Sweet Rationing 1942
On the 26th July 1942, sweets were added to the growing list of foods on the ration. A 2oz weekly restriction applied to all chocolate and sugar confectionary including chewing gum.
Sweet rationing had an impact on many of our interviewees, most of whom were children during the war. Many have told us about their favourite sweets, explaining that they often opted for caramels, toffees, and boiled sweets as they lasted longer. Harriet Smyth (BBP16) told us that she enjoyed ‘billiard balls, all different colours of billiard balls, and you got about eight for a ha’penny… and then you went to the Grosvenor Hall to the pictures.’
Northern Ireland’s proximity to neutral Ireland meant that a trip ‘down south’ presented an opportunity to smuggle some sweets home. Richard Clarke (BBP2) remembered that sweet rationing meant that ‘you couldn’t get all the sweets we had been used to having… but in Northern Ireland we were always cushioned because food came up from Dublin, particularly sweets, and I had an aunt, my mother’s sister, who worked in Dublin and she would come up to us during holidays and always bring what she could… luxury food, particularly sweets and interesting cakes and so on.’
On the same day, the Belfast Telegraph also announced that a fresh shipment of oranges would be arriving in Northern Ireland. This shipment was to be reserved for five days for children, schools, hospitals, and invalids. Oranges were even more scarce than sweets, with many children growing up during the war never seeing an orange until years after. One such child was Alec Murray (BBP21) who states that ‘we never saw bananas or oranges, I remember the first time after the war I saw an orange, everybody was running up to Quinn’s on the Shankill Road to get the oranges, but you were only allowed one’. Yet, the American presence in Northern Ireland from 1942 meant that more unusual foodstuffs became available with generous Yanks giving away American candy, coca cola and oranges. Renee McAllister (US2) was evacuated to Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh from Belfast, she recalls ‘one day we were coming out of school and along came this patrol of Americans and one of the kids shouted ‘It’s the Yanks! It’s the Yanks!”… there were about ten or twelve Jeeps, they called them Jeeps I think and when they saw us, they started throwing out oranges and the kids were scrambling all over. Of course there was no traffic in those days, but the kids were scrambling all over the roads, fighting for these oranges for we hadn’t seen an orange for two or three years… when we came down the road our pockets and bags were bulging. We had oranges for weeks and weeks to come…that was our tea nearly every night, an orange, and a bit of home-baked bread.’
Although the war ended in 1945, rationing continued for years afterwards with sweet rationing lasting until 1953. Allan Kilgore (BBP28) recalls that this meant ‘there was quite a black market at school for confectionary… a large number of sweet coupons for a bar of confectionary which then you got at a discounted price so the entrepreneur who was doing the selling could use your sweet coupons to buy more and he would make homemade versions of things like wagon wheels and Mars bars’.
Do you or a loved one have memories of wartime sweet rationing? If you would like to share your story, please get in touch with our Oral History Coordinator at email@example.com or on 07588 634847.