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RECIPE-Wartime Christmas Pudding

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Food may have been rationed, but even in wartime  it would be unthinkable to have Christmas without a traditional Christmas Pudding! This recipe was created by the Ministry Food and published in one of the famous “leaflets.”

Christmas Pudding

2oz plain flour
½ level teaspoon baking powder
½ level teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ level teaspoon salt
¼ level teaspoon cinnamon
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
2-4 oz suet or fat
3oz sugar
½ – 1lb. mixed dried fruit
4 oz. breadcrumbs
1 oz. marmalade
2 eggs, fresh or dried
¼ pint rum, ale, stout or milk
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and spice together. Add the sugar, fruit and breadcrumbs and grated suet or melted fat. Mix with the marmalade, eggs and rum, or other liquid. Mix very thoroughly. Put in a greased basin, 2 pt. (1 quart) size. Cover with greased paper and steam for 4 hours. Remove the paper and cover with a fresh piece and a clean cloth. Store in a cool place. Steam 2 to 3 hours before serving. The steaming is best done by standing the basin in a saucepan with water coming a third of the way up the sides of the basin. Keep the water boiling gently over a low heat. It may be necessary to add a little more water during cooking but be sure the water is boiling when added.

RECIPE-Parsley and Celery Stuffing

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Parsley and Celery Stuffing


4 oz chopped celery

2 large onions finely chopped

4 level tablespoons parsley

4 oz stale breadcrumbs 

Salt and pepper

2 level teaspoons mixed herbs (I used Herbs de Provence)

1 oz melted dripping (2 tablespoons-I used bacon grease)

Hot water to mix

Mix all ingredients together adding sufficient hot water to give a soft consistency. Use for stuffing meat and poultry.

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The King’s Christmas Message, 1940

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During the Blitz, Buckingham Palace and the grounds were struck on sixteen separate occasions, with nine being direct hits. Even the King and Queen were not immune to Hitler’s onslaught on London. On September 13th,  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were having tea at the Palace when a bombing occured; the royal couple escaped unscathed. Good wishes poured in from around the Empire thankful that the monarchs had not been hurt. After this particular attack, the Queen expressed,  “I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face.” The King’s Christmas Message of 1940 would prove to be particularly poignant.

“In days of peace the feast of Christmas is a time when we all gather together in our homes, young and old, to enjoy the happy festivity and good will which the Christmas message brings. It is, above all, children’s day, and I am sure that we shall all do our best to make it a happy one for them wherever they may be.

War brings, among other sorrows, the sadness of separation. There are many in the Forces away from their homes today because they must stand ready and alert to resist the invader should he dare to come, or because they are guarding the dark seas or pursuing the beaten foe in the Libyan Desert.

Many family circles are broken. Children from English homes are today in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. For not only has the manhood of the whole British Commonwealth rallied once more to the aid of the Mother Country in her hour of need, but the peoples of the Empire have eagerly thrown open the doors of their homes to our children so that they may be spared from the strain and danger of modern war.

And in the United States also, where we find so many generous loyal friends and organisations to give us unstinted help, warm-hearted people are keeping and caring for many of our children till the war is over.

But how many more children are there here who have been moved from their homes to safer quarters?

To all of them, at home and abroad, who are separated from their fathers and mothers, to their kind friends and hosts, and to all who love them, and to parents who will be lonely without them, from all in our dear island I wish every happiness that Christmas can bring. May the new year carry us towards victory and to happier Christmas days, when everyone will be at home together in the years to come.

To the older people here and throughout the worlds I would say – in the last Great War the flower of our youth was destroyed, and the rest of the people saw but little of the battle. This time we are all in the front line and the danger together, and I know that the older among us are proud that it should be so.

Remember this. If war brings its separations, it brings new unity also, the unity which comes from common perils and common sufferings willingly shared. To be good comrades and good neighbours in trouble is one of the finest opportunities of the civilian population, and by facing hardship and discomfort cheerfully and resolutely not only do they do their own duty, but they play their part in helping the fighting Services to win the war.

Time and again during these last few months I have seen for myself the battered towns and cities of England, and I have seen the British people facing their ordeal. I can say to them that they may be justly proud of their race and nation. On every side I have seen a new and splendid spirit of good fellowship springing up in adversity, a real desire to share burdens and resources alike. Out of all this suffering there is a growing harmony which we must carry forward into the days to come when we have endured to the end and ours is the victory.

Then, when Christmas Days are happy again, and good will has come back to the world, we must hold fast to the spirit which binds us together now. We shall need this spirit in each of our own lives as men and women, and shall need it even more among the nations of the world. We must go on thinking less about ourselves and more for one another, for so, and so only, can we hope to make the world a better place and life a worthier thing.

And now I wish you all a happy Christmas and a happier New Year. We may look forward to it with sober confidence. We have surmounted a grave crisis. We do not underrate the dangers and difficulties which confront us still, but we take courage and comfort from the successes which our fighting men and their Allies have won at heavy odds by land and air and sea.

The future will be hard, but our feet are planted on the path of victory, and with the help of God we shall make our way to justice and to peace.”

Christmas 1940-Under Fire

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By  the time Christmas, 1940 had arrived, more than 24,000 civilians had been killed in the Blitz and hundreds of thousands of people had become homeless. Before the start of the holiday season, German bombers had obliterated Coventry in November and Nazi raids on Manchester and Liverpool had been made just before Christmas.


With the sound of an air raid siren, many families went to their Anderson shelters for long periods of time, often spending many nights there as bombs fell on Britain. At Christmas, these air raid shelters and sometimes other places of safety were festooned for the holiday. By 1940, short Christmas trees were in high demand due to the limited height of the air raid shelters.

Even with bombs dropping over many British cities, entertainment was still available: the BBC broadcasting the “Kitchen Front,” the King’s annual wireless (radio) Christmas message, and upbeat variety shows. A Christmas sermon was broadcast from the ruins of Coventry Cathedral by the BBC, and church services continued (as long as there was no bomb-damage). Church bells were not allowed to be rung, as this signified a Nazi invasion, and due to the black out, Britons could not illuminate their windows.

December, 1939 “It’ll be over by Christmas.”

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When Britain went to war with Germany in September 1939, it was not uncommon for the British people to hear, “It’ll all be over by Christmas,” just as it had been said that World War One would be over by Christmas, 1914.

Sadly, the war would go on through five more Christmases until May 1945, when World War II finally came to an end in Europe. As the war effort went into full swing with wartime production and increased farming, summer holidays came to an end; due to the war and blackouts, Guy Fawkes’ night had disappeared ; with food rationing, Easter eggs disappeared; but Christmas was one holiday that would not be diminshed!

An excellent way to look at the British home front during the war years is to take a look at how Christmas was celebrated between 1939-1945. In London, throughout the towns and villages, on farms and in the cities, by rich and poor, old and young, Christmas continued to be celebrated all over Britain and throughout the Empire. As soldiers were sent all over the world, Christmas became even more important holiday so a bit of continuity could be kept as a reminder of home.

Christmas would not be as rationed in 1939 as it would be in the coming war years. Much of the Christmas production has been completed prior to the start of the war, and the shelves at F. W. Woolworth’s Three Penny and Six Penny stores were full of Christmas merchandise.


“[Woolworth’s] Store staff were surprised that initially very little changed. Life carried on much the same as usual. The tinned foods department was very busy as ‘canny’ customers stocked up ‘just in case’, but at the adjacent counter shoppers chose cards, decorations and stocking fillers just as previous generations had done before them.”-

RECIPE-National Loaf

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The National Loaf

From: Ministry of Food – Jane Fearnley Whittingstall

Makes two loaves

1 ½ lb wholemeal bread flour*
1 ½ tbsp salt
1 ½ tbsp dried yeast
1 dsp honey or treacle (two teaspoons)
450 ml tepid water (about 2 cups)
1, Mix together all the ingredients and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a soft dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a dish towel, and leave until dough has doubled in size (around 2 hours).
2.  Knock back the dough, give a short knead then cut into two equal pieces. Place in 1.5 litre loaf tins (8 X 4 X 3 loaf pans), allow to rise for a further 2 hours.
3. Pre-heat oven to 200°C (400° F) then bake loaves for 30 min. To test the loaves, turn them out of their tins and give the base a tap; if it sounds hollow,  they are ready. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

*use a food scale for best results

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The National Loaf

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A ban on commercially baked white bread went into effect on April 6, 1942. Dubbed Hitler’s Secret Weapon, the Ministry of Food created the National Loaf, a wholemeal flour bread.

Before the war, white flour was the norm and when it became hard to come by,  it was replaced by National Flour, with “wheatmeal” being the official name given it. National “wheatmeal flour” was unbleached flour extracted from hulled wheat grain (85%). The flour had  the starchy endosperm,  wheat germ, and bran, with the coarser bran being removed in the milling process. The flour was not a true “whole wheat,” but it left all the bran in it.  The flour was gray in color which made it unappetizing to most.  Some would sift the National Flour as much as possible to get out the softest part of the flour.


Bakeries were required to use National Flour to make only one type of bread, the National Loaf. Food manufacturers could get white flour, but it was used to make cookies, cakes, etc. Nutritionists praised the bread as it had added calcium and vitamins, but it dried out very quickly. The bread was gray, coarse, had a crumby texture almost like sawdust,  contained a lot of salt so it would “keep” longer, and was dry. It was stale one day after baking, had a chewy crust that was tough, and some would dip it in water to add some moisture.  The National Loaf proved to be “unpopularly popular,” and bread was never rationed during the entire length of the war. Click here for the recipe:


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Make Do and Mend

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 Make Do and Mend was a pamphlet issued by the British Ministry of Information in the midst of WWII. It was intended to provide housewives with useful tips on how to be both frugal and stylish in times of harsh rationing. With its thrifty design ideas and advice on reusing old clothing, the pamphlet was an indispensable guide for households. Readers were advised to create pretty ‘decorative patches’ to cover holes in warn garments; unpick old jumpers to re-knit chic alternatives; turn men’s clothes into women’s; as well as darn, alter and protect against the ‘moth menace’. An updated version of the book was recently released to coincide with the economic recession, offering similar frugal advice for 21st century families.-British Library


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Carrot Croquettes

  • 6 Carrots
  • 1 oz Margarine (or butter if you have enough from your ration)
  • 1 oz corn flour
  • 1 gill milk (4 oz)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oatmeal
  • Enough fat for frying

Steam the carrots until  soft and tender, drain, and put through a sieve. Add seasoning to taste. Make a thick white sauce* with the corn flour, margarine, and milk. Add the seasoned sieved carrots to it. Leave till cold, then shape into croquettes, roll in oatmeal and fry in hot, deep fat. Drain well and serve
*Make a thick white sauce by slowly melting the margarine in a pan. Add the corn flour and make a nice roux until lightly brown. Whisk the mixture and slowly add the milk to the roux while still whisking until a smooth sauce forms.


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Dr Carrot

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Since meat was rationed, vegetables became an important staple of the wartime diet. With the implementation of the “Dig for Victory” campaign, carrots were one of the important foods that helped win the war. Housewives had the great  experience of preparing such culinary delights as Carrot Biscuits (cookies), Carrot Marmalade (the shredded carrots looked like and served as mock orange peel), carrot on a stick (advertised to children “as good as a lollipop”) and carrot juice drinks from recipes found in the Ministry’s “War Cookery Leaflet 4.″ As sugar was rationed, carrots were also used as a sweetener in baked goods.


When the Ministry of Food was faced with a bumper crop of carrots in 1941,  they used various forms of media to inform the British public that eating carrots would help them see better during the war-imposed blackouts. “Dr. Carrot” was created as a symbol to remind people to eat more vegetables and help reduce the surplus carrot crop.  Posters with the slogan “Carrots keep you healthy and help you see in the blackout”  were plastered throughout the country.


Isn’t an hour in the garden better than an hour in the queue?” (Lord Woolton, Minister of Food, 1941)

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