Naval Action Ration Tin

When sailors were at action stations they were expected to remain at their posts for extended periods of time, snatching sleep when they could but ready to man their positions at a moment’s notice. This was known as being ‘closed up’ and could last for several days, especially if entering contested seas such as the Mediterranean where there was a constant threat of enemy attacks. Keeping men fed and watered in this situation was not easy and simple food such as stews or sandwiches was provided along with cold tea, lime juice or oatmeal water to prevent dehydration. It was found though that men tended to lose their appetite when in these situations and what was needed was concentrated nutrition that did not take much eating but provided energy to men for short periods of time. In spring of 1943 a supplementary ration known as a Naval Action ration was introduced, housed in a small 3 ¼”x1 ¾”x5/8” airtight tin:imageThis tin was made of metal and had ‘NAVAL ACTION RATION’ printed on the lid in grey:imageThe lid was hinged at the rear:imageInside the tin contained six Horlick’s tablets, four barley sugar tablets and a pack of chewing gum. These were very tightly packed into the tin as can be seen here:3b22639197553ee2bcd65422c3a69c6216504d7dEach tin was considered sufficient supplement for a single day, with ships carrying supplies for the whole crew for three full days. This was very much designed to sit alongside conventional rations rather than to replace them and helped keep men’s energy levels up. The tins themselves were made by the Metal box company and in tiny letters on the rear of the tin, above the hinge can be seen one of their factory codes 6MB:imageThe rations were carried on battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, landing craft and any ships escorting convoys for long distances. These tins are easily found today, although normally with their contents long gone.

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