It was originally issued to British and Commonwealth soldiers for the D-Day landings nearly 80 years ago. Now what is believed to be the only surviving complete assault ration pack in the world has been discovered in the collection of an English museum.
Originally found in 2006, the sealed ration pack was mistakenly identified as an artefact from the 1950s. But in June this year, the Keep Military Museum in Dorchester announced that it was in fact an extremely rare assault ration pack from the war.
Packaged in waxed cardboard boxes to keep them water- and gas-proof, the rations were designed to sustain troops for 24 hours while supply chains were established. Their small size allowed them to be carried in a mess tin while still providing a soldier with the 4,000 calories needed a day.
The pack contained ten biscuits, two oatmeal blocks, one meat block, as well as a variety of confectionery, including slabs of chocolate, boiled sweets, and chewing gum. There were also four pieces of latrine paper.
The box was re-examined recently for a military exhibition, with the Keep Museum’s director instantly recognising its true origins.
Remarkably, X-rays of the pack show all the original contents still inside. The museum has said that it is grateful to Fishbourne Roman Palace for its assistance in conducting the scans, which have helped shed more light on the fascinating object.
News of the discovery coincided with the announcement that a rare clicker used by soldiers during D-Day had also been discovered.
The find was made at a World War II dig at Aldbourne in Wiltshire, where American troops, members of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne – often known as the ‘Band of Brothers’ – trained for the 1944 invasion of France.
The devices were used by paratroopers who had been dropped behind enemy lines. They would be clicked by those dropped to let others know they were on the same side.
Although a small number have been found in recent years, this clicker is the first to have been discovered made of repurposed metal, which is thought to have come from a nearby Cadbury factory.
The device was found a few feet from where two sets of dog tags belonging to members of the Band of Brothers were also discovered.