Before we get to our list of wartime sweets, lets have a bit of a background. Sweet and chocolate rationing started on 26 July 1942, only finishing 5 February 1953, nearly eight years later. The amount of sugar and therefore sweets which you were allowed fluctuated during the war, ranging from 16oz a month down to 8oz (227g) a month.
Despite the decision to ration the sales of sugar in January 1940, as late as the summer Cadbury’s were still able to advertise that their teatime biscuits were available in ‘all Woolworth stores’.
As raw materials were in short supply, chocolate manufactures were forced to substitute products and improvise ingredients. For instance, Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars as withdrawn in 1941 when the government banned manufacturers from using fresh milk. There were of course other chocolate bars available, but it was more difficult to manufacture them.
Symingtons Table Cremes (Blancmanges using artificial sweeteners) were rushed to the shelves and sold for sixpence under a ‘just add water’ banner, a forerunner of the instant drinks we have today.
What sweets were available during the war?
Amongst the popular sweets, you could get in your local sweet shop were lemon sherbets, barley sugar twists, liquorice, pear drops and cola cubes and other traditional sweets.
So here’s brief run through to remind ourselves of coupon confectionary.
List of wartime sweets & chocolate bars
Ration Chocolate, made with dried skimmed milk powder. It seems it was issued in semi-transparent grease-proof wrappers, and was described as about as appetizing as eating cardboard.
Dolly Mixture, multi-coloured fondant shapes, such as cubes and cylinders. The mixture consists of small soft sweets and sugar-coated jellies
Barley Sugar Twists: often yellow or orange in colour with sometimes an extract of barley added as flavouring. It is similar to hard caramel candy in its texture and taste.
Black Jacks, a type of aniseed flavour chew
Sherbet Dabs – which was dipped into by a dried liquorice root stick and liquorice itself. Liquorice (referred to as Spanish in the West Yorkshire Riding of Yorkshire, where liquorice is traditionally produced in the UK) was available on ration as were other products such as “liquorice allsorts”.
Lemon Sherbets – a yellow boiled, lemon flavour tablet with a surprise of sherbet in the middle
Pear Drops – a combination of half pink and half yellow in a pear-shaped drop.
And finally, an America GI might have given his British sweetheart a “D ration bar”, was a blend of chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, skim milk powder and oat flour, made by Hershey. It was an essential part of the emergency rations issued to US troops as part of the D day invasion of the beaches of Normandy. It weighed four ounces (112 grams) with 600 calories, was designed to be high in energy for mobile field operations and was manufactured to withstand high temperatures.
Not surprisingly, it was reported to not taste very good. Perhaps there were other ways to win her heart?
The American’s also issued a Hershey’s Tropical Bar designed to withstand the high heat of the Tropics for soldiers fighting in the Far East. But don’t confuse it with a modern day Bounty bar!
As you can see the list of wartime sweets is actually quite short. Judging by today’s standards, not having that many sweets was probably a good thing.
But in the times when even the day to day living was difficult and very stressful, it must have been hard to have sugar treats rationed, especially for the children.
Until next time (and hopefully with a bit more cheerful topic)