Talk:Rationing in the United Kingdom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Military history (Rated C-Class)
MILHIST This article is within the scope of the Military history WikiProject. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the project and see a list of open tasks. To use this banner, please see the full instructions.
C This article has been rated as C-Class on the quality assessment scale.
WikiProject United Kingdom  
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject United Kingdom, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of the United Kingdom on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.

Picture request[edit]

A picture of a ration book has been requested at the UK Wikipedians' notice board. TheGrappler 17:29, 15 May 2006 (UTC)

Image of a shopkeeper cancelling coupons from a ration book was added October 26, 2006. Tim Pierce (talk) 00:59, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

Text from other article[edit]

The following text is from "world war 2 rationing", which was marked to be merged here. Perhaps the detailed figures ought to be added to the article, but they aren't souced, so I'm just putting it here.

lots of things were rationed including eggs, bacon, milk, sugar, cheese, butter, bread and jam.An average adults weekly ration in may 1941: 3 pints of milk 55g tea 225g jam 1 shillings worth of meat 170 g of butter 55 g of cooking fat 225g of sugar 115g of bacon 30g of cheese housewives had to do with what they had. many new recires were invented during world war 2.carrot cake was one of them.

dbenbenn | talk 01:47, 17 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Post-war rationing[edit]

Can somebody please explain why rationing continued in Britain after the end of the War. The U-boats were not sinking ships ye British people could not feed themselves adequately, Why??

Neverdespairgirl 09:40, 3 January 2007 (UTC) Hello - the reasons why rationing continued were several. Firstly, world-wide food production was still down - lots of people were in armies, land had been damaged, etc. Secondly, there were severe financial problems. Some British products (such as whisky, for example) were export-only so that foreign currency could be obtained. Britain was broke. In addition, it was difficult to remove rationing because once a product went off-ration, there was a huge surge in demand for it, from people who wanted to enjoy something they'd not had before.

Also there's the question of Britain's legal obligations as an occupying power. After the war the Allies (including Britain) had to not only feed themselves but also their former enemies too. Occupying powers are responsible for the welfare of the countries they occupy, and places like Germany (which was under Allied control after the war) were so devastated that they could not produce much food themselves. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:16, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
On top of that, the economy was being centrally planned by the Labour government to a degree that it is difficult to envisage today. The powers that be had decided that the scarce resources were better employed servicing other industries than producing and importing food over that needed to supply basic rations to the population. The industries that were prioritised were often export industries - this helped maintain the level of Sterling and to service the massive war debts mainly owed to the US. BaseTurnComplete (talk) 19:59, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
The UK was also the only country in Europe (other than the neutrals of course) that got no benefit from the Marshall Plan. -- Roger (talk) 21:55, 16 November 2007 (UTC)

Ah but it did. The UK got more Marshall aid than any other country. Soarhead77 (talk) 14:21, 7 October 2009 (UTC)

Correct - I've heard the "no Marshall aid" myth surprisingly often though.BaseTurnComplete (talk) 20:02, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

There were probably a number of factors, many of them outside the government's control, but one factor could have been the decision to maintain conscription and the armed forces at a relatively high level (a decision which was not taken at the end of WW1) which could have been both costly and taken a large number of able-bodied young men out of the national workforce. PatGallacher (talk) 17:54, 7 January 2014 (UTC)

There were two main reasons for continuing with rationing, 1) The lack of foreign exchange currency with-which to buy food and goods from abroad, Britain's normal overseas export trade having more or less ceased in 1940, and the country being effectively bankrupt in the foreign currency needed to buy the normal peacetime imports by 1945, 2) The decision to carry out the development and manufacture of a UK nuclear weapon, which cost a considerable amount not only in research, but also in infrastructure, this decision being a result of the US passing the McMahon Act in 1946.
The overall reason however was the US government insisting before Lend-Lease that the UK sell-off all its US assets to pay for war materiel bought from the US and then also refusing to allow the UK to raise loans in the US with-which to subsequently finance the war it was then fighting. Before Lend-Lease, there was 'Cash and Carry' and Britain had paid the US over £500,000,000 ($2 billion at the-then current exchange rate) in cash for aircraft alone. Previously many governments fought wars paid for with loans raised abroad. In 1940 the US government refused the UK any loans and then made selling-off all UK assets in the US a condition before it would consider what then became Lend-Lease. In 1940 Britain was by far the biggest foreign investor in the US, so this forced sell-off represented a great financial loss to Britain.
AFAIR, Marshall Aid was only available to countries that had been occupied by Germany, Japan or Italy. The Soviet Union was offered the aid but Stalin refused it. Britain was not occupied, with the exception of the Channel Islands, and IIRC, that didn't count as it was regarded as a 'colony' by the US and the US was opposed to 'colonialism'. So whether Marshall Aid was in fact received or not by Britain I don't know, it may have been, but I have read in reputable books that it was not. But none of the other countries that did receive it still had rationing in the 1950s.
There were many wonderful Americans who did their best to help Britain in 1940, many 'ordinary' people sending food parcels to the people besieged in the UK, and many prominent Hollywood stars such as Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, James Cagney, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who off their own bat, raised money for, and helped publicise and raise support for Britain in the years before the US entered the war. But many in the-then US government and Congress were very against the British Empire, and were determined to destroy it. In this they succeeded. Let's hope they are still enjoying it. It's certainly costing them a lot more in dollars and lives than I suspect they ever imagined it would.
And that's why rationing continued in Britain long after May 1945. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:36, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
well maybe not. the anon contributor is not well informed....UK got $$$$ from the US: $31 billion from Lend Lease (not repaid), a 1946 Loan and --yes indeed--the Marshall Plan. It also got Canadian $$. It was the heavy drain caused by the British nationalization of industry (the owners were bought out by the Treasury) & its deep involvement in Greece, India and elsewhere that UK could not afford. Furthermore the US spend very large sums of dollars in defending the British Empire -- as in SouthEast Asia and ANZUS -- that Britain never was asked to repay. Rjensen (talk) 21:41, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Actually in return for Lend-Lease goods the US was given 99-year leases on British bases around the world that for the most part it is still using. So that's hardly something for nothing. AFAIK none of the other recipients of Lend-Lease ever gave anything much in return. BTW, that's why it was called "Lend-Lease"
And in addition the UK gave the US almost all of it's various technological advances such as radar, the jet engine etc., for the most part for nothing. Free. How much do you think all that was worth in dollars.
As for the US spending $ in defending the far east, well the British and Commonwealth did most of the fighting there and despite what many might have been led to believe, the majority of the Imperial Japanese Army was actually fighting in the Far East, Burma, Singapore, and Malaya, not in the Pacific, so the British and Commonwealth took on most of the enemy's land army that the US would otherwise have been facing elsewhere. The IJA losses in Burma were greater than its losses everywhere else combined. How many American lives in the Pacific do you think that saved.
Britain and her Empire went into what became the Second World War because they were making a stand against a nasty evil regime, that was bent on world domination, not because they could make money out of it. And they didn't wait for war to be declared on them either, they made a stand and went to war voluntarily, which neither the US nor USSR did. Then in 1940 her so-called 'Allies' surrendered, leaving Britain and her Empire to fight Nazisim alone.
So THAT's why Britain came out of the Second World War bankrupt and needing rationing long after everyone else had recovered from the war. People could perhaps be forgiven for thinking the British shouldn't have bothered. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:33, 10 March 2014 (UTC)

Merge request[edit]

The requested merge was with an article which takes the form of a page copied verbatim from an uncredited source. As this is a potential (and very likely) copyright violation I've deleted the offending article and redirected the topic to this one. Chris Cunningham 13:37, 24 January 2007 (UTC)


This section:

"Establishments known as "British Restaurants" supplied another almost universal experience of eating away from home. British Restaurants were run by local authorities, who set them up in a variety of different premises such as schools and church halls. They evolved from the LCC’s Londoners’ Meals Service which originated in September 1940 as a temporary, emergency system for feeding those who had been bombed out. By mid-1941 the LCC was operating two hundred of these restaurants. Here a three course meal cost only 9d. Standards varied, but the best were greatly appreciated and had a large regular clientele.

is almost entirely taken from here with some re-ordering of sentences, without the source being credited or quoted. Crana 00:02, 24 February 2007 (UTC)

End of rationing in UK[edit]

Rationing ended in 1954 (not 1953) - and I don't mean bananas. See for more detail of what came off coupons and when see Norvo 19:41, 11 October 2007 (UTC)

New Request / Conversation[edit]

I'm placing this request here, since it is the most recent entry:

Does the author or any other party have a source for the following?

"At the beginning of World War II, the UK imported 55 million tons of foodstuffs per year (70%), including more than 50% of its meat, 70% of its cheese and sugar, nearly 80% of fruits and about 90% of cereals and fats. It was one of the principal strategies of the Axis to attack shipping bound for the UK, restricting British industry and potentially starving the nation into submission (see Battle of the Atlantic)."

I'm in the midst of my dissertation, and could certainly benefit from the document from which this passage was culled.

Something else that wasn't rationed[edit]

According to my mother, who claims to have eaten it, whale meat was not rationed (I am guessing because it was easier to get a large supply from a single animal.) Does anyone know if this was the case? Apparently only the poor familiies, like my mother's, ate it. (talk) 18:05, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

Yep it's true, I found a reference to it too. I might add it to the article. BaseTurnComplete (talk) 21:40, 11 October 2009 (UTC)
I can remember a big publicity drive to get people to eat it (talk) 12:16, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Additional rationing to the article[edit]

I seem to remember that coal, oil, petrol and parafin were also rationed and that there were certain restrictions on some public transport. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:12, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Additional rationing to the article[edit]

Coal, oil, petrol and parafin were also rationed and that there were certain restrictions on some public transport. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:15, 29 May 2008 (UTC)


I have removed "onions" from the list of rationed foods. The only detailed source cited for this article, Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska: Austerity in Britain: Rationing, Controls and Consumption, 1939-1955, not only does not mention onions but says explicitly that (apart from a short-lived "potato control scheme" after the war), "perishable fresh foods such as fish, fruit and vegetables were never rationed and only loosely controlled". The date when onions were added to the list is perhaps significant: 1 April 2006. JohnCD (talk) 15:56, 25 October 2008 (UTC)

Free Issues[edit]

As well as milk powder, concentrated orange juice was issued. (Was lovely on Shrove Tuesday pancakes :-) ) (talk) 12:16, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Possible vandalism?[edit]

Can someone explain the following line to me?

'Fruit was banned in the UK by Queen Victoria and to this day the ban has not been rescinded'

Unless I am missing something (big) this is not true and probably vandalism? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:55, 14 March 2010 (UTC)

End of rationing[edit]

From the timeline section: "Sweet rationing ended in February 1953, and sugar rationing ended in September 1954, however the end of all food rationing did not come until 4 July 1954, with meat the last to go."

So sugar isn't considered a food, or is there a wrong date in there somewhere? --Helenalex (talk) 09:51, 19 June 2010 (UTC)

It was September 1953 for sugar. I've added a reference (to the Imperial War Museum website). Si Trew (talk) 19:20, 13 July 2010 (UTC)

Paper rationing[edit]

I don't see any mention of the effects on print media. In fact no mention of paper rationing whatsoever. I know that a lot of comics and I'm guessing other magazines ended at around 18 May 1940, die to paper rationing. It also caused others to fold or reduce page count later on. Digifiend (talk) 23:36, 4 July 2010 (UTC)

Good point. I'll see if I can drag some figures out of the Home Front Handbook. Orwell was always moaning about it, too, and in a few places might give actual figures. I think his essay Books vs Cigarettes for example, but I will have to check. Somewhere he gives the total tonnage given to newspapers, books etc and (interestingly) the Admiralty or the War Office, I forget which, but which swamps all the rest put together. I imagine Orwell would be considered RS (and is certainly V). Si Trew (talk) 08:12, 5 July 2010 (UTC)
I've mislaid my copy, as usual. I'll find it some time. Si Trew (talk) 08:21, 5 July 2010 (UTC)
I found it and have added some figures, but there's not much in there. I know it's somewhere in Orwell, but the editions I have now of the Essays don't have an index. Si Trew (talk) 19:23, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
Found it.
"In Mr Stanley Unwin's recent pamphlet Publishing in Peace and War, some interesting facts are given about the quantities of paper allotted by the Government for various purposes. Here are the present figures:-
Newspapers 250,000 tons
H. M. Stationery Office 200,000 "
Periodicals (nearly) 50,000 "
Books 22,000 "
A particularly interesting detail is that out of the 100,000 tons alloted to the Stationery Office, the War Office gets no less than 25,000 tons, or more than the whole of the book trade put together."[1]
Something wrong here in this extract from Publishing in Peace and War. None of the above figures add up. Not least: One line says the Stationery Office has 200,000 tons and then in the same section it says 100,000 tons?. It doesn't make sense.BeckenhamBear (talk) 06:52, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
  1. ^ Orwell, George (20 October 1944). "As I Please". Tribune.  Quoting Unwin, Stanley (1944). Publishing in Peace and War. George Allen and Unwin. OCLC 9407037. 

Ersatz Apple Crumble[edit]

Why is apple crumble described as ersatz? Carrot Cake, perhaps, although it's perfectly agreeable to eat. Seems odd to me. Rob Burbidge (talk) 22:15, 20 September 2010 (UTC)

Because it was a substitute for a proper apple pie (it saved on the fat and flour that would have made the layer of pastry below the apple.) MidlandLinda (talk) 11:46, 20 February 2011 (UTC)


During WWII, rationing was introduced in many countries, including Britain, the Commonwealth nations, and the USA.

In January 1940, the British Ministry of Food restricted the sale of imported goods like tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, chocolate and fruit. Clothing rations were introduced a year later.

Other imported goods were also rationed, like petrol, textiles, and even soap.

The British Isles were essentially under siege. German submarine attacks on merchant navy ships crossing the Atlantic meant that supplies weren’t getting through. The basis of rationing was to ensure that the population wouldn’t be starved into submission. It wasn’t popular, but the sacrifice was necessary for survival.

Each family was awarded a weekly limit - including the Royal Family. Ration books containing coupons were issued and families were required to register with a local shopkeeper in order to receive their rations.

Rations were subjected to strict price controls and even having the money didn’t mean you could get what you wanted. Consequently, a black market flourished to meet the public demand.

Rationing in Britain finally ended in 1954 – almost a decade after the Allied victory. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:34, 25 August 2011 (UTC)


Was rationing introduced in 1973? It seems clear it was considered ( ) and the three-day week (maximum of three days' electricity for business per week) could be seen as a form of rationing too. (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 21:47, 26 November 2011 (UTC).


I have heard mention from sources that Rabbit was also not rationed during the war. In many areas this was a mainstay for topping up the meat ration and was often "poached" for for personal consumption and for resale/barter to others. Does anyone have any sources for this? (talk) 19:40, 29 March 2012 (UTC)

Possible copying of non-free copyright source[edit]

The section 'British Restaurants' closely matches the extract available at, which lists that this material is copyrighted. Not sure if that might be a violation of Wikipedia rules. Adrian Dakota (talk) 17:01, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

right----I rewrote it to solve the problem. Rjensen (talk) 07:26, 8 June 2013 (UTC)

"one course could contain meat or fish or poultry (but not both)"[edit]

I think that needs clarifying. You can't have 'both' of three. Peridon (talk) 18:28, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

Found an explanation further down the page. Now sorted. Peridon (talk) 18:35, 26 October 2013 (UTC)


"ordering a red dye to be to put into some petrol" — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:03, 23 January 2014 (UTC)