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4th January 1918 - The Great War, Day by Day - The Wartime Memories Project

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The Wartime Memories Project - The Great War - Day by Day

4th January 1918

On this day:

  • Food Shortages   Lord Rhondda made a speech at the opening of a new communal kitchen at Silvertown - "The value and need of such kitchens will grow as the food supplies of this country become less. I have great faith in them and feel that they will meet more and more real want that is coming on us in the next few months. So anxious are we to establish kitchens throughout the country where they are needed that grants will be made by the Ministry of Food towards starting all kitchens. Part will be repaid and local authorities will be empowered to advance the money. These kitchens must be run on business lines and there must be no taint of charity."

    "Compulsory rationing, I am afraid has got to come. I say 'afraid' because I would rather that it did not. Do not think that when compulsory rationing has come, that queues are going to be done away with. Rationing in some article, at any rate is on its way. We are engaged, at the present time in completing a scheme for compulsory rationing. It will have to be submitted to the Cabinet and when the Cabinet has sanctioned it, we shall put that scheme into operation as quickly as we can. Do not thing that there is going to be an absolutely fair distribution. What we are aiming at is equality of sacrifice and a fair and equal share for every person in the Kingdom. In Germany there are queues and in Germany we know today that there is a tremendous outcry against the fact that, not withstanding a rationing system and tickets, the rich are getting a good deal more than their share, with the result that the poor are not getting what they ought to receive." The speech also highlighted the situation for important foodstuffs:

    Butter and Margarine - "I hope that the position is going to steadily improve. If things go fairly well I hope there will be as large a supply of margarine and butter in this country in another six months as there was before the war."

    Tea - "The position will improve. Before February the Government will have taken over the whole of he supplied of teas coming into this country. They will make purchases in Ceylon and India and fix the price, which I hope will be still further reduced."

    Meat - "I ask you to exercise every patience. It is no use getting panicky. I am not going to be moved in any way from what I consider the right course to take. There is going to be a great shortage in the supply of meat during the next couple of weeks, and after that I hope the position will improve considerably. We have our scheme laid. I am not going to threaten the farmers. I don not want to commandeer cattle, but machinery will be ready for the purpose of obtaining cattle if they do not come into the market when they are required."

    The scale of prices at the Silvertown Communal Kitchen are:

    • Pint of soup .............. 2d
    • Lentil savoury with gravy ..2d
    • Baked rice pudding .........2d
    • Boiled currant roly ........1d
    • vegitables ............1d & 2d

  • Hospital ship   

    HS Rewa

    HMHS Rewa (His Majesty's Hospital ship) was a steamship originally built for the British-India Steam Navigation Company, but requisitioned for use as a British hospital ship during the First World War. On 4 January 1918, she was hit and sunk by a torpedo from the German U-boat U-55.

    In 1908, she joined her sister ship Rohilla as a permanent troopship, being designated No.5.


    On 4 January 1918, Rewa was returning to Britain from Malta with 279 wounded officers aboard. Neutral inspectors from Spain had boarded the ship in Gibraltar to confirm that she had no military function. At 1115, she was hit by a torpedo 19 mi (31 km) off Hartland Point. The ship took around two hours to sink, allowing all wounded and ship's crew to board lifeboats except for the four engine men who died in the initial explosion.


    The sinking of the ship caused outrage in Britain. The German high command denied sinking the ship, instead blaming the explosion on a loose British mine. However, German naval command had entered "total war" in a desperate effort to win the war. In implementing total war, the naval command secretly ordered U-boat captains to sink any Allied ship, including hospital ships, even though it violated Hague Convention X. However, the captain of U-55 perhaps fearing the consequences of his actions wrote in the ship's log that he sank a cargo vessel and not a brightly lit and painted hospital ship. After the war, Wilhelm Werner was hunted by Allied command in an effort to charge him for war crimes, but he disappeared, thus avoiding a trial.


    The wreckage lies at 50.55N 04.49W, which is located off the west UK coast. It lies in about 200 ft (61 m) of water which makes it difficult for all but the most experienced diver to explore. During the Second World War, the wreckage was often mistaken by British sonar for a German U-boat. To confirm that a U-Boat was not just hiding on the sea bed, Allied ships would drop depth charges, called opening the "tin can". If oil or German bodies floated to the surface then they knew they had destroyed a U-Boat. If nothing floated up then they would move to the next sonar target. This process totally destroyed the wreck of Rewa.

    John Doran


    Cleaning up. Reorganisation. Baths at ECOIVRES.

    The National Archives Reference WO95/2361/1

  • 4th Jan 1918 Working Parties

  • 4th Jan 1918 In the Trenches

  • 4th Jan 1918 Reliefs

  • 4th Jan 1918 Trench Work

  • 4th Jan 1918 In Reserve

  • 4th Jan 1918 Training

  • 4th Jan 1918 On the Move

Can you add to this factual information? Do you know the whereabouts of a unit on a particular day? Do you have a copy of an official war diary entry? Details of an an incident? The loss of a ship? A letter, postcard, photo or any other interesting snipts?

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Want to know more?

There are:10 articles tagged with this date available in our Library

  These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Great War.

Remembering those who died this day.

  • Pte. Francis Ratcliffe. Royal Army Service Corps. 893rd Mechanical Transport Company Read their Story.
  • Cpl. John Barr Thomson. MM. Cameronians 10th Btn. Read their Story.

    Add a name to this list.

  • Items from the Home Front Archive

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