The Food Crisis of Winter 1917-18

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In 1917 Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare in an effort to starve Britain out of the war. It bit deep and there were acute food shortages. Long food queues appeared from the few shops who could get supplies. It created social unrest.

Electric Theatre on Commercial Street: Stephen Gee Collection
Electric Theatre on Commercial Street: Stephen Gee Collection

An advertisement in the Halifax Courier of 8 December 1917 hinted at what might have happened if the crisis had deepened. Alderman Morley and John Law JP spoke at a meeting held at the Electric Theatre on Commercial Street.

‘Workers! Come and protest against the present Queue System and disappointing Food Supply.’

A week later W.H. Asquith, one of the major munition works in Halifax, gave notice that, unless the present system was remedied, the firm would cease work in protest.

Left: Nevinson, C R W [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsThe_Food_Queue Art.IWMART840

The Ministry of Food dispatched an order giving local authorities (through their Food Control Committees) the power to conserve the supply of margarine and butter, and to make arrangements for equitable distribution. The Halifax Food Control Committee announced a ‘fat card’ scheme.
Households had to register with specific retailers, who supplied them with a card allowing them to purchase butter or margarine from them only. The retailers had to register at the food office. Crucially, they were given powers to ensure ‘equitable distribution of supplies’. It ended the ‘food queue scandal’. Asquith’s did not strike.

Bit by bit, a full national programme of rationing was introduced in 1918.

Cinema 1914-18

The Electric Theatre also featured the film, The Advance of the Tank,s in February 1917. This was one of two documentary films produced by Geoffrey Malins which were documentaries of a part of the Somme Campaign filmed to raise morale. Click on the image left for a description of the equipment used by Malins.

Most films, however, were created for light entertainment. Click on any of the images below to view some examples from the period 1900-18

Alice in Wonderland (1903) starred Marie Studholme, a famous actress of the time, who was born near Bradford.

Charlie Chaplin in Easy Street (1917)