It has become a tradition for Australian and New Zealand bloggers to write a post each year to commemorate Anzac Day and honour all the men and women who served during our two countries’ wars.
Over the years I’ve written about family members or other servicemen. This year I thought I’d continue my theme of food and apply it to the ANZACs war service, especially during World War I.
Civilians at home made it a patriotic and family task to send parcels, not just to their own families, but also to men on service overseas. This was coordinated in World Wars I and II through the Australian Comforts Fund.
The Diggers History website quotes: “Christmas morning saw the distribution of 34,299 billies and 31,196 Christmas boxes specially provided by the local committee of the A.C.F. [Australian Comforts Fund) to our men in the camps around Cairo.
Everyone is talking about the splendid generosity of Australia in supplying her soldiers with such splendid Christmas gifts. Mr William Beit had arranged for the gifts to be distributed at the different camps by the ladies of the local committee assisted by other well known ladies from Australia who are (sic) such splendid work over here, and they vied with one another in making the occasion as gay as possible”.
People were encouraged to send a variety of items especially one to eat, one to smoke, and one to amuse. Guidelines were included in local newspapers. Without a doubt the men must have felt cared for when receiving these treats and very often they would reply to the sender and the letters were published in the relevant newspapers. Not only would it provide them with cigarettes to calm their nerves or use as currency exchange, but also packs of cards, or food treats that were vastly better than their hard rations.
Prisoners of War were not always so fortunate, not always receiving their family’s parcels or even the Red Cross Parcels. My mother’s cousin, Hugh Moran, stated on his release documents that he received none during his time in Germany in World War II, possibly because he was sent to a distant Arbeitskommand. For the men who were on the Long March from the various POW camps towards the end of WWII, food was all they could think about, surviving on what they could scrounge or steal along the way, as they were either not provided with rations, or the barest minimum.
Even the men who were behind the Front were sometimes lucky enough to celebrate Christmas with a special dinner, concert and sports. You can sometimes find these references in the Unit Diaries like this one from the Railway Unit, with which my grandfather served.
To this day, one tradition that’s carried forward, is making Anzac Biscuits (don’t even think about calling them cookies!!) to honour the day and the men’s and women’s service. This is my mother’s recipe.
Lest We Forget