Wishart, Alison: Importance of food, water and diet to the Anzac campaign at Gallipoli

Wishart, Alison

“As fit as fiddles” and “as weak as kittens”: the importance of food, water and diet to the Anzac campaign at Gallipoli‘, First World War Studies, August 2016

The reasons for the allied defeat at Gallipoli in 1915 have been much debated and disputed. Yet one factor which has not been seriously considered is the role of food. This paper argues that food, water and diet played a significant role in the Gallipoli campaign. It provides eight reasons why the provision of food and water at Gallipoli was logistically complex, sometimes unique to the peninsula and warrants special attention. It then goes on to discuss the physical and psychological effects of a monotonous, un-nutritious diet which depleted the immune systems of previously healthy men.

The vast majority of the Anzacs quickly succumbed to the infectious diseases spread by the plague of summer flies. Once sick, providing the men with the same unappetising, un-nutritious rations just made them sicker. Gallipoli should be infamous not only for the poorly planned and executed military campaign, but as the place where the Australian Imperial Force evacuated twice as many men for sickness than it did for the treatment of wounds. In other words, the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) did a better job of depleting the fighting strength of its own forces than the enemy. One of the main reasons for this was the failure of the MEF to provide its army with a nutritious, palatable diet and sufficient water. (Abstract)

The article includes 16 illustrations and copious notes and references.

Alison Wishart works in Research and Discovery, State Library of New South Wales  and formerly worked in Photographs, Film and Sound, Australian War Memorial, Canberra. The article is normally pay-per-view but the first 50 people who click on the link above get the article for free. If they belong to an institution that subscribes to First World War Studies, they will also get the article for free.

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