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France World War 1 Rations

 

Thanks to my wife's diligent efforts and a couple of slow weeks, we now offer a line of French WW1 rations. They duplicate the Vivres de Réserve (Reserve Rations) that were carried by the poilus throughout the Great War. A graphic description of these rations can be found in "Le feu" by Henri Barbusse.

In addition, we borrowed some authentic WW1 relics from George's collection, just to add a little spice to the mix. Pictured here are two different French WW1 mess kits. On the left is a personal kit that originally had a shiny finish not unlike the bigger version on the right, which is a "company" kit, used for mixing and cooking meals for a small group of fantassins. We also show a fork and spoon from some lad's kit.

Individual items for sale are exhibited below. As always, our rations are fresh from the grocer's shelf, so they not only look authentic, they constitute a real meal. 

   
   

French WW1 Boeuf Boulli

A new term was added to the lexicon of three armies by this unassuming little label for corned beef. This was the standard meat ration to the poulis. The French soldiers assumed that with a name like "Madagascar" it had to contain monkey meat. Ever since, all tinned meats in the French army are referred to as "singe" or monkey meat. The Tommies, who shared many a trench with their French counterparts, revived the old term for boeuf boulli and gave the world the term "Bully Beef." When the Americans arrived it didn't take long before they picked up the terms, referring to all processed meat as "Monkey Meat." It was two decades later before a new moniker for processed meat came into general use - "Spam."

This is a high quality can of corned beef, made in Brazil. I like it warmed up and smeared on bread.

Sorry, the French WW1 Model 1916 Berthier Carbine and bladed bayonet are not available, just some eye candy.

PRICE: $5.95

 

 

 
 

French WW1 Biscuits Carrés

These biscuit squares - also known as "hardtack" - were distributed in many different packages, depending upon the year and other conditions. These are wearing an early war packaging - they are sealed in a cello-like wrapping to keep out the bugs and weather, then wrapped in a low-grade paper and labeled. There are six squares in a package. Two packages are shown in the photo to give you a better idea of dimension and appearance. Our price is for one package.

I thought it would be nice to show the biscuits with a rifle that was in use at the same time period in the war. Sorry, only the biscuits are for sale.

I hope you don't have to carry a Model 1886 Lebel rifle, such as pictured to the right, when you're out in the field. This model, which was primarily used in the early war, is 52 inches long and weighs 9-1/2 pounds; the spike bayonet (also shown right) adds another 1-1/2 pounds in weight and increases the rifle's overall length to 72 inches! Imagine trying to fight in a trench with a unit that's six feet long! In addition to which, its internal tubular magazine only holds three cartridges. No wonder they replaced it with the compact Berthier Carbine shown above. Ideal for trench fighting, this handy little carbine is only 37 inches long and weighs 7-1/2 pounds. Even with the blade bayonet it weighed only 9 pounds and was 53-1/2 inches long. Plus it featured an external magazine with a bit more capacity.

PRICE: $4.95

 

 

 
 

French WW1 Potage Condensé

Condensed soup has been around for a long time. This desiccated ration frequently signaled a period when re-supply with prepared food was doubtful, hence they would be handed out in multiples. Just like the original, ours contains a chicken noodle soup, and just like the original, ours comes with no instructions, so I will share them with you here.

Pour the contents of the envelope into a cup, add six ounces (3/4 cup) of very hot water and let sit for one minute. Stir and enjoy. It might be all you get to eat tonight.

The cup is another relic found at a battle site, as is the little burner on the right. It would burn anything from alcohol to olive oil, and would effectively heat a cup of water or coffee in short notice. Compact and reliable, it was the fantassins friend.

We're selling only the soup, however.

PRICE: $3.95

 

 
 
   

French WW1 Tablets de Café

These are two foil wrapped compressed lumps of a strong, finely ground coffee. They were issued in the tin container because the tablets are very delicate and would break open under any mechanical stress. The packet was issued with a warning to use the tablets only when ordered to do so. Good luck with that!

The instructions say that one tablet will brew up approximately 1/4 liter of coffee (that's about an 8 ounce cup for any Yanks who have happened upon one of these tins). I made a batch in the kitchen just to test things. It works best if you heat the water to a rolling boil, dump in the coffee, stir, and let it boil until it begins to froth over. Remove from the heat, add a dash of cold water to settle the grounds, and enjoy.

The empty tins were often used to store other vital accessories such as cigarettes and  matches. They also were sometimes used in trench-art projects.

Oh, the shiny lump to the right of the tin is a real (deactivated) French rifle grenade. George would take offense if I were to sell it. That would not be a good thing.

PRICE: $10.95

 

 

 
 

French WW1 Sucre Granulé

Early in the war the sugar ration was a small paper sack or parcel of sugar cubes, but after 1915 the ration looked like this. It was contained in the same sort of packaging as the soup and contained granulated sugar (white or brown) or sometimes hard lump rock candy. The labels, again like the soup, identified the contents as part of the war ministry issued reserve ration.

I'm told that the device behind the sugar is one of two different kinds of canteen that the poilus routinely carried. One (not pictured) was for water. This one was allegedly for a libation of a more intoxicating nature... This is also from George's collection and must go back. Still, it's an interesting concept.

PRICE: $3.95

 

 
 
 

French WW1 Era Matchboxes

Patriotic packaging was popular during this war, as in most wars. We currently have five different examples. The matches come in a period-like box, and the matches are waterproof, which can be handy when the trench is ankle deep in mud and it's still raining. These items were made available free to engineers (why were they so special?) and the regular grunts were able to purchase them along with tobacco, which was peddled behind the lines by troop vendors.

As for our relics, you've already seen the burner above with potage. However the mess kit on the left is a personal kit, this one painted an olive drab (about the color of our masthead), now pitted and rusted from decades spent amongst the detritus of the battlefield.

We're selling two boxes of matches for one price. I'll grab two out of the box, but I will check to make sure they aren't identical. These are waterproof wooden safety matches, the same kind I carry in my fanny pack when I'm elk hunting, and they will light when you need them. Compact, easily carried, and very handy at times.

PRICE: $4.95

 

 

 

 

French WW1Rifle Grenade

Nope, we're not selling these. In fact this is the first and only example of this particular piece of weaponry that I've ever seen. So I thought, as a little bonus to those of you who have labored through this section, I would take a little close-up of it and share. George hasn't explained the mechanics of it to me yet, but it has the look and heft of a dangerous projectile. It's about the size of my fist.

 
 
 

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