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Summary: A military training film dramatising the importance of the messing committee, demonstration of various types of cooking equipment, how to gauge the men's appetites, hints on the prevention of waste and the disposal of surplus food to the greatest economical advantage. These films are instructionally self-contained and can be shown separately.
Description: (Reel 1) The New CO: Library shots of soldiers marching, recruits training, bayoneting and target practice to introduce the premise that an army marches on its stomach. Cut to army mess and two soldiers, Ramsbottom (a Scot) and Brooks (a cockney) complaining about the state of the food and the effect it has on their digestion. A new CO (Ralph Richardson - RR) has started at the unit; he and the messing officer decide to review the state of the mess. RR realises that nothing is organised when he attends the messing committee meeting and remonstrates that good food is important to fight on. He emphasises that the messing committee should be democratic ie representative of the unit; that the private soldier knows what men really want. Beginning with the proper storage of vegetables, dried goods and bread, the administration is overhauled. (Reel 2) Meat storage and handling both at the barracks and in the field is examined. Prevention of fly infestation and correct temperatures for storage are discussed. How to butcher a joint, what parts are best used for different types of cooking to avoid waste. Diversity in the diet as much as possible is discussed - a result of the new democratically formed messing committee. Stock-taking to alleviate stealing is introduced (tins of Lyles Golden syrup in shot). The new menu is shown to be varied and the CO enters the messing hut to see happy men eating, specifically Jock Ramsbottom and his porridge. (Reel 3) Part 2: Come to the Cookhouse: greens and the importance of a varied , balanced diet reiterated. However the type of food cooked can be restricted by conditions . At HQ the kitchen is modern and well equipped eg. fish fryer, hotplates, oven, Banbury for cooking puddings, wet steaming oven, steamer vats, baker's oven, bread cutter, meat slicer, dishwasher, potato peeling machine and scales all contribute to the varied diet the men receive. Cleanliness in staff appearance and of the kitchen is paramount - a cigarette in the stew confirms this. (Reel 4) Hygiene inspection by the Sergeant-Cook of his staff to ensure clean clothes, hands and fingernails before preparation of food. "A" Company do not have the luxury of a fitted kitchen; they must make do with a triplex stove, sawyer stove and a fold away boiler for washing up. The Sawyer stove in use since the Crimean War and generally there are three per company. "B" Company are cut off, living under active service and have an Aldershot cooker. "C" Company have a petrol stove and have improvised in the field with a 50 gallon drum instead of a Sawyer cooker. They have also utilised the Haybox method (see SKC 58 - COOKERS IN THE FIELD). "D" Company are based in a barn and have no facilities at all. (Reel 5) The CO and messing officer head out to "D" Company to upgrade their minimalist cooking conditions. They discover access to electricity and hot water and the CO arranges for the provision of an electric cooker. (Reel 6) Part 3: Waste and Taste: RR tells the men that food is as important as ammunition and should not be wasted, if every cookhouse wasted two loaves of bread per day that would be equivalent to 20 shiploads of wheat per year (sophisticated use of super-imposition used). "Warning out" procedures are introduced to gauge the attendance at meals. To enable fresh hot food to all men and alleviate wastage two systems of serving are described - the queue system and the family system. The stores master explains that the swill is contracted to local farmers thereby going back into the land. The Sergeant-Cook demonstrates that food can also be recycled eg. potatoes for bubble and squeak and meat for rissoles and pasties. Raw and rendered fat can be resold under licence. (Reel 7) Detailed description of process of clarifying fat for resale including kidney fat. Bones are boiled for stock and soup then can be used to glue planes. Over a beer the officers discuss what happens to the money these by-products generate - it is the property of the battalion. Final scene in messing hut, Brooks won't give Ramsbottom any of his meal - the food's too good now that the catering detachment is organised. Throughout the film Brooks and Ramsbottom, a humorous double act, have appeared as a linking device commenting on the quality and the diversity of the food.
Production Details: Army Kinematograph Service (Production sponsor)
Verity Films (Production company)
British Army, Royal Army Ordnance Corps (Production company)
Richardson, Ralph19021983British actor. Lt-Commander, RNVR in Seond World War (Production cast)
Gregg, Hubert (Production cast)
Shiner, Ronald (Production cast)
Petrie, Hay (Production cast)
Personalities, Units and Organisations:
Physical Characteristics: Colour format: B&W
Sound format: Sound
Soundtrack language: English
Title language: English
Subtitle language: None
Technical Details: Format: 35mm
Number of items/reels/tapes: 7
Footage: 5925 ft; Running time: 66 mins
Notes: Technical: M/S on head of film: Ref I DENT F31 14c 454; no sound at beginning of Reel 2 for two minutes; no sound for final two minutes of Reel 2.