The Minute Book
Monday, 27 January 2014

British Army Rations Test (1909)
Topic: Army Rations

An example of the modern British Army field ration, a significant change from the rations tested in 1909.

British Army Rations (1909)

Changes Probable as the Result of a Recent Test

The Montreal Gazette, 6 November, 1909 (London Standard)

Corned beef, already a common field ration item, would not disappear from soldiers' packs for another 40 or more years.

The result of the army rations test is said to be highly satisfactory from the physiological point of view; but it is more probable that a change will be made in the preserved rations, which do not appear sufficient, either in quality or quantity, for the work expected from the modern fighting man.

The little army of Loyal Lancashires who have been marching fourteen miles a day for a fortnight, in full kit, and camping out, with nothing to sustain them but the service rations, did their last fourteen miles yesterday round the Ludgershall country, finishing at Tidworth Barracks, which they had left two weeks ago. The day was ushered in with a hurricane of rain and wind, but the little band struck tents, packed transport, and, after medical inspection, started out on their tramp with singing and whistling.

Behind them followed an ambulance and a water-cart, the former of which was not utilized, as the men have struck gallantly to the work without inviting medical aid. They were very little over three hours in reaching the parade ground in Tidworth, notwithstanding wind and drenching rain. After relieving themselves of their heavy equipment, they entered the medical inspection room, where they stripped and were subjected to the closest examination possible, to determine, amongst other results, the difference in weight during the fortnight's campaign, the state of the pulse, and the pressure of the blood at the femoral and brachial arteries. The heart was minutely examined with the stethoscope, and the men were exactly weighed, all the details being entered up in the records, together with the men's own opinions as to their physical condition. This examination was carried out by Lieut-Colonel Melville, Professor of Hygiene at the Royal Army Medical College, assisted by Major Beveridge, R.A.M.C., Dr. M.S. Pembrey, M.D., Civilian Member Army Medical Advisory Board; Dr. Haldane, etc.

As the men emerged from the examination room they fell in on parade, and before dismissal they were thanks for the manner in which they had carried out the experimental march, and for the loyalty at all times shown to the exacting regulations under which they had volunteered. Their comrades gave them a lusty cheer as they broke away from the parade.

The report, so far as the condition of the men generally is concerned, may be broadly summarized as follows.

1.     Undue loss of weight caused by absence of butter, cheese, milk, and of sufficient fatty foods.

2.     Neuralgia, caused by "run down" symptoms improperly nourished. Headaches, indigestion, and allied ills, due principally to absence of green vegetables.

As to the existing army food schedule the vegetable ration as it is at present stands is extremely varied, including as it does preserved potatoes, rice, pens, onions, leeks, calavances, dholl, and oatmeal, the issue of which is governed by the climate in which operations are taking place, and the nature of the indigenous vegetables. Most of these articles are issued in lieu of ordinary fresh vegetables, but split peas, oatmeal, etc., are the ration equivalent of flour. Porter can also be issued as a field service ration in the proportion of one pint for each rum ration of half a gill. Tea, which was formerly only ½ oz per man daily, was increased to 5/2 ounces, whilst the quantity (4 oz.) of dried vegetables was reduced by one-half. Of the meat ration is considered too much for the troops, 14 lb. of biscuits can be substituted for an equal amount of meat, and when cheese and bacon are procurable these comestibles can also be issued in lieu of meat.

The whole question of soldiers' messing is being taken up by a special War Office committee, which will meet in a few days and take evidence from both officers and men in regard to the food supplied and the methods of cooking.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST

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