There’s more to Damper Bread than you’d think – Woodland Ways Bushcraft Course

On the Woodland Ways Bushcraft Survival Courses we endeavour to go above and beyond the level of detail that you would normally get on a bushcraft weekend. We do not just show you how, we tell you why, we explain the history, we break down the finite detail, we inspire. We do this so that you go away from each course brimming with knowledge. Let’s take a look at one of those topics that would otherwise appear simply mundane… Damper Bread


Our research has suggested that the earliest records exist from the unleavened bread (of which Damper Bread is) was made by Australian Stockmen who didn’t have time to wait for their bread to rise after a long day on the trail. Each man was provided a week’s rations of c. 10lbs meat, 10lbs flour, 2lbs sugar, and 1/4 lb tea. As you can imagine, not the most inspiring of diets considering the work involved, but Damper bread formed a vital staple within this. It can be greatly improved, as we do on our survival courses, by foraging for supplementary ingredients.

Where does the name come from?

As with a lot of things in history no one can actually say 100% for sure, however during our research into the terminology of the term “Damper Bread” we settled on three main theories about where the name comes from:

1. We found written records of a William Dampier who was stranded in Australia in 1688, and we think he was of French origin. I like the idea of a French Chef coming up with the genious of mixing flour and water together but it is unlikely that such a simple recipe was the product of one man! We would suggest it has been going on for many a year before then!

2. The stockmen used to “damp” down the fire and cook the bread in the ashes, hence “damper” bread

3. “Damper” is a Lancashire dialect word meaning “something that takes the edge off appetite”, so in 1804 one character in a popular tale took “his snack by way of damper” and in 1852 one writer referred to Australian Bush Bread as “a damper, sure, to the stoutest appetite”.

As you can imagine in its raw form opinions are often not great, early descriptions were somewhat… lacking a sales pitch. A mid-19thC pamphlet referred to the bread as “requiring the stomach of an ostrich to digest”. But for this reason it is an excellent food in the outdoors: simple and filling.

Other Cultures

Different breads have been formed in different countries, some even helping to shape a national identity. For example:

The Australian aborigines make a seed bread out of wild seeds and grasses;

In western and central India, farmers made bhakri to carry them through field work till nightfall from whatever type of flour was available, such as millet or rice, mixed with oil and water

The Jews still eat Matzo during Passover in commemoration of their flight from Egypt, when they could not wait for the bread to rise

All these are not to mention your bannocks, bara briths and bazlama’s!

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