Emergency Ration Tin

During the Second World War it was recognised that it was not always possible to get food to troops in the frontlines and there were times when an emergency ration was needed to keep men going until supplies could catch up with them. To that end troops were issued with a 24 hour ration tin containing a fortified chocolate block that was supposed to be eaten only when there was nothing else available. The tin itself is made of metal, painted gold and is the same size as a contemporary tobacco tin:imageThe front of the tin says ‘Emergency Ration. Purpose of Contents. To be consumed only when no other rations of any kind are procurable. To open strip off band and insert coin in corner groove and turn. NOTICE: not to be opened except by order of an officer’. The paper label indicates the contents were made by Bovril Ltd and packed in May 1942. A Canadian pamphlet from 1939 described the emergency ration as:

The Emergency Ration is for men temporarily out of reach of any other source of food. In order to save weight it is made as small and light as possible. Its purpose is only to ward off hunger and exhaustion for a period of about 24 hours. It does not purport to be a complete day’s food. It weighs ½ lb.

The rear of the tin has the patent number for the design of the tin itself:imageThe tin has a rubber seal around the inside of the lid to keep the contents fresh:imageThe tin would have had a metal band around the outside as well, but this is missing from this opened example. Tony Bennett made notes about his rations at the time out in the Far East and clearly the Australian Emergency ration was a little different:

 There is also an Australian “Emergency” ration in a tin on which it is far too easy to cut oneself when opening. Not much good as an Emergency, though the contents are doubtless sustaining; it is too easy to eat them quickly! But for sick men who cannot eat rice and curry and as an evening luxury they are ideal. Tea, sugar (no milk), good chocolate, two sorts of fruit bar and some caramels which are only so-so are the full contents. It all appeals to my sweet tooth. The “Emergency” we carry is a thing of tablets, pills, compass, fishing line and what not to last us a whole week – and it is smaller than the Australian.

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