History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. ~Winston Churchill

25 August, 2014

Soldiers Peeling Potatoes

Armies, unsurprisingly, used lots of  potatoes in their cooking, and soldiers, unsurprisingly, were often set the task of peeling them. What is rather surprising is just how regularly photographers captured this event on film....

© IWM (SE 2022)

British soldiers peeling potatoes, Burma, 1945. Source

Library and Archives Canada

Canadian soldiers peeling potatoes, 1916. Source

Library and Archives Canada

Canadian soldiers peeling potatoes, 1916. Source

© IWM (H 32764)

British soldiers peeling potatoes, 1943. Source

Library and Archives Canada

Canadian soldiers peeling potatoes, Germany, 1945. Source

National Library of Ireland

Soldiers peeling potatoes in Ireland, early 20th C. Source

Mennonite Church USA Archives

American soldiers peeling potatoes, 1918. Source

© IWM (A 16401)

British sailors of the Royal Navy peeling potatoes, 1942. Source

© IWM (BU 466)

French women join British soldiers in peeling potatoes, France, 1944. Source

Australian soldiers peeling potatoes, ca. 1915. Source

© IWM (Q 72490)

A British soldier peels potatoes during the Boer War, 1899-1902. Source

Australian soldiers intently peeling potatoes, Korea, 1956. Source

© IWM (SE 3075)

ENSA women join soldiers in the potato-peeling fun, 1945. Source

Australian sailors peeling potatoes, Korea, 1952. Source

Library of Congress

American sailors peeling potatoes, ca. 1910. Source

Australian soldiers happily peeling potatoes (for Christmas dinner), Borneo, 1945. Source


Shay said...

There may be two reasons for the popularity of KP (Kitchen Police) photos, one is that a soldier assigned to such duty has been seen as good fun probably since the American Civil War.

The second reason is that "back in the day" men simply did not enter the kitchen (unless they were famous French chefs). A woman who made her son help her in the kitchen would be accused of making a "sissy" of him. Men were widely considered in popular literature and the movies to be totally helpless in front of a stove.

So, a photo of some manly he-men doing woman's work was probably considered a guaranteed laugh-getter.

Anna said...

Those are excellent suggestions. Throughout wartime photography--especially from the official photographers-- you can see a strong interest in getting lots of less heavy pictures, especially those that are light-hearted and/or evocative of normal life. Reassurance for those back home, really. The potato pictures were probably good for that, for the reasons you point out. It's familiar but different and kind of funny. It's easier to point at a picture of Private Joe peeling a potato and laugh and say "look what Joe has to do!" than see a picture of him muddied, bloody, and exhausted and say "look what Joe has to go through." The pictures show life is clearly different at the front, but in a way that's okay.

Thanks for pointing out that even simple pictures can mean a lot more than they seem to!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Search This Blog