“I should just like your girls to see the delight on that fellow’s face. He looked like the egg had dropped down from heaven. I believe if a man came along with a £20 note in one hand and an egg in the other he’d take the egg”
National Egg Collection for the Wounded© IWM (Art.IWM PST 10836)
The National Egg Collection for the Wounded was started August 1915 it aimed at first to collect a million eggs for the wounded. The scheme proved was very successful actually achieving an average of one million eggs a month. In February 1917 during the special ‘Children’s Week’ 300,000 eggs were collected when the weather was very bad and eggs scarce.
By January 1918 the scheme had sent over seven million eggs to hospitals at home and over 25 million to hospitals abroad. But at this time the national egg shortage had grown, some people, frightened by the orders of the Food Controller and the Board of Agriculture, had disposed of their chickens as they didn’t think they would be able to get food for them. The shortage of imported supplies and increased demands from the hospitals at this time also exacerbated the difference between supply and demand. “There are more wounded than there ever were and less eggs to give them.”
The war office asked for a further quarter of a million eggs per month over and above the existing supplies. An appeal was launched to reach a target of 40,000,000 eggs. People were asked to sacrifice their own eggs for the soldiers.
Poultry farmers could despatch the eggs for free to the Central London Depot, or to one of the 2,000 local depots across the UK, and the eggs were distributed to the hospitals by the war office. People who had their own chickens were asked to give a tithe of their eggs each week. Those without chickens were encouraged to give money so that eggs could be brought.
“You people in your comfortable homes have not the remotest idea what the eggs mean to us out here, to say nothing of the pleasure they give. A chaps been out in the trenches for a year, eighteen months, perhaps 2 years; he’s never seen an egg! He wakes up one morning and finds himself in a clean and comfortable bed. Someone comes along with one of your fine newly laid eggs. I should just like your girls to see the delight on that fellow’s face.”
So when enjoying your eggs this Easter spare a thought to those who sacrificed their lives and those at home who sacrificed their eggs during the First World War.
British Journal of Nursing 21st August 1915
Save our Soldiers, An Appeal for the National Egg Collection for the wounded
Flight, 18th January 1917
Flight, 18th January 1917