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The Full Iron Ration
By Jim Pool (Lt.Col., Ret.)


Special thanks to Jim Pool for providing the article below.  Mr. Pool is a well known collector, historian, & author with focus on the topic of WWII German rations items .  He has contributed several articles to this site & we are always excited when we receive a new one as they are always full of great information and images. If you enjoy reading this article, then we highly recommend you pick up his new book, Rations of the German Wehrmacht in World War II.  It is definitely a "must have" for those of us interested in things like this.
 

Introduction
Under normal conditions a tactical unit would carry 3 days of rations for the day to day feeding of the troops in the field. Additionally they were supplied with two types of Iron Rations for emergency use. The Half Iron Ration was issued to the soldier (see the Article on the Half Iron Ration). The Full Iron Ration was a back up supply for use when the rations for the day to day feeding of the troops were exhausted. It was stored with the field kitchen or on other support vehicles until required.

The Full Iron Ration consisted of the following components:

A.   Hard Crackers - The daily allowance was for 250 grams of hard crackers (Zwieback, Hartkeks or Knäckebrot).
B.    Preserved Meat - The daily allowance called for 200 grams of preserved meat (Fleischkonserve). If possible issue two portions (400 grams) or one large can (850 grams).
C. Vegetables - The daily allowance was 150 grams of preserved or dehydrated vegetables (Gemüse) or pea sausage (Erbswurst).
D. Coffee - The allowance called for 25 grams of artificial substitute coffee (Kaffe- ersatz) or 20 grams of Roasted coffee.
E. Salt - The daily allowance called for 25 grams of salt (Salz).

Once the normal rations were exhausted the unit Commander would have to analyze the tactical and logistic situation to determine how the troops would be fed and what portions to allocate. The major consideration would be “how long will it take before normal ration resupply occurs?” In the book Der Feldkochunteroffizier (The Field Cook NCO), the author states that when the regular food supply was exhausted; that the iron rations could be distributed. However they were not to be issued in accordance with the standard ration tables, but at a reduced rate. Instead of the standard 200 grams of canned meat, only 60 to 100 grams would be issued; 100 grams of Wehrmacht Suppenkonserven instead of 150 grams; and 10 grams of coffee (roasted) instead of 20 grams. The actual allocation would be based on the Commanders assessment of the overall tactical and logistic situation.

This picture shows the amount of food, minus the salt that a unit might have set aside for one soldier as part of the Full Iron Ration.

 

In the book "Rations of the German Wehrmacht in WWII" the picture shown above is somewhat misleading. The Full Iron Ration was not segregated and stored by individual soldier. The unit Commander would requisition the required rations based on the units ration strength. All of the ration items were of a non perishable nature which facilitated long term storage. The dehydrated vegetables and salt were probably issued in portions to the unit. The cooks would utilize the components of the Full Iron Ration to prepare meals for the troops. Certainly the Commander could issue the components of the ration by individual soldier. However certain items like the dehydrated vegetables, which had a prep time of 2-3 hours before cooking, were not soldier friendly.


Hard Crackers

The majority of the bread components of the Full Iron Ration are discussed in the Half Iron Ration article. One item not mentioned as a component of the Full Iron Ration was canned bread. We obtained our information on Iron Rations from H. DV. 86/1, dated 1940. We believe that canned bread didn't see large scale distribution until 1943/44, which explains why it wasn't considered. With its long shelf life and easily stored container it had to be a strong candidate for use as an Emergency Ration. From the evidence available, it appears that bread was packaged in Schwarzblechdosen WEHRM and Schwarzblechdosen Lötrand style cans. The only portion weight we could verify was approximately 800-850 grams. Based on the portion weight of 250 grams a single 850 gram can would have been issued for every 3+ soldiers.

 

A 850 gram Schwarzblechdosen Lötrand can of bread.

 

Preserved Meat
Unlike the Half Iron Ration, there were several portion weights of meat products the unit commander could decide to stock for the Full Iron Ration. H. DV. 86/1 allows the commander to stock a single 200 gram can per soldier, two (200 gram cans) or a single 850 gram can. The 850 gram can is recommended. Obviously the larger can would allow the unit to extend its feeding time or increase the individual portion size. The 200 gram can was discussed in the article on the Half Iron Ration. Instead of stocking two (200 gram cans), the 400 gram can was also available.

 
Three styles of meat cans which could have been stocked as part of the Full Iron Ration.
 
 
A standard 850 gram can. This one is coded “RS” for beef and pork.
 

Vegetables
As the vegetable component of the Full Iron Ration the unit could stock 150 grams of preserved or dehydrated vegetables or pea sausage, per soldier. Pea sausage is actually a soup and also goes by the name Wehrmacht Suppenkonserven or Erbsen-suppe. While the Pea flavored soup is the most prevalent other flavors are discussed in the U.S. Army ration report. Both the preserved/dehydrated vegetables and Pea soup were packaged in a number of different weights.
 

Three of these 500 gram packages would fulfill the requirement for 10 soldiers.

 
 

Two 500 gram packages of dehydrated vegetables. © Zeugmeister

 

 

One of these 600 gram packages of dehydrated cabbage would be stocked for 4 soldiers (the package on the right is a recreation).

 
 

210 of these 150 gram packages of Wehrmacht Suppenkonserven were held in the crate shown here.

 
 

A 300 gram package of Wehrmacht Suppenkonserven manufactured by FINO-WERKE.

 

Labels for 300 gram packages of Wehrmacht Suppenkonserven. The package contained two 150 gram portions. © Zeugmeister

 
 

A selection of Maggi dehydrated soups as shown in the U. S. Army Ration report.  It would take 15 of these 20 gram packages to fulfill the requirement for two soldiers.

 
 

Soups were also available in cans. Three of these 200 gram cans would fulfill the requirement for 4 soldiers.

 


Coffee

The Coffee allowance called for 25 grams of artificial substitute coffee (Kaffe- ersatz) or 20 grams of roast coffee. H.DV. 320/4 dated 1939 states that coffee products were packaged in individual portion sizes: Raw Coffee (25 grams in a bag), Roast Coffee (20 grams in a bag), and Roast Coffee (20 grams in a can). Unfortunately there are no pictures or detailed information about the packaging. Its unknown if the coffee was already packed when it was delivered or if the unit received empty packaging and packed the product. Coffee was produced in many different portion sizes and packaging. The unit Commander would take the ration strength of the unit multiplied by the portion size, to determine how much coffee to set aside as part of the Full Iron Ration.

Here are examples of an over wrap paper for 5 KG of pressed coffee (which would take care of the requirements for 200 soldiers), an image of pressed coffee over wrapped in paper, and an image of various pressed coffee packages wrapped in Cellophane.

 

 

This container held enough coffee for 200 soldiers (25 grams each).

 
 

Pressed coffee wrapped in cellophane. It contained four, 25 gram portions.

 
 

 

A small, drawn aluminum can containing 3.5 grams of coffee. The U.S. Army Ration report makes mention of a 100 gram can of Nescafe coffee. © Zeugmeister

 
 

Commercial packages of roast and Ersatz coffee.

 


Salt

The daily allowance called for 25 grams of salt (Salz). H.DV. 320/4 dated 1939 states that salt was packaged in an individual portion sizes of 15 grams (in a bag). Unfortunately there are no pictures or detailed information about the packaging. Its unknown if salt was already packed when it was delivered or if the unit received empty packaging and packed the product. Its assumed that the majority of salt was bulk shipped to the unit and had to be divided into individual portions if required.

A box of commercially packaged salt.

 


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