On the question of Rationing in the UK, both during the war and post war.
One of the hardest things to understand for those who are not British, is that in Britain what you see is not necessarily what is going on. So while Charles the Third is the head of state, he has very little actual power, but does have significant power none the less. And so it was with rationing in the UK during the war, you really do have to look at what wasn’t rationed, and why to get the full picture. Britain had during WWII an extensive system of rationing, not only of food but clothing, fuels and domestic goods. But in this post I am only going to look at food rationing during WWII and in the post war period. And while there will be some differences between events ITTL and those of OTL, the similarities will outweigh any small differences. The reason for the introduction of rationing were simple, since the late Georgian period the British isles had not produced all the food stuffs it required, and had relied on increasing imports of feed the nation. This meant that when the Germans started to impose a blockade on Britain, the government given its WWI experience decided to introduce an ever increasing system of rationing.
The stated aim of which was to ensure the fair distribution of food and goods to the population, while at the same time reducing imports to only those essential and freeing up shipping for essential war supplies. And the measures taken were extensive, with bans on the importation of some fresh food stuffs, tropical fruits and citrus, hot climates fruits, you want pineapple, you can get it as long as it’s dried or canned. Beef which had normally been bought in chilled and hanging as a half carcass, now had to be frozen, dried or canned. So let us look at the system of food rationing in Britain during the war. Food was divided into four groups, unrationed, rationed by points, by value and a fixed amount. Unrationed food in Britain fell into different groups, fresh fruit and vegetables were only rationed by availability, and other than for root vegetables this meant seasonal, while dried and canned were domestically produced only. Fresh fish didn’t have any restrictions, other than price and the availability of transport, the extensive pre war fish trains that had run at high speeds to move fresh fish around the country were stopped, and there were strict rules about the distances that fresh fish could travel. Domestic preserved fish salted, smoked, pickled and canned were freely available, but imported preserved fish such as canned salmon, tuna and sardines were subjected to the points system.
So let us look at meat rationing, which at first glance appears to be simply, each individual was allowed to spend a fixed amount on meat each week and was free to choose what meat they bought, subject to availability. However the first caveat is one third of the purchase had to be preserved, which at the time principally meant tinned corned beef and spam, with occasional American tinned sausage meat. However what is meant by meat, well for the ration this was, beef, veal, mutton, lamb and pork, however ham and bacon were dealt with separately and a part of your fixed ration. And this is were the what wasn’t rationed comes into play, offal, poultry, wildfowl and game were all of ration, so if you could afford them and they were available you could have as much as you liked. If you had the money, contacts and the taste, you could supplement your meat diet with a mixture of chicken, partridge, rabbit, hare, venison, duck, goose, and various offals, such a kidney, liver, heart and the more plebeian trip. There was also horse meat, principally sold as pet meat for cats and dogs, but for the less picky or principled a nice substitute for beef. The same was also true of eggs, hens eggs and dried eggs were strictly rationed during the war, with only a fixed number available to civilians each month. However there was no restriction on the following, quail, duck, goose or seagull eggs, which if you could get hold off them, you could purchase as many of them as you want.
There are in addition more examples of similar work arounds available to those in the know, or with more catholic tastes. Just as few for example include cheese, tea, milk and others, all of which could be avoided if you knew how. The principle effect of this was on the middle class, who lacked the contacts, resources or tastes, plus their general high regard of the law, and their desire to avoid gaining a police record. If you were a member of the Northern Working Class, you would be used to eating tripe, and might not have the objections to eating some forms of offal that others had. For the members of the aristocracy and the upper classes, game and waterfowl were a common thing, along with some of the more unusual forms of cheese and milk. Our late Queen whose mother and father, the King and Queen during the war, and who made a very public statement of following the rationing regulations. Remembers that her wartime diet included a lot of rabbit and venison, which came from the Windsor estate. American visitors to the Royal Household noted that the food they were served was very poor, and there was a distinct lack of alcohol on offer. Note I seriously doubt that the King who was a known very heavy smoker, ever restricted his consumption of cigarettes to that imposed on his subjects.
Britain was very lucky that at no time did it have to impose rationing on ether potatoes or bread during the war. While the flower that was used in the production of bread was very different from that pre war or now. But it was only for a short time post war that as a result of external factors that led to bread being rationed for a short time. The difference between rationing in Britain and Germany was significant, both nations were subject to blockade, and both countries relied on imported food to make up their rations. However Britain imported its food from nations that didn’t have to impose restrictions on their own people, while Germany tended to strip other nations of their food supply, with no regard to the feeding of the locals. Britain while it did introduce a number of foods that the British hadn’t previously been accustomed to, the prime examples being spam and powdered eggs. Germany however had to invent a number of substitutes foods, to try to make up for lack of imports caused by the blockade, and they had started this pre war. The most famous of these was the wartime ersatz coffee that contained no coffee, were as in Britain tea while rationed was the real thing. Note coffee other than the infamous camp coffee essence, was never rationed in Britain, and SOE frequently sent packets of coffee beans into occupied territories to be used as bribes.
With the end of the war, not only did the American president Truman order ships at sea carrying essential supplies to Britain to turn around and sail back to the US. The Americans demanded that as from now the British made full payment on all goods imported from the United States. There was the additional problem of supplying food to the recently liberated territories and the British sector of conquered Germany. This was the primary reason why the British had to introduce bread rationing post war, along with the shortage of shipping. Once Labour had gotten into power, you had an ideological problem, there were many among the left of the Labour Party, who wanted to retain rationing, as a way to improve the health of the nation, and ensure what they saw as a fair distribution of food. There were as there is today those of the extreme left and right, who like the idea of imposing their values on the rest of society. And this along with the problems of paying for the imports, while building a new Jerusalem in Britain, made the continuation of rationing, very much an ideological idea in the post war Labour Party. Unfortunately for them these ideas didn’t sit well with the majority of the population, especially women who were sick and tired of trying to juggle the various ration books, with the demands of the family and their lives. And so eventually rationing was abolished, however the process by which it was done, meant that this was a disaster. Had Britain from 1946, slowly increased the ration in stages as more food became available, and at the same time reduced the various regulations on food production, the results would have in my opinion been far better.