Thursday, 21 August 2014

'No-one seemed able to smile during those first weeks of war'

Queues for food: 'People got very frightened and were buying in large stores of provisions'

August 1914

As soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force marched into Belgium to take on the German Army, and volunteers at home queued to enlist, hoping to see action before it all ended - the rest of Britain began to take stock. Now the initial excitement of going to war was over, the future was beginning to look uncertain and bleak. This is how Maude Boucher, a mother of four from Bristol, described the mood on the streets ...

'It was very depressing here in Bristol during those first weeks of the war. There was the same sort of look about everyone one met that there was on the deaths of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII. No one seemed able to smile and it was just as though some dreadful calamity had happened.
'People got very frightened about food and were buying in large stores of provisions, and one friend of ours who was shutting up her house and going away for a short time, told me that she had given a very large order to her grocer and had asked him to store the things for her until she came home and wanted them.
'Naturally, this food panic made everything go up in price very much which made it very hard for the poor people and for everybody. I wanted some grocery at the end of the week, and I found some articles double the ordinary price, and some I could not obtain at all, so I had to substitute instead. A few shops were obliged to close for a few days until they had replenished their stock having practically sold out.'

Little could Maude Boucher have imagined that four years later the country would still be at war, and she would be describing the hardships of food rationing in her journal. You can read more in my book 'Bristol in the Great War' which is published next week. and 'Letters from the Trenches' which is out in November.

(Copyright © 2014 Jacqueline Wadsworth)

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