By 1917 Great Britain was suffering from the introduction of unrestricted submarine warfare and the government was worried that there would not be enough food to feed the population with the number of merchant ships being sunk. Whilst convoys were to be introduced to protect the merchant ships so fewer were sunk, there was also a need to get the public to be more frugal in their consumption. It was not felt that the country was ready for rationing yet, however the government did right to the head of every household urging them to institute economy in their consumption of food:
The letters were sent in simple envelopes addressed to the head of the household, and clearly marked as being ‘On His Majesty’s Service’ to show that they were official correspondance:
The letter itself was sent from the Food Controller and urged the reader to eat less food and explains that if the civilian population were to surrender due to starvation than all the sacrifices on the front would have been in vain:
This letter was sent out in May 1917. Two months earlier, in March 1917, J. Hollister wrote to his father ‘things in London beginning to be serious, no potatoes to be had, sugar almost unobtainable, meat and cheese 1/6, butter 2/4, bread 11d.’ Voluntary rationing was therefore introduced in spring of 1917 and this letter was part of the campaign to encourage people to be more responsible in their consumption. It must be said that this campaign was an abject failure and organised, state controlled rationing would be introduced in 1918, regarded by many as too late in the day. It is telling that in World War II state controlled rationing would be introduced early in the war and continue well into the post war peace.