MALVERN Museum's Faith Renger presents the first in a series of features about how the Great War, which ended 100 years ago, affected the people of Malvern.

PANIC-buying of food, coal and petrol began as soon as war was declared on August 4, 1914.

There was an outcry among the poorer families who found that stocks of sugar, bread, meat and general provisions had been bought up by the wealthier customers.

Malvern's Grocers' Association agreed to increase the price of sugar, cereals and other foodstuff in anticipation of food shortages.

The government quickly introduced fixed prices and retailers were told by Malvern Urban District Council to ration the sale of basic foods fairly.

As more young men left the town to serve in the British forces, so the problem of providing sufficient food fell on the women left behind.

Throughout the war, Malvern Gazette newspapers were scattered with letters from householders offering advice about digging up lawns, planting beans, dealing with garden pests and growing potatoes.

The German submarine attacks on ships transporting food from America took their toll and the harvests of 1916 were poor.

By 1917, there were very real shortages of grain, meat and dairy produce such as cheese.

Farmers were trying to cultivate land with just a handful of older men and very few horses. Schoolboys and holidaymakers were encouraged to give up their holidays to work on local farms. Army recruits at Norton Barracks were often released for several weeks to work on Malvern farms during ploughing and harvesting seasons.

In 1917 the Women's Land Army was set up. Public meetings were held around Malvern to encourage young women from the educated classes to join this group.

Malvern set up a Local Food Control committee, led by Miss Alice Farmer and other ladies. They set fixed prices and monitored the supply of grain, potatoes, sugar, milk and coal. Guidelines were issued about how much meat should be consumed per person each week in the local hotels and private schools. Letters appeared once again criticising those who stored food and others who wasted it.

Malvern held several Food Economy Exhibitions to encourage local housewives to use meat free recipes, introduce alternative ingredients and experiment with drying fruit and vegetables. Recipes devised by the head cook at Madresfield were published to show how pulses were good substitutes for meat such as a recipe for lentil cutlets. Bakers resorted to adding potato to bread to eke out reduced supplies of flour.

The government was finally forced to introduce rationing in 1918. In Malvern, sugar was rationed at the very end of 1917 and was followed by meat in April.

Rationing was rolled out across the country in July 1918 and every household was sent ration books. These had to be registered at local grocers, butchers and coal merchants, and goods were limited to each household according to available supplies.

Some local businesses managed to thrive during the war. Malvoma Tomatoes was based in the huge greenhouse complex off Pickersleigh Road and succeeded in selling ripe tomatoes and cucumbers by the end of March.

Other businesses, however, were forced to reduce their hours and milk and bread deliveries became difficult because there were so few horses.

These stories have been gleaned from editions of the Malvern Gazette published between 1914 and 1918. Malvern Museum has produced a series of three booklets devoted to the Home Front in Malvern to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Great War. They are available at the museum.