Cambridge District Scout Archive

Cambridge Archive


A scheme of voluntary rationing was promoted on 1 February 1917, with the aim of reducing the consumption of staples of the daily diet – bread, meat, and sugar.
The first item to be formally rationed was sugar in January 1918, but by the end of April meat, butter, cheese and margarine were added to the list. Some foods were still in short supply even after the war ended, for instance butter remained on ration until 1920. 

1915    5th Cambridge             ‘there has been some difficulty in getting uniform and as a result shirts of several shades of grey are being worn.’

1917                                        ‘THE two District Camps of 1917 and 1918 are also good to remember. In 1917, about 35 of us went to Impington to pick fruit for three weeks for Mr. Chivers, eight hours a day: the strawberries were a severe test to our grit and to the strength of our inward works, -we wondered at first whether our hearts were weak: but, oh, those gooseberries! And we kept within a voluntary war-ration of 1 pound of bread ahead per day, making good with cheese-rinds in the stew!’     Reveille

1917                                        Impington Fruit picking camp             ‘half a pound of breads a day, a quarter for breakfast and quarter for tea, and this still left us with a sack of wheat flour for cooking, not to mention the scones we made out of barley maize and oatmeal flour.’ (Does not agree with the reporting above although the copy is difficult to read)

1917                                        Newspaper report of 1917 BP rally    ‘A lone Scouts poultry display was next visited. “What will the food controller say to this?” the Chief asked.  The Scout explained the chickens were fed on damaged grain.’

1917                                        Newspaper report of 1917 BP rally    19th (Romsey Town Wesleyans) showed some of the produce from allotments…’  ‘You had better not let Mr Lloyd George catch you pulling beans before their time’, the Chief warned playfully.


Rations first came into operation in September 1939


1940JanuaryBacon, butter, sugar
1941JuneClothes coupons
1942JulyCivilian petrol allowance stopped

Almost all foods apart from vegetables and bread were rationed by August 1942.

Fresh vegetables and fruit were not rationed but supplies were limited. Some types of imported fruit all but disappeared.  Game meat such as rabbit and pigeon were not rationed but were not always available.  Fish was not rationed; whale and canned snoek fish from South Africa, were not rationed. They did not prove popular.

Most controversial was bread; it was not rationed until after the war ended, but the “national loaf” of wholemeal bread replaced the ordinary white variety, to the distaste of most housewives who found it mushy, grey and easy to blame for digestion problems.


Restrictions were gradually lifted three years after war had ended

1950MayCanned and dried fruit , treacle, syrup, jellies,
chocolate biscuits, mincemeat. Petrol
1954 May Butter
1954July 4thMeat and Bacon

Cambridge District

1940    Jan       District Minutes           The Secretary was instructed to see the Food Controller in order to obtain sugar for the Committee Meeting

Feb      had been refused … sugar for the Committee Meeting

1940    May    The Scouter                 No change to the cooking test for food rationing.  Meat covers many items, it does not have to be steak, can be sausages, offal etc.

1940                ‘I had in stock about 1000 black arm bands for sale at 1d each’  …received these on a strictly confidential notice from IHQ as it was known that the Chief’s time was drawing to a close’          Ken North

1941    March The Scouter                 Metal stars are up to 3d and supplies of metal are scarce.  Buy the cloth badges that remain at 2d.  54th are seeking old uniforms to reuse.

6/1941            Coupons were required for all clothing.  It was suggested (DSMs report) to publish a list in GSG (Grafton Street Gazette).  The CC agreed ‘for present hat and scarf will be regarded as uniform’

The Scouter 1941

The Scouter 1941

1941                Ministry of Transport regret ‘…it is not possible to make supplementary grants of petrol to enable scouts to travel by lorry or motor bus.’                      The Scouter April

                        The Scouter in change of camp should get in contact with Food Control Committee three weeks ahead of time.  Permits are only available for Ration week Monday to Sunday.  Shorter periods

1940/41 From Evercircular letter between members of the 23rd Rover Crew on Active Service

1942                Concern was expressed by the Mid Cambridge LA that without extra coupons for uniform the Scouts, who were in long trousers all day, were increasingly reluctant to wear their (now) small, old clothes that they could not replace.

1942 Kit list June 60th Cambridge ‘Shorts and open necked shirt should be worn if uniform cannot be obtained‘.

1942                ‘In spite of the attraction of Free Uniform etc. among the Government sponsored organisations Scouting has continued to attract.’                 AGM

1942 Went to see (previous Troop Leader) and brought away his uniform with us.’ 13th Cambridge log

1942 60th Rovers (in Scotland) with regard to the Chrristmas partythe ‘food problem appears to have been solved (without resort to the black market)’

1943                Ken North was discharged from the forces in 1943 ‘..it came as  a shock to find we owed about 750 coupons to Scout shops when on a quick look around there appeared to be only 300 coupons worth of goods held.  …when clothes rationing commenced the Executive had reasoned that some of the stock already held could be sold without coupons.  Over the years we were constantly ‘in debt’ but nothing happened officially I am glad to say.’

1943                PL and Seconders camp                      Campers asked to bring rationed food

1946                5th Cambridge             ‘Slackness in uniform has not yet been eliminated and we wait for a relaxation in clothes rationing before perfection is obtained’

1947                Rationing books should be produced for the necessary cancellation for the period of the camp, and permits will be issued for the equivalent rationed food plus extra ration on the scale of five school dinners and one and two thirds pints of milk per boy per week.                      GG&AA

1947                International Jamboree, France         ‘I had the job of seeing the boys at a weekend “get together” when we had to decide on any uniform items which were needed to bring the contingent up to a smart standard. We were allowed a special allocation of clothing coupons for the purpose.’                       Ken North

1948                Home made envelopes were used by warrants secretary    

1948    List of foodstuff required from participants of the Youth Ball during rationing.  Bread Units, Tins of salmon, herring, sardines, crayfish, and pilchards.  Cheese, margarine, lard, flour, dried or fresh eggs, cornflower or custard powder, biscuits, sugar, icing sugar, dried or tinned milk, jam, lemon curd, golden syrup, bottles or tinned fruit, nuts, tea, chocolate or coco powder.

1948    Nov    Announced that 1¼million clothing coupon have been obtained for uniform… they will be issued by the Local Associations at 2.78/boy.

1949    March ..please take advantage of the clothing coupons to buy the official Group scarf (many variations had been permitted during the war)

1949    April    ‘Clothing Coupons and Record sheets in your possession may be treated as salvage’          The excitement around the forthcoming clothing coupons allocation was lost as clothes rationing was ended.

It was a source of much disgruntlement that other youth branches received extra coupons for uniforms whereas the Scouts did not.

1949                District received a number of ‘Parachute rations’ from   B. R. C. S. (British Red Cross Society).  It was decided to hold them as a reserve at Association HQ to meet the needs of visitors arriving late without supplies.

1949                Ministry of Food Permit for supply of milk    (for Morley Trophy event)

1954                ‘Scout Camp: A book for Scouters’ 2nd Edition   printed 1954

P 62   ‘Then, of course – and what a pity we still have to mention it – there is the Food Office.  Are our permits in order?  Did we remember to collect the ration books and see that they were in order?  Have the suppliers been notified as well as the Food Office?  It really is quite hopeless to arrive in a small community armed with Block Permits for fifty people unless they were obtained sufficiently in advance for the suppliers to have food in stock.  Too few people realise that a permit for food remains uneatable.’

The end of Rationing

JWR Archivist Feb 2019