Over the years this blog has covered a wide variety of ration packs, from the 1980s examples with individual tins, through the early 1990s and the first boil in a bag meals through to the early 2000s and those used on the early operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sustained operations revealed a number of problems with the ration packs in service, with only ten meals to choose form people were quickly getting fed up of the same food as ration packs were used continuously for six months. Other items were also problematic, chocolate melting in the heat of Afghanistan. An officer from the Royal Navy was tasked with coming up with a new selection of ration packs and he explained:
Before Iraq and Afghanistan my predecessors were making meals for people who were going on exercise for two weeks. I have customers who eat these for prolonged periods and can get menu fatigue. Ten alternatives were not enough to sustain interest for six months. We were very determined to make changes. The pack did not reflect the fact that soldiers coming from Generation Y are used to global food. I wanted them to be able to pick up their rations and find something they would order on a Friday night from a takeaway. We said, tell us what your Mum is sending over or what you are taking on exercise. We can’t promise to include it but we can promise to try.
The new range that was developed consisted of 38 different menus, 20 normal ration packs and 18 to cover vegetarian, halal, Sikh and Hindu tastes. Tonight we have an example of a halal ration pack to look at. These were produced in large quantities as they could be issued to members of the Afghan National Army serving alongside the British in Helmand.
As ever, the rations come packed in a small cardboard carton:These are packaged in larger boxes of ten. One end of the box has a large union flag emblazoned on it to show that this is a British ration pack, and a white circular sticker indicates the ration pack contents. In this case it is ‘H10’ which is one of the halal menu options:Some basic nutritional information is printed on the opposite end of the box:And some general information about the menus and feedback is marked on the side:The lid, as well as indicating the rations are owned by the MOD, gives advice on the safe burning of waste in theatre:The base contains the familiar range card design that dates back at least as far as the 1980s:The contents of the box include a selection of boil in the bag meals, drinks, nuts, biscuits, toilet paper and a small bottle of hot sauce:The sundries are included in a large ziplock clear plastic bag:These include non-alcoholic hand wipes (the alcohol can cause skin to crack in hot conditions), a range of tea, coffee, creamer and sugar, chewing gum and matches:The disposable spoon is an idea taken form the Americans and promotes hygiene as the spoon can be thrown away at the end of the day rather than festering bacteria in a soldiers pocket. Items that made mess tins dirty like powdered soups were also discarded, the developers explaining:
They want to eat something that doesn’t get their mess tins dirty. It is a duty of care. If they go down with food poisoning it could compromise the mission and put people’s lives in danger
The full list of contents for this box is included on a feedback sheet that is included with each meal:This particular menu seems very tomato and bean heavy! It is also interesting that for a Halal ration pack, this is essentially vegetarian. The form allows the user to be entered for a prize draw:These forms were seen as very helpful by the manufacturer:
Each ration box includes a feedback form and these, together with visits to troops in theatre, debriefs of detachments as they return to the UK and individual letters provide the Defence Food Services team with constant user impressions. To date, the feedback has been extremely positive and constructive allowing constant fine tuning – such as a reduction in the number of fish dishes provided and an increase the number of snacking items and drink flavourings that are included.