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Pathfinder Pack on World War Two: Rationing

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World War Two: Rationing

This photograph from 1972 shows documents from the war years. A national registry was set up in 1939 and all British citizens were issued with an identity card. Anyone caught without an identity card would be treated with suspicion as a possible enemy saboteur. Identity cards were also required to obtain food ration books and clothing coupons.

War time Documents
War time Documents

The German effort to cut off supplies to the British Isles during the war meant that food and textile imports virtually ceased. Clothing factories were turned over to war production and farm workers were called up to serve in the war. The Women's Land Army was conscripted to take over agricultural production. It was decided that a system of rationing would be introduced so that the available food was shared equally amongst the British population. The Royal Family even had ration books and ate the same food as everyone else. Clothes rationing was introduced and people were encouraged to make their own or mend old clothes.

This photograph from the Scotsman newspaper shows the weekly food ration for an adult during World War II. These included 4oz of ham or bacon, between 2oz and 8oz of cheese, 4oz of margarine, 2oz of butter, 8oz of sugar, 2oz of tea, 1 egg, 3 pints of milk. Some meat, such as sausages, liver and offal, was not rationed but was scarce. Most meat, however, was rationed - not by weight but in money. The limit was one shilling and tuppence (1s/2d) worth of meat per week and for that you could buy 2 lamb/pork chops or 12oz mince/stewing steak. You were also entitled to 1 packet of skimmed milk, 1 packet of dried eggs, 12oz of sweets and 8oz of jam every 4 weeks. Bread, vegetables and potatoes were not rationed, but were not always available. There was not a great deal, so people were encouraged to 'Dig for Britain' and grow their own food.

Weekly War Rations
Weekly War Rations

Food Rationing was introduced at the start of the war to make sure everyone got a fair share of available food. Food Imports stopped and a variety of fruits and vegetables were not available. Meat, butter, eggs and sugar were also in short supply and recipe books were published that used alternative ingredients in place of these. Carrots and Potatoes were used in cake making and so were leftovers. Bins were provided so that scraps of food could be collected and used to feed farm animals.

Pudding Recipe Book
Pudding Recipe Book

The National Milk Scheme was set up in 1940 to ensure that pregnant women and children under 5 received a pint of milk a day. It was available free or at cheaper prices, depending on your income. The scheme was widened to include more people as milk production was increased. In times of milk shortages, dried milk powder known as Household Milk was available as a substitute.

National Milk Scheme
National Milk Scheme

Visits from soldiers home on leave were always welcome but families surviving on rations could not afford to feed another mouth. Troops were issued with temporary ration cards to provide for their needs whilst staying at home. This temporary ration card was issued to Maurice Frank for a week's leave in August 1941 with his family in Glasgow. Maurice was killed in 1942 when his ship was sunk in the Mediterranean Sea.

Temporary Ration Cards for Servicemen for Home Leave
Temporary Ration Cards for Servicemen for Home Leave

Fish was not rationed during World War II and this led to a rapid increase in the consumption of fish and chips. Restaurants reported record numbers of customers and chip shops stated opening during the day to meet the demand. The popularity of fish and chips continued after the war.

Fish and Chips
Fish and Chips

Petrol was in short supply during World War II and cars became a rare sight on Scottish roads. Petrol coupons were issued to people whose work was considered important enough to qualify. These included doctors and farmers, who required petrol for tractors and other farm machinery. Ordinary folk relied on more traditional forms of transport, like horses and carts.

Petrol Rationing
Petrol Rationing

Factories making cloths and other textiles were turned over to the war effort and a system of clothes rationing had to be introduced along side food rationing. Clothes coupons were given out and people were encouraged to reuse old clothes rather than throw them out. This leaflet from the Board of Trade and Industry has advice on how to mend or recycle old clothes. Stockings were especially hard to find, so that women would draw a line with eyeliner up the back of the leg to look like stockings, or even use parachute silk if it was available.

Make Do and Mend
Make Do and Mend
Scran ID: 000-000-001-467-L
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