Wartime Rations – Day Five

Britain declared war on Germany on September 3rd, 1939.  Although that declaration was followed by fighting in Norway and U-boat attacks on British ships in the Atlantic, so little happened for the next few months, that people in the UK started referring to it as The Bore War.

That all changed on Friday, May 10th 1940.  At 2am, the Germans invaded the Low Countries.  Three weeks later their grip on mainland Europe became absolute when the last soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force – including my dad – were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk.   It would be four long years before the British Army set foot on French soil again.

In 2009 I walked the 22 kilometre length of the Dunkirk beach with a friend. Unknowingly at the time, I took this photo of his dog tags very close to the spot where he actually stepped out on to the sands.

dunkirk beach

Getting back to my rations today.  No surprises when I tell you I had porridge for breakfast, eh?  Lunch was leftover Woolton Pie from last night with some Bubble and Squeak.  And then, treat of all treats – I had a piece of chocolate this afternoon.  My sweet ration is 3ozs of sweets/chocolate a week and I can’t tell you how wonderful that one single ounce of chocolate tasted.

Dinner was Beef Hot Pot and Beetroot (I’m really getting to like beetroot) followed by Apple and Rhubarb Crumble. Filling and tasty.

Rhubarb crumble Beef hotpot

A friend was telling me about how her father, who grew up in the countryside on the Isle of Wight during the war, was able to eat an egg for breakfast every day. When he got married and moved to the mainland, he was quite upset to discover his ration was now down to one egg per week – if they were even available.   When I mentioned this to Anne, she told me the following story.  I’ve never heard it before, and I think it’s a classic.

From Anne.

About the man from the IoW and his eggs – Yes, I’m sure that country folk fared better than us townies.  It isn’t easy to raise chickens in a city tenement, or to pot a rabbit or a pheasant with a shotgun.  Once when I was wandering alongside a stream in Kippen I came across a shot pheasant, dead but still warm, grabbed it and hid it under my coat till I got back to the house.  Mary (my mum) said she had no idea how to start preparing it so I’d better get on the bus to Glasgow and take it home.  Once there, I got the job of stripping off the feathers and then Mum, Dad & I had a good meal.  Took some of the best feathers back to Kippen to play cowboys and Indians.

Day One – Part One

Breakfast didn’t start off too well!  I got a bit distracted by my 21st Century e-mail and burned my porridge. However, in the spirit of ‘make do and mend’, I scraped the good stuff into another pan, added some water and heated it up.  Served with milk and sugar it tasted fine.

SoupOslo meal

Lunch was a bowl of homemade soup and an ‘Oslo’ meal.  During the war, this was used to described a wholemeal sandwich with a little cheese and salad filling, a glass of milk and piece of fruit in season.  I just went with the sandwich as I was having soup.  (Saving up my milk ration for a rice pudding at the weekend!)

For dinner tonight – ah, that delicacy has still to come.  My husband is eating out tonight, so for the first time since we got married (last century and then some!) I’m going to have cabbage and liver.  Cabbage and Liver!!  Wish me well.  But before then, here are some more memories from Anne.

Bread and potatoes were never rationed till after VE Day, but wartime bread was always tasteless and grey in colour, so looked unattractive.  When I was in Kippen (she was evacuated into the Scottish countryside ) we were several times taken out of school to help with the tattie-howking.

There were no choices, no brands on rationed goods – everything was put into the melting pot and labelled National Butter, National Cheese etc.  You had to sign up with one grocer, one butcher etc so you knew, for instance, that there was no point in joining a queue at any other butcher who showed a few kidneys (not rationed, neither was offal) in his window; he would turn you down flat because you were not one of his ‘registered customers’.  Other off-ration protein was tripe and we ate a lot of that – OK if you had onions.  Eggs were few and far between, sometimes none for weeks at a time – Eastertime of course, there were more around. Then there were dried  eggs: yellow powder in brown waxed cardboard boxes: only suitable for cooking with really, though if you weren’t too fussy and had spare milk you could concoct a sort of scrambled egg.