This film is part of Free

Hands Off Baby's Milk

High milk prices during WWI drive mother and child onto the street in protest

Non-Fiction 1916 1 mins Silent


It took an unusually well-judged protest to stir the sympathy of the newsreels, who tended to toe the Establishment line. Surrounded by evocative slogans, women hold their crying babies up for the cameras as they protest at high milk prices. A hot political topic in autumn 1916, the rising cost of milk brought vociferous objections. The long final shot of a bawling infant seems to invite moral indignation - who would take milk out of this baby's mouth?

Rationing wasn't introduced until early 1918, the tail end of WWI. Price controls led to frequent food queues, though, and the war drastically affected supply. Agricultural workers moving to munitions production and restricted imports of fertilisers and feed were logical causes of price hikes, but the practice of feeding pigs whole milk caused anger. There was even consternation at milk being diverted to cheese production - a concern dismissed by Board of Trade President Walter Runciman. While he understood children's need for milk, he told the Commons, "other people must have cheese".