As we reflect today on the bravery and sacrifices made 75 years ago as Operation Overlord to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi aggression started with the D-day landings onto the beaches of Normandy, I thought I would look back at the rations issued to troops for the crucial first few hours.
Most would have heard “An army marches on it’s stomach”, well it certainly needs food to fight. For D-Day the same meticulous planning went into subsistence as with all other aspects of what is certainly the greatest and most complicated military operation in history.
All “Overlord “invasion soldiers were issued with a 24-hour ration pack to cover the first dangerous and difficult day ashore. The aim was to pack sufficient food energy into a small container and the British pack contained 4000 calories and weighed only about a couple of pounds. The American forces were allocated their “K-Ration which included three separate meal tins again for a 24-hour period. One noticeable difference between the two is that the American packs contained instant coffee whereas the British had small packs with tea sugar and powdered milk, premixed and compressed into blocks included. It appears that this mixed tea pack was widely disliked and described by some as barely drinkable. Many troops after a few days took advantage of an Army order that soldiers engaged in heavy and arduous night work were to be issued tea sugar and milk separately resulting in surprisingly large numbers appearing to be engaged in these activities. Clearly then, as now decent tea was a huge priority to our soldiers.
There was also a much greater than anticipated demands for the British “tommy cookers”, simple portable stoves using solid fuel tablets that were vital in brewing decent tea in the days and weeks following D-Day. It is thought this stove shortage resulted in an item of equipment being developed and introduced later in 1944 that is still found on all British armoured vehicles even today. The “BV” or boiling vessel a simple means of heating food and most importantly brewing tea and remains a vital piece of kit in the modern army of today.
Written by Colin from KSV.