Eggstra rations

These German soldiers, perhaps from a field workshop unit, fry up some eggs to be enjoyed on slices of bread. Adding whatever you can get hold on to your allotted rations could give you those extra calories to make it through the day, a truth as old as soldiering. Hidden behind the word “foraging”, it usually meant grabbing whatever you could from suffering peasants, and meant severe problems in wars like the Thirty Years War, where armies were like swarms of locusts. A consequence of an insufficient supply chain, it would be wrong to accuse the individual soldiers of doing whatever they could to survive, though. The guys in the photo don’t look particularily starving, and perhaps they bought the eggs from a farmer for a pack of cigarettes. Barter was a common way of getting extra rations without upsetting civilians, and in occupied zones both sides benefited from a flourishing black market. Now pass me the salt and pepper, please.


Roadside dinner

Chow time somewhere on the Eastern Front, possibly 1942 or thereabouts. It’s in the summer, as evident by the mosquito nets worn by some of the soldiers. The food transport has arrived, and some soup or stew is ladled into the soldiers’ M31 mess tins. The food is kept in 25-liter Essenträger (food carriers) seen in the right center of the photo. Those are like big thermos bottles made from aluminium, keeping the food warm long enough to be transported from the company’s field kitchen to the platoons. Clean water and/or ersatz coffee is in the large aluminium jars, and there are probably some loaves of dark rye bread from the field bakery. All of it has been transported on Infanteriekarren (infantry carts, official designation: Infanteriefahrzeug If.8), which can be pulled by two soldiers, a horse or two, a motorcycle, or a small tractor like a Kettenkrad. It was introduced after the campaigns of 1941, where the need for a light transport cart became evident.

The heavy Essenträger containers were usually carried to the platoons on the backs of soldiers, carrying straps fitted to ring mounts. It could be very dangerous, as the food transport detail might become exposed to enemy fire. Knowing what a blow to morale and stamina a missed meal could mean, the enemy made a point of targeting soldiers carrying food. If the threat level was too high, the meals were delivered under the cover of darkness. If the food made it to the front, it might still be somewhat lacking. German soldiers joked about “Horst Wessel soup”, meaning that any meat “marschier’n im Geist“/”marches along in spirit” (that is, not being there physically), making fun of one of the lines in the (in)famous song “Horst Wessel Lied“. You know the food is bad when people make irreverent references to a song which was practically the second anthem of the Third Reich…


A nice view of a “Gulaschkanone”, a field kitchen which was a WW1 design and the most common source of hot food for the WW2 German soldier. This groβe Feldküche Hf. 11 was pulled by a team of two horses. The nickname derived from “goulash”, the Hungarian stew that was common army food, and “cannon”, as the field kitchen looked like a field gun and its limber. It had a 200 liter cauldron and a 90 liter coffee boiler. The front half of the field kitchen held ingredients.

In the field, a German soldier was supposed to receive the following food as his daily Feldration. This was of course subject to the season and the supply situation.

Cold food:
– 750 grams of bread
– 150 grams of fat (divided into butter, lard, margarine as bread spread about 60 – 80 g,       animal or vegetable fat for the preparation of the warm food about 70 – 90 g)
– 120 grams of sausage (fresh or in cans) or fish preserves or cheese
– up to 200 grams of jam or artificial honey
– 7 cigarettes or 2 cigars

Hot food:
– 1000 grams of potatoes, which could be partially replaced by
+ 250 g fresh vegetables or
+ 150 g vegetable preserves
+ 125 g pasta, rice, grains, etc.
– up to 250 grams of fresh meat
– 15 grams of ingredients (salt, spices, etc.)
– 8 grams of bean coffee and 10 g of coffee substitute (or equivalent tea)

Eggs, fruit, chocolate, etc. depending on availability.

If there wasn’t any chance of food from the field kitchen, the soldiers could break out their “iron rations”, which consisted of hard bisquits or bread, canned food, and coffee substitute.