Object of the Month: March 2016

Rationing in the 1940s


With the loss of 563 merchant vessels by U-boat attack in 1940, the British Government introduced food and fuel rationing. The need to grow more at home and conserve imported food became even more important by 1942, when 1322 ships were lost in the Battle of the Atlantic. Ration books were issued for all citizens, and it was necessary to register with a shop for each food item to make sure that supplies were made available.

Donald Black’s Ration Book for 1948-9

Donald Black’s Ration Book for 1948-1949

Rationing continued for several years after the end of the war. By 1948, the amounts available per person from the registered supplier were:

Meat 1 shilling (5p) worth per week
Fats (cooking) 2 oz (57g) per week
Cheese 1.5 oz (43 g) per week
Bacon and ham 2 oz (57g) per fortnight
Sugar 8 oz (227g) per week
Butter margarine 7 oz (198g) per week
Tea 2 oz (57g) per week
Chocolate & sweets 4 oz (113g) per week
Eggs No fixed ration: 1 egg for each ration book when available
Liquid milk 3 pints per week
Preserves 4 oz (113g) per week

Donald (now aged 20) was registered with David Colthart at Lismore Stores (see the Object for October 2015) for most of his supplies:

Donald Black’s Ration Book for 1948-9

Donald Black’s Ration Book for 1948-1949

It is clear that his diet during the war period did nothing to limit Donald’s achievements in athletics. At the Taynuilt Highland Games in 1946, he won the 440 yards race and was third in the 220 yards, collecting £3 in prize money. However, a newspaper report noted that few people travelled by car to the games because of the continuing rationing of petrol.

Taynuilt Games 1946

Taynuilt Games


Donald Black

In 1953, the Government lifted restrictions on sweets, eggs, cream, butter, cheese, margarine and cooking fats and, finally, meat was removed from ration books in 1954.

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