Category: food

Soviets Respond to Food Relief Offer

Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930).  His Fram expedition had reached 86°13′ N in 1895.  Undeterred by the failure of the 1919 relief offer, he would try again, with some more success, in 1921.

May 15 1919, Moscow–After the idea of a conference on Prinkipo fell through, the Allies had little contact with the Soviets, apart from an American mission which was ignored, and Smuts’ very indirect approach via Béla Kun.  In large part, this was because they did not want to; the French hated the Soviets, as did much of Lloyd George’s coalition.  News from Russia was limited and of exceedingly poor quality (The New York Times printed headlines in May claiming that Petrograd had fallen to the Finns), but what little there was suggested a humanitarian crisis in a country now completely cut off from the outside world.  Hoover, head of food relief in Europe, suggested that food relief be extended to the Soviets as well–this would help the people of Russia and possibly help bring Russia back into the community of nations.

To avoid the perception that this would be yet another Allied intervention in Russia, Hoover proposed that Russian food aid be organized via a prominent neutral–Fridtjof Nansen, the famous Norwegian explorer.  Under Nansen’s leadership, Norway and other neutral countries would deliver food and medical aid to Russia, provided ceasefires were arranged in the civil war.  The offer went out from Berlin (as the Allies refused to send it), and on May 15 the Soviets responded.  Lenin had instructed Chicherin and Litvinov to be “extremely polite to Nansen, extremely insolent to Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau,” and they were, rejecting outright the idea of ceasefires without a formal peace conference.  The Allies would do nothing else that attempted to reach out to the Soviets during the remainder of the Paris Peace Conference.

Sources include: Margaret MacMillan, Paris 1919


                                                                    A slice of heaven

“We were still on French rations, but hot Belgian bread with
boo-coo butter kept us alive.”

the end of the war American soldiers in Belgium – Heaven, Hell, Or Hoboken – Photo: WW1, somewhere on the western
front, soldiers of the Rainbow division enjoying thick slices of bread smeared with “boo-coo” butter or the like… US Signal Corps

‘Wednesday November 13 1918 – Left on French t…

‘Wednesday November 13 1918 – Left on French trucks for
Bar-le-Duc. Bought two barrels for company, and cheese, etc. Ate dinner with the French, as before. Very cold.’

American ambulance driver in the Meuse Sector, France – Diary
of J. Reah Hollinger – Franklin & Marshall College – 1918, “dinner with the French” – La Contemporaine


                                                            Nothing to eat!

‘August 8 1918 – Mais
oui—me voila, dans un Foyer du Soldat—the French idea of a Y. M. C. A. It’s not
bad, this—pour les Français; but for me— (business of shrugging shoulders).
Plenty of French magazines, writing desks, a piano, neat decorations, charming
English-speaking French lady in charge—BUT nothing to eat!’

British soldier in the Baccarat sector – Who Won the War?: Letters and Notes of an M.P. in Dixie,
England, France and Flanders
– Photo: Foyer du Soldat in Réméréville,

Baccarat Sector, France.

“What fun it is when Nicot sits across from me…

“What fun it is when Nicot sits across from
me, thinking about anything but food…”

WW1 French soldier’s diary – Survivre au front 1914-1918 –– Photo: WW1 French soldiers’s meal outside their dugout.

April 1918 – ‘In and ou…

April 1918 – ‘In and
out of these streams — this fearful turmoil of traffic, the Red Cross with its headquarters at Compiegne took care of the soldiers. It set up a line of
canteens and soup kitchens along the roadside all the way from Beauvais, and served
as many as 30,000 men a day with hot drinks, cigarettes, all sort of food to French,  British,
Italians, and American soldiers alike. In this sector where Jeanne d’Arc
once had been taken prisoner, these Red Cross ladies’ mission of salvation was
far more prosaic; yet, in its own humble way, it too functioned, and functioned
extremely well’

With the Doughboy in France: A Few
Chapters of an American Effort
– Photos: April 6 1918, Compiegne, France, in the thick of the Spring Offensive – Awesome American Red Cross ladies at work.The second photo: the lady is giving cigarettes to soldiers. La Contemporaine, France.

Easter 1918 – “Special feed Easter…

Easter 1918 – “Special feed Easter evening. We think a lot of our
stomachs now-a-days. Never such a crab session about food.”

American ambulance driver in France – Text and photo from the beautiful Amherst Black Cats’s Twitter account with awesome tweets & photos. The website
for the Amherst Black Cats is here

‘We get stew and tea, brought up for us in &ls…

‘We get stew and tea, brought up for us in
‘hot food containers’, and also rum, and I take a share of each – and the
last is not the least.’

Tommy: the British soldier on the Western Front, 1914-1918 – Photo: WW1 British soldier carrying containers of hot food to his section.

“Mother, you would be quite pleased if you cou…

“Mother, you would be quite pleased if you could see me
now! I have on four shirts, underdrawers, woolen stockings, knitted knee
protectors and two sweaters. I am about as broad as I am long, but none of us
seem to be able to keep the intense cold out. We are pretty high up in the
and the huge Casino isn’t heated at all, and
you can imagine it is exactly like a tomb. Luckily, we
have a beautiful sunny room and a stove in the hall, so we get thawed out
once a day and manage to survive.

My job consists in being interpreter for anyone who needs me,
and serving hot drinks, sandwiches and hot dishes (of sausages, potato,
macaroni, etc.) over the top of the beautiful marble counter to hundreds and
hundreds of ravenous doughboys. The boys are full of the most amazing tales and
I haven’t had such an interesting time since I came to France!”

February 1918, American lady, YMCA worker, in
Aix-Les-Bains, France. Canteening overseas. In February 1918, Aix-les-Bains
located far from the war zone was perfect to welcome the American soldiers en permission.
Le Dauphiné, Aix les Bains’ local paper just published a set of 23 great photos
showing the YMCA casino, its workers, and the “boys” on leave – Photo:
the front desk of the casino with two smiling american YMCA ladies tending
to a long line of relaxed soldiers.  @Le Dauphiné.

Massive Bread Strikes in Austria

January 16 1918, Vienna–The Austrian half of the Dual Monarchy had the worst food situation of any of the Central Powers in Europe.  With its own food-producing region in Galicia ravaged by war, with Hungary generally unwilling to share any of its food, and with Germany unwilling to provide food or coal to ship any food, the outlook in the winter of 1918 was quite dim.  On January 14, the bread ration was cut by 20%, from 7.5 oz to just under 6 oz per day.  These cuts, combined with the continued frustration that a peace with the defeated Russians had not yet been signed, led to the outbreak of general strikes on January 16.  In modern-day Austria, over 100,000 workers participated, and the strikes even spread to Hungary over the coming days.

Emperor Charles wrote to Czernin, his foreign minister and representative at the Brest-Litovsk peace talks, saying “if peace is not made at Brest it will be revolution here, no matter how much there is to eat.”  Czernin replied that “I fear it is already too late to check the total collapse which is to be expected in the next few weeks.”  The Austrians, desperately seeking to avoid a revolution at home, thus turned to desperation at Brest-Litovsk.  Ukraine, considered Russia’s breadbasket, was thought to have large stores of food.  Despite having very little bargaining position (having essentially no army of their own), the Ukrainians demanded territory in eastern Galicia, especially the city of Chelm (in modern-day Poland).  Despite knowing this would anger Austria’s large (and loyal) Polish population, Czernin was still tempted by the offer.  Meanwhile, Trotsky took the news from Austria as a vindication of his strategy–if he could only delay for long enough through the winter, the revolution would spread to Austria and Germany and a humiliating peace could be avoided.

Today in 1917: Germans Order Tank Prototype

Today in 1916:  Russian Victory at Köpruköy
Today in 1915: BEF Has Least Deadly Week of the War