100 Years ago this Week: Starting the New Year in France

Background:  In September 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, joined the 20th Engineers regiment of the United States Army.  In November they sailed to St. Nazaire, France aboard a troop transport ship.  After spending some time at a camp outside St. Nazaire they observed Christmas at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Dec 30, 1917– First Sunday in sometime.  Made a few blue-prints.  Balance of day rest.  Mail today 2 packages, and papers.  No letters.

Monday Dec 31– New Years Eve Party.  Supper for 10 of six courses.  Great feed. Later  joined by Canadian and French solider.  Hope to be in USA in 1919.

Tuesday Jan 1, 1918– Some of the boys had bad hangovers today.  Snowing all day but weather is not cold.

Wednesday Jan 2– We are told this is the worst cold spell Dax has ever seen.  3 Christmas packages today.

Thursday Jan 3– Packages came from 1-home 1 Aunt may and 1 Ora.  Pair of mittens are great.

Friday Jan 4– Nights are very cold sleeping in tents.  Keep warm during day by fire.

Saturday Jan 5– Present allowance of bread per capita in France is about 10 ounce per day.  Sugar allowance about 1 lb per month

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January 5, 1917 – Poppa commented on food rationing for the citizens of France. According to an article on the internet  the previous winter of 1916-17 was harsh and resulted in shortages of food available for the French citizens.  Ironically, the  meat rationing cards, meant to distribute available meat fairly resulted in the poorest Frenchmen having access to types of food they couldn’t afford before the war.

A French propaganda poster from WWI. Rough translation: “Save the Bread. Cut it thin. Use the crusts”

Here is a translation from French describing food rationing in France during and after WWI.

“So terrible had the food shortage there become that the daily rations had been cut to the minimum that would sustain life and strength. The peasant population of continental Europe, which means a large part of the people, lives principally upon wheat in one form or another. In France bread is literally the staff of life, normally constituting 52 per cent. of the Frenchman’s food. Yet the French bread ration was successively lowered until at one time it reached seven ounces a day per capita…. even the bread ration of the soldier was sharply reduced – a measure to which resort it had only in situations of direst necessity. Indeed, many well-informed persons attribute the disaster of 1917 on the Italian front to the lowering of morale consequent upon the cutting of the bread ration. The soldier well knew that if his food was cut his family must be well-nigh starving to death.”

French bread and sugar rationing tickets. Courtesy of www.314th.org

 

Instructions on use of the bread and sugar rationing tickets. French bread and sugar rationing tickets. Courtesy of www.314th.org

A portion of the rationing instruction sheet above was translated by Google to –

“each ticket corresponds to 100 grams of bread and presents it sheet is established for daily consumption of 500 grams, or 5 tickets for a day. Each slice of 5 bread coupons has, at the left end, a ticket valid for 25 grams of sugar, which corresponds to the daily ration of this commodity. The soldier on leave of absence of 10 days will have the Faculte, by vertically cutting all the sugar tickets to obtain in one go the 250 grams of this commodity represented by 10 tickets of 25 grams each.”

The cover of a French ration ticket book.

Posters were also distributed here at home to encourage Americans to support the effort to feed the French population.

At the bottom of this poster it says “They are struggling against starvation and trying to feed not only themselves and children but their husbands and sons who are fighting in the trenches.”

Next Week: President Wilson’s Conditions of Peace 

Sources:

Log Cabin Memorial – Veterans 314th Infantry Regiment A.E.F. – French Bread and Sugar Ration Tickets. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.

“World War 1 Propaganda Posters.” Examples of Propaganda from WW1 | Will You Help the Women of France? Save Wheat. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.

 

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