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Whitstable at War - World War II

Wartime Rationing & Diet
by Brian Smith

 

Rationing Quantities...

  

A typical week's ration for one person might be as follows:

   

Milk:   3 pints sometimes reduced to 2 pints.
Skimmed or dried milk: 1 packet per four weeks.
Sugar:    8oz  (1 oz = 25g)
Tea:   2oz
Butter:  2oz
Cheese:  2oz fluctuating to 4oz perhaps 8oz
Margarine:  4oz
Meat: To the value of 1s.2d. 
Bacon and Ham:  4oz
Eggs:  1 fresh egg a week, if in short supply perhaps only one every two weeks.
Dried Eggs:  1 packet every four weeks
   

 

Some items were on a monthly ration such as:

 

Jam:   ˝ lb a month.
Sweets:  12oz (350g) every four weeks
Soap: One small tablet per month

  
Other points to note are:

 

  • Sausages were not rationed which often meant they were difficult to get.
     
  • Tripe, liver and kidneys were not originally rationed but did sometimes form part of the meat ration
     
  • Meat ‘to the value of 1s.2d’ equated to approximately 2 or 3 of the cheapest chops
     
  • 2oz of tea is about the equivalent of 15 tea bags.  Consider that as 2 cups per day with a luxury of 3 on Sundays
     
  • Recycling – the drying and re-using of tea leaves - was not unknown
     
  •  Variations were sometimes specific to certain problem supply areas.  It was generally accepted that residents of more rural, therefore less populated, areas fared better than those of cities
     
  • Some people were allowed additional rations of milk, eggs and bacon for health reasons
     
  • Food shops and restaurants were subject to fixed prices.  Restaurant meals were fixed at 5s per meal

  

British Restaurants....

  

The Ministry of Food set up communal kitchens known as ‘British Restaurants’ run by Local Food committees. ‘British Restaurants’ were intended to give people a good quality wholesome meal without having to use up food coupons.  If you had used up your weeks coupons you could still have a meal in a British Restaurant at a reasonable price, typically 1s 6d.  

Established on a non profit making basis the restaurants were not run on commercial lines. Although clean and well managed ,they lacked the decor and perhaps ambience of regular commercial restaurants, being more like a works canteen. 

  

Supplementing the Wartime Diet
   

In all honesty I don’t think Whitstable kids fared too badly for food in comparison with our counterparts in the heavily populated industrialised cities.  Whitstable’s shopkeepers did a fantastic job of maintaining a good level of supply within wartime constraints.  They were very amenable to ‘juggling’ the various rationed items to help customers, particularly those customers with little support on hand, with husbands absent, no nearby relatives etc.  That probably applies more to butchers who had the scope to offer a variety of combinations, perhaps to give a customer a rare luxury of a pork chop.

Some of us kids had our own ideas of a ‘rare luxury’.  Some loaves were baked in pairs, end to end (perhaps still are.)  When buying just one loaf they had to be separated, typically by simply pulling them apart.  Mostly one loaf would then have a hollow end the other a nice bit of extra bread.  Of course that ‘extra bread’ had disappeared by the time the loaf arrived home.  If one was smart the end wasn’t made hollow, well only a little hollow, so that Mum wouldn’t suspect her dear child had purloined any of the loaf. 

If Mum wasn’t home then maybe a slice of bread spread with dripping or a spoonful of sugar would be ‘sneaked’ before her arrival.

Occasionally we would surreptitiously ‘acquire’ a few matches and some newspaper then head off up Duncan Downs.  A slight deviation towards the town saw an allotment relieved of a few potatoes.  We continued our journey to a favourite well hidden spot, lit our campfire and baked those potatoes.  We didn’t forget a bit of salt or even some butter at times.  If one of the kids managed to sneak a saucepan out of the house then that allotment may have lost more than potatoes.  Perhaps some carrots and an onion joined us.  A little water from the Gorrel stream, our potatoes thin sliced plus an Oxo cube made us a nice tasty soup.   The bed of the Gorrel Stream with some grass and plenty of elbow grease did a good job of cleaning the saucepan.

 

Clothes Rationing

  
Clothing became scarce as clothing manufacturers in Britain had more important items to make for the war effort’ The war made the import of cloth and other materials from abroad almost impossible.  

Clothes rationing began on the 1st June 1941 with clothing ration coupon books being issued to every man, woman and child in Britain.  Each person was allowed coupons equivalent to 1 complete outfit per year.  66 coupons were allowed per year for an adult and children half that although growing children were allocated an extra 10 clothing coupons per year.  Small size clothing had lower coupon values than adult-sized garments as shown in the following list.

The following table shows sample coupon amounts needed for the more necessary clothing and footwear:

  

 Item

Man

Women

child

Shirt (Not Woollen)

5

-

3

Blouse

-

4

3

Skirt

-

8

6

Trousers (Woollen)

8

8

6

Shorts (Not Woollen)

3

3

2

Jacket

13

12

8

Raincoat

16

15

11

Overcoat

7

7

4

Socks

3

-

1

Boots, shoes

7

-

2

Night dress

-

6

5

Handkerchief

1

1

1

Total

63

68

53

  

Understandably, men were not expected to wear a skirt or nightdress but, does it also mean women were not expected to wear socks and shoes? 

Looking at the sample totals, the number of coupons for women exceeded the total allocation of 66 whereas the total for men was below the level. However, the above listing is but a sampling and not a total list.

  

Coupons and Ration Books....

  

The following are samples of three different clothing ration coupons, a clothing ration book and a brief look at the instructions for use inside the front cover:

 

  

   

    

   


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