This film is part of Free

Potato Philanthropist

An East End celebrity hides in a hamper with some much-needed food for the women of the home front

Non-Fiction 1917 1 mins Silent


Who is the woman with the spuds? That'd be music hall star Kate Carney, feted for her cockney songs and known as the Coster Comedienne. Wearing a fur coat and feathered hat, she draws a crowd as she pulls up in a motorcar to hand out food to the wives of soldiers fighting WWI. And wouldn't the locals want to see a little of her famous act after she has finished? Time to change clothes and jump out of a hamper, posing as a cheerful costermonger, delivering her best stage sales patter.

The cost of food rose astronomically during WWI. Prices more than doubled, with staples such as fruit, vegetables, meat, bread and flour difficult to find. It was all the more difficult for families missing a breadwinner - and conscription was extended to married men in May 1916. To solve the shortages, rationing was established in 1918, first in London, then in the rest of the country.