Emergency Rations Part 1 – Vietnam Era Australian Emergency Flying Ration

20161109_121701The Australian equivalent of the UKs Mk9 Emergency Flying Ration of the same era, the Australian Emergency Flying Ration was issued to aircrews and was designed to fit in a special pouch on the US SRU-21/P aircrew survival vest which was heavily used by RAAF and Australian army aircrew such as forward observation pilots.

The kit came packed in a heavy duty aluminium box with a friction-fit lid. The box itself was big enough to use as an impromptu billycan or mess tin and the lid could be used for frying or for rapidly boiling small amounts of water for wound irrigation or similar. The kit came packed with two wire handles which allowed the box to be suspended over a fire.

The emergency flying ration contained very little in the way of survival equipment apart from two books of matches. It was purely a food pack. The survival vest contained dedicated survival and medical kits in other pockets.

The emergency flying ration contained the following – ready to eat snacks, brew kit, biscuits and cheese, a cereal block, stock cubes and a beef block. Everything was vac-sealed in heavy duty mylar and foil pouches.

Snacks in the Australian Vietnam-era Emergency Flying Ration.

The snacks were some 16 fruit candies, three chocolate rations and 12 butterscotch lollies. The chocolate appears to gave been three standard Australian CRP (Combat Ration Pack) chocolate ration blocks packed together.

Emergency Flying Ration chocolate alongside a vintage Australian ration pack chocolate ration.
Brew kit plus beef stock cubes and salt.

The brew kit was very basic, consisting of 3 x coffee sachets, 9 x sugar cubes and 3 x milk powder sachets. I am surprised that there is no tea included. It could be that this ration is incomplete.

The salt had a medical function as well as its use as seasoning. In a tropical environment, salt and other electrolytes need to be replenished. In many cases, it was added to a water bottle. Similarly, the beef stock cubes could be used individually as a hot soup, or they could be dissolved in a water bottle for easy consumption while escaping and evading in hostile territory.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner… such as it was.

The Emergency Flying Ration contained three main meals, which could probably be spun out to last two or three meals each, easily enough. Breakfast was a cereal block. This was a block of compressed ground oats and rice fortified with the addition of wheat germ. It could be munched on dry, but it was always better crushed up and mixed with a bit of hot water to make porridge. The lunch component was half-sized survival biscuits (a form of wholemeal hardtack) eaten dry or with canned cheese. The dinner component was a compressed dehydrated beef block. This isn’t as you would expect. It was actually closer to pemmican than anything else. It could be nibbled on raw, boiled up to make a stew, or it could be moistened with water and fried as a sort of rissole, using the lid from the box as a frypan.

Two books of matches.

The emergency flying ration came with two books of water resistant matches emblazoned with the Australian army’s insignia of the day. These matches still strike today, more than forty years after they were manufactured.

The Emergency Flying Ration closed up.

The emergency flying ration box was heavy duty aluminium painted green. The box was sealed with fibreglass-reinforced cloth tape. The only markings which appeared on the box anywhere were “Emergency Flying Ration”.

Wire handles allow the box to be used as a billy for cooking in or for sterilising local water.

I have a similar emergency ration pack which I keep in the car. It uses an original Emergency Flying Ration aluminium box as the container, but is made up of modern MRE and CR1M (Aussie 24 hour ration pack) components. I think they are great format, Obviously for normal use, an emergency ration is not entirely necessary – remember, you can survive for weeks without food – but it is a morale booster and if you have been travelling or working hard without food, hunger can compromise your judgement and decision-making if you’re not used to it. This makes it worth carrying some sort of emergency ration with you while travelling or bushwalking, even if it’s just an extra freeze dried meal or a packet of two-minute noodles.

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