The Minute Book
Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Soldier's Rations
Topic: Army Rations

Soldier's Rations

The composition of the Russian emergency ration is a State secret.

The Sydney Mail, 23 December 1914


The British emergency ration, that is to say, a ration that each man carries in his knapsack and is supposed only to be eaten if he becomes detached from his comrades and is in danger of starvation, consisted of a compressed peas soup. It came into use first in 1878, when an enterprising Englishman supplied the British army during the Afghan war. When Roberts made his famous march to Khandahar his troops were fed almost exclusively upon this pea soup ration, which was so thoroughly concentrated that a single mule could carry a day's food for an entire battalion. It is generally conceded that peas are the best of all food, when the choice is limited to one variety. They are more nutritious than even lean meat, and are a "balanced" ration, that is to say, contain both fuel-producing elements and the protein that makes bone and muscle.

The British Army also uses a sort of dog biscuit, four inches square and weighing three ounces, and made of compressed whole wheat. Some time ago an effort was made to introduce the German emergency ration in the British Army, but the soldiers would not eat it. National tastes must be considered as well as the nutritive value of the food, and the British soldier certainly could not live and fight on rice as does the Japanese, nor on the "erbswurst," or pea sausage, that the German does his fighting on. The German ration is held to be largely responsible for the great marching of the armies in the war against France in 1870. It not only suits the German palate, but can be reduced to an extremely small bulk, and is so carefully prepared that it does not show any sign of deterioration years after its manufacture. The German Army also depends a good deal upon evaporised carrots, which are granulated to the size of small shot. This is not an emergency or so-called "iron" ration, but is used daily by the army cooks when fresh vegetables are not to be had.

The composition of the Russian emergency ration is a State secret, but it is said to taste like fresh bread after a piece of it has been placed in hot water. The French have a concentrated mixture of vegetables and meat, which is put up in 6 oz. boxes, each containing 21 tablets wrapped separately in paper. One of these, when dropped in hot water, yields a plate of delicious soup. The Belgian Army eats evaporated corn, and American army rations consist of lean dried meat, toasted cracked wheat, and chocolate. Bernard Shaw's comedy of "Arms and the Man," in which the soldier hero ate chocolates was not far from the truth, as all armies recognise the great value of chocolate.

Experts have long recognized the fact that soldiers who are in good spirits will fight better and march further and faster than soldiers who are conscious of deprivations. For that reason tobacco is a regular ration in all armies. An American lady in London who contributed £5000 to a British patriotic fund requested that the money be used to purchase smoking or chewing tobacco for the soldiers. The value of tobacco and some other stimulants or sedatives that have no sharp reaction is attested by the United States War Bureau, which reported not long ago that "under the influence of tea, coffee, or tobacco a man seems to be brought to a much higher pitch of efficiency than without them … A wise military leader will see to it that his men are not deprived of tobacco, or he will regret his carelessness."

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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