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Christmas 1940

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As the war raged on, Christmas in 1940 Britain took place in the middle of the Blitz. Between September and November 1940, the German Luftwaffe was relentless in their bombing of London;  the city had been bombed for 57 consecutive nights. The bombing raids showed no signs of relief as Christmas Day 1940 approached, so most Britons spent Christmas Eve in an air-raid shelter, either in their backyard Anderson shelter, under the Morrison table shelter in the dining room, or in the Underground.

By the end of 1940, 24,000 civilians had been killed in the Blitz and hundreds of thousands were now homeless. In November, German bombers had also obliterated Coventry and there had been destructive air raids on Manchester and Liverpool in the days leading up to the Christmas holidays. Not only was the British public mourning the loss of loved ones on the home front and in combat, but they were also praying for the 41,000 British soldiers captured on the European continent.

In order to avoid the German bombs being dropped on their cities, British families stayed positive even though it was necessary to seek safety in air-raid shelters, Underground stations, and other places of refuge. To enliven their Christmas spirit, folks decked out their temporary homes with makeshift holiday decorations. Smaller Christmas trees were in demand because of the lower height of the shelters.

Celebrating Christmas in the back yard Anderson shelter
A Morrison table shelter. In the day time a table cloth covered the cage. The photo shows sleeping in the Morrison shelter.

For many families, the most difficult part of a wartime Christmas would be spending the season apart from their loved ones. Most men were fighting abroad in the armed forces and some were being held as prisoners of war. Mothers, wives, and daughters might also be away in the services or carrying out important war work. Many children spent Christmas away from home as evacuees in the safety of the country, mostly with strangers that agreed to take them in for the duration. Christmas 1940 was far different than the “phony war” of winter 1939.

Spending Christmas in the Underground

RECIPE-Eggless Christmas Cake

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Even with the Christmas holidays approaching, all families still had to deal with rationing. Few fresh eggs or dried eggs, limited amounts of butter and other fats, sugar, and chocolate, as well as just about everything that was so good, yet so bad (as in unhealthy) for a person, was on the ration. Here is an Eggless Christmas Cake that is easy to make and delicious. The carrots and milk provide the needed moisture.

Eggless Christmas Cake

4 oz  finely grated carrots
2 tablespoons golden syrup (or dark corn syrup)
3 oz sugar
4 oz margarine
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
vanilla essence (extract)
almond essence (extract)
4—6 oz dried fruit (cranberries, apricots, raisins)
12 oz self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 small teacup (6 oz) milk, slightly warmed

Cook the grated carrots and syrup over a low heat for a
few minutes. Cream the sugar and margarine until light and
fluffy. Stir the baking soda into the carrots and syrup
mixture, then beat it into the sugar and margarine mixture,
treating it as if it were an egg. Add a half teaspoon each of
vanilla and almond extract, and stir in with the dried fruit.
Fold in the flour and cinnamon, and add the warmed milk
to. make a moist dough. Put the mixture into a greased cake
tin (or use a fluted tube pan such as a Bundt® pan). Smooth the top, and make a deep hole in the centre with a spoon if not using a tube pan, to stop the cake from rising too much during cooking. Put into a hot oven (gas Mark 7=425° F) then immediately turn down to a very low heat (gas Mark 2=300° F) and bake for 3 hours.

Homemade Wartime Christmas Ornaments

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Due to rationing during the war, many families made their own Christmas ornaments. Since there was a paper shortage, any scraps of paper, old Christmas cards, and brown paper were used to make ornaments and decorations. Here is a video from the Imperial War Museum for making Christmas ornaments from folded paper!

Pans into Planes

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Recycling is nothing new; the collection of materials to be recycled, reused, and re-purposed was a popular theme in World War II.  The British people saw the implementation of scrap drives to collect metal to make planes and other necessary equipment for the war effort.

In May, 1940, Churchill appointed William “Max” Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, as Minister of Aircraft Production, and with the Prime Minister’s blessing,  Beaverbrook overhauled all aspects of war-time aircraft production. He increased production targets by 15% across the board, took control of aircraft repairs, and increased RAF storage units.*

Woman with aluminium pans, World War Two, 10 July 1940.LON11_HOM_206.tif

Metal was needed to make planes. Lord Beaverbrook asked the WVS (Womens Voluntary Service) to oversee the drive, and they went into action and asked for the collection of saucepans, frying pans, colanders, tea trays, kettles, pot lids, shoe trees and any other scrap they could find which contained aluminium. 1600 centers were set up throughout Britain as collection and storage centers for the metal. (Conjectures whether the collected metal was actually used or the collection campaign was just propaganda exist.)

Lord Beaverbrook, said in July, 1940, “We want it (aluminum) and we want it now. New and old, of every type and description, and all of it. We will turn your pots and pans into Spitfires and Hurricanes, Blenheims and Wellingtons.”


*Geoffrey Best (2005). Churchill and War. Humbledon and London

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“And none for the pot”

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No one can doubt the importance of tea in British culture. The phrase “I’ll put the kettle on” led to the all popular “cuppa” bringing comfort to the British public in times both good and bad.  With the onset of war in 1939, tea was not initially rationed.  The rise of supply ships being sunk by German submarines led to the government taking over the control of food and prices, and tea eventually became rationed along with meat, sugar, butter, and other necessary foodstuffs. The Ministry of Food took even more drastic action to safeguard tea. Within two days after war broke out, the transfer of all tea to warehouses outside London was implemented to protect the morale-boosting product in case of air raids. After the Nazi blockade of supply ships, tea was rationed to 2 ounces per person, per week, for those five years of age and older. This ration made for rather weak tea, and only two to three cups per day, but soldiers and war workers were issued extra rations of tea. A patriotic poem was written when tea rationing was introduced:

Cup of Tea, Cup of Tea
You Are Just the Thing for Me
No Milk, No Sugar, No Parsley in my cup of Tea
No Mint, No Thyme, No Red Red Rose
Just Give Me Normal by the Hose
So keep your ration book in Hand
And we’ll drink tea across the land
And an extra cup for Granny, too
And all our dashing lads in blue.
Lord Woolton, the Minister of Food, made regular radio broadcasts on “The Kitchen Front,” a program broadcast on the BBC. He greatly proclaimed that all Britons must save on tea. He said “Here’s a new slogan for wartime: One {teaspoon} per person, and none for the pot!”
tearation1 tearation3

Rationing of tea lasted throughout the war. Due to the continued rationing of food postwar, most rationing of goods including tea, did not end until 1952.


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RECIPE-Royal Dressing

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With the rationing of oils and eggs, the luxury of “salad cream” or salad dressing soon became a rarity.

The Ministry of Food created recipes to help satisfy the craving for salad dressing.


Royal Dressing

  • 2 ounces of National Flour
  • ½ pint milk or vegetable water  (the water remaining from cooking or steaming vegetables, cooled)
  • 2 ounces of grated raw beetroot
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper & Sugar

With the national flour and milk or vegetable water make a sauce thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Beat in the beetroot, sugar, pepper and salt.

Use this dressing to serve with raw vegetable salads.


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Salads in Wartime-“A Salad A Day”

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Salads were not popular before the war. Meat was a main staple of a pre-wartime diet. In an effort to decrease meat intake, eating salads in wartime were encouraged. The Ministry of Food created a wartime salad leaflet to give information on the benefits of eating salads. Using the vegetables from the Victory Garden helped give “vim and vigour” and “build up resistance to infection.” The main message: Eating salads would keep one healthy in wartime and conserve rations.


From Ministry of Food Leaflet #5:

Use vegetables as fresh as possible and prepare the salad just before it is required, as chopped and grated vegetables and fruit quickly lose their vitamins.

Vegetables to use in salads: Finely shredded raw cabbage hearts, savoy, spinach, sprouts, chopped cauliflower, watercress, raw grated swede, turnip, beetroot, carrot, cooked potato and beetroot.


There is hardly a root or green vegetable that does not deserve a place in a salad. Use them raw whenever you can. A good mixed salad with wheatmeal bread and a little grated cheese makes a complete meal. So serve and enjoy a salad or raw vegetable sandwich every day.

When making salads, touch the plants as little as possible. Use directly after picking or buying. If this is not convenient a saucepan, with a well-fitted lid, placed on a cool floor is excellent for keeping a salad crisp.

Just before serving, wash carefully, shake off the water gently and dry the plants in a clean cloth or wire salad basket. Outside leaves can be saved for soup.

Root vegetables, such as carrots, should be washed and scrapped lightly before grating, but the thicker skins of turnips call for peeling.

Spring Salads

  1. Make a thick bed of chopped raw cabbage heart in your bowl. In the centre, pile a teacup of grated raw white turnip. Round this centre arrange smaller piles of grated raw carrot and grated raw beetroot, using a teacupful of each. Decorate with radishes and parsley.
  2. Shred 1/2 lb. young turnip tops. Mix with 1 breakfastcup diced cooked potato and 1 breakfastcup cooked beetroot. Put into a bowl and decorate the top with 1 large fresh grated carrot and sprigs of watercress or dandelion leaves.
  3. Young dandelions make a delightful salad by themselves. Cut of the roots, wash the clusters of leaves well, dry in a cloth and toss in a vinaigrette dressing. For a more substantial salad, add fresh grated parsnip or grated swede, and a few chopped spring onions.

Summer Salads

  1. Line a bowl with crisp lettuce leaves. Mix together 1 breakfastcup cooked peas, 1 breakfastcup diced potato and 1 breakfastcup diced cooked carrot. Pile this mixture in the bowl and serve with mint sauce.
  2. Line a bowl with crisp lettuce leaves. Put in a breakfastcup cooked broad beans, a breakfastcup fresh grated carrots and a medium sized cucumber, diced. Decorate with a few nasturtium leaves and parsley.
  3. Mix together a breakfastcup cooked runner beans cut into 1 in. lengths and breakfastcup diced cooked potato and a large lettuce shredded. Decorate with sliced tomato and a few chopped spring onions, if possible.

Autumn Salads

  1. Break a cauliflower into neat sprigs and steam them or boil in very little salted water. When cold, arrange on a bed of lettuce leaves with a breakfastcup of cooked sliced potatoes. Decorate with parsley, a sliced tomato, or cooked beetroot.
  2. Allow 1 cooked round beetroot for each person. Hollow out the centre and fill with a mixture of chopped apple or pear and chopped celery, moistened with a little mayonnaise. Arrange the beetroots on a bed of green salad (lettuce, chopped cabbage heart, watercress or spinach) and surround with little heaps of fresh grated carrot, diced cooked potatoes and the beetroot centres, diced.
  3. Wash and dry young celery leaves. Toss them lightly in vinaigrette dressing and serve with diced cooked beetroots, or grated raw beetroot, whichever you prefer. Serve with a potato salad made as follows: Boil the potatoes in their skins. Peel while still hot, cut into slices and mix well with whichever dressing you prefer. A little chopped spring onion mixed with the potato is a great improvement. When quite cold, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Winter Salads

  1. Make 3 tablespoons of vinaigrette dressing in your bowl. Put in 2 teacups of shredded raw cabbage heart and 1 teacup each of diced cooked potato, apple and celery cut into ½ in. lengths. Turn over and over in the dressing with a wooden spoon. Decorate with watercress and grated raw beetroot
  2. Mix together 2 teacups grated raw cabbage heart, 2 teacups fresh grated carrot and 1 teacup grated raw swede. Decorate with green celery tops and a little raw cauliflower.
  3. Line a bowl thickly with watercress, add 1/2 lb chicory cut into thin strips and mixed with 1 breakfastcup grated raw beetroot. Serve with vinaigrette dressing.


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RECIPE- Wartime Yorkshire Pudding

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 Yorkshire Pudding

  • 1 egg (reconstituted=1 tablespoon dried egg mixed with 2 tablespoons water)
  • 2 ozs flour
  • 1/2 pint of milk
  • Salt
  • 1 knob dripping or fat (a “knob” is 2 to 3 tablespoons)

Method-Beat egg well. Mix the flour and salt. Make a hole in the centre and put the egg and sufficient milk to make a stiff mixture. Beat well, add the rest of the milk, put aside for one hour. Make the fat smoking hot in a baking tin and pour in the batter. Cook in a brisk oven for about 30 minutes. ( a “brisk” oven is about 400 degrees or hotter)

Note-To this foundation recipe diced cooked vegetables and chopped cooked meat can be added. The addition of fresh or dried fruit makes an attractive sweet dish. The same mixture, can be used for pancakes. Pour spoonfuls on to a piping hot greased pan or hotplate.

Category: Recipes, Uncategorized

Eggs in Wartime

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dried eggs1World War Two. England. March, 1944. Land army girls with a large basket of freshly laid eggs as they breed chicks at redlands poultry farm at South Holmwood in Surrey.

As rationing was implemented, it became obvious that if there was not enough food to feed people, there was not going to be enough to feed animals. Since there was a shortage of grain to feed chickens, millions of commercially-farmed hens had to be killed and sold as food.  This ultimately led to an egg shortage, and rationing was implemented allowing a person one fresh egg per week; extra allowance was allowed for those with special circumstances such as giving expectant mothers and vegetarians two eggs a week.

With egg rationing, people started keeping chickens in their back yards because that meant one could have unrationed eggs. But, there was a catch: if you raised chickens,  you had to give up your egg ration, but you were given a grain ration instead for your chickens. Saving, cooking, and grinding vegetable scraps and feeding those scraps to backyard chickens became the norm for many families.

Families also kept eggs fresher and storing them for longer periods of time with the pointy side down in a rack, and the rack inserted into a pail filled with waterglass (a liquid mixture of sodium silicate). Waterglass sealed the pores of the eggs and allowed them to stay fresh.

As eggs continued to be rationed, by July of 1942, powdered eggs became available courtesy of the United States. The allowance was one tin, or packet, of dried eggs every two months. One tin was equal to 12 fresh eggs. Powdered eggs had a long shelf life; they could be hydrated on a one to two basis: one tablespoon of egg to two tablespoons of water.

dried egg

The Ministry of Food issued a leaflet explaining the use of dried eggs.


The Ministry of Food leaflet No. 11
This dried egg mixture is pure fresh egg with no additions, and nothing but the moisture taken away.  It is pure egg, spray dried. Eggs are a very highly concentrated form of food.  They contain first-class body-building material. They also help us to resist colds and other infection because of their high protective properties.
Eggs are easily digested, and for this reason are especially good for children and invalids.
Dried eggs are just as good as fresh eggs, and should be used in the same way.  They are very useful for main dishes.  Here are some recipes for a variety of appetising dishes in place of meat, fish or cheese and which are particularly suitable for dried egg.

1 level tablespoonful egg powder + 2 level tablespoonful water equals 1 egg
Mix the egg and water and allow to stand for about five minutes until the powder has absorbed the moisture.  Then work out any lumps with a wooden spoon, finally beating with a fork or a whisk.

After reconstituting the egg use at once.  Do not reconstitute more egg than necessary for immediate use.

Use in recipes exactly as fresh eggs, beating as usual before adding to other ingredients.

Keep the egg powder in a tin with a tight fitting lid, and store in a cool place.  Do not keep dried egg in a refrigerator.

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Onions…a rare treat

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O pungent root, so lately dear to me,

Thou bulbous, aromatic rarity . . .

Today thou are a treasure vainly sought . . .

Who would have thought there would be an ode to an onion? But with the start of the war, onions became a rare treat. What contributed to the sudden disappearance of onions? The supply chain was broken due to the loss of supplies from France, Spain, Bermuda, and the Channel Islands. Since they were available from overseas, onions were not grown in great quantities in Britain, except on the larger estates.  The “Dig for Victory” campaign urged gardeners to grow onions; even the royal rose gardens were dug up and replaced with onion beds. With their rarity, onions were often given as prizes and used as raffle items to raise money!

“The taste of this humble vegetable, so long taken for granted, seemed suddenly the peak of gastronomic pleasure, partly because with meat rationed by value, not weight, stews, which used the cheapest cuts, were in favour. At least two Odes to an Onion were written in 1941. By September the shortage was no better as, these verses in one London firm’s house magazine testified:

My cupboard might as well be bare.

Bereft, I wander everywhere

And try, nose in the empty air,

To sniff a whiff of onion.

In February 1941 a one-and-a-half pound onion, raffled among the staff of TheTimes, raised £4 3s 4d and in March, when one woman remarked at a first aid lecture in Chelsea that she did not cry if she wore her gas mask when peeling onions, every woman present instantly shouted, ‘Where did you get them?’ Onions became popular prizes at socials and one wartime Girl Guide in Accrington can still recapture her pride at winning one in a treasure hunt, in honour of which her mother baked a special pie. A Cheshire doctor remembers ‘taking home in triumph’ the best gift he ever received from a grateful patient: a large Spanish onion. One ‘aunt’ on Children’sHour, wishing ‘A Happy Birthday and lots of presents’ to one small listener, added, ‘I did hear of a lucky girl the other day who was given some onions, but we can’t all expect a lovely present like that,’ A Worcestershire woman used the same onion in cooking for a month before finally eating it, and in North Queensberry in Scotland one family ‘tried putting an onion in a glass of water like a hyacinth bulb and, as the green shoots appeared . . . cut them off and used them for flavouring’. The Minister of Agriculture, announcing in February 1941 a fifteen-fold increase in the onion crop, expressed the hope that ‘onions would then be eaten and not talked about’, and by 1942 this expectation was being fulfilled.”  -An extract from Norman Longmate: How we Lived Then – A history of everyday life during the Second World War

Onions were never rationed; the Ministry of Food allocated them throughout the country at different times as part of a controlled distribution plan.




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