Soldiers' food in the trenches

Soldiers' food in the trenches

Far from being a given, food was often considered a luxury to soldiers in the trenches during World War One. It was almost impossible at times to deliver hot food from the field kitchens to the trenches on the front lines, particularly when battle was in full swing.

However, when soldiers were enjoying a few moments of rest, food was much easier to deliver on both sides and it was even possible for troops to enjoy relative regularity in terms of their diet.

Even so, the field kitchens were based so far from the front lines that hot foot invariably arrived cold and fresh food such as bread often arrived stale. Many soldiers came up with their own methods of making it more palatable, such as mixing onions, potatoes and sultanas in with their rations.

Rations were supposed to contain 10 ounces of meat each day but as the war went on this was reduced to six, and in many cases the troops were forced to eat tinned meat instead of fresh or frozen. The bread ration also varied, particularly when the flour shortage hit Britain, which affected a huge proportion of the soldiers’ daily meal. However, alternatives were put in place including biscuits.

Troops from the 6th Battalion, Queen's Royal Regiment, prepare dinner in trenches on the Western Front

Aside from meat, the typical daily ration for a British soldier was as follows:

  • 20 ounces of bread or 16 ounces of flour or 4 ounces of oatmeal
  • 8 ounces of fresh vegetables or 2 ounces of dried vegetables or 1/10 gill lime
  • 3 ounces of cheese
  • 4 ounces of butter or margarine
  • 5/8 ounces of tea
  • 4 ounces of jam or dried fruit
  • ½ ounce of salt
  • 1/36 ounce of pepper
  • 1/20 ounce of mustard
  • ½ gill rum or 1 pint of porter
  • maximum of 20 ounces of tobacco
  • ⅓ chocolate - optional



German soldiers were given a very different diet including:

  • 26 ½ ounces of bread or 17 ½ field biscuits or 14 ounces of egg biscuit
  • 53 ounces of potatoes
  • 4 ½ ounces of vegetables
  • 2 ounces dried vegetables

MLA Citation/Reference

"Soldiers' food in the trenches". HistoryLearning.com. 2019. Web.