Fish and Chips, Britain’s Ultimate WWII Morale Booster

Nothing screams British more than the heavenly pairing of crispy fried fish and lightly salted golden chips. That’s why it was no surprise when during World War II, when the chaos of bombing, death, uncertainty and relentless fighting wore down British soldiers, one thing that comforted them was the intimate taste of their beloved meal. I mean, you could take their boats, or their planes, maybe ammunition, but not their fish and chips!

Everything except Fish and Chips

During both world wars, the demand for military production in supply chains caused a shortage of everyday basics in the country, be it food, clothing and other seemingly normal supplies before the war. war. Tea and biscuits, although symbols of British culture, were also part of the regulated supplies.

Avenida Papagayo in Playa Blanca, Yaiza, Lanzarote, Canary Islands. (Frank Vincentz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

But not fish and chips – the wildly popular meal of the 1800s that no one was sure exactly where it came from but which has since become a British staple with more than 20,000 stores selling across Britain in the 20th century – and was made available consistently through both World War I and II, as they feared the absence of this meal would crush troop morale.


To ensure that the remaining small supplies would be distributed fairly to everyone, the British government implemented rationing with fuel, then basic supplies like sugar, jams, eggs and meat soon followed. . Other supplies were not rationed, including fruits and vegetables, although supplies were still scarce. Everyone in Britain received a ration book from the Ministry of Food, which they used to buy food from specific shops that accepted them. Each of these stores received an allocated amount of food that they could sell. Items were rationed using the points system based on their availability and demand, while supplies such as milk and eggs were distributed to those most in need, such as children and women. pregnant.

People would often form long queues and wait a few hours to find that the item they wanted to buy had just sold out.

Morale-boosting campaigns like the UK Department of Agriculture’s “Dig for Victory” have been popularized. Citizens across the country have been encouraged to plant and grow crops in their public gardens and parks so that people have enough to eat. No one was exempted. Even government officials received ration books, and Queen Elizabeth II, who was a princess at the time, had to save up her clothing coupons so she could buy enough for her wedding dress.

Your own vegetables all year round – If you are looking for victory now. (Mitchell, Irene (artist), Chromoworks Ltd, Willesden, London (printer), Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (publisher/sponsor), Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Make sure there’s enough

The fish and chips were untouchable. The government had to maintain a steady supply of fish and potatoes during the First and Second World Wars, despite the severely disrupted supply chain for the meal: many fishing vessels had been requisitioned by the Royal Navy , while those left to fish were subject to attack from German U-boats. The price of fish rose, but the government still managed to secure a steady supply.

Soldiers from the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding) queue for Fish and Chips in Richmond, Yorkshire, UK. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images via War History Online)

That wasn’t the only issue, as the lack of decent fat for frying meant the quality of the meals suffered as well, but it was better than nothing. On the battlefields, British troops also brought with them the supremacy of fish and chips by using the name of the dish to differentiate friend from foe. For example, one would call out fish and the other should respond with fries.

It was suspected that during World War I, British soldiers were fed fish and chips in the trenches to ward off hunger, while keeping them happy. Who wouldn’t love to receive a hot plate of fried fish and potato slices?

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