The very heavy shipping losses sustained by the Allies meant that rationing soon became normality for the duration of the war and beyond. All sorts of essential and non-essential foods were rationed, as well as clothing, furniture and petrol.
Rationing was introduced at the beginning of 1940. On National Registration Day on 29 September 1939, every householder had to fill in a form giving details of the people who lived in their house. Rationing was introduced to make sure that everyone had a fair share of items that were hard to get hold of.
Millions of ration books were printed and people had to obtain these in order to buy food, clothing and motor fuel (for persons with authorised vehicle use).
Everyone had to register with a butcher, grocer and milkman. Coupons were handed in for items in addition to money payments and this system enabled strict control of food consumption and the use of other items.
Clothes rationing began on June 1, 1941, two years after food rationing started. Clothes rationing ended on 15 March 1949. They were rationed because there was a shortage of materials to make the clothes. People were also urged to ‘Make do and Mend’ so that clothing factories and workers could be used to make items, such as parachutes and uniforms, needed in the battle against Germany.
Everyone was given a Clothing Book with coloured coupons. Every item of clothing was given a value in coupons. To buy clothes people handed over their clothing book to the shop keeper who cut out one of the coupons. Then they handed over the money to the shop keeper to pay for their clothes. The coupon system allowed people to buy one completely new set of clothes once a year.