Revised Victualling of the crews of HM ships

Introduction of General Messing

Report on Naval Victualling and Canteens

LG 1907 09 13
And whereas the crews of Your Majesty's Ships are at present victualled according to the scale of dietary laid down in Appendix X of the regulations for the government of Your Majesty's Naval Service, and are allowed the option of receiving, in lieu of provisions not taken up in kind, a money payment according to the scale of prices for savings laid down in Appendix XI of those regulations;

And whereas we are of opinion that the comfort and well-being of Your Majesty's Navy will be promoted by a revision of these arrangements;

We beg leave humbly to recommend that Your Majesty may be graciously pleased by Your Order in Council to sanction the introduction of the following arrangements for the victualling of the crews of Your Majesty's ships, in lieu of the system now in force, as from the first October, one thousand nine hundred and seven, or in the case of any of Your Majesty's ships serving on distant stations, from such later date as we may deem advisable :-

(1.) All persons borne on the books of Your Majesty's ships to be victualled according to the scales of dietary contained in the first schedule attached hereto, and to receive the messing allowance mentioned therein.

(2.) Officers, Commissioned Warrant Officers, or Warrant Officers of Your Majesty's Navy, or Royal Marines borne on ships' books, and domestics, to receive at our discretion in lieu of the victuals and messing allowance mentioned in the said schedule, an inclusive messing allowance at the rate of tenpence per diem ; subject to a deduction at the rate of halfpenny per diem in the case of any Commissioned Warrant Officer or Warrant Officer of Your Majesty's Navy or Royal Marines, or domestic, who elects to receive the ration of spirit in kind.

Whereas, also, we are of opinion that it is desirable to make improved provision for the supply of soft bread in Your Majesty's ships when at sea;

We would further beg leave to recommend that, when the exigencies of the Service render it necessary for bread to be baked by the cooks in the ship's galley, extra pay shall be allowed to the cooking staff for undertaking breadmaking in addition to their ordinary duties, according to the scale set forth in the second schedule attached hereto.

The Lords Commissioners of Your Majesty's Treasury have signified their concurrence in these proposals.


Daily Standard Ration in His Majesty's Navy Service Afloat :

1 lb. bread (or lb. bread and lb. flour).
lb. fresh meat.
1 lb. fresh vegetables.
1/8 pt. spirit.
4 ozs. sugar.
oz. tea (or 1 oz. coffee for every oz. tea),
oz. ordinary or soluble chocolate (or 1 oz. coffee).
oz. condensed milk.
1 oz. jam or marmalade.
4 ozs. preserved meat on one day of the week in harbour, or on two days at sea.

Mustard, pepper, vinegar, and salt as required.

Substitute for Soft Bread when. the latter is not available :-

lb. biscuit or 1 lb. flour.

Substitutes for-the Fresh Meat and Fresh Vegetable Rations when these are not available:-


Salt Pork Day :

On alternate days lb. salt pork.  
  lb. split peas.  
  Celery seed oz. to every 3 lbs. split peas put into the coppers.  
  lb. potatoes.  

Preserved Meat Day:

  6 ozs. preserved meat,  
  8 ozs. flour,

or 4 ozs. rice.

  oz. refined suet,
  2 ozs. raisins,
  lb. potatoes.  

Substitutes for Potatoes when the latter are not available :

  1 oz. preserved vegetables,  
  or 2 ozs. haricot beans.  
  or, 2 ozs. marrowfat peas.  

Shore Establishments and Stationary Depot Ships.

The same ration as for service afloat, except :-

(1.) pt. fresh milk may be issued in lieu of 4 oz. condensed milk.

(2.) The weekly ration of preserved meat is not to be issued.

Boys in sea-going Training Ships, Boy Artificers, and Service Boys messing in separate messes are to receive the daily standard ration for the Service afloat, with the following modifications:

(a.) An additional lb. of fresh meat daily, or when fresh meat is not available, lb. salt pork or 3 ozs. preserved meat.

(b.) oz. instead of oz. of tea.

(c.) An additional ration of oz. coffee for issue at breakfast.


(1.) In addition to the foregoing scale of dietary a messing allowance at the rate of 4d. per diem is to be paid, except to supernumeraries and other persons entitled to two-thirds victualling who are to receive the standard ration, but not the messing allowance.

(2.) Grog money is to be paid, in addition to the above messing allowance, under the same regulations as at present.

(3.) Messes are to be allowed (subject to such regulations as may from time to time be laid down), the option of taking up no rations of meat on one day in the week and of receiving, in lieu of the same, an additional money allowance at the rate of 2d. per ration.

(4.) In time of war, or under other arduous conditions, the dinner rations of fresh, salt, and preserved meat may, under the authority of the Commander-in-Chief, or senior officer present, be increased as follows:

Fresh meat to lb.
Salt pork to lb.
Preserved meat to 9 ozs.

should this step be deemed desirable.


Scale of Extra Pay to Cooking Staff for making Bread and baking it in the Ship's Galley, in addition to their ordinary duties:-

Rating When the quantity produced is not less than
25 per cent. of the Full Allowance for the Ship's Company. 50 per cent. of the Full Allowance for the Ship's Company. 76 per cent of the Full Allowance for the Ship's Company.
Chief Cook or Ship's Cook 6d. per diem 9d. per diem 1s. per diem
Other Cook ratings 4d. per diem 6d. per diem 8d. per diem

The following report on the above subsequently appeared in the Times of 21 Feb 1910.

Naval Victualling and Canteens.

When the new system of naval victualling and canteen administration came into force on October 1, 1907, there was much shaking of heads and many prophecies of failure ; for a system that had been in force since 1797 was swept away in favour of a new and quite untried system. From the very beginning however, it was evident that, so far as the general body of the men were concerned, the new conditions were popular. Figures are now published, showing what benefits have accrued to the men during the past two years ; these figures are so remarkable that one would not put them forward unless they would stand the test of the closest scrutiny.

During the last year of the old system (1906-7) the total amount spent by the men at the canteens was approximately 1,500,000. As the total number of lower-deck ratings for that year, not counting Marines on shore, Coastguard, or boys under training, was roughly 100,000, this meant an expenditure of about 25s. a man per month. To meet this they drew 700,000 in "savings" (money paid in lieu of rations not taken up), so that there was a balance of 800,000 to make up from their own pockets = 13s. 4d. a man per month. Here are four typical mess accounts taken from the ships named for April, 1906 :-

Ships No. of men in mess Canteen Bill Savings To make up
    s d s d s d
Prince George 13 16 18 19 5 6 10 11 2 0
Formidable 18 22 17 11 9 16 9 13 1 11
Glory 14 18 12 9 7 4 6 11 3 3
Duncan 12 14 5 7 6 10 8 7 17 11

Thus these men had to face an average out-of pocket expenditure of 15s. 3d. per man.

The new arrangements placed the canteens under official control, with a "Commander for Canteen Duties" as supervisor in chief, and provided a fixed standard ration for the men, value at 6d., with a cash messing allowance of 4d. a man per day, except on Sundays, when they could have the full value of the ration (less grog) credited to them 9d. or 7d. This arrangement was to prevent waste during weekend leave and also to give the men facilities for providing a special Sunday dinner. The introduction of this system caused a complete revolution in lower-deck messing. Under the old conditions it was exceptional for a mess to be able to balance its accounts unless the men paid in from their private purse. To put money into the mess suddenly became the exception ; to share money out after all bills had been paid, the rule. Figures show that during the first six months under the new system the proportion of messes who had money paid out to them, even in seagoing ships, was 70 per cent. to 80 per cent. In other words, whereas under the old system the men paid out 800,000 a year they were now pocketing money at the rate of 200,000 a year ; a turnover in their favour of one million sterling, equal to a rise of pay of 7d. a day per man.

Naturally the turnover of the canteens dropped during this period. The figures show that a battleship turnover was then barely 6,000, whereas before October 1, 1907, it was from 9,000 to 10,000 a year. At the end of six months canteen business began to revive, and a battleships turnover now stands at about 7,500 a year, and other ships in proportion. This expenditure is that of the lower deck only, as officers do not deal at the canteens.

It has to be borne in mind that before October 1, 1907, a large proportion of the canteen business was in bread, flour, potatoes, tea, sugar, and milk. The whole of the mesa requirements in respect of these articles is now covered by the standard ration and the system of "Issue on Repayment," the expenditure under which heading amounts to 1d. a day per man. It seemed a natural sequence of events, when the new system came in, that the messes should go on living as they had been accustomed to live, with the result that they nearly all had money in hand and that the canteen business should drop off ; and that the messes should then gradually find that they could afford to live better and the result should be that their expenditure increased and the canteen business should revive. It follows that the mess expenditure now must be for articles which may be fairy termed luxuries instead of the necessities mentioned above, and a scrutiny of mess expenditure shows that this is the case. This points to a satisfactory Improvement in the standard of living generally.

When the new system was introduced the choice of a canteen tenant was left to commanding officers. Two years' experience showed that this was not a satisfactory method: The duty of selecting a suitable tenant devolved upon a commanding officer at a time when he could ill spare the time to go closely into the questions of prices find eligibility ; so on October 1, 1909, the commanding officers were relieved of this task and all canteen tenants are now appointed direct by the Admiralty. The question of alteration of priced was also dealt with by circular letter dated December 2, 1909; and in various other ways the Admiralty have exercised a close control over these establishments.

As regards the position as It existed in November, 1909, the first month of the third year of the new system, the proportion of messes who have money paid out to them at the end of the month may be dealt with thus :-

(a) In ships serving on foreign stations the proportion was 20 per cent. (The number varied from 30 messes out of 56 in a big ship in the Mediterranean to none out of 27 in a ship with a service canteen on the North American. station).

(b) In ships In full commission in Home Fleet the proportion was 22 per cent. (The number here varied from 13 out of !0 In a big cruiser with an English tenant to one out of 52 in one with a Maltese tenant)

(c) In ships with nucleus crews the proportion was just over 50 per cent. (Very little variation in these ships.)

(d) In shore establishments and stationary ships the proportion was 85 per cent.

Thus, taking the average for the whole service, 44 per cent. of the messes are now sharing out money at the end of each month.

Canteen turnovers may be dealt with under three headings :-

(a) Seagoing Ships. in Full Commission.- The turnover works out here at 7d. a day per man = 4s. 1d. a week. This Includes cash and private bill expenditure, which from the figures under analysis amount to nearly 40 per cent. of the whole. This cash and private bill expenditure however, is not all for food stuffs, a large proportion going in such things as cigarettes, towels, drawers, socks, &c. The total average mess expenditure at the canteens - i.e., for food stuffs only - works out at 2s. 6d. per man a week, to which must be added 1d. a day, or 7d. a week, the average value of Government provisions taken up on repayment. This gives a total average expenditure of 3d. 1d. a man per week. Against this the mess receives per man six days' messing allowance at 4d. a day = 2s., and on Sunday either 9d. or 7d., say on an average 2s. 8d. a man per week. This points to an average contribution of 5d. a week, or 1s. 8d. a month. Or if private bills are included, 8s. a man per month.

(b) Ships with Nucleus Crews.-The turnover here works out at 5d. per man a day. which gives an average weekly expenditure of 2s. 4d. a head ; the weekly receipts in these ships being 2s. 9d. a head, leaving 1s. 8d. a man per month to share out.

(c) Depots, Stationary Ships, &c.- The average expenditure here would be difficult to calculate owing to the constantly fluctuating numbers, but its 85 per cent. of the messes are now sharing out money each month, the average expenditure must be very low.

It will be seen that the new system has conferred substantial benefits on the lower deck. It is not pretended that the system is by any means perfect, or that individual cases of hardship are unknown. These can be dealt with as they arise, so that the system may be gradually attuned to the requirements of the various sections.

Moreover, there is the matter of rentals. Under the old conditions these were very erratic. To-day every ship receives a rental according to her class and the number of men she carries. From this source alone the lower deck enjoys an annual income of about 30.000, which it uses for sports, &c., according to the tastes of the various ships' companies. The results to date, may be said to work out as equivalent to a general rise of pay of 3d. per man a day, equal to 450,000 a year, not including the 30 000 rentals and the generally improved standard of living.

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