French rations in Indochina & Algeria

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donaldjcheek
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French rations in Indochina & Algeria

Post by donaldjcheek » Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:59 pm

There's not a whole lot of information (in English) about the rations used by French forces in the de-colonization campaigns after WW2. Maybe one of our French members can help out.

The first postwar ration was the CEFEO* ration, intended for use in Indochina. It featured a lot of American & British war surplus and was not well received by French troops. There were six different varieties: European, North African, African, Vietnamese, T'ai and PIM (Prisoner of War).

*Corps Expéditionnaire Français Extrême Orient

As far as I can determine, it was a single cardboard box with a package of instant cereal, a can of meat, an envelope of soup powder, some hard biscuits, instant coffee and sugar OR premixed coffee-milk-sugar, chewing gum, toilet paper, some chocolate, fuel tablets, and matches. Included "as available" were things such as:

-caramels (US surplus)
-cigarettes (could be French, US or British)
-cocoa or lemonade beverage powders (US & British)
-tea (British)
-hard candy ("boiled sweets"), usually British, or mints (US)
-milk chocolate tablets (US Necco wafers, but came from Canada)
-Chivers disks (thin disks of pressed, dehydrated jam - British)

For Europeans, supposedly there were 8 menus:
No.1 Boeuf Bouilli (Corned Beef - from Brit/Can/Australian rations)
No.2 Pain de Viande (cans of US/British/Canadian processed pork or chicken)
No.3 Pâté de foie ou fromage (canned pâté <France>, or cheese <Australia>)
no.4 Poisson (canned fish-US/British tuna or British sardines)
No.5 Jambon (canned ham — British from 24-hour ration)
No.6 Poulet (canned chicken in a box — US 10-in-1 ration)
No.7 Riz et légumes (compressed dry rice <US> & dehydrated beans <Brit>)
No.8 Ragoût ou potage (cannned ready-to-eat dishes - stews/soups etc)

Over time, French products began to replace war-surplus Allied items. The ration was used from 1946 through 1952.

One item often mentioned in veteran accounts was Vinogel. Nicknamed "Tiger Blood," this was a concentrated red wine reduced to one-third volume, with the alcohol content titrated to preserve its alcohol level. It was gelled, like a hard packed jelly (about the consistency of a can of Sterno) and you were supposed to mix one part Vinogel with two parts water to get your wine. Troops in the field - especially Legionnaires - disdained such niceties and mixed it one-to-one (or less) or ate it straight from the can. It was said to "give a wonderful drunk." Production of Vinogel was discontinued sometime around 1960.

After the withdrawal from Indochina, France found herself fighting in the most brutal of the decolonization wars. The war in Algeria (not officially declared a war until 1999) was brutal and bloody. Although the supply situation had improved somewhat, the rations were still nothing to write home about.

The six types of rations used in Indochina had been reduced to two, Type E (European) and Type M (Muslim). However, although Muslims were always issued Type M rations, European troops were given whatever kind was available.

The Type E contained: can of beef, small can of cheese or pate, can of sardines, envelope of instant soup, hard biscuits, a couple of packages of lemon crystals or orangeade powder, instant coffee, sugar packets, bar of chocolate, small bottle of eau-de-vie, pack of cigarettes, fuel tablets, matches and several sheets of toilet paper.

Type M (Muslim) lacked the brandy & toilet paper, and substituted tuna for canned beef.

Late in the war a group ration was fielded, with precooked cans of things such as soups, cassoulet, stews or other items. Although heavier, troops preferred it as it provided more variety and better food.
"I think," said Christopher Robin, "that we ought to eat all our Provisions now, so that we shan't have so much to carry."

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Stef
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Re: French rations in Indochina & Algeria

Post by Stef » Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:58 pm

Hi,
the rations we had in the early 80's were similar to the Algeria War ones. The differences: they were called "T" (Temperate climate) or "C", "Chaud" (Hot climate), hard biscuits were issued separately, we had some gums and Vinifruit or Pomfruit fruit jelly packs. The Muslims (sorry "the soldiers from Hot climates countries" :roll: ) had the beef as well but they had some sardines or tuna instead of the pâté and a tea bag instead of the brandy. You can imagine that we were disapointed when we got some C instead of T packs :D
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Re: French rations in Indochina & Algeria

Post by Treesuit » Wed Jun 19, 2013 1:18 am

Donald,

I remember reading Bernard Fall's 1966 novel "Hell in a very small place" about the very early phases of the first Indochina War and some of the logistical problems the French faced getting supplies to units in the mountains and hard to reach places. Although the French had their own rations, in the book there were passages that WWII US C-rations made their way into the French supplies lines and some references about some French units getting what sounded like early versions of rations designed for Muslim troops, (or as we know it today Hallal).

The book went further to mention that by the time Dien Bein Phu was in full swing that the units there were increasingly reliant on air drops and in some cases being reduced to one meal a day (usually cold rations).

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Stef
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Re: French rations in Indochina & Algeria

Post by Stef » Wed Jun 19, 2013 4:44 am

Hi,
I remember I've heard a story about the French Muslim soldiers saying the US ration were Hallal because of the crescent mark on the cases.

In Indochina, the French army was equipped with everything they could get and it sometimes looked like they’ve looted a surplus store :roll:
In 1964 my father was being issued with a US M1 bowl (old D-Day style!) instead of the French M51 that was the only reglementary helmet since the 50's.
In 1984 when we faced a very cold weather in the French Ardennes, they opened old, old boxes and gave us some US and GB warm clothes bearing some "1944" stamps 8)
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Re: French rations in Indochina & Algeria

Post by housil » Wed Jun 19, 2013 9:12 am

Stef wrote: I remember I've heard a story about the French Muslim soldiers saying the US ration were Hallal because of the crescent mark on the cases.
So no virgins for him?! :mrgreen:

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Re: French rations in Indochina & Algeria

Post by Stef » Wed Jun 19, 2013 9:56 am

no, only the goats as usual... :wink:
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Re: French rations in Indochina & Algeria

Post by housil » Wed Jun 19, 2013 10:35 am

Stef wrote:no, only the goats as usual... :wink:
Image Image

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Yowie
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Re: French rations in Indochina & Algeria

Post by Yowie » Wed Jun 19, 2013 8:32 pm

I recently read somewhere that the passage about the virgins may be a mistranslation. apparentley the preceding text is all about food, and the translation could mean rasins. :shock:

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Re: French rations in Indochina & Algeria

Post by Ruleryak » Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:01 am

From a literary perspective I find the mistranslation issue fascinating for all modern religions with ancient anchor texts. It's not at all impossible that a modern translator made mistakes or misinterpretations - not to mention the translations throughout the years for The Old Testament, The Torah, The Qur'an, The Bhagavad Gita, etc. I'm not sure if it's the same article, but I read this one a few years back and still had it saved with a bunch of other theological ponderings:

Virgins? What Virgins?

Just a thought on Donald's original post - but why would the Muslim ration lack toilet paper?

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Stef
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Re: French rations in Indochina & Algeria

Post by Stef » Fri Jun 21, 2013 6:22 am

Hi,
It seems that in the Arab countries they use water rather than paper on "that part" of their anatomy. The 1st time I was invited in an Arab family and had to ... well you see, I was very embarassed, I was looking everywhere for the paper before I saw a small hose with a shower head near the "throne" and I understood its use. :oops:
In the C rats we had paper as in the T packs, the Europeans guys have certainly complained about the lack of that unvaluable item in their rations :D
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