February sometimes feels the most wintery of all the winter months, so if you're yet to discard the thermal layers , take a timely tonic with Mary Evans Picture Library, as we sample the non-alcoholic health beverages of the First World War, and their power to nourish and cheer.
This blog has already visited the Fortune of War cafes and highlighted the important service provided at free train stations buffets for soldiers, but the simple uplifting power of a hot cup of tea is often extolled in the wartime periodicals in our archive. The cup that cheers but does not inebriate was a welcome warmer in harsh weather conditions, whether on the front lines or the home front. David Lloyd George famously identified alcohol as the deadlier enemy than Germany or Austria, making choosing non-alcoholic cheer a small but psychologically significant part of supporting the war effort.
Some beverages were marketed as a meal substitute for the troops, with a drink of hot cocoa an alternative to breakfast, and Horlicks malted milk tablets suggested as a lunch substitute for those on active service lunch requiring strength and energy. Cocoa was also promoted as a sustaining and nourishing drink for the nursery, supplementing children’s diets restricted by wartime rationing.
Bovril, a beef tea, was credited in their promotional material with having body-building effects, aiding war workers. In an advert of 1916, one muscle-bound munitions worker attributed his “splendid health and energy” to drinking Bovril regularly for a year. If one advert from July 1918 is to be believed, Freeman’s Glass Lemon, a refreshing instant lemonade drink to be diluted with water, was also a popular beverage with British troops.
Ovaltine was promoted as a ‘tonic food beverage’, ideal as a nerve restorative, for convalescence and as nourishment for those of ‘feeble digestion’. In an advert in The Graphic from November 1918, it was claimed that Ovaltine could “guard against nervous breakdown, which results from strain of overwork, worry and concentrated mental effort...it supplies extra food needed to rebuild the worn nerve cells.”
Several brands such as Oxo, Ovaltine, Horlicks and Bovril are still familiar and going strong today, showing the continuing appeal of their products a century later, although in a much changed world. Even today, reading the marketing material for Ovaltine(“…gives strength, vitality and endurance, is a splendid pick me up, and as a restorative in fatigue has no equal.”) makes this blogger feel like rushing home and drinking three mugfuls. Cheers!
Click the link to see our refreshing selection of war-related beverage images https://www.maryevans.com/lb.php?ref=41914
© Lucinda Moore/Mary Evans Picture Library