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World War Two: Rationing and Shortages other than for food


Coal rationing in and after 1940s wartime Britain

heap of coal

One of several heaps of coal of different types in a coal yard

The shortages and austerity of the Second World War caused coal to be rationed, even though Britain was a coal producing country.

The severity of coal rationing in 1940s UK

It is difficult for anyone who was not alive at the time to understand how significant coal rationing was, as almost all domestic heating was from coal fires, hot water was from coal fired boilers or coppers and many people were still cooking on coal fired kitchen ranges. Industry, too, was powered by coal.

The size of the coal ration in the UK in World War Two

The coal ration was set at two and a half tons per household per year, that is fifty hundredweight.

A reaction to coal rationing from a typical elderly lady

Guest contribution

My grandmother complained bitterly about the coal ration. She had always had two hundredweight a fortnight. She needed two hundredweight (100kg) a fortnight. Although she only had a fire in winter, she had always had two hundredweight of coal delivered every fortnight throughout the year for budgeting purposes. Couldn't they see - she argued - that that came to fifty-two hundredweight a year? Fifty hundredweight was no good to her. What would she do for the odd fortnight? She kept this up, and eventually 'they' relented, and she continued to have her two hundredweight a fortnight.

Richard Cole

There is a whole group of pages on coal purchase and delivery in the early-mid 20th Century on the shops menu.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.

Text and images are copyright

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