Posted in Kafevend Blog
Morale is an incredibly important aspect of war, and there are few better ways to raise said morale than by enjoying a good bar of chocolate. Queen Victoria certainly seemed to think so, resulting in her sending chocolate abroad to British troops fighting in the Boer? War as a Christmas present. Over the years, various countries' military leaders have decided that chocolate ought to form part of the standard ration pack issued to their troops. Some have received better fare than others- let's spare a thought for the Americans in World War Two.
The first chocolate bars issued to American troops were the D ration bars initially designed and tested in 1937. The Hershey company was approached by quartermaster Paul Logan to make these bars, and were given a handful of guidelines to meet. Two of them stick out in particular: to be able to withstand high temperatures and for them to taste little better than boiled potatoes. As opposed to a morale boost, these bars were intended as emergency items to give troops a boost of energy, and so it was deemed necessary that they should not taste too good for fear of the troops eating the bars before an emergency had the chance to present itself.
This guideline worked too well however, and the bar was pretty much universally reviled in the field. In order to resist higher temperatures, the bars were incredibly thick and hard to break; those with bad teeth had to give it a miss, and even those in good dental health would resort to shaving pieces off with a knife to eat. The taste was bitter, and referred to as “Hitler's Secret Weapon” due to its effect on digestion. Troops resorted to throwing the bars away, or craftily trading them with allies or civilians in return for more favourable foodstuffs. The allies and civilians caught on to the fact they were being duped and stopped accepting them.
British troops in recent times have been able to enjoy the more palatable Yorkie bar, albeit in an altered form to the one we are familiar with. The bar is flatter and is divided into more segments. It also bears the phrase “It's not for civvies!” which perhaps is a little less insulting and makes a little more sense than the original phrase, given that some of the first consumers of chocolate, or cacao, were Mesoamerican warriors utilising it as a fortified drink.
The Swiss army seems to do rather well on the chocolate ration front, which really isn't that surprising given the class of chocolate that comes from Switzerland ( think of Lindt and Sprüngli for example). The chocolate bars Swiss troops receive are packaged in a red wrapper with the white Swiss cross emblazoned upon it, next to a little text reminding them that it's a ration and not just a tasty snack.