Seaman’s Ration Book

Merchant seamen on short trips around Britain’s coastline of a few days would not usually be catered for from their ship’s stores. Instead they were expected to pick up rations ashore and bring them back on board for the cook on board to prepare. A special ration book was therefore issued to sailors that could be authorised by the captain or master of a ship for a week at a time. For the cover we can see that this example was issued to a sailor called ‘Styles’ in Sunderland in 1943:imageThe inside of the cover has instructions to the sailor on how to use the book:imageThe original owner of this book clearly used it a number of times as coupons have been cut out of several pages:imageThere are still many weeks where the book has not been countersigned or coupons removed:imageAlthough clearly not necessary in this case, a form is provided for the sailor to request a new ration book if he were to finish this one:image

imageThe back page gives instructions to the ship’s master about what he needs to do in order to complete the book:imageNote also the printer’s coding at the bottom of the page that indicates this book was one of a run of 115,000 copies produced in June 1943.

Much of Britain’s internal trade was done by sea, with coasters making short trips up and down the coastline with bulky cargos. Fishermen were also expected to make short journeys of a few days around the coast and this ration book was designed to allow them to be fed simply without any recourse to the more complex victualing procedures required for trans-Atlantic crossings or other longer journeys.



  1. The text in the book shown states that it is not for use ashore. The instructions to masters explains that it is to allow sailors on short coastal voyages to obtain their rations in advance to cover periods afloat between ports. If they are to spend time ashore they are instructed to obtain a temporary ration card.

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