Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dehydrated Meat.

Did anyone ever have the enduring delight of Dehydrated meat ?

In Bone (Anaba) North Africa, is was learned that in order to save space in the Merchant ships bringing us food and sustenance from the U.K. In U Boat infested waters, the Army Kitchens in their quest for medals had developed a procedure to “Dehydrate” meat thus reducing it’s bulk for transportation. On arrival at the consuming kitchens overseas it was therefore subject to yet another procedure
to regain it’s initial bulk. These procedures were quite naturally, subject to the Official secrets act of 1938 sect 5 – para 6 – line 9. So we were completely in innocence of the effects of these procedures at any stage of the development.

The day duly arrived when we were served – it must be said – lavish proportions of this new development in the progress of man, to which all and sundry enjoyed, or at least the enjoyment was apparent inasmuch as the Orderly Officer heard NO complaints. It should be noted that the Orderly Officer that day was the strapping 6’4” – 250 pound, South Africa International Rugby player, Captain Christopher Newton – Thompson M.C.

It should also be noted that the Latrine was a gold standard version of those things which had been hand made and sandpapered by a journeyman joiner, who doubled as tank gunner for the writers crew.

It was later in the early evening when the aforesaid Dehydrated meat had a most unusual effect . Our gold standard latrine was in overdrive for some time with some victims not making it all the way, and the evidence was masked by the onset of sudden darkness which happens in the lea of the Atlas Mountains.

The senior Non Commissioned Officers of our squadron invariably ate their dinners as only gentlemen should, later than the other ranks and therefore were somewhat in ignorance of the trials and tribulations which had befallen the rankers earlier and so when they felt the necessary urge to visit the latrine – the overstrained main beam broke with a mighty crack and allowed the Squadron Sergeant Major – the Squadron QMS – the Squadron Sergeant Cook and the REME Sergeant Fitter to land in the mire, shall we say.

Hidden smiles broke out all over the regiment for the next few days and many blue pencils were wasted on letters home. Strangely – it was the last time we saw that meat !

Lambs hearts smothered with a liquid of indeterminate origin on a cold tin plate was quite another thing for breakfast !


Blogger Frank Mee said...

Never came across anything like that but it is still available;-

"A modified more rapid and less expensive process was developed to produce a palatable and tender dehydrated pork item. This cooked product will keep without refrigeration and did not drastically change with room temperature storage.
Due to the low moisture content, there were few microorganisms and little mold growth, and this aided in extending the shelf life. A low-fat version was produced along with a more flavorful, higher-fat version. This product could be used as a snack item or incorporated into other food items to add flavor and increase the protein content".

We had a lot of POM (dried potato) and dried cabbage, this along with corned beef, spam, dried apricots, dried biscuit and rice made up the bulk of our rations when on L of C duty.
As you can imagine anything fresh lasted one day and then it was use your imagination which could mean holding up Arab fruit and Veg trucks coming from the Gaza area. We gave them promise notes to the military I never knew if they were honoured. The drivers did not argue with a Browning pointing at them.
Every time we got back to the Garrison I splurged on watermelon which had the same effect as your meat if you ate too many.
As to REME NCO's in the mire, that was nothing new, when serving with the tanks, we were always up to our necks with that lot.

Tuesday, 30 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank -
the description of that "dehydrating" procedure sounds as disgusting as the actual product was to eat !
Only time we had to issue a prommissory note was when a bright spark corporal insisted on his version of the anti mosquito mixture was correct. So, the lads mixed up 99 shovels of arsenic to one shovel of sand with the inevitable result- all the villager's cattle were dead - all the vultures which came to clear up the envirionment were also dead - the villagers who looked upon a vulture as a gourmet treat
were filling their local hospital and so a "note" was handed to the head honcho to the effect that it would all be paid for in the bye and bye - and it was signed - on the spot by one Winston S Churchill - a few days later - we took off for Italy !

Tuesday, 30 May, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

In the Occupied Netherlands, during the winter of 1944 / 1945, I have heard people say they were even reduced to eating tulip and daffodil bulbs. Many of them were only saved when British aeroplanes dropped off supplies of food for the civilians in the last weeks of the war. I used to think that was really bad.

Then, I've just read a recently published book by a lady of Polish origin now living in Millom, Cumbria about her family's experiences in WW2. This covers the time they lived in a free Poland, prior to 1939, to present day Millom via a Gulag in the Soviet Union, followed by spells in India, Africa and Scotland.

Especially during the time the family were in the Siberian Gulag, the diet and hardships were unbelievable when you think about it today. The dehydrated meat and died potatoes you were getting at home or in the Forces were like dining in a five star restaurant by comparison, although you would not have realised it at the time! An army fights on its stomach, as they say. Your diet could have been worse.........! You did win the war on it as well.

(For reference the book I have just read is:
'Slaves in Paradise' by Leokadia T. Majewicz , 1st published in the Polish language in 2004 ISBN 83-920041-4-0. The copy I have was printed and published in Poland, but translated into English).

Wednesday, 31 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph -
I am not saying that other people were not worse off than we were - they were - and we saw some of it after we landed in Italy when a whole village seemingly fighting over our swill bin - those people were also starving and also had nothing - certainly no hope of anything happening in a hurry.As the Italian Government and all their functions had ceased to be operational to the detriment of most of the lowest socio - economic groups.
We also gave up half of our rations to feed the Austrians immediately after the war and this continued until another harvest in 1946 - and went lumberjacking in the Leoben woods to supply the Viennese with logs to burn in their stoves while we burned up calories in the woods.
Peter's account of his teen age years in Northern Italy is replete with tales of his father and himself travelling for miles to the Po valley for a sack of rice and other staples to their diet.
Too right an army marches on it's stomach - try marching the ten miles from the docks of Algiers - in full serge uniform with complete packs plus kit bags, and arms - to Cap Matifou
in 90 degrees of searing heat - where the cooks at the transit camp welcomed us with a plateful of bully beef stew - complete with assorted flies of Africa !
Or fighting all day in a Churchill Tank where the temperature would sometimes hit 140 degrees - then refuelling - loading with ammo - water - oil- cleaning guns - engine etc BEFORE sitting down to enjoy a tin of M & V which might have been packed in the first war !Then standing two hours guard before sleep ?
All I was trying to say was that the very look of dehydrated meat was enough to set you running for the Latrine.
What was infinitly worse was to finally get to the head of the line up on a bitterly cold morning around 6 a.m. and to have a lambs heart land on your cold tin plate with a gravy of indeterminate origin applied - that was and is unforgettable
but then - no doubt some people in Holland or Poland would have welcomed that diet ?

Thursday, 01 June, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

It was incredible what you all had to put up with for diet. What you needed was 'Greens'.

A good clean water supply must have been a problem at various times as well I imagine? Some of the dried food packs they have now, at least for mountaineering, are not bad so long as you can add some kind of water. The Army rations are pretty similar to these I imagine, or so a work colleague of mine tells me (he was in the Royal Engineers in the late 1960s and 1970s). You can purify the water to some extent, even if it is somewhat brackish.

I've read Peter's accounts and it was a real struggle in the North of Italy, especially in 1944 / 1945. Those of us born after the end of rationing can thank our lucky stars!

Friday, 02 June, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph -
When we were in Austria -1945/47 we first lived in an apartment block in a place called Knittelfeld - this was indeed luxury as it was totally devoid of furniture with the exception of an electric stove - which worked. Next door was a field of potatoes ... and the hills were - at 0500 were alive in mushrooms, which my co-driver Frank Alison 14377211(now retired as Chief Detective Insp. of Staffs police) was detailed to collect sufficient for our troop.Far be it for a policeman to be accused of theft - this was in the nature of "scrounging" - perfectly acceptable !
So by 0630 we sat down to our first breakfast of Spuds and mushrooms followed by our half ration second b'fast at 0800 - it was rough living but , of course there was always an accounting and we watched the mess funds being depleted to pay off the farmer for his loss of spuds - like half a field.
It was indeed rough living - but as you say - we did win the war - and survived ! But unlike Frank - we did not hold a machine gun to anyones head for a few scraps of cabbage or the odd carrot !

Saturday, 03 June, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Mainly fruit Tom. After existing for a couple of weeks on dry rations with water strictly rationed, the trucks taking fruit and vegetables to the Canal Zone from the Gaza area were heaven sent.
Most trucks would stop and haggle a few Ackers, spares, petrol out of us, but needs must and if we had not seen any fruit trucks for a while I was not backwards in firing a shot or two across their bows.
They were the ones who got the script and we only took what we could eat, there was no point in taking something that would be rotten in a few hours.
As you and Ron know we ate in our own little mess groups. Some of us made an effort to cook what we had to make it palatable, some would not bother, they would eat cold dry rations and then sit watching us with mouths watering.
An oil drum base with some brackets bolted on to hold a grill on which we would put an old square mortor bomb case with the paint burnt off for an oven, would come from under the ARV.
Sand and petrol to get it going then we would feed it with wood we hoarded from the boxes the engines and spares came in. The yanks always gave us more box than engine.
We would crush the hard tack biscuits make up the dehydrated cabbage and potato then put it in a billy with some olive oil, we always had plenty of that. The tins of M&V and other meats went into a dixie with the crushed biscuit to thicken it and we had a meal of "Bubble and Sqeak with stew" remember when the sun set at six o clock it got very cold out there.
I was a dab hand at quick cooking rice. One old gunner waiting to go home taught me to put the dry rice in a pan with a drop of oil. Then add water a little at a time allowing the rice to absorb it. In no time I had softened rice and then in would go the Carnation milk again slowly letting the rice take up the moisture add the dried Apricots and any other dried fruit and lift it high on the grill stirring until we had a rice pudding like mum made. There was always a fight as to who licked the pan out.
The CO, ADJ, and SSM ate with us most of the time when we were all together so that tells you something, they all did the chores as was expected of them and for an hour there would be no rank.
I always made the best of the rations and never understood the idle swine who would just eat out of tins.
At base it was normal for the day labouring Arabs to stand at the bins grabbing the left overs. We were not allowed to give it to them directly it had to go in the bins. We all became dab hands at dropping the food into their seven pound jam tins with a string around the owners neck, A quick flick and the tin would disapear into his robes. A lot of us took more than we needed to do that as food was plentiful back at base.
Joseph the dry rations then were nothing like the ration packs we had after 1956 and they improved by 1970. I loved the fruit pudding that went into some of the packs. We also got sweets and toilet paper in the packs, that item would have come in handy in Toms day. The shortage of usefull paper in desert conditions is almost as bad as the shortage of water.
We always overloaded with water from the base when going out on L of C. Water from desert water holes after it had been purified was so horrible we could not even drink it boiled and putting tea leaves in was a waste of time, all you could taste was a chemical metalic taste that dried your mouth up.
Waggons would pull out of base hung with goat skins from every available hook on the body. They kept water quite cool whilst on the move.
Every truck that did not have a trailer would put on a water trailer and we would hoard the good water to make sure it lasted us out. Purified water was undrinkable.
I guess what you are saying is what we thought hardship was luxery to others less fortunate. That is the way of the world Joseph,
all we as individuals can do is try to eleviate the hardship staring us in the face as with the Arab labourers but we cannot do much for the rest.

Monday, 05 June, 2006  

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