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DateOriginal Topic
22nd July 2003What the soldiers ate?
By Andrew
Does anyone know what the British soldiers ate in the Zulu war, because I have no idea?
22nd July 2003David Colbourne
22nd July 2003David Colbourne
Horsemeat and axle grease, what else?

ps, not sure what happened to my original message!
22nd July 2003Peter Ewart

There is plenty of material describing what the soldiers ate during the campaign.

Most authorities mention the bully beef, the mealies (corn) & army biscuits (which had uses other than for making barricades!) Wood's column baked their own bread daily when they could. Oxen were slaughtered for fresh meat but it wasn't always fresh when eaten & veg was very occasionally available. At the Eshowe siege things eventually got a bit rough when supplies were down.

Published letters (as in Emery's "The Red Soldier") describe the food and the harsh living conditions brought about by living rough in the same gear for months on end in the bush or in cramped & very unsanitary conditions at Rorke's Drift, Helpmekaar & Eshowe after the Jan disaster, leading to many deaths from disease.

Water borne diseases weren't fully understood (or were often ignored) & there is a well known water-colour by Lt Lloyd, 24th, captioned "our best drinking water" depicting an AZW soldier carrying pales filled from a spruit containing dead oxen. Twenty years later the same happened all over again in S Africa, when supervision of water supplies was poor and Tommy ended up quaffing contaminated water for his last drink on this earth.

For a good account of conditions generally during the campaign, including food supplies, see Brian Best, "Campaign Life in the British Army During the Zulu War" (AZWHS Journal No 2, Dec 1997) or Ian Knight's "Go to Your God Like a Soldier" (Greenhill, 1996) for another good general account of army food during that period.

23rd July 2003Keith Smith
Hi Andrew

You might like to read an extract from Local General Orders, released in Natal in December, 1878, just prior to the First Invasion:

" The Australian and American preserved meat issued to troops having been already cooked, must on no account be heated for any length of time when being prepared for use. The vegetables should be prepared separately, and the meat added only sufficient time before serving to warm it through.
The following receipts, the ingredients of which are proportional for messes of 22 men each, if carefully prepared, afford a variety of dishes in palatable form:
MEAT PIE. Ingredients, 16 lb. of meat, 5lb. suet, 1lb. of onions, 2 oz. Of slat, 2 oz. Of pepper. Mode, Make the paste, cut up and stew the onions with any jelly from the meat added, cut the meat in dice, place it in a baking dish, add the cooked onions, season with pepper and salt, cover with a light crust, and bake in a quick oven for 20 minutes."

In the following April, a warning appeared:

" 3. The following paragraph of Local General Order 149 of 1878, is republished for general information: Item 9 Fresh meat should always be issued if possible.
With reference to the above order, officers commanding Sections and Columns are directed never to permit the issue of preserved meat, unless absolutely necessary, as it is intended to be kept as a reserve, to be used only when fresh meat cannot be issued."

Keith Smith

23rd July 2003Martin Heyes

At risk of being a tad flippant, might I suggest soup which was prepared by a chef (????) with quite an impressive moustache, who was none-too-impressed with not only having to use it to douse the cooking fires but also at having to pick up a rifle!!

But judging from the expression on his face when he tasted it - I don' think he was missing too much.

Oh, and if your name was Hook, (my malingering Hector - eeerr, Hook's the name, Sir), you had to make do with flies in your meat...and other unmentionables

Martin Heyes
23rd July 2003John F. Sukey
If Pte. Hook was a malingerer, how did he get promoted?
23rd July 2003Miguel
In reference to the canned meat never to be heated, as mentioned by Keith, that reminds me of Rodhesian Selous Scouts being taught that rotten flesh could be cooked and safely eaten only once, becoming a poison if cooked again due to some chemical reaction.

I wonder if this has anything to do with it.

Keith, any info on this?

Canary Islands
24th July 2003Martin Heyes

For the umpteenth time.........Hook was not a malingerer; a drunkard; a coward or anything else Endfield portrayed him to be. He was of Gloucestershire yeoman stock; lower middle class and no-one seems to know quite why he joined the Army.

But he was NOT the man as portrayed by Booth.

24th July 2003Trevor
Perhaps he joined the Army to escape all the lies being told about him!!!!!
24th July 2003Daniel

24th July 2003Daniel
Dont know what happened to my post?!?

I was talking about what the officers ate
25th July 2003gary
the makers of the film portrayal of hook was in truth was as far removed from the reality of the man as they could get!
he was a deeply religious man who abstained from drinking alcohol
like martin said the real mystery is why he joined the army in the first place.