The research took some time…

…reading the specific material sourced from the National Archives, trawling through Trove as well as other more general background research that showed how they lived at the time. A trip around the streets of Islington, London, to visit where the original milk dairies had been and see the buildings that were bomb-damaged proved key in providing an authentic canvas for the story.


Three elements that became pillars of the story were the establishment of the British Restaurants, the continued operations of The Savoy, and the rivalry that existed between the newly created restaurants and the established catering trade.

British Restaurants

On 21 March 1941 Mr Churchill wrote to Lord Woolton, Minister of Food, in relation to the establishment of communal feeding centres:


I hope the term ‘Communal Feeding Centres’ is not going to be adopted. It is an odious expression, suggestive of Communism and the workhouse. I suggest you call them ‘British Restaurants’. Everybody associates the word ‘restaurant’ with a good meal, and they may as well have the name if they cannot get anything else.
Communal Feeding Centres
Communal Feeding Centres
Communal Feeding Centres

These photographs are part of the “MINISTRY OF INFORMATION SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION”. Here five women from a nearby works enjoying a meal at the British Restaurant at Woolmore Street in 1942, just like they do in Maggie’s Kitchen. They work as oil and grease fillers at the factory.

© IWM (D 10676)

Here is entertainer Tommy Trinder in 1941 as he sings and dances in a British Restaurant, to encourage the public to use communal feeding centres.


© IWM (D 2413)

This is mealtime at a British Restaurant

in Poplar in 1942.


© IWM (D 12268)

Communal Feeding Centres
Communal Feeding Centres
Communal Feeding Centres

The self-serve British Restaurant in Woolmore Street, London, during 1942. Like Gillian and Rose, these ‘dinner ladies’ serve the meals to the queuing diners.

© IWM (D 10680)

M M Brookes holds a diploma in domestic science and runs the restaurant.

© IWM (D 10673)

Cooks are trained at the National College of Domestic Science in Westminster and the general public sit down to lunch cooked by students learning about communal feeding.

© IWM (D 22533)

The Savoy 

The Savoy has a rich history and played a strong role in London life in peacetime as well as through the wars. Churchill really did entertain his cabinet there and there was a demonstration outside by the public complaining that it was one rule for the rich and another for the poor since they were able to access rations when the general public could not. Robbie knew where to look!
savoy london


Source: Burton Latimer Co-operative Society

British Restaurants vs. Established caterers 

The archives give an interesting perspective on how the established catering trade found it more than irritating that the newly established British Restaurants were able to source supplies that were rare to come by and in short supply.

Your own Victory Garden

As well as requisitioning sports grounds and gardens for farming and growing vegetables a lot of other wasteland was used, including the side of railways as Janek does in the book.




If you don’t have your own garden and want to get involved in a community garden then your local council web site might give details of community gardens to get involved with. Urban gardens like the one pictured here are popular in city and town centres.


ww2 grow your own food
Photographer (NARA record: 1138532) – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Luckily you will not need to go through the process of transforming a bomb crater into a veggie patch like this one in London during WWII; a small area or even a window box will do, or even a wall garden.


A victory garden in a bomb crater in London during WWII. Photo: Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. (06/13/1942 – 09/15/1945), Photographer (NARA record: 1138532) – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.


© IWM (Art.IWM PST 17019)

© IWM (Art.IWM PST 17019)

Food Production: Dig for Victory, Artist, Peter Fraser.

Food Production: Dig for Victory, Artist, Peter Fraser.

Victory Garden Poster, ‘Dig for Plenty’

Victory Garden Poster, ‘Dig for Plenty’


© IWM 

Yes please, sign me up to Caroline’s monthly newsletter!