We’re told that ‘an Army marches on its stomach’ but what do the British Military eat to ensure they get proper nutrition? We’ve taken a look back at ration packs from the past 100 years.

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815)

Ration Packs During The Napoleonic Wars

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During the Napolenic Wards, troops were fed primarily basic and non-perishable food as shown above. As an attempt to keep morale high, they were also given a daily ration of a pint of wine or a third of a pint of gin or rum.

In 1813, the London Canning Factory began to sell preserved food to outbound ships and made a significant change to the way troops were supplied with food. For the first time supplies were able to reach troops engaged in conflict undamaged, and this led the British Admiralty to begin placing large orders for tinned food. The tins typically contained both meat and cocoa and by late 1800s were considered able to sustain a soldier for 36 hours.

 The Boer War (1899-1902)

Ration Packs During The Boer War

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During the Boer War, ‘liverpool pantiles’ were a staple of soldiers rations and the subject of many jokes. The hardtack biscuits had a texture and shape similar to a popular type of roof tile at the time and their nickname stuck as they were transported to soldiers across Greece.

World War One

Ration Packs During The World War One

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Tinned rations by ‘Maconochie’ became a core part of soldiers diets throughout the First World War. The tins gained themselves a bad reputation, with the authors of Songs and Slang of the British Soldier, John Brophy and Eric Partridge, describing it as ‘cold, it was a man-killer. By some soldiers it was regarded as a welcome change from bully-beef.’

Laura Clouting, a historian at Imperial War Museum, said:

“Army food was basic but filling.

“Soldiers could expect to receive around 4,000 calories a day to fuel their arduous work. Tinned rations, like ‘Maconochie’ stew, formed the bulk of a man’s diet.”

“Troops were supposed to receive one hot meal a day. But soldiers sometimes went hungry because ration parties were unable to reach them in trenches under shellfire.

“Parcels from home, eating meals behind the lines and ‘scrounged’ treats helped to liven up the diet. Wealthier men requested hampers from home, one noting that ‘after seven days bully beef, we felt we must have lobsters and white wine’.”

World War Two

Ration Packs During The World War Two

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During the Second World War, nearly all Army ration packs included canned food, particularly tins of meat. Tin openers were provided and often used as spoons.

Morale was maintained through packs of biscuits, mints and chocolate.

Ration Packs During The World War Two - Chocolate

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The Modern-Day

Rations have improved significantly over the past 100 years, and during the War in Afghanistan troops were for the first time receiving rations that fully met all their nutritional needs.

Meals were provided for breakfast, lunch and dinner, alongside extra snacks such as biscuits, hot drinks, and energy drinks. The packs contained a minimum of 4,000 calories and high levels of carbohydrates designed to provide a slow and constant release of energy.

Packs had also been improved by the addition of disinfectant wipes, water purification tablets and dental chewing gum.

Ration Packs Present

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Written by Trinity Insurance

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