QUESTION TO WWII VETERANS: WWII rations and entrenching tools

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by PBI_1944, Jan 9, 2011.

  1. PBI_1944

    PBI_1944 Member

    This question is directed to WWII veterans who are on the forum. I am researching (among many subjects) WWII rations that were issued and eaten by the soldiers on the frontlines (compo rations, brewing up, Benghazi cookers) and the use of entrenching tools (D- and T-handle shovels and the pick mattox).

    The questions I have are:
    1. What type of ration were you issued in bulk? What do you remember most about that type of ration? What are your opinions about the 24-hour compo ration? How did men of your section divvy up the portions?

    2. What type of entrenching tool did you use the most? If you served post-Normandy, did you use the Canadian D-handle shovel? What was your opinion of the pick mattox? T-handle shovel?

    My thanks to Mr. Ron Goldstein for his advice on this subject!

    Please note, with the permission of the posters here, we would like to post what information we receive, on our website, The Rifle Brigade at War 1939-45.

    Regards,
    Mick
     
  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Mick
    1. What type of ration were you issued in bulk? What do you remember most about that type of ration? What are your opinions about the 24-hour compo ration? How did men of your section divvy up the portions?

    2. What type of entrenching tool did you use the most? If you served post-Normandy, did you use the Canadian D-handle shovel? What was your opinion of the pick mattox? T-handle shovel?



    Glad you decided to pose these questions on the forum and as you will see, the subject has been raised before, at least, as far as the grub was concerned:

    http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/general/6399-compo-rations.html

    http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/general/8393-char-wads.html

    As far as "divvying up" was concerned I can't remember any problems. Your average British soldier was ultimately honest and fair when it came to sharing rations and I would guess that the same applied to other nationalities represented on this forum.

    As far as "entrenching tools" you had better wait until you get some info from the PBI although, having said that, in the years that I spent in Sicily & Italy I did my fair share of digging trenches and always with a pickaxe and shovel.

    Ron
     
  3. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    It's me again.

    This thread set me thinking about slit trenches and I realised that I have never bothered to sketch the type of trench I was used to.

    A few minute's work produced the pic below, rough as it is, you can see the way we used to cut a step about a foot down on which we could keep our personal belongings reasonably dry . I'm sure there are better sketches/photos out there on the internet.
     

    Attached Files:

  4. tmac

    tmac Senior Member Patron

    Gunners from my late father’s unit, 92nd LAA, came up against the problem of suitable digging tools while in Castle Douglas in 1943, training for the invasion of Europe. This is from my 92nd LAA history:
    ‘… For the gun crews, digging-in was vital. When a Bofors was deployed, a pit was excavated for it to give as much protection as possible from counter-battery fire and marauding aircraft. However, some of the 92nd’s more muscular members found their small collapsible infantry spades were not up to the job of digging a gun pit in anything like a reasonable time and nicknamed the spades ‘Fifth Column Shovels’. After digging trials, Captain Reid agreed and told his men they could have heavy-duty navvy shovels instead…’
     
  5. PBI_1944

    PBI_1944 Member

    Tmac and Mr. Goldstein:

    Much appreciated gentlemen. Mr. G may I have permission to use that sketch on our site?

    RE: heavy duty naval shovels. I will have to google that!
    Regards,
    Mick
     
  6. PBI_1944

    PBI_1944 Member

    Ron,

    THanks for the links to 'grub' on the forum ----> heading there now!

    Regards,
    Mick
     
  7. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Mick

    Mr. G may I have permission to use that sketch on our site?


    As I have already stated, I am more than happy to let you quote from any article I have written on this, or indeed on any forum, with the proviso that the source is clearly identified and , where possible, a link to the source is provided.

    Ron
     
  8. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    PBI1944-
    In the Armoured Corps we were probably spoilt for choice inasmuch as I never recall having the compo rations all that often - we had only to check with our SQMS to gain what we needed in the way of food - mainly Bully - M & V - tinned bacon - tea -sugar - tinned milk - and we always had enough to share with the infantry if they were short of dinner. Happily we had a good Cook staff to give us hot meals mostly when we stopped for the night - last meal I had with the squadron was the day I was knocked out when we had breakfast cooked a few hundred yards from where we started fighting -upset when the DAF came along and strafed us instead of jerry.

    we had the odd habit of putting five tins of M&V alongside the exhaust
    on our way to laager in the hope that we would have a warm meal only for something else to turn up and having to scrape up the mess from the engine later ....

    We only had a shovel for hygenic purposes as I - again - can't recall digging slit trenches as we would dive under the tank if there was any stuff flying around ....cushy life really in Tanks !
    Cheers
     
  9. tmac

    tmac Senior Member Patron

    PBI 1944:
    Thanks for your reply. Just to clarify my note about 92nd LAA and their digging-in. The Gunners in Castle Douglas simply wanted bigger, more robust shovels than those supplied by the Army. These were the type of shovels typically used by navvies - that is, civilian workmen who dug roads and were employed on other civil engineering works. A 'navvy' was the word coined in the 18th century for the labourers who dug the first canals in Britain and later built the railways. The first canals were also known as 'navigations' and the men who dug them were dubbed 'navigators', which was shortened to 'navvies.' A navvy shovel would simply be a strong, full-size shovel.
     
  10. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Not sure what particular model trenching tool was used but, this from the Reichswald fighting;
    "At one point we had run out of ammunition and we finished off one position, attacking and killing the occupants with our trenching tools. Do you know you can take a mans head clean off his shoulders with a trenching tool. It was a particularly bloody affair but they were never going to surrender,............."
     
  11. worthatron

    worthatron Member

    just found a site that reproduces the compo and 24 hour rations. don't know if it's any help to you, but here it is British World War II Rations

    i recollect my grandad saying how he used to trade his cigarette rations for vitamin enriched chocolate because he did'nt smoke. he also liked the self-heating tins because he stabbed a hole in the top with a bayonette, and in a few minutes it was a hot meal without the fuss of preparing it.
     
  12. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Hello Mick,

    For contents of compo boxes see: Compo Boxes

    For a short while, in Tunisia early 1943 following the Kasserine Pass break-through, US forces were issued Compo Boxes. From all accounts they were considered manna from heaven - grass is always greener!

    Gerry
     
  13. Driver-op

    Driver-op WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Here's my two pennyworth. I always used a pick and spade (not a shovel) to dig my slit-trench, I then covered most of the top leaving a small entrance. I also used a length of water-proofing hose to keep the air fresh while I slept following a nasty experience earlier on. There was a lot of explosives around, mainly used by the gunners to dig in their SP Bofors guns, no doubt using the navvy shovels (a la tmac)to remove the spoil. We were warned not use the explosives for slit-trenches - the sides crumble. I enjoyed the compo rations, the 24 hour emergency packs, issued for D-Day were not may favourites. The self heating cans were brilliant, kidney soup or cocoa, you removed a small cap in the centre of the top and lit the fuse with your fag, but first of all you had to puncture the the top of the can - otherwise they went off very painfully. Oh, happy days!
     
  14. brownvitte

    brownvitte Junior Member

    I saw this thread and wondered whether this might help... Some entries from my grandfather's diary. He served with the 4th Bn KSLI in the 11th Armoured Brigade in Normandy.

    Food:
    D+50 The Battalion was re-organising and things were pretty easy. The food was good in spite of it all being “compo” and therefore tinned and in the evening tea was available - we had a 24hr pack and there seemed plenty of T.S.M. powder about.

    Shovels:
    D+56 Next morning found about six inches of water in every trench except that dug by my comrade and me - we’d dug a sump and even that was dry!
    The days were very hot and having a full size shovel to carry proved a very awkward and uncomfortable procedure. I carried mine so that the blade wedged in the V formed by the braces of the equipment - later I fixed it so that the blade lay across my chest and the handle went through my belt on the left side. Both ways found the thing a nuisance.

    William
     
  15. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Cushy life in tanks - different era, 1977 Canadian prairie on the battle run, Scots Guards, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and 5 Skins - OK! the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards - Chieftain tanks then, come on over and have a bite eat and a drink. Hessian screens - come on in Jock, hang fire a minute! They had a barbie, a row of optics and two barrels on trestles. What's your poison? A damned good outfit - worked like Trojans yet boy did they know how to play.
     
  16. PA. Dutchman

    PA. Dutchman Senior Member

    My father would talk about the Powered Eggs they were feed in the Pacific. There from WWI, they seldom had decent water so when the mixed the bad tasting water with the WWI powered eggs it was bad but could be filling.

    I mentioned this to a Air Corp person who served in the same area in the Pacific Theater. He said to me, " I had not thought of those eggs in years", and he said "I can still taste them, they were like nothing else we were feed."

    I know during the early days of their campaign equipment in the Pacific was sometimes WWI issue, but the WWI powered eggs where something many never forgot or expected.
     

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