Muriel Parker’s ration book, reference DX-894/12/2/8
We have in the archives, amongst the collections transferred from Wolverhampton Art Gallery, a 1918 ration book for a Muriel E. Parker, of 64 Milton Road, Heath Town. Muriel Edith Parker was born in September 1909 in Wolverhampton, which would make her 9 years old when her ration book was issued on 6 October 1918. I have been unable to find a record of her marriage so far.
Rationing was only introduced towards the end of the First World War, in 1918. Prior to this, effective campaigns and, in particular, the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA), had ensured that food shortages did not occur. Britain was able to continue importing food, especially from America and Canada, and, after some initial panic buying, people settled down to a routine. From 1916-17 onwards, however, the German U-boats were increasingly sinking merchant ships. Under DORA, the government also had the power to commandeer over 2.5 million acres of land for farming in 1917, but this proved insufficient, hence sugar, and later meat, butter, cheese and margarine were rationed.
Most of the coupons in the ration book have been used, but there is still a considerable quantity for lard and jam which remain unused. The ration book was invalid unless the holder ensured that the retailers entered their names and addresses on the back of the cover. Most of Muriel’s rations came from the greengrocers Edwin Blakemore & Sons Ltd, who, as well as their shop at 122 Salop Street, also had a branch in Fallings Park. Her butcher was James Rudler of Heath Town, who was a subscriber to The Wolverhampton and District Butchers’ Hide Skin Fat and Wool Co Ltd and also had a saddlers shop in Bilston Street, as well as a branch at Snow Hill.
Instructions in Muriel Parker’s ration book
Strict instructions are printed in the ration book. For example, if a person enters an institution, “the ration book must be given up to the head of the institution.” It also gives instructions about what to do if a person leaves the country, or dies. Anyone who contravened these instructions, in particular if they used another person’s ration book or purchased more than their fair share, could be punished with fines up to £100 or six months’ imprisonment.
Interestingly enough, the book also contains an appeal from the Imperial War Museum, which had been founded a year earlier as a way of commemorating the “events still taking place during the Great War”. The appeal is for items for the museum, as follows:
The Imperial War Museum desires to receive for permanent preservation photographs and biographical material, printed or in manuscript, of all officers and men who have lost their lives or won distinctions during the War; also original letters, sketches, poems and other interesting documents sent from any of the war areas, as well as documents taken from prisoners and all kinds of mementoes, even of trifling character, which may be of interest in connection with the War.
While the Museum’s remit may have changed somewhat since then, the items collected during this period will have formed the basis for the collection held by the Museum today.