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German World War I Rations



German WW1 Knackebrot ration

At last! an alternative to Hartkeks. Knackebrot is a nutritious and healthy rye cracker, perfect for slices of sausage liberated from the local village. Fresh from the store.




German WW1 Hartzwieback ration

One more option for a meal in the field. Twice baked bread is tasty, chewy, and a favorite with the troops. A perfect base for making a sandwich from canned rations. Fresh from the store.



PRICE: $4.95          




"Home Front" Gift Coffee


One pack of “Ersatz” coffee in the Prinzessin Auguste Victoria (Kaiser Wilhelm’s Wife) “morale” box. These small packs of coffee (sufficient brew-up coffee to make about ½ a mess-tin full) were provided to soldiers under the morale improvement program of Princess Auguste Victoria, trying to imitate the British “Princess Mary Christmas Gift”. This gift from home of Ersatz coffee (“cut” with Chicory…) was a hit, and similar packages made their way to troops intermittently throughout the war. Of course the package contains exactly what it did 90 years ago, so if you want to experience trench coffee with a German flair, open the outer box, and sprinkle the contents of the inner cello pack over a ½ mess tin of boiling water to brew up some history.

PRICE: $3.95


German trenches, WW 1


German Hussars in trench, WW 1

                                   Brewing Coffee in the trenches of WW 1

This information comes from Rudi, a new friend who is a German presently living in France.

Rudi’s granddad, Alfons, fought for Germany in WW1 and survived, and in the 1950’s he shared his memories with Rudi.
Old Alfons described the appalling conditions in the trenches of WW1. Food, getting fed and feeding his men was a major issue for Alfons, who was a Hauptmann. Getting the food was one thing, preparing it another.  And if "rations" theoretically existed, they were rarely issued as such. Adolf Hitler himself won a medal as a food carrier / message carrier on foot, dragging insulated containers of prepared meals to the men in the front lines. The food was usually cold when or if it ever got there. And food carriers were a prime target for French snipers.

Coffee was a much prized commodity. One day Alfons told Rudi how they brewed coffee in the trenches, in 20 easy steps: (This comes directly from Alfons’s diary.)

1. Send request to higher echelon, stating that the company did not have any coffee for 3 weeks.
2. Get answer, stating that coffee will be included in next main food distribution.
3. Get four 10-litre insulated canisters of brewed coffee, 2 weeks later, cold and stale, since canisters were on a cart that got hit by an artillery shell underway and were only retrieved after two weeks and then brought to the front line.
4. Try to stay polite while requesting 5 Kg of DRY coffee and send request.
5. Get big, new, wax-sealed tin can containing 25 Kg of freshly roasted coffee.
6. Open can and find whole beans.
7. Say something that cannot be printed.
8. Tell men who are off-duty to find one or two coffee grinders.
9. Ignore demeaning remarks from men who have been 5 weeks in the same wet mudhole called a "trench" and not replaced by fresh troops because totally cut off and cannot go anywhere.
10. Briefly think of possibilties of using a machine gun to grind coffee. Decide it would not be a very good idea although there is plenty of ammunition.
11. Sigh.
12. Notice that single French / Senegalese black P.O.W. (who is also stuck in the same hole) is laughing his head off since he noticed that the German Army is not capable of grinding coffee.
13. Ignore Senegalese stupid remarks about village women doing a better job in Senegal and without a coffee grinder.
14. Suppress urge to shoot P.O.W. and put pistol back into holster.
15. Ask P.O.W. how Senegalese women would do it.
16. Get four men to "get and clean that large piece of 380 mm artillery shell fragment that is lying somewhere over there".
17. Tell two men to clear their rifles and carefully clean the butts.
18. Pour 5 Kg of coffee beans in mortar-like shell fragment and tell the men with the clean rifle butts to use the rifles as pestles and grind the coffee, African-housewife style.
19. Have ground coffee distributed to all men of unit who have not died laughing and tell them to do with it whatever they like, avoiding remarks about sunshine.
20. Toss cup at Lt. Muller and tell him to brew coffee.

Chicory was also very much in demand since, in Germany, the harsh taste of coffee like the French, Italians and Spaniards like it, was not appreciated at all and some chicory smoothens the taste of coffee very much.  100% chicory you could call Ersatzkaffee, but up to 25% chicory would rather have been usual. In 1919 there was still around 1,000 tons of green, unroasted, coffee available in traders' warehouses in Germany and Austria.



Cigar Box

As with all wars, tobacco was a necessary item for many of the troops. We can find no record of cigars or cigarettes being provided by the military as a ration or morale item, but we have found evidence of these boxes, and the cigarette boxes below, being found in uniform pockets or stowed safely in field gear, often the mess kit.

Add the ultimate touch of realism to your kit, stow your stogies in one of these inexpensive and authentic looking boxes. Each box will hold four cigars (cigars not provided with the box) and if your smokes happen to be too long, trim off the end to make them fit. In addition, we include four Heer & Flotte cigar bands in the package. Then dazzle your unit with this unique and realistic accessory.



PRICE:  $2.95






Cigarette Box

As with all wars, tobacco was a necessary item for many of the troops. We can find no record of cigars or cigarettes being provided by the military as a ration or morale item, but we have found evidence of these boxes, and the cigar boxes above, being found in uniform pockets or stowed safely in field gear, often the mess kit.

Add the ultimate touch of realism to your kit, stow your smokes in one of these inexpensive and authentic looking boxes. Each box will hold a package of standard filter cigarettes. Fill the box with your favorite brand and then dazzle your unit with this unique and realistic accessory.



PRICE:  $2.95






Fleisch Extract


One pack of Meat extract (30 gram). The packet contains three bouillon type soup base cubes (ham or beef) packed in a drab outer wrapper and labeled with the wartime "Maggi" Brand label. Dissolve one cube in two cups of boiling water to make a satisfying broth.


PRICE: $2.95


Hartkek Ration

One 125 gram packet of Hartkeks. These are the standard round hard biscuits you see the Kaiser's soldiers eating quite un-enthusiastically in various pictures of the period. Each pack holds 5 each 25 gram biscuits, which require good teeth and patience to eat. However when crumbled up and soaked in some boiling chicken broth, they make a great addition to the soup.

They are sealed inside a cello bag, and have an outer wrap bearing the label for the "Kronprinz Bäckerei" bakery in Wilhelmsthal, Silesia, which produced ration bread for the German Army until 1945 when it was totally destroyed by the red army. The shape of the packet allows two of these and one meat tin to fit snugly inside the drawstring rations bag issued to all German troops. These were Germany's standard long-term storage biscuits from the late 1870's until the end of WW1.

PRICE: $4.95


Rinder Fleischkonserve


One 300 gram tin of Rinder Fleischkonserve (Meat ration, “Beef”). A German Army classic from 1870 until today! This is similar to Roast Beef in Gravy, and actually makes for a decent meal when combined with some potatoes “pinched” from a French farmer. This can bears a period style label and stacks with the Hartkeks above.

PRICE: $6.95



Ginger Candy


One pack of Chinese ginger candy. The German Army has had a love affair with ginger candy since the Boxer Rebellion, and these rather exotic and spicy sweets were available virtually everywhere. The box is of the colorful "Kern" Brand design, which was one of the more popular brands, as its qualities were rumored by the Kaiser's troops to hide liquor breath! Since the contents are not by the original maker (but of identical nature otherwise), it is impossible to put this bit of Soldaten wisdom to the test today. (Still, if anyone does conduct such a test, we'd love to hear the results!)

PRICE: $3.95


German Uhlans, WW 1

                                                            Scrounging for Rations on Horseback

Here is some more information from our friend Rudi, who has found more of his grandfather Alfons' war diaries.

We were talking about coffee and I had dug out a part of my grandfather's diary. Now, I have been doing some attic speleology and got the two others. I am trying to read them which is not too easy since it is all written by hand in "Suetterlin Schrift" which is an old-style German handwriting and one must be really used to it. I learned to write in it in 1953 or so, but then all schools were converted to ordinary Latin script.  So it is a bit slow in deciphering.

Alfons was a person who was always in good spirits, very kind, smoked a pipe, liked a drink and a good laugh. He was also very amusing in his speech, often using the most incongruous of comparisons and always seeing the lighter side of things. A happy man. Well, that is how I knew him.

He had been a professional soldier, in the Uhlans. A Uhlan is a mounted lancer and in the first weeks of the first world war, these indeed saw some action as such. Soon after, they fought alongside the infantry as "dismounted cavalry".

So what has this to do with rations ?  Not much, of course, but Alfons mentions one anecdote in his diary about food.

One of the staples of German food, in general, is "Speck"  (bacon). In the army, it was of course used fresh but, if to be distributed as to last for more than a day, an unofficial part of a ration may have been something like 3/4 of a kilo of salted and cured Speck. Possibly also smoked. This was to be consumed cold, with bread or boiled potatoes. One could also boil it into pea soup or whatever. An alternative would have been the same weight of sausage, for instance.

Since German cured and / or smoked bacon is very tasty, this was a highly prized commodity. A good lump of it, wrapped in waxed paper, could last quite a while.

In those early days of the war, when the "Uhlanen" still had their horses and lances, Alfons's unit had been "versorgt", (supplied) with food for a week (but NO Speck) and they rode to whatever place they were told to.  Underway, they came by another location where other troops were being supplied with ammunition and food before going to the front. One of Alfons's men spotted whole sides of cured bacon being unloaded from a cart.

Uhlans were an elite unit, highly trained, extremely capable riders, of whom legend has it that they could pierce the eye of an enemy with their 3 meter long lance, in full gallop. On purpose.

"Ich bellte ein Befehl" (I barked an order), he writes, and one lancer rode towards the men who were unloading the bacon and, with his lance, plucked one side of bacon off the shoulder of one of the butchers and rode on. Alfons did not mention the swearwords, which I imagine must have been most colorful.

Alfons, later, had a lot of explaining to do.

Something else: on your site, I read something about "Erbswurst", pea sausage.  If Erbswurst is still sold today, it is quite different of what it used to be. Now it is just powdered peas with some smoked bacon in it. Very good to make pea soup. It has indefinite shelf life if kept dry. Vacuum-pack it and it will keep even longer.
But the original was also meant to be consumed cold, i.e. eaten as a sausage. This means it contained much more salt and quite a quantity of lard. It also seems to have been much bigger and soft. Not rock hard like what we find now.






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