Object of the week- 100 year-old wartime biscuit
Extraordinarily well-preserved, this century-old biscuit carries a poignant festive message from the front lines of the First World War.
Sent from the trenches in 1914, it survives still tucked in its original wrapper at Leeds Discovery Centre and was addressed to a Mrs Maxwell of Meanwood, believed to be the sender’s mum.
Written on one side in blue ink is the light-hearted message: “Christmas dinner in the Army. ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ and please put a bit of butter on. From Max.”
Research suggests the sender was Private William Maxwell (service number 4492) who served with the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers and was the son of G.E. and Margaret Maxwell.
Sadly, Private Maxwell only saw one Christmas in the trenches and was killed in May 1915 and buried in Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery in northern France.
His younger brother Arthur Maxwell also died serving his country during the first month of combat on August 30, 1914.
The message written on the biscuit reflects a common criticism of the food offered to British troops on the Western Front, with biscuits like this making up a significant part of the diet alongside tins of corned beef and bread.
Fresh food was very hard to come by and the biscuits were usually stale so, like Private Maxwell, many soldiers used them to write messages home instead of eating them.
Leeds Museums have another First World War biscuit in the collection which was decorated, sent as a Christmas card and subsequently framed.
Leeds Discovery Centre hosts a programme of fascinating tours and talks which can be booked in advance by contacting 0113 378 2100.
For more details, visit: www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/discoverycentre