Branded as a “fair share for all” amid fears of nationwide food shortages, ration books were first issued 80 years ago today as part of measures in World War Two.
The introduction of restrictions on January 8 1940 was met with stoicism by Aberdonians, and city grocers told the Evening Express that so-called “Ration Monday” had “opened quietly” with arrangements working “satisfactorily”.
As Britain cut down on imported food – and with supply vessels at the mercy of German submarines – the Ministry of Food brought in rationing to ensure everyone had access to basic foodstuffs.
A report in the EE explained that “every man, woman and child in the country, from the Royal Family to their humblest subjects, has a ration book which ensures essential supplies”, with each person entitled to 12oz of sugar, 4oz of bacon and ham, and 4oz of butter a week.
Sugar proved to be the most sought-after provision on the first day of the scheme.
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An Aberdeen grocer told the EE: “Sugar was the rationed foodstuff most asked for today.
“Shop assistants found the customers quite cheerful about it all and there was a good deal of good-humoured banter about the care required so that none of the precious commodity should be spilled.”
In the following days and weeks, recipes and suggestions of how to make rations go further were regularly printed in the newspaper, and there was widespread delight when it was announced on January 26 that bacon rations were to increase from 4oz to 8oz.
The EE reported: “One leading shopkeeper said grocers had been worried.
“They have had to take in sufficient supplies for their registered customers who have not been taking up all the supplies. There is plenty of bacon in Aberdeen … this will help grocers tremendously.”
As war rumbled on, eventually most foods were covered by rationing with the exception of fruit and vegetables which citizens were encouraged to grow.
The famous “Dig for Victory” campaign was spearheaded by Aberdeen man John Raeburn who was head of the agricultural branch at the Ministry of Food.
Born in the city and educated at Mile End School before his family moved to Manchester, Prof Raeburn specialised in agricultural economics and joined the Government when war broke out.
His branch was responsible for uniting a struggling nation in what was considered one of the most successful home front initiatives, inspiring millions to dig up lawns and public spaces.