The stomach for fighting

Food and the soldiers of the Great War

By Rachel Duffett

The stomach for fighting


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9987-8
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £17.99
  • Published Date: November 2015
  • BIC Category: HISTORY / Military / World War I, Food & Society, Humanities / First World War, First World War, c 1910 to c 1919, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Agriculture & Food
  • Series: Cultural History of Modern War


Food is critical to military performance, but it is also central to social interaction and fundamental to our sense of identity. The soldiers of the Great War did not shed their eating preferences with their civilian clothes, and the army rations, heavily reliant on bully beef and hardtack biscuit, were frequently found wanting. Nutritional science of the day had only a limited understanding of the role of vitamins and minerals, and the men were often presented with a diet that, shortages and logistics permitting, was high in calories but low in flavour and variety. Just as now, soldiers on active service were linked with home through the lovingly packed food parcels they received; a taste of home in the trenches.

This book uses the personal accounts of the men themselves to explore a subject that was central not only to their physical health, but also to their emotional survival.


Beautifully written and utterly absorbing
Family Tree Magazine, 01/11/2012, Family Tree Magazine, 01/11/2012|Rachel Duffett has written a fine social history of British rank and file soldiers, or rankers, and their experiences of food during the Great War.
Professor Kyri Claflin, Reviews in History, 18 October 2012, Professor Kyri Claflin,, Reviews in History|..provides a rich and valuable contribution to the cultural history of the Great War., May Rosenthal Sloan, University of Glasgow, UK, War in History 2013: 20, 2013

'Duffett's observations on the emotional power inherent in food and feeding practices are striking. The Stomach for Fighting is a rich addition to studies of food and war, and will be useful to food studies scholars and those interested in the social and cultural history of the Great War.'
Kaete O'Connell, Temple University, H-War, December 2017


1. Food and war
2. Before the war
3. First taste: eating in the home camps
4. Feeding the men: army provisioning, the cooks and the ASC
5. Eating: the men and their rations
6. Beyond the ration: scrounging, supplementing and sharing


Rachel Duffett teaches History at the University of Essex and the Open University

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