Emperor Haile Selassie in 1935 before the Ethiopian Mobilisation order against Mussolini’s Invading Italian forces.
“Everyone will be mobilised and all boys old enough to carry a spear will be sent to Addis Ababa . Married men will take their wives to carry food and cook. Those without wives will take any woman without a husband.”
The supply of rations is not a traditional Ordnance responsibility, however with the rationalisation of New Zealand Army Logistics in 1979, the RNZAOC assumed responsibility from the RNZASC for the Supply of Rations and Fuel. Part of these responsibility’s was the manufacture of Ration Packs, which was carried out by the Ration Pack Production Section (RPPS) in Trentham. In addition to the ration packs produced by the RPPS, the New Zealand Advanced Ordnance Depot (NZAOD) in Singapore assumed responsibility in 1979 for the production of the “Gruber Pack” a unique ration pack designed to supplement the standard ration packs in the tropical conditions of South East Asia. Never told before, this article provides the background on the “Gruber Pack”.
It it a necessity for rations to be provided to soldiers on the move or when situated away from their normal home base with the necessary to supply rations on the basis of :
- the individual,
- the small group (squad, section, platoon), and
- the large group (company size or larger).
Dramatic improvements have occurred over the last two hundred years that have seen the improvement of military field rations. led by the the invention of the can and then preservation techniques including drying and freeze-drying to the modern retort pouches that now the staple of modern Military Ration packs.
New Zealand traditionally followed the British lead when it came to military field rations with the British army issue ration biscuit the ‘Huntley & Palmers Army No 4’ and tinned bully beef the staple during the First World War. The Second World War would provide a boost in the technology of military field rations with the United Kingdom developing military field rations for use across the world and the United States in parallel developing 23 different military field rations and ration supplements.
New Zealand would take its first steps in developing a military field ration in 1958 when trials were conducted to develop;
- 24 hour, four man ration pack for armored units, and
- a 24 hour, one man for infantry units.
The results of these trial were the development of the following Ration packs
- One-Man 24 Hour Ration Pack (Canned) – (one man/one day) for use when individual feeding is necessary , e . g . patrols. Suitable for continuous use up to seven days . A combination of tinned and dry items designed for reheating although tinned food can be eaten hot or cold . There were are three different menus related to this ration pack
- One-Man 24 Hour Ration Pack (Lightweight) – An individual ration (one man/one day) for use when individual feeding is necessary , e . g . patrols. Suitable for continuous use up to seven days . As the items in this pack are dehydrated, it should not be used in areas where water is not available. Designed to provide three meals per ration pack .
- Ten Man Ration Pack – A composite ration of tinned foods. Designed for reheating in communal feeding in multiples of 10 .
By 1976 these ration packs had been in service for a number of years with little work carried out in developing them further. To supplement these rations packs, a habit had evolved where soldiers when deploying into the the field would take additional “Bits and Pieces” such as potatoes, onions, curry etc to supplement the meagre “ration pack”.
During 1976, Warrant Officer Class Two J.A Gruber, the Catering Warrant Officer, 1 RNZIR in Singapore took note and decided to design a New Zealand supplementary pack based on tropical needs to enhance the 24 Hour Ration Pack used by soldiers living in the field for weeks on end and the “Gruber Pack” was developed.
The origins of the Gruber Pack date back to the Vietnam era where the idea of a supplementary ration pack originated. In those days the United States Army provided a Combat Composite Pack monthly to each company. The Combat Composite Pack contained extra “goodies” such as cigarettes, gum, fruit juice, tins of fruit, etc today termed jack rats. The supplementary pack that WO2 Gruber designed was intended to supplement the existing 24-hour ration pack and was to be consumed on the ration of one Gruber to five 24-hour packs.
The actual components of the Gruber Pack would vary from time to time, but were a combination tinned and dry items and based on the daily nation allowance for Singapore which in 1986 was SDG $6.11.
Designed to be eaten by an individual over 24 hours, Gruber Packs needed half a litre of water to reconstitute the beverages, and had a nutritional value of 2433Kcals. Given the climate and components used, a Gruber Pack had a shelf life to two years.
Gruber Packs were assembled on an as required basis from locally purchased components by work parties from 1RNZIR, initially under the control of the NZ Supply Platoon, RNZASC until 1979 and then by the NZAOD until 1989.
The components would be carefully packed into plastic bags to keep them dry and safe, with individual packs packed, ten to a fiberboard carton.
Technical Data for the Gruber pack was;
- Gross weight 10.2 Kg per carton of ten.
- Individual pack measurement 40.6mm x 21.4mm x 33mm.
- Volume .028m3 or 1.14 cu ft.
- Chicken Curry/Beef curry/Mutton Curry 170gm. Tin: 1
- Pea/Mixed Vege 184gm Tin: 1
- Fruit Cocktail 248gm Tin: 1
- Cornflakes 60gm Pkt: 1
- Instant Noodles 85gm Pkt: 1
- Herring in Tomato sauce/Pork in Tin/Luncheon Meat 98gm Tin: 1
- Tea Bags Bags: 2
- Instant Coffee Sachet: 3
- Milo Sachet: 2
- Raisins 42gm Pkt: 1
- Chewing Gum Packet: 2
- Non-Dairy Creamer 3gm Pkt: 6
- Toilet Paper Sheets: 5
- Salt Sachet: 2
- Pepper Sachet: 2
- Sugar Sachet: 6
- Fruit Drink Container: 1
- Tomato Sauce Sachet: 2
- Chilli Sauce Sachet: 2
- Matches Packet: 1
- Kleenex Tissues Packet: 1
The Gruber Pack was unique to the New Zealand Forces in Singapore. Following the withdrawal of New Zealand Forces from Singapore in 1989, the Gruber Pack disappeared from the New Zealand Military ration menu. However, trials to upgrade the in service ration packs had been underway since 1986, and many of the lessons learnt from the Gruber pack were absorbed into the new ration packs that began to be manufactured by the RNZAOC from 1990.
Copyright © Robert McKie 2020