Bread in Common

Stoke-on-Trent's real bread bakery

Interview with: Paul Pursglove about War Bread

Chris Twigg


Location: Hanley

Interviewer: Steve Cooling

Permission given to use interview for website, exhibition and Staffordshire archive: YES

Question asked “What do you remember about bread or bread baking”.

Baking Bread in War Time

Prior to the Second World War, most of the flour to make bread was imported from Canada and the United States.  At the outbreak of war, shipping was a prime target and food supplies became scarce as a result of enemy action.  The Ministry of Food introduced rationing and food production strategies in the UK to try and cope with the shortages.

Grains used – Common Wheat, Canadian Wheat, Spelt Wheat, Barley and Oats.

Flour types – Wholemeal flour, Barley Flour, Oatmeal Flour.

Many houses in the 1930’s and 40’s had cooking ranges and Yorkist fireplaces with built in ovens which were fuelled with wood or coal.  Electric and gas cookers with ovens were also in use, so essentially most households were able to bake bread to supplement the rations.  By 1942 most foods were strictly rationed, including bread and flour.  The only exception was fresh vegetables and fruit which were not rationed, but in short supply.

The ministry of food commissioned texts to instruct people how to make the most of their rations.  This included the National Loaf, devised by Doris Grant, one of the government food nutritionists.  This became known as the Grant Loaf and was a quick and easy bread to make which could be baked in any form in any oven with almost any wholemeal flour.

Other bread was available, but bakers were challenged to obtain enough ingredients to produce specialist breads other than wholemeal loaves or rolls.  Potato bread and barley bread were often made when flour was scarce.

Wholemeal bread – Loaves and rolls made from available wholemeal flour.

National loaf – Home made to Doris Grant’s recipe, often with local variations to add flavour.

White Bread – This was occasionally available when sifted flour was available.  Mainly in the South of England.

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