Topic: Army Rations
Buried deep in the Canadian Forces website are the pages of the Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH). The DHH website includes much information of intrest to the casual military historian or the dedicated researcher when appropriate material is discovered. One of the gems among this collection if DHH's page of "Reports", which cover the period from the 1940s to the 1980s and include papres on a wide variety of topics.
Among the many items are one that invite the curious readr to explore information that may not be published anywhere else. One example is the report titled "Food Complaints and Cook’s Training Canadian Army Overseas, 1939-1945"
From this brief (11 page) report, we find that the importance of rations for soldiers was well recignized:
"The importance that may be attached to a discussion of food complaints lies in the fact that such complaints have a bearing on Morale. Three "M" factors in Morale—"money", "mail" and "meals"—have an immediate and personal effect on the soldier. Since food is a basic necessity, "meals" in sufficient quantity and of adequate quality are of first importance."
Despite this, the complaints of Canadian soldiers deployed to Britain early in the Second World War shows that that their experience do not live up to expectations. The censoring of letters by military authorities allowed them to also keep watch for signs of morale issues, such as poor rations:
"Many soldiers failed to appreciate the necessity of rationing and there were repeated requests for food parcels from home. Typical comments were: "the rations we get wouldn't be enough to feed a rat" and "our biggest trouble is we cannot get enough [food]". A soldier from a highland regiment complained that the food was insufficient when returning from exercises. There were complaints. to, of the monotony of the diet, such as, "food … nothing fancy but substantial" and "food all right but very monotonous". Complaints about bad food were manifold but tended to be general rather than specific. "Terrible", "unfit for pigs" and "even the dogs won't eat it", were comments in this class, as were "some men claim that the food they get is making them ill", and it [the food] was good when we first landed but now it is getting worse. Sunday … for breakfast … [we had] fish … so rank we couldn't eat it". Some writers realized that the poor quality of the food which was served to them was often due to poor administration and to poor cooking. One soldier, writing in August 1941, and perhaps a little more discerning than his comrade, observed, "our meals have been poor and insufficient since hitting this country mostly because of mismanagement". The complaints of poor cooking are well illustrated by the following: "The food none too good is disgracefully abused by the cooks … " and "the rations isued are alright but the cooks mess it up so much that it is not fit to eat most of the time". (C.M.H.Q. 4/Censor/4/3, Senior Officer, C.M.H.Q. to H.Q. Cdn Corps 22 Sep 41, and Field Censor (Home) Reports, 15 Sep – 12 Oct 41)"
This report records not only complaints by soldiers about the quality and quantity of food they received, but also illuminates the fact that it was a recognized problem that needed to be solved.