Iron Rations Amongst the Archives

As ANZAC day approaches, spare a thought for soldiers who depended on ‘iron rations’ when out in the field.  The ‘Iron Ration’ was first carried by British soldiers during WW1 for use in the event of their being cut off from regular food supplies. The ration pack was generally made up of items such as preserved meat in a can, meat extract, cheese, hard biscuit, tea, sugar and salt. Adopted by many nations, iron ration packs tend to reflect the foods of those nations.

The holdings of Sir Laurence Hartnett record his activities during the 1940s as Managing Director of General Motors and his war service. The collection includes the item pictured below.

'A Military Iron Ration' Prepared by MacRobertson Pty. Ltd. Fitzroy, Victoria, January 1942, Lawrence Hartnett, 1982.0106 Box 10, University of Melbourne Archives

‘A Military Iron Ration’ Prepared by MacRobertson Pty. Ltd. Fitzroy, Victoria, January 1942, Lawrence Hartnett, 1982.0106 Box 10, University of Melbourne Archives

These instructions are for preparing the fruit component of a ‘Military Iron Ration’ in 1945 by the MacRoberstons Company.

Another item in the collection of the Archives (object 5, UOM 280) reveals what Australian soldiers carried as iron rations in 1942.  Featuring a key to open the tin, it contains 3 complete meals, meal one containing

Carrot biscuits 3 oz pkt, Fruit & nut 3 oz block, Meat & vegetable stew 4 oz tin, Peanut butter 1 ½ oz tin, Barley sugar rolls (4) 1 oz, Caramel bar ½ oz, Skim milk powder ¼ oz pkt, Sugar 2 tablets, Tea 4 tablets and Salt 2 tablets

The reverse of the tin is printed with the following statement:  “This Ration is intended for use in circumstances where normal rations cannot be supplied. This tin contains three complete meals separately wrapped in waterproof cartons. When one meal has been consumed, the remaining two meals can be carried on the person and the Tin discarded.  The contents form a completely balanced ration with ample protective (Vitamin) cover. The complete ration in the tin will keep indefinitely, and can be submerged or buried.”  The one at UMA hasn’t been opened, so we can neither confirm or deny this claim.

Contributors: Melinda Barrie & Sophie Garrett

'A.M.F Operation Ration', UOM 280, University of Melbourne Archives

‘A.M.F Operation Ration’, UOM 280, University of Melbourne Archives

 

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