The National Wheatmeal Loaf was introduced to Britain in World War Two. The bread was made of wholemeal flour with added calcium and vitamins. As the majority of flour was imported from abroad there was a shortage of wheat. British grain was used where possible and it was essential that none was wasted. As a result, the ‘wheatmeal’ loaf was introduced by the government, made using wholemeal flour to overcome the shortage of white flour. Before the war, the majority of the population ate white loaves, so the wholemeal loaves were met with suspicion.
Introduced in late 1942, The National Wheatmeal Loaf made use of all parts of the grain. As a result, the bread was heavy and grey with a gritty texture. The bread was not only very nutritious, the high extraction rate of 85 per cent also meant there was more to go around.
However, only one out of seven preferred the wholemeal loaves to white bread. The government launched a campaign that encouraged people to use less bread. The posters urged people to “join the crusade against waste of bread”.
The anti-waste campaign was supported by legal measures: on one occasion, a Miss Mary Bridget O’Sullivan of Barnet, Hertfordshire, was fined the substantial sum of £10, with two guineas costs, for wasting bread, after asking her maid (who paid a lesser fine of five shillings) to put stale bread out for the birds.
The government’s promotion of wholemeal bread and its discouragement of waste is evidence of the wartime mentality - that everybody should be prepared to sacrifice luxuries for the war effort.
See also: National Wheatmeal Loaf
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