What do soldiers eat in war?

Soldiers are extremely imaginative when it comes to improving their food on the battlefield.Normally, the army delivers the food to its soldiers through the usual supply channels, but there are also alternatives:

Combat rations or MREs (Meal Ready to Eat) are extremely practical, but also boring.They’re fine if you’re on foot and every kilogram you have to carry counts. Nevertheless, I have always preferred to take canned food with me instead of the rations. Rations become dehydrated (and therefore lighter), but you either need to add water or drink a lot. In the end, it’s a zero-sum game. Cans are also easier to heat; you just open the can, put it in a fire and wait. MREs, on the other hand, do not even warm up properly with this stupid heat bag (also referred to as the “flameless heating device”) which is supplied with them.

Goulash cannon. Before the age of combat rations, each battalion had its own mobile kitchen, and food was brought to the front by “food carriers.”Sometimes, when the units in the field were too far away, the military provided only the raw and uncooked food and left it to the soldiers to prepare their own meals. Most modern armed forces still have such kitchen units, but they are very rarely used in combat zones. It is much easier to supply everyone with rations.

Better than combat rations: Improvised cooking on the front (in Kosovo)

Supply channels can collapse and soldiers often become too bored.

Then it’s time to look for alternatives:

Cook yourself! Especially during my time in Kosovo, I often cooked at the front.There were empty houses everywhere and it was easy to find noodles or eggs to make a soup. One day I was cooking spaghetti for my team when an enemy sniper saw the smoke of the kitchen fire and started shooting at us. Luckily, he wasn’t the best shooter and the first shots went over my head. Then it became more accurate and I had to give up my cooking. I was more angry that I had to eat cold than to take care of the shots.

Let someone else cook for you!During a major offensive in Bosnia, my train had to stay in a small village for a few days.There were civilians there and we hired an old woman who cooked for us. We took the issue of food very seriously and every night this old lady sat down at our table and we discussed the menu for the next day, just as a restaurant manager would do.

There are also many ways to buy groceries:

Buy from the locals!In most modern conflicts, the battlefield is not complete without civilization.There are people who sell food and sometimes even small shops where you can find something delicious. If not, you can knock on the door of a farm and ask them to sell you something.

Animals. In Kosovo and Bosnia, many farmers let their cattle and other livestock out of the stables before leaving their homes to escape the fighting.So there were a large number of animals that you just had to catch, kill and cook. We called it “Operation K”: I would leave our base early in the morning and go looking for a cow or goat with one or two friends.

Once, a buddy of mine accidentally walked right in front of a hostile position to capture a cow.Surprisingly, he was not shot. Perhaps the enemy was too stunned when they saw him, or they were amused by him. Whatever the reason, we came to our food and were satisfied.

Fishing. In Bosnia, we fished with hand grenades just a few meters from the front.We had to be careful not to be shot by snipers, but we caught more fish than we could eat. In Kosovo, I have only tried once to catch fish with explosives. We didn’t have any hand grenades anymore and so I used a block of TNT, which I ignited with a car battery. This was a very cumbersome operation and in the end I caught only one small fish, but had to listen to many questions because of “all the noise”.

From the English of: Roland Bartetzko’s answer to What do soldiers eat on the battlefield?

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