19 Apr 2013

Poor food for Gallipoli troops caused illness - study

12:29 pm on 19 April 2013

A study of the food given to New Zealand soldiers at Gallipoli has found it was so nutritionally deficient it probably caused scurvy and other illnesses.

Research from Massey and Otago universities published in the NZ Medical Journal analysed modern-day foods that are the nearest equivalent to the military rations of 1915.

The rations on Gallipoli consisted mainly of bully beef, biscuits and jam and were low in vitamins A, C and E and potassium, selenium and dietary fibre.

Dr Nick Wilson from Otago University says apart from causing scurvy, the lack of nutrition may have reduced resistance to dysentery and typhoid, which killed more than 200 New Zealanders at Gallipoli.

Dr Wilson says the nutritional problems would have been preventable if even modest amounts of canned fruit or vegetables had been provided to the troops.

Massey University professor of war history Glyn Harper says the food was so bad that when the troops threw it at the enemy it came back with a note from the Turkish troops saying "send tobacco yes, bully beef - no".

"Also the biscuits, usually they'd nibble around the edges of the really hard ones and throw the centres into no man's land and the Turks never touched those as well."

Professor Harper says the poor rations were symptomatic of poor planning throughout the eight-month campaign.

He says the military planners didn't anticipate such a long campaign and once the men were on the peninsula it was extremely difficult to get supplies to them.

Some 2721 New Zealand soldiers died and 7500 were wounded in the campaign at Gallipoli Peninsula during World War I.