October 21, 2016
Chronicle Journal (A5)

Thousands of men and women from Port Arthur, Fort William and the region served in the armed forces during the First World War. The poppy was adopted as a national symbol of remembrance in Port Arthur in 1921.This monthly column will share stories and photos about life here in Thunder Bay and overseas during World War One.

Through the final years of the First World War, concerns over food supplies started to become more visible and more pressing. The ability to grow, produce, and supply enough food to the troops at the front as well as to those at home was an ongoing effort that involved everyone. Records available at the City of Thunder Bay Archives provide insight into the use of field kitchens that began in the spring of 1915. A field kitchen was a compact mobile unit used to transport meals to the front lines and encampments. The Archives collections include a blueprint and list of field kitchen specifications from the McClary Manufacturing Company. More information and copies of those records will soon be accessible through the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project.

The food experience of one soldier is outlined by Fred Breckon, a Prisoner of War through the majority of the Great War and the author of In The Hands Of The Hun (1919). Fred maintained notes on the bill of fare from August 8 to August 14, 1915 and made additional notes related to the reality of what was served (or what wasn’t served at all). The full text of this portion and the rest of his story can also be found online through the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project.

Extensive research has also been undertaken by Bev Soloway of Lakehead University in relation to the topic of food control. In 2014, Bev published a paper in Papers & Records (Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society) entitled Victory in the Kitchen: Food Control in the Lakehead during the Great War. In this work, Bev outlines the impact of national food control measures from a local perspective. The local population was encouraged to consume as much fresh food as possible so as to allow for the supply of preserved foods to be sent overseas to the front lines. At the time it made the most sense to target the appeals to women, who were called to adopt a ‘war menu’ within their homes. By the beginning of 1917, food control was front and centre in the local newspaper headlines and advertisements. And as the war continued, the need for good food just grew stronger. Check out some of the resources noted here to learn more about this vital and fascinating element of the First World War.

This article runs on the fourth Monday of each month. Jesse Roberts is a member of the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project committee. Please visit www.tbayworldwarone.com for more information about this project or to contribute personal stories and photos.