Indian Army Enamelled Plate

Whilst in the field most soldiers eat ration packs or something equivalent. Out of the front line though it is more common to have food prepared, frequently at a unit level, by cooks and distributed to all the men through a mess or canteen system. The Indian Army in WW2 was no different and alongside the mess tins issued for combat use, enamelled plates were used in barracks and other camps permanent enough to warrant their use. This green enamelled dish is one such item, measuring approximately 12” across:imageThe dish is rather deeper than a dinner plate, being more of a soup bowl shape. As the majority of Indian Army food was based around some sort of rice and curry then this shape was probably ideal for the troops dietary requirements. Curry was in some ways an ideal military food. It offered all the protein, carbohydrates and vitamins soldiers needed, but could be cooked in a single container in large quantities. The slow cooking time was also very helpful in tenderising the poorer cuts of meat often used, as were the spices which helped to disguise the flavour. Many Indian troops did not use eating utensils, preferring to use their hands and chapattis to scoop up the food. QAIMNS Matron Major Hughes served in the middle east alongside the Indian Army Medical Corps:

For several days we had to exist on Indian rations with only the tough flat cake called chapatti, these being freshly made each day by the Indian cooks.

Curry became popular in the British Army as well, no doubt influenced by its long stay in India and even today the British Army and the Royal Navy are widely famed for their excellent curries. These do not really resemble either a traditional Indian curry or a modern western takeaway curry, but are always filling, tasty and popular. Despite this a post independence report into Indian Army rations reported that the Indian Army rations of WW2 had a poor nutritional content and consequently some troops were malnourished. The Indian government had great difficulty throughout the war providing sufficient food to not only its troops but also the general population- leading to a widespread famine in 1943.

Turning the bowl over we can see that the green enamel extends to the back as well and there is a small makers mark:imageLooking closer the mark shows the bowl was made by the Bengal Enamel Company in 1944:imageThe Bengal Enamel Works Ltd was incorporated as a company on 6th April 1921 and was to continue in existence until at least 2004. The company won large contracts with the Indian Army both before and after independence, making tin mugs, plates and water bottles. The Bengal Enamel Works seems to have been set up by a Debendranath Bhattacharya, financed by his father; sadly the factory now appears to have closed and the main building is looking decidedly dilapidated:800px-Bengal_Enamel_Works_Limited_-_Palta_-_North_24_Parganas_2012-04-11_9658

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