~ Shop ~

WORLD WAR II – WALES / MANUSCRIPT ‘MASTERPLAN’ FOR FOOD MANAGEMENT AND RATIONING: “Ministry of Food – South Wales Division – Divisional Food Officer – Edmund Hill-Snook”.

An amazing survivor and an important artefact form Britain’s battle against hunger during the height of World II, being a colossal original manuscript ‘masterplan’ map of South Wales used by senior officials of Britain’s Ministry of Food to plan for the storage, protection and distribution of precious food supplies across the region.


Manuscript map, pen and ink and coloured marker and paint on waxed cloth, with some contemporary pencil annotations (Very Good, some creasing and wear along old folds, some very light spots and toning, but overall clean with attractive colours, contemporary tack marks to edges and corners), 108 by 165 cm (42.5 x 65 inches).

Additional information



Place and Year


Upon the outbreak of World War II, Great Britain faced a crisis almost as serious as being bombed or invaded by Nazi Germany.  The country was nowhere near self-sufficient in terms of its food requirements; in the period immediately before the conflict the country imported 20 million long tons of food per annum, including 70% of its cheese, sugar, cereals and fats, and about 80% of its fruit.

Germany was determined to blockade Britain by way of ‘Unrestricted Submarine Warfare’, whereby its formidable U-boat fleet would attack all Allied military and civilian shipping, seeking to sever Britain from its overseas food supplies and starve the country into submission.  As the U-boats sank ship after ship bound for Britain from places such as Canada, Whitehall grew gravely concerned that the country would soon not even have enough food to feed its soldiers, first responders, and munitions factory workers, let alone the 50 million strong civilian population.  For a long time, the situation was acutely serious, and the prognosis was not good, to say the least.

Fortunately, the British government revived the Great War period’s Ministry of Food Control (1916-21), rechristening it simply as the Ministry of Food.  In April 1940, Frederick James Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton (1883 – 1964), a businessman and non-politician, was appointed as minister.  This proved to be a splendid choice, as Lord Woolton worked tirelessly with tremendous creativity to stretch Britain’s meager food supplies.  The Ministry was given an almost complete monopoly over over food production and distribution (including of the shipments that did manage to arrive from overseas).  Overseeing a bureaucracy of over 50,000, the Ministry set up over 1,000 food distribution centres, and ensured that supplies were protected from enemy action (i.e. bombing) and spoilage, while seeing that the food was well distributed and always available in all parts of the country.

To control food supply, every Briton was issued with a monthly ration card, with points that that could be used towards the food of their choice (subject to availability).  This way, the Ministry could ensure that the people had enough nutritious food to sustain themselves, while preventing inefficiency and hording.  Particularly needy people were also provided with free meals; for instance, 3.5 million children were served meals everyday courtesy of the crown.  While a vibrant black market naturally developed, this did not manage to significantly interfere with the legitimate food supply.

In 1942, the entry of the United States into war on the Allied side, as well as improved British anti-U-boat techniques, turned the sea war against Germany, permitting a much greater flow of food convoys to reach Britain.  From June 1942, the Anglo-American Combined Food Board ensured that much greater quantities of food arrived in Britain from North America.  That being said; however, supply in Britain remained tight (even if the situation was no longer acute) and the Ministry of Food still needed to tightly manage distribution and rationing.

The present map is gargantuan manuscript masterplan made for Edmund Hill-Snook (1888 – 1976), the Ministry of Food’s Divisional Food Officer for South Wales.  Depicting the entire southern half of the country, it was clearly designed to be hung up on the wall at the Divisional headquarters (note the task marks on the sides and corners) for Hill-Snook and his colleagues to consult during strategy sessions.  The lower right corner is the map is signed and dated, “S. Owen Rees, A.D.F.O. (Emergency Stores and Statistics) 31-8-43.”, revealing that the map was drafted by the Assistant Divisional Food Officer in the summer of 1943, when the food supply situation in Wales had improved somewhat, but was still very much a cause for concern.

The map shows South Wales divided into its seven traditional counties, each outlined in bright attractive colours (Wales’s county configuration has since been changed), with the Ministry’s Food Distribution Zones corresponding to the counties, being Monmouthshire (Zone 1); Glamorgan (Zone 2, including Cardiff); Carmarthenshire (Zone 3); Pembrokeshire (Zone 4); Cadiganshire (Zone 5); Radnorshire and Brecknockshire (Zone 6, embracing the tow counties).

Importantly, each of the zones is divided into numbered ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ areas coded with ‘S.WA’ (meaning South Wales), for example ‘Cardiff Urban S.WA 22’, or ‘Neath Rural S.WA 67’.  This is important distinction, as the rural areas were often net producers of food, home to farms and relatively small, low density populations, whereas, the urban areas always had massive food deficits, with relatively large, dense populations and despite perhaps being home to food processing facilities, they did not produce raw food stuffs.  Indeed, cities such as Cardiff, Pembroke and Swansea, would have required continuous, large scale coordination on the part of Hill-Snook and his associates to ensure that the population was sustained, let alone satisfied.  The numerous towns and villages that dot the countryside are actually marked to denote the locations of food storage and distribution centres.

The present map would likely have been consulted on multiple occasions on a daily basis for planning how to store (including protecting stock from German bombing raids) and distributing food supplies, as they arrived from farms, from other parts of Britain, or from overseas.  Such a large, sharply designed map, expressly made for this sole purpose, would have been invaluable in making decisions that involved many tons of food and thousands of people, under stressful, high-stakes circumstances.

The present manuscript masterplan map is an exceedingly rare survivor and a seminal artefact from what was a major front for Britain during World War II.


References: N / A – Unrecorded original manuscript.

Additional information



Place and Year


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “WORLD WAR II – WALES / MANUSCRIPT ‘MASTERPLAN’ FOR FOOD MANAGEMENT AND RATIONING: “Ministry of Food – South Wales Division – Divisional Food Officer – Edmund Hill-Snook”.”