Anyone fancy a Biscuit?

Penny W-T By Penny W-T, 6th May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

This is a light hearted piece outlining one lasting aspect of the Gallipoli campaign - the ANZAC biscuit. These are having a revival in the 21st century.

Recipe for ANZAC bisucits that were popular with troops at Gallipoli.

During the Great War, one of the aspects that gets little attention, is how did these men survive? How did they manage to eat, and what sort of food could be available during trench warfare? Throughout the material that I have been researching over the last three years, very little reference to food rations has arisen, so the few aspects that have been recorded by soldiers at the front at Gallipoli are recounted here.
For example, Sapper A J McNaughton, No. 100, 2nd Field Coy. Engineers; RAE, AIF explained in his diaries that “I get 5 biscuits, bully beef salt, 4ozs jam, 2 ozs of cheese (this is one day’s rations), besides 2 tablespoonsful of rum and lime juice a week. (Add 2 oz bacon to day’s rations). I am still putting on weight” {perhaps these biscuits were the original ANZAC ones?}

Pte. John Wesley No 979 7th Battalion, in information supplied by Ian Wesley, his son, based in W.A., was also part of the initial landings at Gallipoli. In a letter sent home he said that once on the beach he had “met up with a mate. He had a tin of jam with him and I had a loaf of bread.” Presumably they could at least share a sandwich or two whilst entrenched.
But there is one food item that has survived from those times, and is enjoying renewed acclaim across Australia – and that is the ANZAC biscuit.
John Williams in Blyth, South Australia forwarded a copy of the original recipe as detailed in a recent press cutting in Australia. These biscuits are enjoying a renewed popularity, and are being manufactured today to a recipe reputed to have originated in the trenches at Gallipoli. These biscuits epitomize the ingenuity of the Australian soldiers in trying to escape the boredom of trench rations. These biscuits were traditionally made from wheat flour, rolled oats, dessicated coconut and golden syrup, and two theories exist as to how they arrived at Gallipoli’s trenches. One idea was that the biscuits were made by the women back home in Australia and sent to their men at the front. The other is that the recipe originated in the war zone as the men attempted to relieve the boredom of trench rations with a more inventive approach to preparing food. But realistically, would a war zone catering corps have just the right ingredients all in one place? The Australian War Memorial website also suggests that some of the soldiers in the trenches preferred to crumble the biscuits and use them as porridge. If they were actually making the biscuits there in Gallipoli, then why bother, if the men were merely going to crumble them up and revert to the porridge ingredients that the oats and golden syrup would so ably produce without all the mixing and cooking?
The following recipe originated however, with a Mr Bob Lawton, who was at the Gallipoli landing on 25th April 1915. This is the traditional recipe now being adapted by a biscuit manufacturer in Australia today.
ANZAC Biscuit Recipe
1 cup each of plain flour, sugar, rolled oats, shredded coconut
110g butter
1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Grease biscuit tray, heat oven to 180ºc
Combine all the dry ingredients
Melt butter and golden syrup. Mix soda with boiling water and add to butter mixture
Combine butter mixture and dry ingredients. Add a little more water if too dry.
Drop teaspoon of mixture onto the baking tray, allowing room to spread.
Bake for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool on tray for a few minutes before transferring to a cooking rack.

As a child I always had porridge with golden syrup for my breakfast before leaving for school, so perhaps the Anzac biscuit, which resembles a cookie, was all those decades earlier, in effect, the prototype for the “all in one” breakfast package.


Anzac, Great War, Survival Rations, Trench Foods

Meet the author

author avatar Penny W-T
Published articles on education themes, travel, history and writing techniques. Written a book on WW1 - Gallipoli, and travel books. Run a marketing network for small businesses.

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author avatar Joy Dalgleish
20th Oct 2013 (#)

I object to the ads for half naked women & men being on the same page as our brave ANZACS

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