Cooking up trench delicacies


Some amusing details of the way soldiers in the field try to improve upon their field rations are given in a letter by Cpl E. Grice, a member of our staff who is with the 1st Eastern Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance, R.A.M.C. He has been experimenting as a cook and has written from Gallipoli.

"Today is Sunday, and we have had an issue of bread - the first for three days, and then only a slice - so you can understand what a luxury it is.

"We are getting quite experts at cooking little dainties for ourselves, and it is surprising what comparatively good things you can turn out with a little patience and perseverance. It is not very often we have fresh beef, so we have to resort to all manner of devices for making the 'bully' more palatable. I have made some passable rissoles out of half a tin of bully beef, some slightly soaked biscuits and onions. They went down all right.

"Then it is wonderful what an appetising pudding one can make by thoroughly soaking biscuits overnight, chopping them up fine and then squeezing all the water out until you get a sort of paste. Then you spread some jam over it and make a roly-poly. Tie up in a handkerchief and boil in a mess-tin for half an hour.

"As water is very scarce out here - our allowance is one pint per day - you cannot afford to water the water you boil the pudding in, so you use it afterwards for washing and shaving - and possibly for rinsing a shirt out!

"This month is supposed to be the ideal one for weather, but it is still very warm and flies are about in hundreds. They are such a nuisance that when you are making a jam pudding you have to take great care that it does not turn out to be a currant one!"

In a later letter, Cpl Grice mentions chocolates, sweets and gingerbreads as the best things to send out, and says: "You would smile to see use divide our day's rations of bread - usually a very much knocked about quarter of a loaf - into two so as to keep a bit for tomorrow to eat instead of the brick-like biscuits which are issued every other day."

Away from food, Cpl Grice says: "On Sunday afternoon we were attending a short service while an artillery duel was in progress. There were about 50 of us present, and we were slightly sheltered from stray bullets by a bank of earth. We were singing the good old hymn Art Thou Weary?, when one of the enemy's shells, instead of passing overhead in the direction of our guns, suddenly dived to earth.

"It struck a dug-out less than half a dozen yards to the left of us and exploded with a terrific report. Showers of earth, stones, branches, waterproof sheets, flew in all directions, and we were smother in dust and enveloped in an acrid, blinding smoke. It was most remarkable that nobody was injured, for many of us were bruised and scratched, but none seriously hurt."

[Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph: December 4th, 1915]