RE: More WWII Rationing : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Some more information I found about rationing in Britain:

My name is Horace A. Basham. Ex-RAF Aircraft Mechanic. At the start of the war I lived in the east end of London, West Ham. Which was heavily bombed.

In 1939 at the beginning of World War 2 Britain was put on strict rationing. All imports would be in short supply, as were much of home grown and manufactured commodities. Everyone, man, woman, and child, were issued with a ration card and a National Registration card (an identity card).

The ration cards were presented to shopkeepers who cut the appropriate number of coupons for the rationed item at the time of purchase. The number of coupons for the rationed item at the time of purchase. The number of coupons cut was determined by the Ministry of Food. Sometimes more or less were taken depending on the supply of any particular commodity. Fruit and most veggies, unless they were grown yourself. Oranges and bananas were a very rare luxury. Items of food rationed included Meat, (including bacon); milk and milk powder, the latter was mainly for children and invalids; eggs; clothing and footwear; petrol and oil, these of course were reserved for essential services. The ordinary person had none of very little. Not so many had cars anyway.

I cannot give you an accurate account of the amounts allowed of each item. It was little enough. For one person; one or two eggs a week; 2oz. of butter per person. The wrapper of a pound pat of butter was printed in 2oz. segments. It was easy to cut the allotted 2ozs. We had eight of us at home at the beginning of the war so we would get a whole 1 lb. pat of butter. Cheese was at 2 to 4 ozs. Heavy workers got the larger amount. Miners got other privileges also. I preferred to eat salted margarine than butter, the restof the family had my butter ration. And so that was the pattern of things. What one did not eat others did and there was a swapping too with fiends and neighbors. In the main the MOF managed rationing very well. People were not starved and the balanced diet benefitted the whole population gaining in health. Except for Scotland the beer was brewed weaker. Clothing and footwear were made to a standard. All items conforming to a war time standard has a special brand mark. Much use was made of factory canteens or cafes near by the work place. Where meals could be had without surrendering of precious food coupons.

As my brothers were called up to the army we had less. When I went into the RAF there was less still. But with two brothers and sister with mum and dad there was no real hardship. Dad had an allotment where he grew much of our gegetable. Surpluses could be swapped.

That there was a black market cannot be denied. I for one once used it on one of my leaves. We were issued with ration coupons for use on leave. But not enough clothing coupons to buy much. Not even a pair of shoes. I went to Petticoat Lane street market in Aldgate London to see what I could get. I approached one stallholder and he directed me to the back of his shope. Here we struck a bargain. I bought from him the extra coupons needed. I then left the shop. Handed the coupons and the purchase price of the shoes to the same stallholder. I had a smart new pair of utility shoes to wear with my uniform instead of heavy military boots. Why were transactions carried out like this? Because appearances had to be maintained.


In Britian almost all foods were rationed except bread and potatoes (but even bread was rationed after the war), clothing (including shoes and boots), furniture, coal. For certain occupations you needed a permit to get things, such as alarm clocks, wellington boots and other protective clothing. Petrol was rationed but was only available for serious users like Doctors; hardly anyone drove a car.

You can get a list of foods and the amounts allowed each month from our Web page for the GRANNY'S KITCHEN Project at

It's very important to remember that the ration-book was more or less a GUARANTEE of a minimum amount. Always in short supply were oranges, bananas and coffee. These couldn't be rationed because they came from abroad and depended on U-Boat activity.

We were encouraged to eat LOTS of potatoes and home-grown vegetables, rabbit, and dried egg dishes.

>>What types of materials were recycled, and how were they used?

- All iron railings were removed by the government to be made into weapons (millions of tons of metal - a legacy from the Victorian era's love of wrought iron).

- All aluminum pots and pans were collected to be made into aircraft engines.

- Old woollen clothing was unpicked by volunteer knitting circles and reknitted into warm woollies for the troops.

- Nylon parachute material was sold for underclothing (but was hard to get...) Anne Oliver's Wedding Trousseau was made from old parachutes.

- Sheets were patches, then 'sides-to-middle' and finally turned into bandages.

- Envelopes were reused and newspapers were collected (by small children) and taken to Town Halls. Where possible scrap food was collected and taken out to farms for the pigs. String was in terrible short supply.

>> What effect did rationing and recycling have on civilian life? (I am working on topics such as Victory Gardens, cars, travel, luxuries, black market, patriotic attitude, and entertainment).

It made us much more careful, hungry a lot of the time but generally very healthy. Walking or cycling a few miles to work was very common (and it kept us FIT!)

But shortages also led to a very difficult situation where a lot of things were sold 'under the counter' to friends or to people who would do you favours. This isn't the same as 'the black market' which was much more of a wholesale arrangement and definitely illegal. 'Under the Counter' goods were legal but in very short supply. Oranges would be a good example, and if you were friends with the chap in the butcher's shop you might find a pound of sausages slipped into your shopping bag.


Additional rationing in Hawaii:

During WW2 I worked in the survival equipment maintenance shops of the Hawaiian Air Depot at Hickam Field, a short distance from Honolulu, on Oahu, Hawaii. I, along with hundreds of other men workers, resided in houses and barracks adjacent to the field. I arrived at Hickam within a couple of weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which is just across the fence from Hickam.

Hickam and Pearl were heavily damaged in the attacks, and "rationing" wasn't much thought about at my level, we were too busy trying to gather up what was left and worth salvaging, fixing and just putting things together again and, in my shop, preparing personnel and cargo parachutes and other survival gear for operational use. It was a work, eat, sleep routine for months at a time.

Rationing must have been someone's job because I remember that we all ate Splan slabs or Span hot dogs, each meal for weeks on end, because that's all there was. On the job, it wasn't so much "rationing" as it was taking care not to waste scarce supplies and materials. It's hard to ration direct support to combat operations a few thousand miles further west.

> What types of materials were recycled, and how were they used?

On the job, whatever useful parts that we could save from equipment that was beyond repair, was carefully removed and stored for installing on repairable equipment. In parachutes that would include pilot chutes (which draw the main canopy out of the pack when the ripcord is pulled), parachute packs, life raft emergency supplies like shark repellant, radio communications gear, sea marker packets, etc.; emergency survivial kit components (like weapons (Bowie knives and pistols), food, medical items, rain protection gear, etc.).

The base had a salvage yard to which unuseable materials were sent. I believe that much of that was shipped back to the mainland on ships returning home empty or light from the Pacific.

> Did rationing or recycling benefit soldiers or civilians directly? How?

I can respond only from the viewpoint of my job. Yes, of course, the conservation of critical supplies, whether by rationing or recycling, helped get the job done. The first years of the war in the Pacific (including Hawaii) had many shortages in military material and civilian supplies. The transportation pipeline from the mainland to Hawaii was a couple of thousand miles at the closest. Triple that, at least from the East Coast and more from the Great Lakes ports. Enormous amounts of equipment and supplies came through from the mainland in a damaged and corroded condition had to be reapied or was unuseable. We used what we had, and what we had was often stuff that WE had repaired (recycled?) ourselves.

Mike Moldeven


-- Will Therebe (, February 06, 1999


A very interesting post. We had rationing here in the U. S. but not to the same extent. I was luckier than most for my folks ran a small, country grocery store. But I do remember the rationing, and I still have a few old ration coupons among my mementos from that period. I longed for a tricycle, but none were available.

Of course we always lived with the motto, "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without." It was after the war that everyone began the long running cycle of the consumer lifestlye.

-- gilda jessie (, February 07, 1999.

For those of you too young to remember (or not born yet!) I can remember that we opened cans at both ends and flattened them and returned them to the store. Think we got 1c each or maybe 2c. My father worked in a factory that made war parts so he got gas to get the 15 miles to work everyday.We walked to town, about a mile away almost every day and besides cans we also saved the used grease.I remember that my mother had hayfever and they would keep a box of kleenex under the counter for her when it rarely came in.Nylons were more precious than gold so there was a lot of tanning and lotions to use to simulate tan on bare legs.And of course, a victory garden!

-- Sue (, February 07, 1999.

Great post, Mike, thank you.

Rationing didn't completely end in Britain until 1957, twelve years after the end of the war. Effort was concentrated in rebuilding factories, infrastructure, shops and homes, rather than in importing foodstuffs. When my merchant mariner uncle brought oranges and hard candy from the US in 1953, I was thrilled beyond belief.

Even as late as the 1960s there was still a post-war housing shortage in Britain and young married couples often lived with in-laws or in rented rooms.

In many cities the results of railings taken for the war effort are still visible--little iron nubs evenly spaced along low walls.

Coming from a family of 11 surviving children, mother went from poverty to the Depression and straight into war breaking out in 1939. Experiencing such privation caused her to squirrel away in the attic EVERYthing that might be remotely useful! We didn't realise quite how much until a bedroom ceiling fell in one memorable day, from the accumulated weight of years!

So you see I'm not a doombrooder, I'm reacting from extensive oral family history and experience. (And you understand why we had to rent a 10 x 15 storage room to stash all our "stuff" so prospective buyers can see the walls and floor of the house!)

-- Old Git (, February 07, 1999.

Great posts about WWII. I would love to hear some things from those who went through the depression. That would be revealing. We will face depression times and not war times. How were they different? "Forward to the past"

-- boomer (, February 07, 1999.

* Heinrich Zulauf

Drayage and Firewood Supplies

"Very honored Mr. X "I am in possession of your esteemed writing of 16 January, 1947 and have to report with great regret, that in spite of my best intention it is not possible in this respect to help him, because I, in spite of my pursuit of agriculture, receive food vouchers myself and have only as much to live on as I can get with them. And this is too little to live on and too much to die on. We don't know anymore what bacon is since the occupation here, because there are no pigs anymore and we receive monthly one hundred grams of fat per person. Everything else is taken away from us.

"I am very sorry not being able to help your father, but under the local circumstances it is absolutely not possible because we don't even have enough potatoes to eat ourselves. Should the situation change, I am ready to help.

"Respectfully, Heinrich Zulauf Stamp" ***

As the new Deutschmark was introduced, the old Reichsmark became worthless. The currency was converted in incremental stages at a ratio of ten to one. During this period there was little money and few items to buy, as in past depressions. The government provided each person with seventy-five marks of head money each month. Since most people had lost most or all of their possessions, and had no earnings, barter became a necessity. Ma wrote me that one egg cost approximately one Mark, with about four and a half marks to a dollar.

Why was there no crime in Simonswolde? Was it because of the instant justice applied at an early age? Or were all the criminals killed in the war?

-- Not Again! (, February 07, 1999.

Ball bearings for industrial applications were strictly rationed in the U.S. during WWII. Of course, the TRW plant in southern New Jersey had a three-shift operation going, manufacturing ball bearings of all sorts. Unfortunately, they weren't for use here... they were shipped to Brazil, and thence to Nazi Germany for use in their aircraft engines.

My mother worked in a local factory where they manufactured rubber cases for submarine batteries. One day in 1944 an order came for dozens of cases - to be shipped to Japan via England. Much was made of this, but the employees were told to simply shut up and work.

Sugar, meat, butter, metal, rubber - all rationed so that the "people would appreciate the seriousness of the situation... after all, there's a war on!" There weren't any shortages, hell, the government destroyed large stockpiles of rationed goods - I know people who saw it happen. Rationing during WWII in America was utter bullshit.

-- Why2K? (, February 07, 1999.

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