Livery Schools Link - Cooking and Baking in the Trenches

The Worshipful Company of Bakers has been engaged in a project with the Worshipful Company of Cooks to help provide an insight intothe challenges ofsupplying and feeding the thousands of troops on thefront line of battles during
the First World War.

This activity is part of a wider project led by the Livery Schools Link, who has spent the past 12 months working with City schools to engage students with the heritage of the City Livery Companies through the supply chain to WW1.
11 Livery Companies have worked with 13 schools across London in a project enabling students aged between 7 and 17 to explore the role of trades and industries in the supply chain to WW1; learning about Company histories and discovering how their trades and skills were needed during WW1. The outcome of these discoveries will be revealed by the students in artworks created with the help of professional artist Jane Churchill. All of these artworks from all 13 schools will be curated for a major exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery in the summer of 2017, which will be open to the public. A lasting legacy will be provided by the artworks and a book about the project ‘Echoes Across the Century’.
There has always been a friendly rivalry between Cooks and Bakers about their particular skills, but on this occasion the rivalry was set aside. Major Harry Lomas from the Cooks Company teamed up with Sara Autton to work with Jane Churchill in the Highbury Fields and Brecknock Schools to tell the students about ‘Feeding Tommy’. This began with an introduction to our Livery Companies, and an initial exercise from Jane into the art of sketching.

On the following day, the whole group travelled to the Honourable Artillery Company premises in the City Road, where we were welcomed by the 167th Regiment. They provided a splendid display of military artefacts to help set the scene for the students, who were then instructed in the preparation of a typical dish that would have been served to the troops at the front. The students prepared vegetable stew, some of which was ‘enriched’ by the addition of corned beef; followed by rhubarb crumble and custard.
Sara Autton had previously contacted the flour millers GR Wrights (based in Ponders End) to see if they could help with sourcing some World War 1 flour.  Director Julian Woodgate very kindly provided a sample of flour that was hand-milled to the exact same specification as that used for the so-called ‘National Loaf’ that was made during that time. This is the flour that the students used to produce their own National Loaves, and a type of flatbread that is commonly made in army field kitchens. It was a challenge to bake these in army ovens which have little or no engineering to regulate the heat – they are either ‘on’ or ‘off! Nevertheless, edible breads were produced, and it was brought home to the students how difficult field cookery can be; even when one isn’t under constant shell or gunfire.

Under the guidance of Jane Churchill, and the inspiration of their unique experience at the HAC, the students will be creating an art exhibition which will ultimately join those from the other schools at the Guildhall in the Spring.  Further than that, the wish for this project is that the students will have a better understanding of the invisible, but vital, supply chain that kept troops in the field kitted out with uniform, supplied with arms, and adequately fed.