Jun 15, 2013

rationing of clothing during the Second World War

Rationing regulations for food and clothing were gazetted on 14 May 1942. Rationing was introduced to manage shortages and control civilian consumption. It aimed to curb inflation, reduce total consumer spending, and limit impending shortages of essential goods. The broad reasoning behind the introduction of rationing was to ensure the equitable distribution of food and clothing. It was also hoped that a cut on consumer spending would lead to an increase in savings, which in turn could be invested in war loans.

Australians were never as short of food nor rationed as heavily as civilians in the United Kingdom. Rationing was enforced by the use of coupons and was limited to clothing, tea, sugar, butter, and meat. From time to time, eggs and milk were also rationed under a system of priority for vulnerable groups during periods of shortage.

Rationing was administered by the Rationing Commission. The basis for policing food rationing was through the surrender of coupons before rationed goods could be supplied. This had to occur between traders as well as consumers. Coupons were passed back from consumers to retailers, from retailers to wholesalers, and in many cases from wholesalers to producers, who were requested to return them to the commission.

Breaches of rationing regulations were punishable under the general provisions of National Security Regulations by fines of to £100 or up to six-months imprisonment. Responding to the complaint that these penalties were inadequate, the government passed the Black Marketing Act at the end of 1942. This Act was for more serious cases and could carry a minimum penalty of £1,000.

Ration card for clothing, consisting of a single peach-coloured card with coupons to be cut off. Originally 24 coupons would have been included; three remain. The card is printed '1945-6 issue'. The card was issued to GALBRAITH of Clifton Hill.

Pink-coloured card, printed in black with coupons to be cut off from the left side. Three coupons remain from the original 24 supplied.

most of the above information came from the AWM (Australian War Memorial) website with grateful thanks.

The Clothing Ration Card was in my mothers possession but I have no knowledge of who Galbraith (of Clifton Hill) is.




  1. This is fascinating! I knew about the rationing but had no idea how it worked. I DO know that when Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth got engaged, many people sent her coupons for her wedding dress! I've also heard that when Don Bradman & the Aussie cricket team went to England just after the war, they made mention of 'short rations' and how difficult it was to play well on the limited food they had. I hope it never comes to that again.

  2. Thank you for the explanation of how rationing worked. My mother-in-law explained about clothes rationing to me in the context of her wedding dress which was shared among a number of friends

  3. I have the make do and mend book (a reprint I'm guessing) and it's great. There is so much to be learned. It's hard to apply the same rules from them to current clothing though as "they just don't make it like they used to". I mean, why would they when it's so mcuh cheaper to make"wear it once and chuck it clothes as people buy them. I have several pairs of kids jeans needing patches on the knees, a few small holes to mend and hubby asked me to mend his favourite socks last week. I hate the mending but LOVE the frugality of it. And as much as I hope we never have another world war nor the rationing associated with it, there is something to be said for rationing when you need to watch what you have and waste nothing.
    By the way, have youever seent he tv series "Wartime Farm"? It's about a farm run by 3 historians who spend 12 months living as people would have lived and with the same amenities etc as during the war. They speed up the 6 years of the war to fit into 12 months but they experience food shortages, clothing shortages, secret groups and taking in the London evacuees. It's a fascinating series.