Waiting until the cows came home during food rationing

The photographer helpfully wrote a brief caption on the front of this print, so we know that this is a view of the cattle market on the Square, Dunstable, when the auctioneer was a Mr Chas Allcorn.

Thursday, 24th July 2014, 11:00 am

The lettering is a little indistinct so the date is either December 1913 or 1918.

If it’s the latter, there would have been particular interest in seeing if the market was returning to normal after the end of the Great War.

In 1918 a blockade by German U-Boats had a devastating effect.

Food rationing was introduced and a crowd packed into Dunstable town hall to hear councillors explain how this would work.

Women queued there to apply for tickets for margarine.

In the midst of such shortage (the shops in Totternhoe ran out of food completely) there was considerable excitement at Dunstable market when a Luton butcher arrived with authorisation from the Admiralty to purchase the first 24 beasts available.

But there were only seven up for auction and tempers became frayed.

Luckily, a Food Committee Officer hastened to the scene and he was able to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

He knew enough about the regulations to rule that the Admiralty Priority Certificate was invalid because there was no surplus beyond local requirements.

> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society.