A soldier got his food in rations; this was specific amounts that were given to each soldier frequently. Theoretically a British Soldier was to receive these rations daily (note conversions from ounce to kg are: 1 ounce= 30 grams):
- 20 ounces of bread or 16 ounces of flour
- 3 ounces of cheese and jam
- 6 ounces of tea
- 8 ounces of vegetables or 1/10 of a gill (1 gill is a quarter of a pint) of lime ( to avoid soldiers catching scurvy; a vitamin c deficiency)
- 1/8 of a pint of rum
- 2 ounces of dried vegetables
- 10 ounces of meat
However within the first two months of fighting, food became scarce in the trenches and soldiers received less food that they should. For example less than half the required bread that soldiers were to receive was actually given out, and the consequences of this was extreme tiredness, starvation and also malnutrition in the trenches. When soldiers left home, packages of food were amongst the things that were taken, although they ran out within the first few days or the boat journey to France. Packages included: chocolate, tins of sardines, and sweet biscuits. These items were considered a luxury and were never handed out in the four years of fighting.By 1916, the meat ration was down to 6oz a day, and later, meat was only provided once every nine days. Due to food shortage, soldiers began to fend for themselves. Any dead horses became substitute for meat and soldiers often went fishing to also pass time and bring in food. There were also reports of vegetable patches being set up in the reserve trenches, and due to a flour shortage, ground up turnips were used to make un-appetising bread, and this often gave soldiers diarrhoea. Also weeds, nettles, and leaves would be used to whip up soups and stews.
One widely-used and widely-disliked ration was the canned soup, Maconochie. It was a thin, watery broth containing sliced turnips and carrots. Soldiers claimed that when served cold (usually they were because there was no fuel) the soup could knock out a human because of the foul taste. The soup was barely edible, but by 1917, it became one of the soldiers only meals a day. However, despite such desperate food shortages, The British army reported that the ’Tommies’ were well fed and received two hot meals a day. This however caused widespread outrage amongst the soldiers. The army was thought to have received over 150,000 angry letters demanding that the truth be made known.