in the Girls High School displayed foods made from maize, flour and rice. One dish greatly admired was ‘potted beans’, a substitute for ‘potted meat’.
- Beckitts Stores, The Cross, Oswestry were promoting dried fruit salad at 7 1/2d/lb, claiming it was ‘delicious and economical’. The store was also encouraging customers to try coffee because of the short supply of tea. The reduction in the cost of a loaf of bread made little difference to Oswestry baker’s sales. One trader was forced to charge for the paper to wrap the loaf. Food shortages were still apparent in local shops.
- Salop War Agricultural Executive Committee painted a chilling picture of food production now and in the future, continuing until at least 1920.
- Lord Rhondda was appointed as Food Controller and stricter controls were put in place. His management was successful resulting in fewer food queues. It wasn’t until the end of the year that rationing became compulsory, but low stocks of bread, meat and sugar meant that these items were rationed by supply.
- Serious shortages of potatoes, bread, butter and cheese resulted in further price increases.
- Plans to plough Cae Glas Park, the Bowling Green and tennis courts were initially objected to as the land was not felt suitable for food production.
- The Corn Production Act of 1917 guaranteed minimum price for wheat and oats and The Agricultural Wages Board fixed a minimum for farm workers.
- In January 1918, food rationing was introduced by the Ministry of Food. Sugar rationing had already been introduced. Other food stuffs included (per person):
Butter 5g per week
Jam 4oz per week
Tea 2oz per week
Bacon 8oz per week (after July 16oz)
Fresh meat was rationed by price
A maximum price was set for marmalade.
- Oswestry Food Economy Committee Chairman Mr Jemmett appealed to the inhabitants of the borough to live within their rations and avoid waste.
- 18,000 people from the area had to register with their prefferred traders by mid-January.
- The Public Meals order arrived in February 1918, prohibiting the serving of meat in hotels or restaurants at breakfast time. Restrictions were placed on meals served by hotels and boarding houses, with no hot meals allowed after 9:30pm.
- Grain prices increased by 1s per quarter if they were being carried without rail transport. Eggs cost 41/2d each.
- Lady Harlech provided local housewives with recipes for homemade bread using potatoes and potato butter.
- Agriculture began to be mechanised nationally. The 1918 Harvest returns showed an increase in corn crops.
- Cookery courses were held at the Girls High School by Miss Robson.
- Oswestry introduced a meatless day on a Wednesday.
- Food committees in the Boroughs were to allow an extra ounce of sugar per head of the population and in the management of sugar confectionery i.e pastries, cakes, beverages (except beer).
- In May 1918, Lady Harlech was concerned by a plague of wasps which threatened the soft fruit supply. She suggested that ‘all queen wasps be killed immediately’.
- Holiday makers were unable to draw their sugar allowance in advance.
- In August good weather brought only an average harvest of potato and bean snaps, but an excellent corn harvest. There was a further reduction in meat prices.
- That Autumn the fruit crop failed. Everyone in Oswestry was encouraged to forage the fields and hedgerows and blackberries.
- Oswestry Urban Food Supply Committee adopted the milk priority scheme of the ministry of food. ‘Invalids and children have 1st call on the milk supply in the borough’. Priority milk tickets were to be issued by the Committee.
- Visitors to hotels, restaurants and cafes had to bring their own sugar supply.
- In November the National Kitchen Division was formed at the Ministry of Food under a Mr. Spencer.
- The Blackberry order 1918 was passed to stop blackberries being used for preserves. Jam rationing arrived on November 2nd – 4oz per head.
- The Oswestry allotment Holders Association complained of damage to crops by rabbits. Landowners bordering the allotments were asked to take satisfactory action, with a warning that if not the Council will enter their land and kill the rabbits!
- THE WAR ENDED – 11am 11th November 1918
- In November the Salop War Agricultural Committee declared that there were not enough women to lift up the potatoes.
- News of the armistice arrived in Oswestry at 10am on the 11th November.
- On the 27th November 1918 the Ministry of Food announced (in view of altered conditions) that potatoes no longer need to be put in loaves of bread.
- From 1st December reduction in hay rations for horses was introduced.
- The ministry of food allowed the sale of poultry and rabbits without coupons over the Christmas period. Extra sugar rations were allowed – ‘Christmas sugar’. Children under the age of 6 years were allowed an extra 1/4 lb of sugar until 21st December 1918. The same allowance is available for those people in hospital.
- Food rationing continued after the war – Butter was the last thing to be removed in 1920.