Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Starving Britain into submission – a flawed strategy?

During WWII the Germans tried to take advantage of the fact that Britain was dependent on imports of raw materials and foodstuffs for its economy to function.

The U-boats tried to sink as many merchant ships as possible so that their valuable cargo would be lost to the British.
The article Fighting fit: how dietitians tested if Britain would be starved into defeat reveals that the British authorities carried out an experiment in order to discover what would happen if the populace had to depend only on homegrown foodstuffs. Would they starve to death?

According to the article:
British food production in 1938 became the basis for the experimental diet: one egg a week (a third of the pre-war consumption); a quarter of a pint of milk a day (half the pre-war consumption); a pound of meat and 4oz of fish per week, assuming trawlers would be commandeered for patrols. No butter and just 4oz of margarine. But they could eat as much potato, vegetables, and wholemeal bread as they wanted. The eight guinea pigs would follow this diet for three months.

Surprisingly the participants in the experiment did not suffer from malnutrition but only from less serious ‘side effects’:

Happily, the gloomy spectres of famine oedema, scurvy, and anaemia did not arise. The guinea pigs felt fit and well on the ration and could do their usual work. But there were two main difficulties. One was that meals took a long time to eat. Wholemeal bread without butter took ages to chew. The sheer quantity of potato needed to make up calories also took time to eat. All the fibre in the diet caused 250% bigger poos. They measured it. The other problem with eating all that starch was the amount of flatus – gas – that it produced

1 comment:

  1. I think you fell victim to the hyberbole:
    'Starving Britain into submission' was mostly about raw material (the british industry and by extension the british war effort could have been reduced to non-threatening or easily contained levels) and the loss/lack of luxury ressources, e.g. lowering the quality of living to increase pressure on the British government to seek peace.