Food is critical to military performance, but it is also central to social interaction and fundamental to our sense of identity. The soldiers of the Great War didn't shed their eating preferences with their civilian clothes and the army rations, heavily reliant on bully beef and hardtack biscuit, were frequently found wanting. Nutritional science of the day had only a limited understanding of the role of vitamins and minerals, and the men were often presented with a diet that, shortages and logistics permitting, was high in calories but low in flavour and variety. Just as now, soldiers on active service were linked with home through the lovingly packed food parcels they received; a taste of home in the trenches.
Through the use of the personal accounts of the men themselves, Rachel Duffett explores a subject that was central not only to their physical health, but also to their emotional survival.
Rachel Duffett teaches History at the University of Essex and the Open University.