Evercircular: Shortages and the Black Market

Cambridge District Scout Archive


References to the increasing difficulties in obtaining goods tend to come when particular anomalies are found – a well stocked town or a dearth. The restrictions are not a point of complaint.  For the most part it is the new norm and does not require explanation. 

Observations are often on another person’s behalf.  A comment on the Padre’s ability to fill his pipe, something that he admits eats his money, leads to a soft observation that he manages to keep it full but that the mixtures are sometimes very strange. 

When passing through Reading the shops appeared to be very well stocked, ‘no queues and plenty in the shops’, ‘buns cream and otherwise and other wares, pork pies, meat pies, sausage rolls etc.’. ‘We walk along fascinated (is that the word) by the shop windows.’ You sort of felt like stuffing yourself just for the joy of be(ing) able to do it.‘ No explanation was offered but it was clearly unexpected.  ‘The only queuing was for ice cream and that seemed permanent.‘ The availability of Players cigarettes was also worthy of comment; and the unassuming offer by the tobacconist, ‘how many would you like sir’ as if it were the norm, warranted recording.  It was described as ‘as good an achievement as Mervyns chocolate’.

Howard Mallett DC, as a guest contributor to the Dunkirk Evercircular, wrote ‘or we are wondering where to buy the next packet of ‘no cigarettes’ or ‘no tobacco’.

Black Market

The black market is reached through a number of grey steps.  The high degree of disruption to the normal flow of the goods made it hard to judge if unexpected availability was good fortune or more contrived. 

References to the clear cut black market sales are generally oblique.  There are no admissions of anyone taking advantage of unequivocal black market purchases.

Tom Germany’s outrage at the less than focussed application to war work at the factories at which he was employed, was exacerbated by the offer of coupon free (black market or stolen) petrol at 3/- a gallon.   This was from his fellow employees.

 His view of the owners of the factories as being more interested in making money than supplying materials for the war was part of his deep dissatisfaction in the job, as was the workers lack of wholehearted application.  The first of these factories was a munitions factory.

Cambridge Archives

May 1941        ‘got 20 players – as good an achievement as Mervyns chocolate’   Ronald

August 1941    ‘100 cigarettes and how could he fare for some more’        Tom Germany

Whatever the restrictions people were fed, but receiving food without the need for coupons was worthy of note.  Stan Phillips, on Auxiliary Fire Service duty, was stationed at Girton (Ladies) College ‘it’s all right chaps, it was during the vacation’, reports ‘they treated us well in providing supper and breakfast in the hall’.

Les Chapman reports being fed whilst on convoy duty.  A dear old soul offered them ‘something to eat’ and provided ‘a major feed of porridge, fried eggs and bacon, toast and marmalade.

Ron Wallis wrote ‘But life in this man’s Army is fairly good. ‘Canteens at nearly every town and camp, with some form of amusement to suit everyone.’

And elsewhere ‘our friend the NAAFI is with us so we are not without smoke(s) or chocolate’

See Local History/ WW1, WW2/ Rationing

JWR ARchivist Sept 2019