The Australian soldiers at Gallipoli didn’t have access to refrigeration or any safe food storage systems. Another challenge faced was supplying enough food to feed thousands of men. As a result, malnutrition and scurvy were common. Unfortunately this would have added to the number of casualties, particularly if wounds were sustained or diseases were contracted and there were not adequate nutrient stores within the body to heal them or fight off infection.
Some of the food was shipped from locations as far as Egypt and Greece without refrigeration, via ships which could take two or more months to arrive. This limited the types of food that could be supplied as anything perishable would go off during transportation. As a result, fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, and meat were extremely uncommon.
So what did they eat to provide them with sustenance to get them through?
For the soldiers’ protein, they would receive tinned “bully beef” – more commonly known as corned beef. This had a long shelf life and was easily transported. It consisted of beef, salt, and gelatin. This was really the only source of protein, fat, and some important micronutrients like zinc.
Carbohydrates were vital for maintaining energy stores. This would have been essential to fuel the body and fortunately, it was easier to transport carbohydrate rich foods compared to dairy and fresh produce.
Carbohydrates were provided in the form of rice and small amounts of bread. Though the main form was biscuits.
The real ANZAC biscuit
One of the most consumed items was hard tack, also referred to as “ANZAC wafer” or “ANZAC tile”. These were the real ANZAC biscuits opposed to the sweet ones we eat today. These were relied on as a major food source as they had a far longer shelf life when compared to bread. The hard tack was first made by Arnott’s and simply consisted of flour (white + wholemeal), sugar, milk powder, and a small amount of salt. It provided a small amount of fibre and other micronutrients.
As you can imagine, the hard tack was quite bland and as the name suggests; it was very hard unless softened with hot water. To add some more variety and to make it slightly more palatable, some of the soldiers would break up the hard tack and mix it with water and milk powder to make it almost like porridge.
The ANZAC biscuits we know of today were made by women’s groups. They were often used to raise funds to support the war effort rather than being sent to the troops.
The image below is sourced from the Australian War Memorial and shows a photo of what the genuine ANZAC biscuit (hard tack) looked like.
Australian War Memorial 
Sweetened condensed milk was the only source of dairy, often powdered and mixed with water. This would have eliminated the need to carry around weighty tins.
The soldiers would also be provided with jam for their bread/hard tack, and cocoa and tea to make hot drinks with.
Fruit and vegetables
Unfortunately supplies of fruit and vegetables were rare and the troops would have to go without. This would have lead to nutritional deficiencies, malnutrition and related conditions.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about nutrition, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!
1. Australian War Memorial [internet]. Canberra; Australian War Memorial [cited 2016 April 13]
Available from: https://www.awm.gov.au/education/schools/resources/hard-tack/