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 Post subject: Food for thought - Rationing
Unread postPosted: 31 May 2013, 13:16 
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Food for thought - Rationing

By John Ash



A BBC article published recently delves into the rationing of sweets, the 6 minute audio presentation narrated by a David Walliams sound-alike discusses how the sweet-toothed British were so eager to stuff their faces with sugary treats when 7 years of sweet rationing ended 1949 that the government quickly had to reintroduce restrictions for at least another 3-4 years because there was such demand!

This brief article will highlight some other interesting bite-sized factual chunks regarding rationing. Usually I'd by a whole chicken and divide it up, but I don't have the coupons this week...

Why rationing was required.

Rationing was not new to the British, in 1917 unrestricted U-Boat warfare forced food rationing until 1920 when it was realised that roughly 6 weeks of food was all that remained. In 1925, rationing was planned to counter the effects of a General Strike of the trade unions that dealt with dockworkers, but the Army intervened and escorted the food through the protests and no one went hungry.

Blockading and starving Britain by attacking shipping bound for the United Kingdom was one of the principal strategies of the Axis and such practices restricted British industry and could potentially have starved the nation into submission. In 1939 the United Kingdom imported 20 million long tons of food per year (70%), including at least 50% of its meat, 70% of its cheese and sugar, nearly 80% of fruits and about 70% of cereals and fats. This massive import operation was to support a population which was somewhere between 46 and 52 million people according to the 1931 and 1951 censuses.

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£77 5s in 2013 money is £14,010

The first commodity to be rationed in 1939 was petrol, and shortly after on 8th January 1940, bacon, butter and sugar were rationed. Other meats, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, lard, milk and canned and dried fruit followed. A huge black market developed, especially in meat products, which were rationed by value rather than by weight as with other products. Fresh vegetables and fruit were not rationed, but supplies of them were limited. Lemons and bananas became virtually unobtainable, oranges were generally reserved for children and pregnant women, who could prove their status by producing their distinctive ration books. Even home grown fruits were limited in supply.

Some strange laws were passed throughout the period. For example, by arguing that it tasted worse and that it was easier to slice, bread was made grey and was not to be sold until the day after it had been baked - therefore reducing usage. Restaurants were also subject to restrictions. In May 1942 it was ordered that meals could not cost more than 5s (£29.98 in today's money) and meals must not be more than three courses. Only one course could included a choice of either fish, meat, or poultry, this was because at first places of business like restaurants went un-rationed and the wealthy ate out to get around their rations.

Fish was never rationed, but price increased considerably. The government realised fishermen would need to be able to collect a premium for their catch as they were at risk of enemy attack while at sea, but this was untenable and prices were controlled from 1941. However, supplies dropped to 30% of pre-war levels, long queues at fishmongers and fish and chip shops were common. And worse of all, the fat ration affected the quality of wartime chips! Certain unusual foodstuffs such as whale meat and South African Snoek fish were not rationed, but they were not popular and were best served as the fish of the day in a hilarious sketch from the cult TV show Dad's Army.

Other commodities were also rationed, clothing was rationed on a points system. When introduced on 1st June 1941 no clothing coupons had yet been issued, and unused margarine coupons were validated for clothing. At first, approximately one new outfit per year could be bought but as the war progressed the value of the points were reduced until buying a coat used a year's clothing coupons.

The civilian petrol ration was abolished in mid-1942, and replaced with a new system where dyed vehicle fuel was only available to "official" users, such as the emergency services, bus companies and farmers and of course, the armed forces. Fuel use for non-essential purposes was a serious offence.

Rationing actually increased the health of the nation, with both life expectancy and infant mortality figures shifting positively because rationing ensured that everybody had a balanced diet and that it included items such as fruit rich in vitamins which many families would otherwise have not had access to.

So what was in a basic ration?

Food ration (Per week; 1945):

Ham and Bacon - 113g
Sugar - 227g
Tea - 57g
Meat - 1s 2d (£6.34 today, and bought roughly 540g of meat)*
Cheese - 57g (Veggies had an extra 85g)
Butter - 57g
Margarine - 113g
Lard - 57g
Preserves - 0.91 kg marmalade, or,0.45 kg preserve, or, 0.45 kg extra sugar (all per month)
Sweets - 340g (per month)
Eggs - Rationed and "allocated to ordinary consumers as available". In 1944 one could expect 30 eggs in a year but children and some invalids were allowed (when available) 3 a week and expectant mothers two. Generally eggs were supposed to be issued 1 a week, eggs were interchangeable with a "12 'egg' pack of powdered eggs.
Tinned/Dried food - 24 ration points issued per month.
Milk - 1.7l per week, pregnant mothers and children under 5 given priority. 2l were issued to those under 18, children unable to attend school were given 2.8l, and certain invalids up to 8.0l. Everyone was given one tin of milk powder (made 4.5l) every 8 weeks

* Offal and sausages were rationed from 1942 to 1944. when not rationed, the meat needed to make sausages was so scarce they had to contain high proportions of bread

Clothing

66 points for clothing per year initially, cut to 24 by 1945.

Overcoat - 18 Coupons (wool and lined)
Suit, men's - 26-29 (according to lining)
Shoes, men's - 9
Shoes, women's - 7
Dress, wool - 11

Children aged 14–16 received 20 more coupons. Clothing rationing points could be used for wool, cotton and household textiles. Work clothes were paid for by extra points, no points were required for second-hand clothing or fur coats but their prices were fixed. Lace and frills on underwear was banned to save material. Austerity measures were introduced in 1942 restricting the number of buttons and pockets (among other things) on clothes.

Soap

All soap was rationed and coupons were allotted by weight or (if liquid) by quantity. In 1945 four coupons were given each month. Babies, some workers and invalids were allowed more.

1 coupon would provide;

113g bar hard soap
85g bar toilet soap
14g No. 1 liquid soap
170g soft soap
85g soap flakes
170g soap powder

Heat Fuel

Central heating was prohibited in the summer.

Domestic coal was rationed to 760kg for those in London and the south of England, and 1,000kg for the rest of the country (the southern part of England having a milder climate).

Other

Whether rationed or not, goods became difficult to obtain. Razor blades, baby bottles, alarm clocks, kitchen equipment, balloons, and cake sugar were all partially or completely unavailable. Wood was difficult to come by, and Christmas trees, although not banned, may as well have been.

So when did this all stop then?

Rationing continued long after the war, as the government argued that there was a need to feed people in European areas under British control. Whilst true, with many British men still in the armed forces, an austere economic climate, and a centrally-planned economy under the post-war Labour government, the resources were not available to expand food production/imports. Striking made the situation worse. In the 1950 British general elections, rationing continued to be decisive, the Conservative Party campaigned on a manifesto directed at ending rationing as quickly as possible. Labour won, but their majority was slashed to nothing and in 1951 the Tories won another General election.

Clothes rationing ceased in mid-1949, but only because attempts to enforce it were undermined by theft, forgery and the black market.

Petrol rationing was abolished on 1st June 1945, but 'red fuels' were properly introduced in mid-1948 for only allowed to be used in commercial vehicles. Private car owners could lose their driving licence for a year if red petrol was found in their car and a petrol station could be shut down if it sold red petrol to a private car driver. The basic petrol ration was restored, at a third of its previous size. Petrol rationing ended entirely in mid-1950, but was very briefly reintroduced during the 1956 Suez Crisis but ended again in May 1957. Throughout this period, advertising petrol on the recently-introduced ITV TV channel was banned.

Bread rationing started in mid-1946 as rain ruined Britain's wheat crop and remained rationed until 1948. The winter of 1946-47 forced potato rationing. Meat continued to be in short supply, made worse by a general strike in 1947 which left meat rotting at the docks until the Army broke the strike. Sweet rationing ended in early-1953, with sugar rationing ending in late-1953. Meat and all other foodstuffs only stopped being rationed on the 4th July 1954. Despite the end of rationing, cheese production remained dramatically reduced for many decades. During rationing, most milk in Britain was used to make just one kind of cheese, nicknamed "Government Cheddar" and this wiped out nearly all other cheese production in the country with some local varieties of cheese disappearing. Government controls on milk prices discouraged production of other varieties of cheese until the mid-1980s.

BBC Audio Slideshow - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22706432



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 Post subject: Re: Well, I guess the dentists loved it - Rationing
Unread postPosted: 31 May 2013, 22:22 
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Fun fact: Throughout the war and until the 1950's, Badgers were on the menu.

http://web.archive.org/web/200707151833 ... 123bak.htm - Recipe



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 Post subject: Re: Food for thought - Rationing
Unread postPosted: 25 Jul 2013, 10:55 
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I have a book from 1950 from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries called Apples and Pears, it is about how to save food, and most importantly as the title suggests grow apples and pears



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 Post subject: Re: Food for thought - Rationing
Unread postPosted: 22 Sep 2013, 21:56 
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Post some yummy recipes then!

Just ahead of Christmas 1940-41 the government doubled the tea ration and increased sugar rations to 12oz for the period. Which is nice!

Found this though, not nice!

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It gets worse, Christmas dinner on rations... Mock Turkey...

Ingredients
1 loaf bread (can be stale)
1 quart milk
1 carrot, grated
1 onion, minced or finely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 dash of pepper
1lb sausage meat
1 tsp seasoning

Method
Remove crust from loaf of bread; tear apart and moisten with milk.
Add meat, chopped vegetables and seasoning.
Mix together well and place in a buttered baking dish.
Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours.



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 Post subject: Re: Food for thought - Rationing
Unread postPosted: 22 Sep 2013, 23:44 
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I think this chap would rather he stayed in the Netherlands [25th Dec 1944]

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What I found interesting were the things that weren't rationed, such as alcohol. Sure, French and German and many other nations beverages were probably off the market, but it appears that booze was unrationed, albeit expensive.

Ever had parents or grandparents who say they didn't a Banana until 1949 or later, and that they ran to check if it was yellow or green every morning? I have, and sure, its true, but its not because it was rationed or banned, just very, very, very expensive...

Imported fruit was unrationed, just hard to acquire for reasons which are easy to imagine.



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 Post subject: Re: Food for thought - Rationing
Unread postPosted: 30 Apr 2014, 09:04 
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Apparently my grandfather and his family first got bananas late in or shortly after the war, they ate a load of bananas when they were green, because they did not know any better. When they turned yellow they thought they had spoiled! This apparently continued for some years.



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 Post subject: Re: Food for thought - Rationing
Unread postPosted: 30 Apr 2014, 19:43 
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in Jersey, Cider replaced Beer in pubs because it could be grown and made locally


I don't think my Grandfather (on my English side) had bananas until after the war either!
all sorts of stories about keeping chickens and the like



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 Post subject: Re: Food for thought - Rationing
Unread postPosted: 03 Jun 2014, 20:42 
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Imperator wrote:
Apparently my grandfather and his family first got bananas late in or shortly after the war, they ate a load of bananas when they were green, because they did not know any better. When they turned yellow they thought they had spoiled! This apparently continued for some years.


My Grandmother told me about how her entire street saved up for a pig, they kept it at the end of the road and every house fed it scraps. Each house in the street got a slice of the action


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 Post subject: Re: Food for thought - Rationing
Unread postPosted: 12 Sep 2014, 20:31 
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Quote:
slice of the action


Ha haaa...



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 Post subject: Re: Food for thought - Rationing
Unread postPosted: 09 Jul 2015, 18:06 
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May well explain why the American GI's were so "popular" with British ladies (and hence unpopular with British men, civilian and Tommy alike): they had access to more and better food. I mean 57 grams of tea a week? No wonder they tossed Churchill by his ears in 1945, those rations seem like next to nothing!



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