1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Food Supply
FOOD SUPPLY.—During the World War of 1914-8 practically
all the belligerent and neutral countries of Europe experienced
a shortage in the supply of food and other necessaries. The
shortage was traceable to three distinct causes: first, the diversion
of productive power to destruction or to making the means
of destruction; second, the increased rate of consumption of
those who were fighting or were undertaking harder physical
labour than usual in the production of munitions; third, the
deliberate blockades which with varying success the belligerents
directed against one another and against neutrals. The blockades
had as one feature a destruction of shipping which is perhaps
sufficiently important to be reckoned as a fourth cause of shortage,
additional to the other three. These causes of reduced supply
or increased demand applied more or less to all useful art
they naturally produced their most sensible effects in the case
of necessary articles and above all in that of food. There, the
failure of the ordinary channels of supply to meet the demand
sooner or later became in every European country so serious as to
call for direct intervention by the Government and to make
“food control” one of the features of the war. Every country
had its succession of food controllers.
The degree of the food shortage and the methods available or adopted for dealing with it naturally varied from one country to another. In all of them it may be said that the food controller had three main problems to consider, namely, the maintenance of supplies, the regulation of prices, and the control of consumption by distribution and rationing. The three problems are naturally connected. A solution of the first of them so complete as to keep supplies up to or above the pre-war standard would prevent the other two from arising at all or at least in any serious form; this happened with bread-stuffs in the United Kingdom. On the other hand an attempt to fix prices without controlling supplies would lead either to a disappearance of supplies or to their distribution in an unjust and wasteful manner. While the problems are thus connected, the third of them—distribution and rationing—can to some extent be described separately and is so described under the heading of Rationing. The present article will deal mainly with the action taken in respect to supplies and prices and will touch on distribution and rationing only to indicate points of contact. No attempt can be made here to describe, even in outline, food control in all countries. All that can be attempted is to give some account of what was necessary and what was accomplished in the United Kingdom, and to mention the salient points of similarity or difference in the experience of other countries.
For the first two years of the war questions of food control attained little prominence in the United Kingdom. The cutting off of the Central European sources of sugar supply led to the anticipation of a considerable shortage of that particular food, and a Royal Commission was established in Aug. 1914, which undertook on Government account the purchase and importation of all supplies from that time onwards. A special organization for securing army meat from abroad was also found necessary from the beginning; this involved control of refrigerated tonnage under the Board of Trade. A system for obtaining weekly reports on retail prices (mainly through the staff of the Labour Exchanges) was put into action at the outbreak of the war; these reports yielded material for subsequent estimates of the increase of the cost of living. The use of cereals and sugar for brewing was limited by an Output of Beer Restriction Act, coming into force on April 1 1916. Apart from this, food supplies were allowed for two years and more to take their course.
By the autumn of 1916, prices, which had risen more or less steadily from the beginning of the war, reached a level which began to evoke acute discontent, and the prospects of an intensified submarine campaign caused anxieties for the future. Two important steps were taken. The first was the establishment in Oct. 1916 of a Royal Commission on wheat supplies, parallel to that on the sugar supplies. This Commission almost immediately took on an international character through the signing in Nov. 1916 of the “Wheat Executive Agreement” between Great Britain, France and Italy, under which the purchase, importation, distribution and shipping not only of wheat but of all cereals was arranged on a common basis for the three Allies, the administrative work being undertaken in London. The Wheat Executive gradually extended its activities to other allies and even to neutrals. The Wheat Commission and the Sugar Commission retained their existence as separate bodies even after the appointment of the food controller, but the latter in practice decided questions of policy and became responsible for supplies of cereals and sugar as of all other foods.
The second step was the making of an Order in Council under the Defence of the Realm Act (Nov. 16) which practically empowered the Board of Trade to introduce a complete system of food control, by regulating the importation, production, distribution, prices and quality of all kinds of food or articles necessary for the production of food. Food control actually began under this Order in Council, immediate steps being taken to lengthen compulsorily the extraction of flour (i.e. increase the proportion of the wheat berry which was made into flour, and so into human consumption, as against that which was left as “offals” to be used as feeding-stuffs for animals), to fix milk prices and to restrain extravagance in public meals. The Government of the day at the same time announced their intention to appoint some person with adequate authority to exercise these extended powers, in other words a “Food Controller.” Before a suitable candidate for the post could be prevailed upon to accept it, the Government itself fell. The new Coalition Govern- ment of Dec. 1916 included among its novelties a food controller to whom full powers were given under a “New Ministries Act.” The first holder of the new post, Lord Devonport, gave valuable support to the Wheat Commission in securing adequate tonnage and foreign credits, and carried a stage further the policy of conservation of cereals already embodied in the Output of Beer Restriction Act and the order lengthening the extraction of flour. To facilitate this the whole of the flour-mills were taken over and run on Government account as from April 1917. An appeal to the public to ration themselves voluntarily on the basis of 4 lb. of bread per head per week, 2½ lb. of meat and ¾ lb. of sugar was issued in Feb. 1917, and, backed by an extensive advertising campaign, produced a definite though limited effect on the bread consumption, particularly of wealthy and middle-class households who were better able to obtain alternative foods; for the working-classes alike in industry and in agriculture the suggested ration of 4 lb. a head was impracticably low and among them the appeal met with little response. The failure of the potato crop gave trouble and a first illustration of the dangers of price fixing. Considerable thought was expended by successive committees in devising better methods for the distribution of sugar, but before any could be adopted Lord Devonport resigned (June 1917).
During the spring of 1917, the submarine menace was growing. The very possibility of feeding the people seemed to be threatened. Meanwhile, the people themselves were mainly disturbed by the rise of prices and the bad distribution of sugar. The reports of the Commissioners on Industrial Unrest, received in June 1917, emphasized these two points above all as the causes of unrest. With the coming of the second food controller, Lord Rhondda, the food problem had reached a more serious stage and was met by far more serious measures.
Lord Rhondda prepared himself and the Ministry of Food to deal thoroughly with all three aspects of supplies, prices and distribution. First he attacked prices. In Sept. 1917 the price of bread was lowered from 1s. or 1s. 1d. to 9d. for the quartern loaf , the difference being paid by the Government as a subsidy. At about the same time there was fixed a scale of prices for meat and for live stock, descending month by month from 74s. per cwt. in Sept. 1917 to 60s. in the following January. The fixing of meat and live-stock prices needed to be and was intended to be accompanied by measures for regulating slaughter and marketing, but for various reasons the latter measures did not become effective till the end of 1917. The scale of prices standing by itself gave the farmers a strong inducement to hurry on their beasts to market, so as to profit by the early high prices and avoid the later low ones; too many beasts were thrown on the market before Christmas and too few were kept for the new year; how the ensuing shortage, aggravated by large purchases of home-grown meat for the army and by other circumstances, was dealt with by rationing in the early part of 1918 is described elsewhere.
On the general principle of controlling supplies of all essential foods as a condition of fixing prices Lord Rhondda never hesitated. This policy was carried out most completely in the case of imports. Cereals and sugar were already being imported by the two commissions. Under Lord Rhondda all bacon, ham, lard, cheese, butter and similar provisions, all oils and fats (edible and otherwise), condensed milk, canned meat and fish, eggs, tea and even such extras as apples, oranges, jam and dried fruits, brought into this country, came to be directly imported by the Ministry of Food or requisitioned on arrival. All home-produced meat and cheese and most of the butter passed through the hands of the Ministry as also, through the control of flour-mills, did all the wheat and most of the barley. Even the whole potato crop of 1918 was taken over under a scheme framed in the time of Lord Rhondda, though not put into force till after his death. Ultimately 85% of all the food consumed by civilians in Great Britain was actually bought and sold by the Ministry of Food. The only important exceptions were milk, fresh fish and fresh vegetables. The total turnover of the Ministry's trading (including the two Royal Commissions) was nearly £900,000,000 a year.
Lord Rhondda made a budget of the food required for the country as a whole, and then took steps to see that that amount of food was available. This was partly a matter of securing imports; for this was needed, on the one hand tonnage, and on the other finance, that is to say, foreign credits; the Ministry of Food acting through or with the Governments concerned made bargains with the producers for the whole exportable surplus of Canadian cheese or Australian wheat or American bacon. It was partly a matter of encouraging food production at home. A vigorous food production campaign was started under the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Food coöperated with the agricultural departments, in fixing only such prices as appeared likely to secure adequate supplies. In effect, in fixing prices for home produce, it made bargains with the farmers as to the prices at which, with whatever show of reluctance or grumbling, they would be able and willing to produce and to deliver their produce to the Ministry or its agents. The legal power of the Ministry to fix any prices it thought good was absolute; the prices for home produce were actually fixed only after apparently interminable consultations, and were prices which could be expected to produce the required supplies, and did.
The largest single source of imported supplies was the United States. Here a special department of the Ministry was established (Oct. 1917), to purchase on its behalf all food-stuffs other than cereals, for which an organization already existed in the Wheat Export Co.; a branch in Toronto dealt with Canadian supplies. The department speedily grew into an international organization of vast scope; the “Allied Export Provisions Commission” purchased between Oct. 1917 and Feb. 1919 nearly 2¼ million tons of food valued at £267,000,000, at a cost for administration amounting to about 115 of 1% on this turnover. All these figures exclude cereals and sugar.
The success of this policy of ensuring supplies by direct purchase abroad and consultation at home was unquestionable. The United Kingdom came nearer than any other European country to maintaining during the war a pre-war standard of supplies, and at the same time achieved a far more equitable distribution. This was due to the fact that there was a single national authority making itself responsible for looking after food supplies as a whole, and for using such influence with other departments as would secure that they were forthcoming.
Upon control of supplies was founded an even more extensive control of prices. Once goods were in the hands of the Ministry, it only remained to fix the margins of profit to be allowed to the various classes of distributors and the resulting prices to the public. This was done on the basis of “costings—” that is to say, investigation of the actual costs incurred and margins of profit required by typical distributors; effect was given to the recommendations of the Costing Department of the Ministry by statutory orders fixing the prices or the profits to be allowed at each stage. Ultimately out of everything consumed in the United Kingdom by way of food and drink, 94% was subject to fixed maximum prices. Almost the only articles untouched were fresh vegetables, canned fruits, honey, salt, vinegar, spices, aerated waters and meals in restaurants. Many of these but barely escaped, and only the Armistice prevented the Ministry of Food from fixing prices for soap and candles. It did regulate the prices of tallow, beehive sections, horsemeat and desiccated coco-nut as well as those of oil cakes and other feeding-stuffs. At the time of Lord Rhondda's appointment, many authorities were inclined to say that any fixing of maximum prices must check supply and lead to the disappearance of the article in question. Lord Rhondda secured himself against this by controlling the supply to start with and only fixing the price when the supply was assured. In one or two cases alone, of which beer and the “disappearing rabbit” are the most familiar, did he depart from this policy; he then did so more or less deliberately because it seemed more important to give the public the comfort of protection against profiteering than to ensure them the food.
Lord Rhondda died in July 1918, after a year of office as food controller and nine months of active work. His successor (from July to Dec. 1918) was Mr. J. R. Clynes, who had previously held the post of Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry and, amongst other matters, had taken an active part in the formation and work of the “Consumers' Council”; this was an advisory body, consisting mainly of representatives of trade unions and coöperative societies, which did a great deal to keep the Ministry in touch with the feelings and grievances of working-class consumers. Mr. Clynes naturally made no great changes from the policy of Lord Rhondda. The most marked feature of his tenure of office was the development of international action, following upon a visit to Europe of the American food controller, Mr. Hoover. An Allied Food Council, consisting of the four food controllers of Britain, France, Italy and the United States, with a standing “Committee of Representatives,” was established in Aug. 1918. There was thus extended to food generally the plan already in force in respect of cereals (and to a less extent sugar and one or two other articles), of making international instead of merely national programmes of food requirements, and presenting these international programmes to the financial authorities and the shipping authorities for supply if possible of the necessary foreign credit and tonnage.
By the latter part of 1918, the submarine menace had been practically mastered by the convoy system, and the limits of the food problem had been defined by the success of rationing. The greatest pinch of all, however, was apparently still to come. Considerations of shipping dictated a concentration of traffic on the shortest route—the N. Atlantic—and the abandonment so far as possible of any attempt to get supplies from the Far South and the Far East. Financial considerations by a natural reaction dictated the exact opposite; the British Treasury had relatively ample sterling credit for purchases in Australia, very few pesos in S. America and hardly a cent to spare in the United States or Canada. The Ministry of Food, and other supply departments, constantly found themselves being offered ships only where they could not get credit, and credit only where they could not get ships. On top of this standing or rather gradually growing difficulty came in Sept. 1918 the necessity, as it then appeared, of hastening the transport of the American army so as to deliver a decisive blow in the coming spring. The framing of shipping programmes had by that time reduced itself to a division of two lions' shares between the Ministry of Munitions and the Ministry of Food (or their international extensions), with a few scraps for import of raw cotton or fertilizers and the like; each of these departments was compelled to accept for the winter of 1918-9 a provisional import programme totally inadequate for its needs and to hope that the war would end before its stocks ran out.
This hope was realized. The Armistice of Nov. 11 put an end to hostilities though not to food control, or food shortage in the United Kingdom or other countries. The Ministry of Food, under two more food controllers—Mr. G. H. Roberts (from Jan. to Feb. 1920) and Mr. C. A. McCurdy (from March 1920 to March 1921), lived longer after the end of hostilities than it had done during them, and after its formal demise on March 31 1921, left a substantial legacy of work and staff to be transferred as a “Food Department” to the Board of Trade. The winding up of a business so vastly beyond the scope of any private concern and the adjustment of accounts with the accuracy required of public departments inevitably took much time. The problem of judicious de-control, that is to say of handing back to private traders the responsibility for maintaining food supplies, without risking any failure of supplies or any excessive rise of price, proved exceedingly difficult; it was complicated by more than one change of view as to the speed with which and the extent to which de-control should be accomplished. A reason for not hastening the end of food control appeared in the disturbed condition of industry and the perpetual threat of paralysis in the essential services of coal or transport. The success with which, during the railway strike of Oct. 1918, the supplies and distribution even of perishable foods were maintained by the Ministry of Food shed lustre on its declining years.
At the end of 1918 the Ministry of Food issued a short memorandum with tables and diagrams illustrating its work under the four main heads of supplies, stocks, prices and rationing.
In respect of supplies a comparison is made in the accompanying table of the amounts of the principal food-stuffs available per head for consumption in 1918 and before the war, in the United Kingdom, Germany and Holland:—
Weekly Domestic Consumption of Bread, Meat, Fats and Sugar per
Head per Week in the United Kingdom, Germany
and Holland. Pre-war and 1918.
|Bread and flour||6.12||6.57||6.44||4.06||7.25||3.06|
The consumption during 1918 is based on the rations, except in the case of bread in the United Kingdom, where the actual consumption is taken. In the case of sugar no figure of pre-war domestic consumption is given by the Ministry of Food; it is commonly estimated at about 1 lb. per head per week.
It appears from the table that in 1918 the United Kingdom
“had half as much bread again as Germany, three times as much
meat and fat, and substantially more sugar. As compared with
Holland, the United Kingdom had twice as much bread, three
times as much meat, more fats, and practically the same amount
of sugar.” In comparison with pre-war consumption, the
bread consumption per head in the United Kingdom had actually
increased slightly in 1918; fats had fallen very little; meat had
fallen by a little over a third; sugar had fallen somewhat, but an exact comparison was impossible. In all cases the deficiency
in 1918 on pre-wa
s figures was far greater, both for Germany and
for Holland. In respect of stocks, the figures show how at Sept.
1 1916 wheat, fats, meat and sugar were near the pre-war level,
“a dangerous point in war, having regard to the uncertainties
of transport,” and by Sept. 1918 had been built up to a level
ensuring safety for the coming winter.
The course of prices is shown in two stages; one from July 1914 to July 1917, when the main development of food control in the United Kingdom began, and the other from July 1917 to Oct. 1918. For each of these periods the course of British food prices is contrasted (a) with that of the prices of certain other staple articles (textiles, coal and soap) in the United Kingdom; (b) with that of food prices in France, Germany and Sweden, respectively:—
Rise in Price of Food and Other Necessary Articles in United Kingdom.
(Price in July 1914 = 100.)
| Average monthly |
| July 1914
| July 1917 |
|Principal controlled foods||205||194||202||216||2.92||0.73|
|Principal controlled foods|
|assuming no subsidy on bread||205||205||208||232||2.92||1.86|
|Principal uncontrolled foods||186||229||311||347||2.39||10.73|
|All principal foods||203||198||213||229||2.87||1.73|
|Textiles, leather, etc.||234||245||294||313||3.72||5.27|
Comparison between Prices of Bread, Butter and Milk, in the
United Kingdom and in Other Countries. (Price in July 1914 = 100.)
| Average monthly |
| July 1914
| July 1917 |
The following comments from the memorandum of the Ministry of Food are interesting:—
“The effect of the introduction of price control from July 1917 onwards is very marked. The rate of increase for controlled food since that date is one-quarter of the rate before then and is also very much less than the rate for other articles and for other countries. If the prices of such food had continued after July 1917 to rise at the same rate as before, they would in Oct. 1918 have stood not 115% but 150% above the pre-war level. If they had continued after July 1917 at the same rate as textiles, they would have reached 185%. The controlled foods cover 94% of the total food expenditure.
“The keeping down of food prices is of course to some extent due to the introduction of the bread subsidy. Though with this allowance the effect of control in slowing down the rise of prices is naturally less, it is still clearly marked. The rate of increase in food prices after July 1917 remains little more than half the rate before then, and less than the rate of increase for any of the other articles shown. To this result two distinct factors have contributed—one, the fixing of prices and margins by the Ministry of Food on a costing basis in this country; the other, the action of the Government of the United States and other exporting countries in controlling the prices paid to the producers there.
“It is probably no exaggeration to say that a large part of the population have been better fed during the war than at any previous period, because for the first time they have been assured of regular work and wages. A number of luxuries and subsidiary foods—fruit, canned fish, sweets, etc.—have been cut off. The supply of essential foods, though reduced as a whole, has been sufficient for all because it has been fairly distributed among rich and poor.”
The Ministry of Food in the United Kingdom accomplished, with a reasonable minimum of mistakes, the work for which it was established. The rationing system adopted is dealt with separately under Rationing. Two cautions or criticisms are not out of place. First, the administrative machinery required was very extensive. The staff directly employed by the Ministry, either at headquarters or in the offices of the Divisional Food Commissioners and Livestock Commissioners, numbered at its maximum over 8,000. In addition the local food control committees employed varying numbers, rising at times of exceptional pressure to as many as 25,000 persons. The printing and stationery bill for a single year exceeded £1,500,000. The expenditure was no doubt fully justified by results, and under the arrangements made it did not fall on the taxes but was covered by a trifling percentage on the price of the articles in which the Ministry dealt. Second, while the profits and margins secured by distributors were undoubtedly lower than they would have been in a time of scarcity without control, they were probably not as low as in a time of plenty without control but with competition. The policy was adopted, indeed no other policy was possible, of preserving the normal channels of trade. This meant that the margin at each stage of distribution, i.e. the difference between the price at which the distributor received his supplies and that at which he was compelled to pass them on, had to be fixed at a point which would afford a living to the distributor of average or less than average efficiency. The more efficient distributor could still make very large profits and did so; he had no motive for cutting prices in order to increase business, since his share of the total business was stereotyped.
If the position of the United Kingdom be briefly compared with that of other countries, it is seen that the central fact facilitating food control in the former was that it had to look to imports rather than to home production for the bulk of its supplies. This simplified the problem of the British food controller (till he was driven to rationing) by making it largely a question of how much shipping he could extort from the shipping controller and how much foreign credit from the Treasury. Both Italy and France produced a larger proportion of their cereals at home, and required less meat. In Italy even sugar was mainly home grown. For the food controllers of Central Powers, questions of importation hardly arose. Their main problem and one which they solved only to a limited degree was that of inducing the farmer to give up a fair proportion of his produce at the official price to the public authorities. They seem, indeed, to have been considerably less successful than the British food controllers in getting agreement with the agricultural population on production and prices; sometimes, at least, prices were fixed which the farmers regarded as arbitrary and which they evaded systematically by contraband sales. Two minor features may be mentioned as having simplified the British task. One is the concentration of the great bulk of flour-milling in the United Kingdom in a small number of important mills (less than 700), which could be readily controlled and which furnished the only easy market to the farmer and the corn merchant; in most other countries mills are more numerous and smaller, and it is common for the farmer to grind his own corn. The other is the limited power of the British municipal authorities. In Germany it was the natural thing for the separate municipal councils to act as independent organs of food control, making their own contracts with neighbouring rural districts for the supply of food to their citizens, fixing prices in their markets, and rationing when need arose. This made possible competition, confusion and difference of standard between the authorities, and made difficult a survey of the nation's needs and resources as a whole. In the United Kingdom, Lord Rhondda, as housekeeper for a family of forty millions, made a single bargain with each group of producers, put all the supplies from different sources into one pool, and distributed them fairly at standardized prices.
In the United States (see p. 98) the problem was different. That country in itself experienced no shortage of any essential food, but became the great source of supply to all the Allies in Europe, and gained in importance as shipping was concentrated on the shortest and most defensible N. Atlantic route. To perform this function it applied (1) a great food production campaign, (2) a campaign for voluntary food saving in order to leave a surplus for the Allies. It had then to face the administrative problems of getting these supplies along the railways and through the ports in competition with munitions, and with its own army. (W. H. B.)
Feeding of the British Army During the War
The feeding of any army is a feature of the Supply Department, the term “supplies,” from a military point of view, being applied to all stores and articles required for the maintenance of an army in the way of food or fuel for men, forage for beasts, or fuel, petrol and oil for aircraft or mechanical transport, hospital requirements in the way of food, medical comforts, etc., with the exception of medicines, drugs or surgical appliances (see generally Supply and Transport).
For a proper understanding of the problem of feeding a modern army, and of what was done in this connexion by Great Britain during the World War, it is necessary to recall how armies were fed in the past. In primitive times, when one nation or tribe invaded another, the subsistence of an invading army depended upon indiscriminate individual plunder. The process was so wasteful that this individual plunder was soon supplanted by a more economical system of gathering the spoil into heaps or magazines; but accumulation is but a means to the end of distribution, and in return for such distribution of victuals a deduction or stoppage was soon made from the pay of the soldier. This was the beginning of the financial control of the department of supply. The third stage was to organize plunder more thoroughly by compelling inhabitants to form magazines, or in other words, by recourse to requisition. The fourth stage was speedily reached by its being discovered that such magazines were more readily and effectively created if the inhabitants were paid instead of compelled to fill them; thus for robbery was substituted purchase, and instead of the military hand was substituted the financial hand, and the hold of the Treasury over the province of supply was strengthened. As the means of communication improved, the mobility of armies called for a better organization of supply. It became imperative to import foodstuffs from a distance, as, owing to the growth of armies, the theatre of war was no longer able to maintain them from its local resources. To bring food from a distance requires transport, and consequently the Treasury or civil side were gradually obliged to organize a transport as well as a supply system. In military operations, the maintenance of order on roads, and means of communication, are of first importance, and order cannot be maintained without discipline. Transport therefore very early passed under the military or semi-military control, whereas supplies remained much longer under civilian or Treasury control, with the result that there was constant friction.
For two long centuries in Great Britain the Treasury struggled against the concession of any financial powers to any military department, and as a consequence, untold millions of money were wasted; only in 1888 the two Departments of Transport and Supplies were blended into one and placed upon a military footing by the creation of the Army Service Corps, thus bringing these two important services completely and entirely under the commander-in-chief, or as it is to-day under the Army Council.
What might be described as the first systematized endeavour to feed British troops in the field was introduced during the wars in the Low Countries. The Treasury appointed a commissary, who was invested with supreme financial control, and was responsible for the maintenance of the army. His system of going to work was to make a contract with some individual to supply the army with bread and bread waggons, and with the supply of this article his responsibility for the feeding of the army came to an end; all other provisions were a regimental matter and were furnished by private speculators, namely, vintners, sutlers and butchers. This system of contracting practically continued, with slight if any modification, right down to the outbreak of the World War, with considerable modifications, of course, as the centuries and years passed, so far as the soldier's ration was concerned; meat was added first, and bread and meat formed the sole ration issued free to the troops in England up till towards the end of the 19th century, when during peace-times a soldier got a money allowance in addition, for the purpose of buying the remaining portion of his rations.
During the ordinary peace-times, and before the outbreak of the World War in 1914, the system in force in Great Britain as regards the feeding of the army was by means of contracts. The General Officers holding the chief commands made arrangements by periodical contracts, varying in duration from anything to 3, 6 or 12 months, for the supply of commodities required.
The soldier was supplied with his bread ration 1 lb., his meat ration ¾ of a lb. He was credited personally with 3d. per diem. This sum was supplemented in a well-run unit by an additional grant of ½d. or so from the canteen funds; the money was expended in the Regimental Institute on the remaining portion of the soldier's food, i.e. groceries, vegetables, extra dishes, etc.
In war-time the entire maintenance of the soldier became the duty of the State, so that from providing only two articles, bread and meat, the State was faced with the problem of providing a complete and full diet, consisting of a very large number of articles and other requirements.
In order to fulfil these duties, the system in the past had been for the War Office to enter into a number of contracts with numerous army contractors for the supply of the various goods required. The contractors would undertake to supply so much biscuit, cheese, jam or any other of the many and various articles, either delivered at the base of operations abroad, or more frequently on board ship at a port of departure in this country. In order to insure that the requisite quality of the goods was kept up, a number of (generally speaking, retired) officers were appointed to carry out periodic inspections at the factories or other places of production. It will be readily seen that such a system was bound to lead to grave abuses, and at the termination of every war up to that of 1914-8, there had always been either grave complaints or scandals, necessitating an enquiry as to why the troops were supplied with bad food, and frequently as to why the State was swindled.
In the event of a general mobilization, the laid-down scheme or plan was that so far as the Expeditionary Force was concerned, the War Office would enter into contracts for the supply of the necessary articles required; the supply of meat being insured by employing contractors to drive live cattle behind our army in the field, and all other supplies to be obtained as explained above For the feeding of the troops mobilizing or being trained at home, general officers and commanders-in-chief were to make their own arrangements in the way of entering into contracts to meet the requirements of their troops, and this system was practically the same as had been approved and agreed on ever since any proposal for general national defence had ever been considered.
Early in 1909, the British War Office, having received information as to the rapid mobilization plans for the German army, decided that it would be necessary to increase the rapidity of British mobilization, and with this end in view, instructions were issued for considerable acceleration. Up to that time it had always been considered that it would be quite impossible for any Expeditionary Force to leave Great Britain in under three weeks, whereas under the new proposed scheme it was suggested that the larger portion could be in a position to depart almost in as many days. In order to carry out these proposals, it was of course necessary to accelerate considerably the supply mobilization machinery. There was at Woolwich Dockyard an accumulation of preserved meat, biscuit, tea, coffee, sugar, jam, salt, medical comforts, etc., sufficient for the requirements of the Expeditionary Force for a few days. The proposal then was that, by means of urgent priority telegrams, army contractors would be got into touch with, and arrangements made for all supply requirements at the earliest possible moment.
In July 1909, Col. (later Maj.-Gen.) S. S. Long (b. 1863), on vacating the position of Commdt. of the A.S.C. Training Establishment at Aldershot, was posted as Assistant-Director of Supplies at Woolwich Dockyard, and on assuming charge there he found that the total written instructions as regards supply mobilization in the event of war were embodied in some three or four typewritten sheets of foolscap, the bulk of the instructions being little more than pious hopes. Up to that period, Col. Long (who, having been through the S. African War, had in that war become D.A.A.G. and then A.A.G. for transport) had been looked upon at the War Office as a leading transport authority, he having compiled the official text-book upon this important subject. He proceeded to make a close study of the whole supply problem, with the result that he gradually evolved a new system for the feeding of the British Expeditionary Force. This system was put into operation from the outbreak of the World War to its termination, without being in any way materially altered. Instead of the costly and wasteful way of obtaining and driving live cattle for the purpose of meat supply, behind the armies, he proposed that frozen-meat ships, loaded up with tens of thousands of carcasses of sheep or quarters of beef, be placed at convenient ports, and from these ships the fresh meat supply would be absolutely guaranteed, and at a cost very slightly above the usual price pertaining during peace-times, and much less than half what it had cost in any previous war. The frozen meat ships not only fulfilled the purpose of insuring the meat supply, providing an adequate reserve of from 50 to 60 days at a time, but they also served a further purpose of acting as cold storage for quantities of hospital supplies, such as fish, poultry and many other commodities required for the invalid feeding of the many sick and wounded.
The original supply mobilization proposals presupposed army bakery companies, moving immediately behind the troops and baking bread to meet the requirements. In the S. African War of 1899-1902, similar arrangements had been made, but actual practice had proved that it was impossible of fulfilment, and the bulk of the British troops were then almost entirely fed upon the much-disliked army biscuit. Col. Long now suggested that the more feasible and sound plan was to locate the army bakeries a long distance in the rear of the fighting troops; that the loaves of bread as baked should be put 50 at a time into the cheap, loosely woven sacks which are readily and plentifully to be obtained in the trade at comparatively small cost, known as offal sacks, and by this means they would be readily handled and railed forward daily to the troops right into the fighting line. His recommendations and their adoption were proved quite correct, with the result that for the first time in its history, the British troops were during the World War fed largely on bread instead of biscuit, in spite of the vast numbers under arms. Instead of the old system of contractors putting the goods they had contracted to supply on board ship, or delivering overseas, Col. Long suggested that a definite home port should be selected as the spot from which all supply requirements for the army would be despatched, to be known as “The Home Base Supply Port,” and after consultation with the Admiralty it was finally agreed that Newhaven should be earmarked for this purpose. It was then arranged that directly on the outbreak of war, an already earmarked staff in the way of Naval Embarkation Officer and officer in charge of the Supply Depot, with all the necessary staffs, etc., would instantly proceed to this port, taking over all the available stores, and generally carrying out the duties of such a port, whilst all contractors would consign their goods to that port, where they would be thoroughly examined and passed as sound and fit to be embarked on the various supply ships. In order further to protect the public and the soldier's interests, arrangements were made with the Public Analytical Department of Somerset House, for that department to send a staff of chemists down to Newhaven to analyze the goods on the spot, so as to save time; and it is only right to emphasize the debt of gratitude due to the Analytical Department for insuring not only that the goods were of the proper quality, but also that the fighting soldiers were adequately fed.
During the years that followed from the end of 1909 onward to 1912, the schemes and plans to be adopted in the event of a general mobilization and the despatch of the B.E.F. were gradually elaborated and extended, until at the end of 1912 all supply requirements had been most fully thought out and provided for, together with complete instructions for the Home Base Depot, the overseas depots, etc. Nothing remained to be done in the event of mobilization beyond putting the scheme in force.
Meantime, Col. Long had been evolving schemes for the modernizing of the feeding of a nation in arms, which he foresaw must result in the event of a great European war, involving general mobilization. However, at this period—although directly under the War Office, not being a member of the War Office staff—he found little opportunity of ventilating his opinions or successfully bringing his suggestions to notice. In Jan. 1913, Gen. Long moved from Woolwich Dockyard into the War Office becoming Director of Supplies. He then set to work to inaugurate an entirely new system, the essence of which was the complete elimination of contractors with the British forces either in the field or at home. Except in a very minor degree as regards home forces, everything required for the forces would thus be obtained direct from the factories, so that the middleman's opportunity had disappeared.
Up to this time it had been left to individual generals, commanders-in-chief, commanders of district or coast defence, to make their own arrangements and contracts, so far as feeding and forage were concerned, with the result that in the event of war occurring, there would have been a very large number of authorities going on the general markets of the country, and purchasing not only against the public, but against each other. This old system, in circumstances such as those at the outbreak of the World War of 1914, would have undoubtedly created a veritable Eldorado for the unscrupulous contractor, who would thus have been enabled to make vast fortunes; and there is very little doubt that, had the old system continued, a very much worse question would have arisen owing to the uncontrolled purchasing by a large number of authorities, since in addition to those named above, the War Office itself and the Admiralty would also have been heavy buyers, and a panic would undoubtedly have occurred on the market. Furthermore, under such a system, it would be absolutely impossible to move troops in large bodies from one part of the country to another.
Gen. Long pointed out that only one system was possible or would insure safety, and that was for one Government department under one individual alone to be responsible for all army maintenance. According to his proposals, it was suggested that three great base depots be formed, one in London, one at Bristol and one at Liverpool, and that in addition, a number of main depots be created, one at Glasgow for the supply of Scotland, one in Dublin to meet the requirements of troops in Ireland, and three down through the centre of England, at Leeds, Northampton and Reading; the idea being that at each of these great depots—at which cold storage was available—would be accumulated sufficient reserves of rations of all kinds to meet the requirements of so many hundred thousand men for a given number of days, so that when it became necessary to move large bodies of troops in any direction desired, all that it was necessary to do was to increase automatically the reserves of the depot affected by the number of troops based thereon; the War Office being entirely responsible for the provision of these depots. The general proposal was that each of these proposed depots should be very carefully surveyed, all plans and arrangements drawn out, together with the necessary establishment of officers and other personnel. Standing orders and full instructions would be prepared for each depot, so that, in the event of being required, everyone connected therewith could step into their place with the minimum of confusion. Then, should occasion arise, for the first 10 days after mobilization was ordered the depot would not be called upon to perform any duties other than organizing itself and receiving the supplies which would be poured into it, under arrangements to be made centrally by the War Office. Meanwhile at the War Office itself would be kept not only full details of each depot, but a consolidated return showing the total requirements, so that directly mobilization was ordered the Contract Branch of the War Office, working under the instructions of the Director of Supplies, would at once proceed to make the necessary contracts to purchase the supplies required to meet the needs of each particular depot. Under the old system it was, of course, obvious that, in the event of a general mobilization, the ordinary contract system of feeding the troops in the United Kingdom would necessarily break down, owing to the fact that at many of the stations the contractor would possibly be only a small butcher or baker, supplying depots of possibly one or two hundred men in number, whereas on mobilization that same depot at once expanded into several thousand, entirely beyond the ordinary small contractor.
Gen. Long's proposal for dealing with this matter was that on mobilization, as all contracts failed, and owing to popular excitement, possible inflation of prices, etc., it would not be possible to make other satisfactory contracts, every commanding officer would be authorized to take credit in his regimental messing accounts for 2s. for every man present with or joining the unit under his command, and similarly the sum of 1s. 9d. per diem per horse, and that he was then to make the best local arrangements he could with the money in question for the feeding of his men and animals. This system would go on for 10 days. At the end of that period the great depots throughout the country would be stocked and in working order and ready to take up the whole army supply throughout the United Kingdom.
These ideas were so novel and completely at variance with the general accepted ideas of the past, that when Gen. Long first made these proposals, they met with determined opposition from the finance side of the War Office. It was not indeed till July 1914 that he succeeded in getting his way and forcing the civil side of the War Office to accept his proposals, and it was not until towards the end of that month that the final instructions to all commands went out, directing exactly what was to be done in the way of feeding men and animals on mobilization. Similarly he met with strong opposition to his proposals for the formation of the great depots, not only from the civil side of the War Office, but also from the military as well.
Incidentally this complete change of system of army supply, and entire departure from all the laid-down rules of army feeding of the past, successful as it was from an army point of view, was if possible of even greater importance to the nation at large. Had the old system continued and been in operation when the war broke out, every army contractor, and every trader who aspired to be such, would instantly have proceeded to buy up the market and corner the various commodities, in the hopes of selling them at a great profit under contract to the various generals seeking to make contracts for the feeding of the troops under their command. As a matter of fact, in a measure this did happen on the outbreak of the war, so far that holders of goods and commodities withheld their stocks and ceased to put them on the market. Immediately after the outbreak of the war, it suddenly became impossible to buy a number of household requirements in the way of sugar, bacon, etc., owing to there being none on the market; well-to-do people, in a panic, began to lay in stocks at exorbitant prices, and from many large towns came the sounds of ominous murmurings from the poorer population who were unable to obtain their daily food. This continued for some three or four days; and it was not generally realized that it was the adoption of Gen. Long's system that suddenly restored an absolutely free market, with commodities little if anything above the prices prevailing at the end of July 1914. The reason for this was that the War Office being the sole buyers, and finding that importers, manufacturers and holders of goods were refusing to sell, Gen. Long, without waiting for authority, and taking the law into his own hands, proceeded to requisition certain requirements urgently wanted by the Expeditionary Force. He thereby forced the Government to pass immediately a requisitioning Act, and within 24 hours the holders of commodities were throwing their goods on the market, fearing to hold lest they should be requisitioned. Also, the War Office being the only buyers of meat other than the ordinary public, they were in the position of forcing the meat market to continue reasonable prices under the threat of requisition if they failed to do so. This close control over the meat market was practically maintained right up to the middle of 1916, when the price of good average quality frozen meat to the Government landed in England was only a decimal point or two over 6d. per pound, and to the public at large only some couple of pence more.
During peace-time, in order to insure that the quality of supplies composing the soldier's ration should be kept up to a good sound standard, all A.S.C. officers were carefully trained so as to be good judges in this respect, and in addition, some exceptionally well-qualified officers were appointed special inspectors. On the outbreak of war, of course, all such officers were necessarily required for the fighting formations or for other almost equally important duties in connexion with the mobilized armies, and consequently the general inspection of supplies as to quality had to be relegated to a number of retired officers. The result of this in the past had been that, although such officers did their best, many of them had been retired for a great number of years, and were entirely out of touch with modern requirements, or, owing to age or infirmity, the work required was beyond their capabilities. The day following the outbreak of the World War, Dr. MacFadden, the medical head of the Public Health Department of the Local Government Board, went to Gen. Long at the War Office, to know if he could be of any assistance to him. Gen. Long at once replied that there was no one who could do more for the country and the soldier than the Local Government Board if they would undertake the duties; he was well aware that, under the procedure adopted by great Government departments, opposition would be raised by the Military Medical Authorities and the War Office, to the idea that the Local Government Board should in any way be allowed to interfere with the food of the soldier or the methods of its supply, etc.; but he for his part could not devise any system for a proper inspection, whereas the Local Government Board had all machinery ready to its hand, which could be turned over for the protection of public interests, and also the soldier's, without it costing one single penny. Gen. Long therefore proposed to Dr. MacFadden that he (Dr. MacFadden) should undertake the entire responsibility of seeing that all food-stuff supplied for use of the soldier should be of unexceptional quality, thoroughly sound and good, and fully complying with all the conditions of purchase; that he himself (Gen. Long) would supply Dr. MacFadden with copies giving specifications of everything in the way of food-stuffs; he would also supply Dr. MacFadden with a list of every factory, warehouse or other persons supplying the War Office with food-stuffs throughout the United Kingdom, and keep him so supplied; and then, if Dr. MacFadden would supply to each Health Officer a copy of the specifications and a list of the premises where food was being stored or manufactured for the War Office within that Health Officer's area, and request him to keep the closest watch upon the same, and immediately to take action under the Public Health Acts, if any wrong were committed or attempted then a perfect system of inspection would be attained.
All these duties Dr. MacFadden readily undertook, and the result exceeded the most sanguine expectations. The prosecutions were singularly few, but this undoubtedly was largely due to the closeness of the inspection. Medical Officers of Health threw themselves whole-heartedly into the scheme, and not only visited factories daily, but posted their inspectors of nuisance almost continuously on the premises. As a result of the first prosecution, a letter was sent to the Medical Officer of Health for the district in question, by Gen. Long on behalf of the Army Council, thanking him for his public services in safeguarding the interests of the country and more particularly the interests of our fighting men. The result of this was that every Medical Officer of Health throughout the United Kingdom redoubled his efforts to insure the best of quality, in the hopes that, could he catch a supplier slipping, he would then have the good fortune to obtain a similar letter. It is a well-known fact in official life that one Govt. Dept. objects to giving credit to another department for any work which it may do, and consequently it is not to be wondered at that little or no acknowledgment was made by the War Office for the services which were performed for them by the Local Government Board in general, and Dr. MacFadden and all his officers in particular. The Local Government Board also undertook to send specially qualified Health Officers abroad to see that the quality of preserved meat being manufactured in both the United States and S. America was kept up to the highest possible standard.
It is unnecessary to go in detail into the very slow but gradual improvement of the soldier's ration in war. The appalling mistakes and lack of suitable feeding for the British armies during the various modern campaigns from the Napoleonic wars down to the outbreak of the World War can in a large measure be read the various histories of those wars. The starvation and neglect of the armies in the Crimea are well dealt with by Kinglake; but although Great Britain had been involved in a great number of minor wars, the authorities still seemed to lack the power of organizing our supply service upon a proper basis. To take only two campaigns to exemplify the fact:—the Egyptian War caused many complaints and grumblings as to the unsuitability or lack of proper food, and the heavy cost of the same, although at that period the improvement of the soldier's diet was greatly in advance of previous campaigns; S. Africa showed still more improvement, but owing to the lack of system it was a frequent complaint that the supplies on arrival at the front were in a rotten and putrid condition—there were many instances of their arriving in that condition at the base of operations at Cape Town or other ports. The cost was out of all proportion to what it should have been. Great fortunes were made by unprincipled contractors, and at the end of that war lengthy enquiry was held into many grave irregularities.
Shortly before the outbreak of the World War, some experiments in food values had been carried out in America, and under War Office orders similar experiments were carried out in England. A special committee was appointed by the War Office to go into the whole question, and to recommend a suitable “active service” diet for the soldier. The result of this committee's labours was that a very carefully balanced diet was got out, which would be not only palatable, but also would contain all the necessary calories or energy units sufficient to maintain the normal man exposed to the rigours of a bad climate on active service. The recommended daily ration for the soldier on active service was as follows:—
|Bread—1¼ lb. or biscuit 1 lb. or flour 1 lb.|
|Fresh, if obtainable||1¼||lb.|
|Meat extract (part of iron ration)||1||oz.“|
|Fresh Vegetables, when available||8||oz.“|
|Or peas, or beans, or potatoes, dried||2||oz.“|
|Tobacco||2 oz. a week.|
This ration undoubtedly gave universal satisfaction. The only improvement that it contained over that supplied to troops in S. Africa was the addition of the 4 oz. of bacon and 3 oz. cheese; but the really great improvement was that the quality was invariably well maintained, and the soldier received the same with the utmost regularity.
During the last week in July 1914, the officers who were earmarked for the command of the eight great supply depots in the United Kingdom attended at the War Office under instructions which had been issued some few weeks earlier, and before the imminence of the outbreak of the war had ever occurred to anyone, in order that as a precautionary measure they might receive some general instructions as to the new method of feeding the army on mobilization, and in order that they might then visit the actual spot where they would be employed in the event of the necessity arising, so as to be thoroughly au fait with the whole position so far as they were concerned. This visit to the War Office was certainly well-timed, so that after the whole of their duties had been fully explained to them by Gen. Long, they at once proceeded to their war stations, and as a consequence, on Aug. 4 1914, they had already had some few days to work out their preparations locally.
On Aug. 5, so perfect were the supply arrangements, that many trains had already been loaded and were on their way to Newhaven; the necessary Supply Officers and personnel crossed on that day to France; and on Aug. 6, two days after the declaration of war, British supply ships were already steaming across the Channel, actually preceding the troops by some hours.
The Director of Supplies, Expeditionary Force, attended at the War Office the day following the declaration of war, when he received not only printed instructions, which had been most carefully prepared as regards his own duties, but copies of instructions for Supply Officers of base depots, rail depots, advance depots and for all Supply Officers doing duty with formations.
From the moment the Expeditionary Force left, the Director of Supplies Overseas was in close daily correspondence with the Director of Supplies at the War Office, so that, as a matter of fact, the latter officer kept his hand upon the feeding of the army down to the very smallest particular.
Under a good system it is comparatively easy to maintain an army when it is victoriously advancing, but the great test of war is the maintenance of an army in retreat. If proof were ever needed as to the perfection of the supply arrangements, it is in the fact that during the British retreat to the Marne, so far as the official records go, there was only one occasion when a division went a day without its food, and was compelled to fall back on the emergency ration, consisting of 1-lb. tin of preserved meat, 1 Ib. biscuit done up in a small linen bag and a grocery ration, and even on the one occasion when the division missed its daily supply of full rations, it was not the fault of the Supply Units of the Formation, but owing to bad staff work, as it was subsequently found that there were supply columns looking for this division on its right, on its left and even between it and the advancing Germans. When the forces in France were joined by divisions of native troops from India, there was a breakdown of the Indian Military Supply system; the War Office took up the duties, and never in its history had native troops been so well fed and looked after.
When it became necessary to send an expedition to the Dardanelles, and later on to Salonika, then to E. Africa, the supply system was expanded to meet requirements with apparent ease. The system, as laid down and provided for, continued in existence throughout the whole war in all theatres of operations, with the exception of Mesopotamia, which was under the Indian Government, and which, as is well known, hopelessly broke down; whereas Gen. Long's system remained in force from start to finish with but the very slightest modifications.
The business of supply being officially part of the quartermaster-general's department, at the head of which, during the World War, was the late Gen. Sir John Cowans, it must be recollected that, so far as the Expeditionary Force was concerned, Gen. Long's proposals had been agreed to during the earlier period when Gen. Sir Herbert Miles was quartermaster-general. As regards the general regulations for supply mobilization introduced by Gen. Long in 1913, Sir John Cowans was then quartermaster-general, but it is only right to say that there was not a single detail of the work which originated from him, and the greater bulk of it was carried through without even his knowing exactly what was being done. There are War Office minutes in existence, in which Gen. Cowans himself acknowledged that, so far as the supply system was concerned, during the first 20 months of the war—at the end of which Gen. Long, knowing that it was running smoothly, left the War Office—he had never in any way interfered therewith.
The crowning success of the whole British Supply system during the World War is undoubtedly the fact that not only were the troops, in spite of their great number, the best fed that the world has ever seen, but from a cost point of view possibly the cheapest fed, considering the enormously inflated world prices; and throughout the whole course of the war, for the first time in British military history, there was a complete absence even of rumours of corruption in connexion with the feeding of the army.
- (S. S. L.)
Upon its entry into the World War, the U.S. Government was confronted with the fact that the previous heavy demands upon the country's markets had drained the grain reserves and diminished other important basic stocks, such as the number of breeding hogs. This situation was aggravated by the fact that the 1917 wheat harvest was far below normal and the corn crop failed to mature properly. The Government therefore found food control one of the first of its war problems. This control required measures which, without unduly disturbing the normal economic conditions within the country, would (1) increase American exports, particularly of breadstuffs, meats, fats and sugar; (2) maintain such stability in prices as would encourage the domestic producer and thus increase production, while protecting domestic consumers against speculation and profiteering; (3) regulate the distribution of food exports and imports so that only the necessary minimum should go to neutrals, that the maximum should be properly divided among the Allies, and that leakage to the enemy should be prevented; (4) enable the Government to regulate buying in the home markets so as to further all these policies.
The Government Agency for Food Control.—To give the executive branch of the Government the necessary powers, Congress passed as war measures the Embargo Acts (June 15 1917 and Oct. 6 1917), the Food Control or Lever Act (Aug. 10 1917) and the Food Survey Act (Aug. 10 1917). The Embargo Acts gave control over imports and exports, with power to license and fully regulate export and import operations. The Food Survey Act gave additional powers to the Department of Agriculture to enable it more effectively to assist the farmers.
The Lever or Food Control Act conferred upon the President the following powers:—(1) To license those engaged in the importation, manufacture, storage or distribution of foods or feeds, and to issue rules and regulations governing such licensees (retailers doing less than $100,000 business annually being especially exempted from this provision); (2) to buy and sell wheat, flour, meal, beans and potatoes; (3) to requisition foods and feeds for the army and navy and for public uses connected with the common defence; and (4) to create agencies for carrying out the purposes of the Act. The Act also prohibited under severe penalties the hoarding of foods and feeds, or their destruction for the purpose of enhancing their price, or conspiracy for that purpose. Other practices such as making excessive charges for foods or services in connexion with foods were made unlawful, but no penalty was provided. The Act gave no powers for price-fixing, but Congress itself fixed a minimum price of $2.00 per bus. for the 1918 crop of wheat, and gave the President power to fix minimum prices for subsequent wheat crops.
By executive order of Aug. 10 1917, the President created a governmental agency designated the U.S. Food Administration. This order appointed Herbert Hoover, food administrator, and delegated to him the powers granted to the President by the Food Control Act. Mr. Hoover, since the outbreak of the war in Europe, had been chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, where he had demonstrated his ability as an economist and organizer and gained unrivalled experience in war-time food problems. The Government had called him home soon after the United States entered the war in order that he might give his advice as to the measures to be taken.
The Food Administration had thus become, by Act of Congress and executive order, the special war agency of the Government for food control. Although it worked in coöperation with the Department of Agriculture, it was a distinct agency, and the food administrator was responsible directly to the President. Because it was a war emergency agency, the food administrator could arrange that those who were associated with him in the direction of the work should, like himself, serve without compensation. As volunteers they could without reservation seek the voluntary coöperation of households, farmers and the food trades, and upon such coöperation the achievements of the food administration were principally based.
With the approval of the governor a federal food administrator was appointed in each state and territory, and he, in turn, selected a local administrator in every county and large city. In all, some 8,000 volunteers gave their whole time to the work of the Administration, and part-time service was given by some 750,000 members of the various committees, chiefly women. About 3,000 persons, chiefly clerks, received salaries. Two great governmental corporations were also created to assist the Food Administration. The first of these was the Food Administration Grain Corp. (which after July 1 1919 became the U.S. Grain Corp.), which eventually was given a capital of $150,000,000. This corporation acted as the buying and selling agency for the Government chiefly in the matter of wheat control, though it dealt to some extent in practically all the commodities in which the Government was authorized to deal by the Lever Act. The other corporation was the Sugar Equalization Board, capitalized at $5,000,000, and authorized to coöperate with the Allies in the purchase of sugar. It was through the Sugar Equalization Hoard that the distribution of the 1918 and 1919 sugar crops was controlled.
Food Conservation.—The problem of increasing American exports involved the reduction of both the waste and the consumption of all commodities, and the substitution at home of certain surplus commodities for those particularly required abroad. This was the basis of the appeals for food conservation, which became the most familiar incident of food control. The European Governments had adopted rationing (see Rationing) as the basis of food conservation. Mr. Hoover and his associates, however, relied chiefly upon the spirit of self-sacrifice of the American people for this war service, and in America conservation was achieved mainly by the voluntary action of individual citizens, stimulated and directed principally by influential women who volunteered their services. With the coöperation of the entire press, an intense educational and patriotic appeal for conservation was made throughout the country. Days which became popularly known as “less” days were established. One day of the week was designated by the Food Administration as that on which a certain important food should not be served or eaten; for example, there was in each week a meatless day, a porkless day, and more than one wheatless day, and these were almost religiously observed by practically the whole population as a patriotic duty. So effectively was conservation impressed upon the public mind that a new verb, “to hooverize,” came into common use to describe food saving, and was soon used to designate saving in other commodities as well.
The most effective measure for securing national observance with uniform and definite rules for saving was the pledging of housewives, hotel and restaurant keepers, and retail dealers to the voluntary observance of “less” days and other standardized methods of saving. As a result of campaigns for signed pledges, some 14,000,000 families, 7,000 hotels and public eating-places, and 425,000 retail dealers were enrolled in the United States as definitely pledged to the observance of the food conservation programme. Retail dealers in food were eventually required to limit their sale of wheat flour and to require the purchase of a certain specified proportion of substitutes as an accompaniment of every purchase of wheat flour. Wasteful commercial and industrial practices such as faulty loading of railroad cars with perishable foods and the acceptance by bakers of bread returned when stale were prohibited.
In the Lever Act, Congress provided that after Sept. 10 1917, foods, fruits, food materials or feeds should not be used in the production of distilled liquors, and further gave the President power to prohibit the use of these materials in the production of malt or vinous liquors when he should determine a necessity therefor existed. On Dec. 10 1917, the President issued a proclamation limiting the consumption of foodstuffs by brewers in the production of malt liquors to 70% of their consumption in the year 1917. Maltsters and near-beer manufacturers were also licensed and subjected to rules limiting their use of grain. In Sept. 1918, the grain supply outlook called for further restriction on consumption and on Sept. 16 1918, the President issued a proclamation prohibiting the use after Oct. 1 1918, of any food or feed, except malt already manufactured, in the production of malt liquor, including near-beer. This proclamation brought into operation full restrictions against the use of food-stuffs in the production of any distilled or malt liquor. Since these were measures taken for the conservation of food-stuffs only, they did not, however, prohibit the sale of intoxicating beverages, although a “War Time Prohibition Act,” passed by Congress Nov. 21 1918, did provide for war-time prohibition pending demobilization of the army, and beginning on July 1 1919. This, however, was a measure of prohibition for protection of the soldiers and not a food control measure. The use of food in other manufacturing trades was also controlled and restricted by the regulations of the Food Administration, particularly the use of sugar in the manufacture of candy and other non-essential sweets. The conservation programme was in full force from Sept. 1917 until Nov. 1918, when it was withdrawn shortly after the Armistice. The results show that after the United States came into the war, and notwithstanding the exhaustion of its reserves and the decrease of its basic supplies, the volume of food exports to the Allies in these critical months was such that it saved the Allied situation. Without very much more than the usual shipments from the United States the food supply of the Allies would have been reduced below the danger point. In the three years before the war the average food exports were 6,959,055 tons. In the fiscal year 1917-8 the exports were 12,326,914 tons, and, in 1918-9, 18,667,378 tons.
Stimulation of Production.—The Department of Agriculture exercised its great influence and used its machinery to reach the farms of the United States with patriotic appeals and advice for the stimulation of production. Response to these appeals, which were disseminated also by the Food Administration, resulted in a considerably increased crop production of 1918. The most important instrument of the Government for stimulating production, however, was the power of the Food Administration to influence prices. This power enabled the Government to guarantee a minimum price to the farmers for wheat, and to assure, though not to guarantee, stabilized prices for hogs, cottonseed products, other vegetable oils, sugar and dairy products. These prices were controlled by the Food Administration through its control of Allied, neutral and Government purchases in the domestic market, supplemented by agreements with the producers of the commodities controlled. In Aug. 1917, a commission composed of representatives of various interests of the population, consumers and producers (though the farmers were given a majority representation), was appointed by President Wilson to determine a fair price for the 1917 crop of wheat. The price agreed upon was $2.20 per bus., which was a 10% increase over the minimum price fixed by Congress in the Lever Act for the 1918 and 1919 crops. This price was then maintained through the Food Administration Grain Corp., which bought at terminal markets any surplus offered at the agreed fair price. The price guaranteed for the 1919 crop was $2.26 per bushel. The effect of these measures was shown in a greatly increased acreage planted in wheat. In 1918 there were 59,181,000 ac. yielding 921,438,000 bus., and in 1919, 73,243,000 ac. yielding 940,987,000 bus., as compared with 52,316,000 and 45,089,000 ac. producing 636,318,000 and 636,655,000 bus., in 1916 and 1917 respectively, when there had been no guarantee. In Nov. 1917 the Food Administration gave an assurance to the farmers of a minimum price for hogs, calculating this price on the basis of the price of corn, the principal hog-feed. Despite the fact that there had been already a decrease of 5,000,000 stock hogs at the beginning of this attempt at stimulation, the number of hogs slaughtered in public markets in the fiscal year 1916-7 was 40,201,018, in 1917-8, 35,543,037, and in 1918-9, 44,398,389. The assurance given in the fall of 1917 did not affect production until the spring of 1918, and showed its effect most clearly in the heavy marketing season in the fall of 1918. Producers of vegetable oils (from cottonseed and peanuts) were assured in Sept. 1918, of 17½ cents per lb. for their crude oil, and this price was maintained for them until July 1 1919. The supply of all vegetable oils in the United States was in 1916, 1,745,574,000 lb., in 1917, 1,742,931,000 lb., and in 1918, 1,911,917,000 lb. It was not possible to secure any great increase in domestic sugar production because of the labour shortage, and special attention was therefore devoted to the stimulation of West Indian production. In Aug. U.S. and Cuban producers were assured of $7.35 per 100 lb. refined, Atlantic seaboard basis; this was increased in Sept. 1918 to $8.49 for Cuban and $8.82 for U.S. sugar, and this price was held until Sept. 1919 by the Sugar. Equalization Board. In 1917 the total sugar produced in American and Cuban territory was 5,159,000 tons, in 1918, 5,500,000 tons and in 1919, 6,052,000 tons. These statistics of increased production of wheat, hogs, vegetable oils and sugar show that the producers of the United States responded quite as effectively as did the consumers to the appeals of the Government for war service in the matter of food.
Price Stabilization.—Under the highly artificial and unusual conditions of world supply and of concentration of demand upon the U.S. markets there was constant danger of wide and rapid fluctuations in the prices of affected commodities. One of the principal problems of the Government was the prevention, or at least mitigation, of fluctuations of prices for food products in order, first, to safeguard farmers against sudden and disastrous reductions of price such as would discourage production; second, to protect consumers against undue rises which would bring hardship to wage-earners and the industrial population generally, cause strikes and impair war-time efficiency. Again the United States profited by the experience of European Governments and avoided the difficulties which had been found to follow attempts to secure price stabilization by fixing maximum prices. With the Government's control over the large purchases, and the consequent power to influence the demand and the price at which the dominant buyers bought, it was found possible to secure the desired stability by the commercial operations of purchase and sale and the regulation of distributors without unduly disturbing the normal business methods of the country. The direct control for stabilization purposes was largely confined to breadstuffs (wheat and rye), pork products, beef products, sugar, preserved fruits, and certain dairy products; as it was evident that if the prices of these basic commodities for which there was the greatest demand could be held at a stabilized level, the prices of other commodities connected with them could not fluctuate. For example, if the price of pork products was held stable, the price of corn, which is chiefly consumed by hogs, could not vary from its proper relation to hog prices. Indirect control over the prices of certain products such as wheat, rye, barley, pork products, canned fish and condensed milk, was in the hands of the Government through its control over the foreign buying, because these commodities were exported in such quantities that the power to determine the export price practically determined the price in domestic markets. In the case of sugar, agreements were executed with the Allied Governments which gave a joint commission control of the buying in Cuban and Porto Rican markets, and this arrangement combined with the Government's powers in regard to producers, gave effective control over this commodity. With reference to rice, canned sardines, cottonseed products, dried fruits and city milk, agreements were reached with producers and manufacturers that provided for the maintenance of such stabilized prices as would protect producers and the public. With basic prices thus controlled, the inflation of prices in the hands of the distributors between the producer and consumer was prevented chiefly by fixing for each link in the chain of distribution a maximum margin of profit. This was possible with wholesale distributors because they were licenced by the Food Administration and required to observe its rules and regulations. Retailers of less than $100,000 gross business annually, being exempt from licence, were not subject to regulations, except indirectly through the wholesalers. The most effective method of control devised for the retailers was the publication of a “fair price list” in the local papers of each city and town, stating what was considered a fair maximum price for each of the principal commodities. These prices were determined by Fair Price Boards made up of local business men and women selected by the Food Administration's representatives. Care was taken to keep each local Fair Price Board correctly informed as to basic prices so that the maximum prices fixed for its locality would differ from those elsewhere only in so far as costs were increased or decreased by local conditions. The principal feature of this control and stabilization of prices for food products in the United States as distinguished from that in Europe is that control in the United States was exercised through the ordinary machinery familiar to the trade, that is, through the pressure of sales and other business methods, supplemented to only a slight extent by legal regulations as such. The particular advantage of this policy was that it allowed prices to respond to the real changes in value brought about by the inevitable war-time expansion of currency and credit and the increase of production in other lines, while it prevented rapid fluctuations from local and fleeting causes. The success of this control is apparent from the small rise in food prices during the war period, particularly in comparison with the rise both preceding and succeeding the control period. The chief aim of the control, namely, the protection of both the consuming public and the farmer, was shown to have been successful by the industrial peace and prosperity during the war and the increased production of the farmer.
Control of Speculation and Profiteering.—In addition to the measures above described as “price stabilization,” the Food Administration had special rules and regulations governing food distributors which were particularly aimed at the prevention of profiteering and speculation under war conditions. Food distribution inevitably is a speculative business. The great supply comes on the market during a comparatively short period of the year, and the function of the distributor is to hold and distribute this supply throughout the year. A part of the distributor's profit must be regarded as an allowance for the speculative risk he necessarily takes in respect to his future market. This, like the other factors of his profit, is ordinarily regulated by competition under the law of supply and demand, but in time of war, when the demand was practically unlimited, the Food Administration had to interpose further checks. The principal measures were the following:—(1) As stated above, maximum margins were established for licenced dealers; that is, a fixed percentage of profit was prescribed which the licensee was forbidden to exceed. The determination of these margins was one of the most difficult problems of the food administrator, particularly because a margin sufficient for the large-scale operator, whose turnover was large and efficiency high, would not provide any profit for the small operator with higher costs. To have driven the small operator out of business would have deranged the competitive system after the war and left the public exposed to the danger of control of food supplies by a few large concerns. (2) The trading in futures on produce exchanges was restricted, and for some commodities, (sugar, cottonseed oil, butter, etc.) entirely eliminated. In the case of other commodities like corn, where the trading in future supplies is an indispensable part of the system of distribution, the quantity that could be sold under any one contract to any one firm was limited through the coöperation of the exchanges. The fact that the Government bought and sold wheat made dealing in futures in that commodity non-essential and it was prohibited absolutely. (3) The period and volume of holdings of food in storage were regulated and without special permit from the Food Administration could not be changed. The prosecution of hoarders under the hoarding provisions of the Lever Act also prevented dealers from holding excessive quantities of food for speculation. (4) Detailed regulations were made in the different trades requiring that all food should pass in straight lines through the chain of distribution. A miller, for example, was allowed only to sell to a wholesaler, a retailer or consumer. A wholesaler could buy only from a miller and sell only to a retailer or consumer. This prevented the addition of unnecessary layers of profit to the price of food passing through too many hands on the road from producer to consumer. (5) The embargo on exports without permit was a very effective discouragement to the speculator. With a controlled market in the United States the speculator's chief hope lay in foreign sales and these were also subject to the inspection of Government agents who would not approve permits for the exporting of obviously speculative shipments. (6) The stabilization of prices, above discussed, was one of the important implements in preventing speculation. The Food Administration was able, for example, to advise the public that during considerable periods flour should be about $12.50 per barrel retail, and sugar about 10 cents per pound. These announcements served, just as did the published decisions of the Fair Price Committees, to restrain through the power of public opinion those who wished to profiteer. (7) Profiteering by licensees of the Food Administration could be punished by withdrawal of the licence to operate the business. The Food Administration maintained an enforcement division which exacted penalties from detected profiteers, but only in a comparatively few cases were licences revoked. For the most part the profiteer was allowed to continue his business after publicly expressing his contrition and paying to some organization such as the Red Cross a fine in excess of his undue profits. Flour-millers were also under agreement to turn over to the Government, by a nominal sale to the Grain Corp., their profits in excess of an agreed amount. Receipts from this source exceeded $6,000,000. Hoarders of food were also subject to criminal prosecution and penalty under a special provision of the Lever Act.
Control of Exports.—The first object of this control was to confine American food exports so far as possible to the Allies, forcing neutrals to go to more distant markets for any commodities which they could thus obtain. The second object was to tighten the food blockade against the enemy by preventing direct or indirect leakages. An example of indirect leakage was the large exportation from the United States of feed by neutrals, who thus greatly increased their live stock herds, and then shipped a large part of the resultant animal products into Germany. Since the American and Allied populations were denying themselves severely because of the lack of snipping, it was deemed a just war measure to require the neutrals to do without goods that would benefit the enemy only, if the supplying of those goods required shipping from the United States. The Government maintained representatives in each neutral country in Europe and South America for determination of their production and of the actual necessities of their imports to prevent suffering among their population. It was further necessary to require measures of rationing among neutrals to limit their consumption. While neutrals did not suffer undue privations, subsequent reports from Germany showed that under this pressure the German supply of food from adjoining neutral sources fell from 77,000 million calories per month in 1917 to less than half that amount per month in 1918. Furthermore, the neutrals were required to furnish shipping to the United States as a consideration for their supplies of food and other commodities, and upwards of 1,000,000 tons of neutral shipping was thus transferred to Allied service. The control of exports was removed by the War Trade Board, the governmental agency exercising it, early in 1919, although its removal proved premature as it facilitated speculation which resulted from over-exporting food for commercial purposes.
Control of Imports.—The important food commodities imported by the United States before the war were sugar, coffee, vegetable oils, rice and cocoa. The price of these commodities was influenced to a considerable degree, after the United States entered the war, by the elimination of competition between the United States and any of the Allies when purchasing in the same foreign markets. Prices were thus kept at reasonable figures for domestic consumers and the expenditure of excessive sums in foreign markets was prevented. One special concern of the Food Administration, acting as the agency in control of imports, was the retention of ships sufficient in number and size to carry essential imports. Small vessels and sailing ships not capable of transatlantic transport were assigned to the shipping division of the Food Administration, and arrangements were made with committees of the various trades to assign space to their members and to issue import permits, after agreement as to conditions of sale within the United States. The control over imports was thus coordinated with the control over exports so as to harmonize with the general price stabilization programme of the United States.
Cost and Accomplishments of Food Control.—The total of Congressional and Presidential appropriations expended by the Food Administration from beginning to end was $7,862,669. Since the Food Administration was the governmental food control agency, this sum may be taken as the governmental expenditure for food control. The $155,000,000 of capital of the Grain Corp. and the Sugar Equalization Board was handed back to the Government intact, and large profits were earned by each corporation. The neutral countries advanced the charges for their shipping enormously and to protect the United States against this excessive cost, a profit was made on the sales of food to them. The profits of the Grain Corp. and Sugar Board during the period of the Food Administration, in operation at home and abroad, exceeded $60,000,000. The food control may therefore be credited by the Government with a net profit of $50,000,000. But the savings of the people of the United States through the control of prices, through the prevention of discontent and strikes, and through the contribution of food to the Allies, cannot be measured in dollars. The possibility of great achievement under severely trying conditions was again demonstrated because of the spirit of willing sacrifice and coöperation exhibited by the American people. America came through the war with its markets intact and its distributing and producing agencies improved rather than the reverse, so that it was able to supply sufficient food in the months following the Armistice to save practically the whole of Europe. This latter achievement is not a part of the story of food control but it is a very interesting sequel to it. The value of the food commodities furnished to the Allies and the liberated countries from July 1917 to July 1919 amounted to about $3,670,000,000. (W. C. M.)
- ↑ At discretion of G.O.C. on recommendation of medical officer.