New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
Careful thought was given to the determination of a suitable ration for the troops in Egypt and the matter was discussed in New Zealand during General Freyberg's visit before the First Echelon left. The Australian ration was agreed to for use on the transports, but more butter was to be provided in place of part of the cheese ration. It was agreed that the British Army ration in Egypt, with certain additions, was suitable. It was held that a minimum of two ounces of butter was desirable and that ice-cream should be provided. In Egypt the army ration was found to be adequate and satisfactory for New Zealand troops after some slight adjustments had been made. The alterations in the ration were that the jam ration was increased from one to two ounces, cheese reduced from 1 oz. to ½ oz., tea from ¾ to ½ oz.; herrings were deleted, and butter 2 oz. was substituted for margarine 1 ½ oz. A cash allowance of one penny a man a day was also allowed for extra purchases of fresh foods. Some fresh meat was obtained by utilising buffalo beef. Eggs were available and were added to the ration early in 1941, instead of, as previously, being purchased out of the cash allowance. Both the jam and butter rations were earlier reduced to 1 ½ oz. This was done to ensure that our troops did not have any advantage over the British troops.1page 46
Alterations in the basic ration were made from time to time so as to substitute local products for overseas supplies and thus save valuable shipping space. This especially referred to meat, eggs, fish, vegetables, and fruit.
When operating away from the base camps the troops were put on a field ration and the penny-a-day supplementation was discontinued. Special provision was made for such items as dried fruits, ground nuts, boiled sweets, chocolate, and tinned fish, and ascorbic acid tablets, marmite, and cocoa were added.
The danger of infection from food obtained from civilian sources was stressed before the troops landed in Egypt and was the subject of repeated lectures and army orders, both before and after their arrival in Maadi Camp. The lack of ordinary cleanliness and hygiene throughout the native population made it inevitable that all food and drink except that obtained in first-class European establishments should be suspect, and the troops were warned against eating any food or drinking anywhere else, especially from itinerant vendors, who were banned from the camps. The troops were advised not to eat any fruit without a thick skin and to wash the fruit in a disinfectant beforehand. Melons were also suspect and at first prohibited. Uncooked vegetables were soaked in permanganate solution or dipped in boiling water for 30 seconds before eating, and they were seldom provided for the troops. The native methods of cultivation made their contamination a certainty.1
Most fresh food was cooked and eaten within twenty-four hours and when kept in the cookhouses was protected by wire netting or muslin shields. In the cookhouses a special room was set aside for meat. Storerooms were provided with safes for such articles as butter, jam, and milk and also for vegetables. The type of building erected for cookhouses and the material used made it almost impossible to keep them completely free of flies.