Getting Into The War

I’m on a journey into a war. I’m not going to Flander’s Fields, but I am diving into the psyche and environment of Brits and rural Canadians during the Second World War.
This study is to help me prepare for my Independent Professional Project (IPP), tentatively titled Poppy In a Bottle, a short youth novel about an English war bride in WWII.

I’d just like to state I’m not British. In fact, I have no idea why I have such a fascination with a culture that I am not even remotely related to, but never-the-less the project is set to go, so I have a lot of research to do in order to make my character’s story and experience sounds authentic.

I already know it’s going to be challenging, and while I’m far into researching and I have Dr. Chris Petty advising my project, I’d still like to try to experience as much of my story as possible.
That’s a tough sell, considering I live in a rich, peaceful country.

In the meantime, there is one thing I’ve been thinking about trying: following the strict wartime rations diet that Brits were forced to follow during the war.

Because of the scarcity of resources during the war, the government rationed staple items from 1940-1954. Rations were tracked using ration card booklets, which varied for different people’s needs (such as children and pregnant women who were considered priority.) Fruit and vegetables were extremely limited–due to lack of imports and cargo ships–and were sold according to priority status.

Therefore, the diets of most people were extremely modest by today’s standard, and did not include the type of variety we have now.

For example, per week a single person could have:

It sounds austere, but I’m told it has some benefits.
Some research suggests that during wartime rationing, people were actually healthier and lived longer. Britons were also thinner than they are (on average) today. This was because the rationing system still allowed for a full day’s worth of calories (~2500 for men, 2000 for women) with less sugars and saturated fats than we eat today.

An article in the Daily Mail a few years ago documents how a modern family survived and thrived on wartime rations. This article about a reporter for the BBC on a wartime diet is also interesting.

table with an family’s weekly serving of wartime-style rations (photo: Daily Mail)

It’s going to be a hard sell to get my husband on board with this; he already consistently lectures me about not eating enough, however, I do think he’ll be surprised by some of the options that the limited diet provides. See some examples of wartime recipes at The 1940s Experiment.

I will probably make some allowances and modifications anyway. For example: substitute the 2 oz. of lard/margarine for olive or coconut oil. I might also substitute out some milk and sweets for more vegetables or dried fruit, since I don’t use much milk and I don’t really like sweets anyway.

So what do you think?
Should I try this diet out?

Please keep up-to-date with my IPP progress at this blog.
In the meantime, here’s a clip from a war bride film:

(Originally posted April 12, 2012 on

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