Cooking in the Trenches

June 25, 2018 · Collections ·

Mess kit, made by Rock Island Arsenal and the American Cutlery Company. CHS collection, 1974.6.83.a-e.

During World War I, soldiers were issued mess kits for preparing and eating their meals. Mess kits usually consisted of a pan for cooking food, a set of cutlery, and a lid which also served as a plate. This mess kit was owned by George W. Cheney of Manchester who served during World War I.

George W. Cheney joined the Connecticut National Guard, Troop B Cavalry in 1911. A Yale graduate, Cheney worked at the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company in Hartford, but was called to serve at the Mexican border in 1916. When the United States entered World War I, cavalry units were transformed into machine gun battalions. Cheney gave up his horse and took up a machine gun.

Cheney served on the front lines in France for nine months and attended the First Corps School, Machine Gun Sector, in Gondrecourt, France. He graduated in December 1917 and served as a machine gun instructor for his battalion. In July 1918 Cheney returned to the US, where he taught machine gun tactics at various training camps until the end of the war.

You can learn more about the daily lives of World War I soldiers on July 21, when the CHS hosts the 26th Yankee Division WWI Living History Group, a dedicated band of volunteers who use artifacts and reproductions, including vehicles, to recreate the conditions of life for a First World War soldier. Kids and families can talk with the volunteers, try out hands-on activities, and learn what soldiers wore, ate, and carried into battle. You’ll even have a chance to sample doughnuts cooked in a reproduction “rolling kitchen!”

Kindly RSVP for the World War I Living History Day at or by calling 860-236-5621 ext. 238. Questions? Contact Adult Programs Manager Natalie Belanger at or call 860-236-5621 ext. 289.

To see the mess kit shown above and other items owned by George W. Cheney and other Connecticut soldiers, come visit the exhibit Facing War: Connecticut in World War Ion display now through December 1.

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