Britain, WWII: Stashing Food : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

An earlier thread about whether to tell people what you're doing to prepare for Y2K prompted this post. It seems significant enough to warrant its own slot. My 82-year-old father Got It before I did, thanks to a BBC report last summer. Discussing Y2K, I asked him if people in Britain stockpiled food prior to and during the early part of WWII. He explained, yes, people did, but the government, fearing black marketing (they said), passed an emergency law prohibiting more than a two-day supply of food at home. Violators were arrested and their stocks confiscated. How did they know who had food? Less prudent (and resentful?) relatives, friends and neighbors turned them in.

Zip that lip!

-- Old Git (, January 21, 1999


Relatives & friends turning each other in? Ratting on each other in times of crisis? Wonderful. There will be some scores to settle once the lights go out. This just gets better & better.

-- satan (burning@lower.levels), January 22, 1999.

old git, perhaps you could ask your dad whether this law applied only to the cities or did it apply to the country as well? the reason i ask is that country folks ( i grew up on a farm) ALWAYS grew enough garden produce to can in the fall, so that the harvest would last until the next summer. my family, for example, typically canned 100 quarts of tomatoes alone, every fall. we have 2 freezers, 1 for meat/fish and 1 for fruits and veggies and other stuff.

is it also possible the law only referred to dry staples and not fresh produce which spoils quickly? somehow, remembering how governments encouraged gardening during the war, i find it hard to believe they didn't also encourage those gardeners to preserve some of it.

by the way, sorry if i seemed pretty aggressive on the chelation thing. when it comes to something like that which saves lives, it's really serious and i have no sense of humor about it.

-- jocelyne slough (, January 22, 1999.

I'll answer your question at length, Jocelyne, because I think it will help explain to people what might happen in areas other than North America, and how those events might impact the US and Canada.

I got the impression the hoarding law was nationally-applied. My parents lived in the country until 1952 or so, hence Dad was speaking from country experience. In 1939 there were only a privileged few who owned enough land to produce sufficient food to preserve. I seem to remember any significant amounts of food produced were required to be sold for general and military consumption. In any case, all able-bodied men, including farmers, were conscripted and women and non-able-bodied men worked in the war effort. (My mother and other relatives worked in a munitions factory, many other women became farm laborers--"The Land Army.") With 48-plus hour work weeks and family responsibilities, and no labor-saving devices, there was little time and even fewer means to preserve food. Grandmothers made jam and canned a little on their coal stoves but nowhere near enough to stockpile, and they were busy taking care of grandchildren while the mothers worked. (The average person then didn't have a refrigerator or ice-box, let alone a freezer, and was lucky to have a mangle [wringer] to use after washing clothes by hand. Such metal consumer goods were rare until well after the war--even beautiful Victorian iron railings were cut down to make planes, tanks and ships.) Victory gardens produced seasonal produce from non-hybrid seed--usually unresistant to pests and disease and with lower yields. My father, a great animal-lover, was reduced to poaching rabbits with a good dog and a snare and purloining the odd vegetable from a Duke's estate to supplement the family's food. If he had been caught he would have been fined or imprisoned, but I think the old Duke turned a blind eye to such activity because of the war. Besides, the strongest and fastest gamekeepers had gone off to war!

If you remember that Great Britain is about the same area as the state of Oregon with about one-fourth the population of the United States, you can imagine that there is (and was) little land to grow food on. Britain is a long-time net importer of food. With German U-boats prowling around the island, some items were impossible to get until the American convoys began. (A big thank-you here, but Dad hasn't eaten Spam since.) There was little flour produced in Britain, not much sugar (from sugar beets), milk and butter were in short supply, spices and dried fruits became rare, the list could go on for pages--and, of course, all food and goods were very strictly rationed, some until 1957.

When I think about what Y2K might bring for us, I think about food supply lines being disrupted. Many spices and some herbs are imported, for instance, those very flavourings which make a lot of our food highly palatable. Bay leaves--there is an apocryphal story about a lone bay leaf being passed around a British village until its flavour ran out.

Britain's food shortage was caused by an external enemy; a Y2K food shortage will be caused by an internal enemy. With the former, people mostly pulled together; I'm not so sure that will be the case with the latter adn, anyway, people have changed. I don't know the extent of hoarding reports, but all it takes is one disgruntled person to ruin you.

Zip that lip!

-- Old Git (, January 22, 1999.

Old Git ----

Sad, fascinating, instructive. As someone who has been visible in our community, it is very worrisome, though I continue to believe that invisibility, especially in rural areas, is almost impossible (it's the flip side of folks knowing one another and helping each other).

Anyway, I also do a lot of hiding in plain sight, even locally. In fact, the visibility is part of the plan, believe it or not (I won't say why/how).

I have always remembered my father telling me how his father lifted him into the windows of long-abandoned (!) farm houses during the worst of the depression to hunt around and see if any food had been left. Wow.

Ironically, our best ally is itself the disruption of systems, including systems for controlling citizens. Ironically, because the more that systems are disrupted, the more that people will suffer terribly.

I think being rural remains a big net help with respect to being controlled. The authorities are going to be plenty busy with the cities and burbs. Also (this could be naive but I don't think so) people in this area, including police/troopers (most of whom we know personally) are likely to leave the few farms (10% of what it was 40 years ago) alone so they can survive to grow stuff to help everyone, not unlike the "Duke". So, our dairy and vegetable operations are another hide in plain sight matter.

Anyhow you slice it, there is no Y2K security. Prepare, remain flexible and do what has to be done when it has to be done.

-- BigDog (, January 22, 1999.

They didn't have guns in Britain, did they? If the authorities start taking people's food, they're going to have a hard time of it. The people who store food most often have guns and are ready to use them. In a monarchy, it's implicit that the State owns you and your land, and all your property; that can be modified by legislation, but the root principle and the psychology remains. Here, our whole nation is based on individual property rights, the right not to be taxed/confiscated to death. Folks are already hopping mad about giving half their income to the Govt.. Take my food? Reduce me to two weeks rations when people all around me are starving to death? You might as well open fire on my house and family - it would put me in a situation where I had nothing to lose. If the government imposes such confiscation - theft, by any other name - and the people submit to it, then stick a fork in America, it's over and done with.


-- E. Coli (, January 22, 1999.

Actually, back then gun restrictions weren't quite as severe as they are now. Just about all farmers owned shotguns and rifles, for instance. And it's still far more difficult to evict a Briton from rented or owned property than it is an American ("an Englishman's home is his castle"). But those were emergency powers. Black marketeers were indeed a threat and some legislation was needed. I'm not defending what happened--I don't know enough about it to defend or attack it. My point is that people WILL turn you in, no matter how trustworthy you think they are. Better to keep your mouth shut and avoid any confrontations. But certainly be prepared--when we first realised Y2K would be a problem, we bought a shotgun and lots of ammunition. We'll be adding at least one more firearm before we're through.

-- Old Git (, January 22, 1999.

There's a difference between creating and policing a "black market" and declaring people's existing food supplies illegal! The latter cannot be justified under any conditions.

If they come in force, they may get what I haven't cached. But they'd better shoot me while they have me in range, because once the governmental authority goes down that road, they've got a determined enemy on their hands. And I'm much more reasonable than most food "hoarders" out there. Stealing people's food is just not going to be practical for any government in the long run.

People who rat out their neighbors for 30 pieces of silver to such a food-stealing "government" ought to be dragged from their homes and hung from the nearest lamppost. And if they don't confiscate my rope, that's just what will happen.


-- E. Coli (, January 22, 1999.

E Coli,

Have to agree with you.

-- Bill (, January 23, 1999.

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