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A War Unimagined: Food And The Rank And File Soldier Of The First World War

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Chapter Summary

The literary legacy of the First World War has tended to ignore the mass of writing produced by its rank and file soldiers, whose perceptions, lack of writing skills and limited reflexivity did not, in general, sit easily with the tragic world of disillusionment portrayed by their more eloquent officers. This chapter proposes that whilst the rankers? writing rarely explored explicit emotional states, it did not lack an affective sense. For them, emotion was expressed through the rituals and practices that surrounded the acquisition and consumption of food, in particular the equitable sharing of food. The soldiers? efforts to share supplies were of nutritional consequence because army rations were often insufficient and unevenly apportioned, but they also had an emotional significance; the men?s letters and diaries indicate the psychological comfort derived from, and the bonds forged by, the giving and receiving of food.

Keywords: army rations; emotion; file soldiers; First World War; food; rankers? writing



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