Topic: Army Rations
The Army Service Corps in South Africa. See full image.
Rations in the South African War
Maj.-Gen. John Frederick Charles Fuller,
CB, CBE, DSO
(1 Sep 1878 – 10 Feb 1966)
The Last of the Gentlemen's Wars; A Subaltern's Journal of the War in South Africa 1899-1902, Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, Mcmxxxvii
The Boer, his language and his dwelling did not, however, much concern us; for outside hunting down the enemy in the field and bringing in his womenfolk to the concentration camps established during the second half of the war, we seldom met him or occupied his house. From start to finish the war was a tented one, and wherever we went our tents went with us. We did not live in luxury as we did during the World War, and though food was seldom scarce it was exceedingly simple, the staple diet being ration biscuit (which looks like a small dog biscuit and is nearly as hard as a slab of concrete), bully beef, tinned stew and alum-settled dam water. Sometimes we had tomato jam, raspberry-flavoured, which came from Natal; sometimes tinned butter, fresh meat and bread, and at rare intervals tinned mutton or tinned ham. What we should have done without canned foods it is hard to imagine, and as the war lengthened out, more and more varieties made their appearance. I remember tinned eggs and bacon, tinned camp pie, tinned apple pudding, tinned slabs of bacon (good for greasing boots), besides the normal tinned foods which are to be bought at every store.
Of all the canned foods the one I disliked the most was the 'Knock-me-down' tinned stew. It was a mess of stewed meat and vegetables with an unmistakable twang. When turned out on a plate or a piece of newspaper it was the nearest approach to a dog's vomit that can be imagined. It had the further unpleasant habit of exploding directly a tin opener was applied to its container; and to make certain of not being gassed, an old hand would always examine his tin before piercing it. Should it show the slightest sign of a bulge it was as well to leave it alone, for by this one knew that it was in a truculent mood.
The only official drinks were raw rum and raw lime juice, the latter so sour and bitter that it had to be administered on parade, otherwise the men threw it away.