JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
Continuing yesterday's post #1662 (A Short Episode in the History of Bread Photography...): my friend Jeff Donlan pointed out that if 60 million pounds of bread were served weekly to the 4,000,000 members of the German Army, then each soldier must be eating about 2 pounds of bread a day. And that's not eating a loaf or whatever of "Wonder Bread" (its a wonder its bread--watch that trademark!) or any other white bread where you could ball up two slices and pop them whole into your mouth. As Jeff points out, if this was a dark or rye or Napoleon's-solder's-like black bread or some some thing, it would be thick and dense. And so, two pounds of this sort of bread is a lot, especially if the average soldier was running around and weighing in at 150 pounds or so--eating two pounds of bread plus four pounds of potatoes would mean that each soldier was eating about 5% of their body weight in just those two foods per day.
This all sounded like a lot of food to me--until I stumbled on the following article in a journal I had never encountered before. It was in Illustrated World, a Popular Mechanics-lite sort of publication, for November 1916, in an article "From Trench and Barrack" that I found these two photographs. I was astonished first of all to find a bread-consumption reference within 15 minutes of wondering about such a thing for the first time ever--but there it was. A big slab of fork+-high bread in a picture made to depict the daily rations of a German POW in the hands of the British. The prisoner was alloted 1.5 pounds of bread. Plus a half-pound of (cooked) meat, 8 ounces of vegetables, one ounce of coffee or ta, and the other stuff as can e seen in the photo's caption.
And there you have it. If the prisoner is getting 1.5 pounds of bread, then it makes sense for the active soldier to be eating two pounds. At least it all makes sense in 1916.
The thrust of the article in Illustrated World though was the other sort of ration that Great Britain would be shelling out--shells. This would be the iron ration that--after two years of a terrible and monumentally destructive war--would be the most common form of ration exchanged during the conflict.