Britain’s police and food supply in World War One – Dr Mary Fraser

The example of Britain’s police families shows how many middle-class households fared in World War One on the Home Front. By 1915 the police portrayed themselves as struggling to feed their families as food prices rose twice as fast as the war bonus. From October 1915 their journal published costed menus and recipes, from 1916 recommending booklets of cut-price and vegetarian menus to economise; but meat was seen as essential for the policeman’s strength to maintain a healthy body for his strenuous work on the beat, so his wife went without. Britain’s reliance on imported grain was emphasised from late 1916 when enemy submarines sank many cargo ships, causing further steep food price rises. 2 staple items were scarce: 1. Potatoes from early to mid-1917 as the British crop failed; and 2. the Food Controller advised eating less bread. Suggested substitutes were swedes and mangold-wurzels (cattle feed). From 1917 self-sufficiency in crop production increased availability, while, from early 1918 rationing controlled supply and distribution. However, by Spring 1918 food prices had risen 108% from July 1914. Food pressures and pay were major factors in police discontent, culminating in the August 1918 Metropolitan Police Strike.

Mary was Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government, University of Strathclyde teaching research methods and supervising dissertations/theses by post-graduate students from sociology, politics, geography and social policy. She has held public appointments in England and Scotland. Mary’s PhD from Goldsmiths, University of London was based on the work of Michel Foucault, particularly Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. My MSc in research methods was funded by a Department of Health Research Studentship.

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