A First World War Menu
On operations, field kitchens were established as soon as it was safe to do so. Hot, fresh food was considered essential for both nutrition and morale.
Composite Rations (Compo) were intended as the main method of feeding soldiers in the field until a kitchen could be set up. It came in a wooden crate and was supposed to be enough food for 14 men for a 24-hour period.
There were different versions available labelled Type A to Type G (with biscuits) and Types 1,2 & 3 (without biscuits). Types A to G were most common. When field kitchens were set up, the first priority was to bake fresh bread with the rest of the food coming from Types 1 to 3.
Type F came with 12 tins of bully beef. The others came with 10-14 tins of “meatstuff” which could be any of the following: Steak and kidney pudding; Steak and kidney; Irish stew; Stewed steak; Haricot and oxtail; Meat and vegetables or Pork and vegetables.
All crates came with tins of instant tea; chocolate; boiled sweets; salt; margarine; soap; toilet paper and cigarettes. Variable items included sausages; bacon; tinned Spam; baked beans; sardines; fruit; vegetables; condensed soup; salmon; jam; cheese and sweet puddings.
Soldiers at the front line or on the move had to rely on various forms of preserved foods. These rations were simple but repetitive through WW1 and at the outbreak of WW2, but changed as the War progressed. During WW1, the Maconochie Brothers company developed a tinned meat and vegetable stew, know by soldiers as “M&V”. It could be eaten cold, but tasted better heated up. When it was introduced, it was a welcome break from bully beef, but eventually became just as monotonous.
Did you know?
Bully beef was tinned corned beef with added gelatine. It is one of the oldest forms of canned food and has been issued to British soldiers since the Boer War.