Food and Drink : major concerns
Food, or the lack of it, was a core concern for Dad and his mates. I’ll gather some of the references to food as the blog progresses.
19 May 1940 – In camp at Ingleburn, Sydney – After we had the injection we went along to a tap to have a drink of water. There was a sergeant standing nearby and he said that’s good water. I said – yes but not as good as Mount Wellington water. He said – Bloody New Zealanders again – it’s all you can talk about! There are hundreds of New Zealanders here – it was a good effort wasn’t it?
25 June 1940 – PPS Jim [McDonnell], Dick [Schultz] and Ken Jenkins send their best wishes to you and the pater. They have often expressed the wish for a glass of the pater’s wine – the slosh on board ship was not fit to drink and Jim particularly found lemonade a little unpalatable.
24 November 1940 : On leave in Colchester : Later we met up with the other pickets on their way to have supper so we went too – we had steak & eggs – supposed to be rump steak but of course all steak is rump steak these days. Anyway when we got the bill it was four and a penny – two days’ pay for one feed.
Post of 10 February 1941 – diary entries – aboard Nea Hellas en route to Durban & Middle East – Jan 21 – Troops find hold where officers beer stored – get 14 barrels out with rope at midnight – everyone happy next morning – Thick heads the order of the day but it was lovely beer. Acting CO & acting 2 IC wild as hell but other officers seemed a bit pleased. 3rd Feb – Tucker rotten – pigs better fed at home.
Post of 10 March 1941 – diary entries – March 3 -Another cold day. – played crib for beer ….- 1st issue iron rations March 5 – more delicacies brought aboard for officers March 6 – got an officer to get some whisky (doubles 6d) – its a paradise for officers….March 7 – ….Boatload of green vegetables and tomatoes brought aboard for officers. They live like Princes whilst the men live like pigs…..March 8 – unloaded onto wharf at 12MN – dixie of tea and bun – hard as hobs (?) of hell.
11 March 1941 – at ‘Kilo 89’ in Palestine – Within the camp itself there is a wet canteen which sells Australian bottled beer – “Carlton special” – I’ll be trying it out on payday.
1 April 1941 – Palestine is a very fertile country. There are miles and miles of orange, grapefruit and lemon groves. It looks as though the war must have disorganised the markets because the ground is literally a carpet of oranges and grapefruit. I’ve eaten more citrus fruit in the last three weeks than in any previous twelve months…
14 April 1941 – diary entries – 21 March – Christmas hamper from an unknown lady in Toorak – April 14 (Easter Monday) – Food still very light on –
26 April 1941 – Having practically given up all hope of them imagine my surprise at receiving eleven [parcels] in a bunch including an absolutely marvellous cake from Youngster – the best I ever tasted – awarded highest honours by all the chaps and in the last few days they’ve become conscious of cake. There were several tins of chocolates from you and youngster and a tin from Anne with love to Uncle Max….In one of your parcels Mother there were six packets of PK’s – very welcome indeed….when we’ve got back from the various manoeuvres and stunts that occupy most of our time we’ve had a feast of the pooled resources of the tent – cakes, puddings, tinned fruit, chocolates and other luxuries. Unfortunately for our training the feasting has had rather disastrous effects on our systems – Our digestive organs having become very unreceptive to delicacies, the shock of so many good things has acted in divers ways…..In the course of manoeuvres early this week we came upon a canteen in the midst of a number of Australian camps and to our joyful surprise found they actually had Australian beer in stock and I think the officers were as surprised as we were or perhaps it was their own thirst that caused them to give us a break in which to partake of some of the cherished products of Aussie – Carlton Special, Resch’s Pilsner and Waverly Ale – so far I haven’t had any Cascade but after other beers any Australian beer is champagne.
1st May 1941 – Our Christmas at Colchester was quite a memorable occasion.– extensive description in this post, of Christmas celebrations in the English barracks.
13th May 1941 – at Mersa Matruh – Last night under cover of dark the mate and I scrounged nearly a gallon of water and decided to lairize a bit and have a bath in half of it and to use the other half for making tea or coffee. There’s a primus here and in various ways we’ve acquired a quantity of tea and sugar and tinned milk and one chap had some coffee and milk sent in a parcel. To the first of these events – having a bath – we applied the term ‘Lairizing in Libya’ and to the second having coffee and herrings for supper we named Luxury in Libya. …… Diary entry – Wed 7th May – ….walked back weak for want of tucker – Meals crook again – 20 lbs of meat to do 105 men two meals – wish some parcels would come…..Friday 9th May– …. crawling out into the sandstorm and hellfire heat to get a few spoonfuls of stew and sand and a drop of tea & sand then crawling back till its time to crawl out again…Tuesday 13th May – Breakfast in bed – cheese & onion sandwich & tea.
22 May 1941 – parcel of gastronomical luxuries from Mother – tin of fruit & cream, chocs figs etc
31st May 1941 – in Palestine …..scrounged some choice tomatoes. Yet another occasion found us on the outskirts of a Jewish village and of course we staged a miniature invasion particularly on the restaurants and hotels …. and when the entire stock of beer had been consumed the fellows took to the wine, hock and sherry to the amazement of the natives…..One day the officer in charge came by a quantity of fresh meat, bread and vegetables and of course it became necessary to have a cook and muggins volunteered to do the job and though you of course will find it hard to believe I turned on a really good feed of steak (fried in butter – a rare commodity), onions, potatoes and carrots. The whole platoon were amazed at the meal. Of course I suppose having bully beef and hard biscuits for a week had sharpened their appreciation of fresh food.
15 June 1941 – during the Syria campaign -…. We were near the top of a rugged mountain almost dwarfed by giant boulders when the ration truck with its cargo of bully beef and concrete biscuits arrived and with it the postman. Everyone was amazed when with our box of rations came a bag of mail – mostly papers but very welcome just the same. The cake the youngster had sent for my birthday would have found favour at any time but after living for days on Bully – well it was wonderful.
16 July 1941 – accepting the surrender of a town – with Pete McGowan – We had a glass of arak – the most potent of all potencies – followed by a cup of black coffee and a glass of water – the last named being by far the most enjoyable. ….We then had lunch with the mayor – and what a meal. …A detailed description of the meal follows…