Leslie's Guiding History Site


Catering at Camp

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Guidance for quartermasters first appeared in the 1912 handbook.  Equipment lists and menu suggestions were basic.  For tent equipment: Bucket, lantern and candles, matches, mallet, tin basin, spade, axe, pick, hank of cord, flag, and pole-strap for hanging things on.  For kitchen: saucepan or stewpot, fry-pan, kettle, gridiron, pot hooks, matches, bucket, butcher's knife, ladle, cleaning rags, empty bottles for milk, bags for rusks, potatoes, etc.  The tents were either ex-army bell tents, or hired ridge tents.  For food, suggestions included 'rusks' - stale bread baked until hard, and tinned meat, beans, rice and porridge.  Suggested rations per Guide per day were 2 1/2 oz oatmeal, rice or macaroni, 1/2 lb potatoes or 1 1/2 lb onions, 1/2 lb biscuits or rusks, 1/2 lb peas or haricots, 2 oz sugar, 1/4 lb fruit; or 1 1/2 oz jam or syrup, 1/2 oz tea or cocoa, 1/2 lb meat; or fish; or 1 1/2 oz cheese.  2 pints milk, 1 oz butter.  Plus salt, pepper, currants, raisins, flour, suet, etc.  

Quartermasters were also in charge of general equipment, so there were also hints on how to make a frame of sticks to put over a fire in order to dry wet clothes.  Water might be drawn from a stream or pond, boiled if required.  Cooking hints included making meat into "kabobs", or wrapping it in either wet newspaper or clay before cooking it - or for poultry, heating a suitable stone on the fire until very hot then inserting it in the cavity so the bird cooks from the inside as well as being grilled on the outside on a spit over the fire.  A "billy" or camp kettle could be either stood on the fire logs or among the hot embers of the fire for hot water, or supported by a lashed tripod of green sticks.  Eggs, potatoes or buns could be cooked among the embers.  Cooking was done on a trench fire, made of sods or logs, channeling the heat of the fire down the channel of the trench to make best advantage of the heat generated.  Recipes were given for Hunter's Stew, Bread-Bannocks, Pancakes, Dumplings, Beef Pudding, Bacon and Beans, and Rabbit Bish-Bash (made from a freshly caught rabbit, once skinned and cleaned out).   Hence a lot of the cooking was based on either buying produce from the farmer or catching it for yourself, along with a certain amount of goods from the grocer and greengrocer.  

In 1921 Guiding published 'Notes on Camping' which advised:


1) Trench Fire and Oven.  Dig a pit 2 ft. square and 2 ft. deep.  From this dig a trench 1.ft. 6 in. deep, sloping up to 6 in., the width of a spade.  Length according to the number of dixies required on at once.  Put bars on the side of the trench to keep up the sods, and build up round the chimney 1 ft. high.  The chimney should be from 2 ft. to 3 ft. high.  A large tin may be built in at the chimney end to use as an oven; in which case try and get the flames on three sides of the oven and on top.  

It is advisable to line the trench with flat stones, as this prevents the sides from burning away, and also makes the fire much hotter.

In case of wet weather always roof in your trench fire as follows: Have four upright poles and four roof poles.  Put a tarpaulin on the top for a roof, and, if possible, another at the side to keep the wood dry.

2) Hay Hole.  Make a hole in the ground according to the size of the pan (which must always have an overhead handle).  Make the hole large enough to allow a lining of from 6 in to 9 in. of hay, straw, or newspaper.  Fill a sack with same, and place on top, cover with sods.  Use in the same manner as a hay box.


1) Cooks should wear clean and washable overclothing, and not make the meals appear unappetising for those who have seen the cooks.

2) Keep all kitchen things off the floor.

3) Baked sand or wood ash is the best thing to clean saucepans.

4) Store keeper is responsible for the ordering, keeping, and distribution of all food.

5) Cooks should be free from all other duties, and are responsible to the store keeper for everything.

6) Waste water should never be thrown on the surface, but into waste water pit.

7) All resuse excepting that for pigs must be burnt in the incinerator.


1) All food must be kept in a ridge tent, or improvised larder, and everything off the ground except tins. 

2) Always have plenty of butter muslin.

3) Be careful over milk, and don't keep it over night.

4) Never keep butter or milk near meat or anything strong smelling, as both are easily tainted.

5) Always hang meat, and keep covered from flies; don't let the covering touch the meat.  Make a frame with sticks.

6) Never keep meat over leaf mould.

7) Keep water cool and covered with muslin.

8) Larders can be made from packing cases, with holes back and front.

9) If near a stream or fast-flowing water float the milk cans in it, with the lids off or reversed.

10) To keep Milk fresh.  Use 1 in 30 solution of medical bacterol in water.  One tea spoon added to one gallon of milk as soon as it arrives in camp.

11) Air the store tent every day.  Take everything out, brush the floor, and spray with Milton.


1) Make the Guides orderly for meals, and allow no one to get up and wait except the orderlies.

2) Most important to have tables of some kind, and, if possible, benches to sit on.

3) Don't let the second helpings start until everyone has finished their first helping.

4) If prayers and inspection are before breakfast, be sure that each Guide has had a biscuit or some bread and butter.

5) Have an inspection of all kitchen utensils from time to time."

At this time cooking was invariable done as 'Company cooking' - one Patrol, supervised by the quartermaster, cooking all of the day's meals, with a rota running through the week so each patrol took their turn.  

As 1933's 'Campcraft' advised "In camp life the dietist has a unique opportunity of teaching the children more healthy habits with regard to food and drink, and indeed, to instill into them the liking for foods which are sometimes unknown or distasteful to them.  To take two instances, those of porridge and green salads."  And as it also warns "At one time or another most campers have seen the unedifying spectacle of burst flour bags, oatmeal converted prematurely into porridge on the wet grass, a pot of jam changed miraculously into a pot of wasps, butter into oil, and meat into maggots; also one has sampled various curious blendings of flavours, fortunately more or less peculiar to camp life, kippers and coffee and milk and paraffin"

Food can be stored in hanging larders and meat in meat safes; rivers can be utilised for keeping dairy products chilled.  

For a camp oven, "Dig a square 18 in. by 3 in. deep, then finish off by adding four corner pieces sloping up to earth level.  Place a brick at each corner and on these lay four iron bars or a slab of cement or some substance that will bear weight and stand heat.  For the actual oven a large tea tin or four slabs of cement or sufficient bricks to form an oven 14 in. square. Any cracks likely to let smoke through can be filled in with clay.  Pile sods up thickly around oven walls.  For the top or 'door' use a removable slab of cement or iron or even a piece of weed and, to crown all, a large sod.  The sods should be damped from time to time in case of any signs of crumbling with the heat.  The fire is lighted underneath at the corner from which the wind is blowing, and it will be found that this arrangement allows much scope for the erection of dampers, flues, etc., and that long branches and pieces of wood can be used, thus economising in wood chopping labour.  The meat or cakes should be placed on tiles or bricks to guard against excessive heat at the bottom of the oven.  This oven retains its heat for a very long time, and long after the meat has been removed, cakes can be baked without adding fuel."

"A camp boiler is a tremendous boon to all campers, and a serviceable one can be bought at any army stores for a very low price.  It will hold 20 gallons or more.  The zinc tank, iron fire basket and chimney are all separate and therefore easily transported.  With a good fire the water will boil in ten minutes."

"Menu for 30 Guides for one week at approximately 8/- per head.  
Breakfast each day - Porridge, sugar, milk, tea, bread, margarine and jam.  Tea each day - tea, bread, margarine, jam and buns.
Saturday - Dinner: Steak & Kidney pudding.  Potatoes.  Greens.  Rice Pudding.  Supper: Soup.  Fruit Salad.
Sunday - Dinner: Hot Mutton.  Potatoes.  Greens.  Pond Pudding.  Supper: Savoury Jelly.  Green Salad.  Chocolate Mould.
Monday - Dinner: Cold Mutton.  Potatoes.  Lettuce.  Treacle Pudding.  Supper: Soup.  Macaroni Cheese.
Tuesday - Dinner: Beef Stew.  Dumplings.  Potatoes.  Stewed Plums.  Supper: Boiled (or Scrambled) Eggs.
Wednesday - Fricasse.  Rice.  Vegetable.  Apple Pudding.  Supper: Cocoa.  Biscuits.  Cheese.  Fruit Salad.
Thursday - Corned Beef.  Potatoes.  Salad.  Raisin Pudding.  Supper: Soup.  Savoury Patties.
Friday - Herrings.  Potatoes.  Jam Pudding.  Supper: Cocoa.  Cheese.  Biscuits.  Tomatoes.
If thought advisable, an extra dish for breakfast could be given as follows: Saturday, Kippers; Sunday, fried bacon; Monday, eggs; Tuesday, cold ham; Wednesday, fish cakes; Thursday, cold ham; Friday, eggs.  This would entail an extra charge of 1/3 per head for the week.
Budged ot above menu for a week in camp.
Meat - Leg of mutton (12 lb.) - 13/6.  Stewing beef (7 lb.) - 8/0.  Corned beef - 7/6.  Steak and Kidney (5 lb.) - 6/6.  Total £1 15/6.
Fish - 30 herrings - 5/0.
Milk - 7 quarts per day - £1 12/8.
Bread - 7 2lb. loaves per day - £1 1/0.  Buns -17/6.  Total £1 18/6.
3 lb. apples - 2/0.  1/2 cwt potatoes - 8/0.  Cabbages - 1/6.  Carrots, onions, parsley - 2/6.  4 lb. tomatoes - 2/6.  oranges/bananas - 3/0.  Lemons - 1/6.  4 lb plums - 2/6.  Green salad - 2/0.  
Tea (3 1/2 lb.) - 7/6.  Margarine (10 lb.) - 6/10. 3 lb. cheese - 3/0.  3/4 lb. cocoa - 1/6.  3 dozen eggs - 7/6.  1/2 lb. coffee - 1/0.  12 lb. jam and marmalade - 12/0.  22 lb. flour - 4/8.  Marmite - 2/6.  Gelatine - 9d.  6 tins of fruit - 9/0.  2 lb. treacle - 1/4.  1 lb. lentils - 6d.  Bar chocolate - 4d.  4 lb. rice - 1/0.  1 lb. lard - 10d.  12 lb. rolled oats - 3/0.  3 lb. macaroni - 2/6.  1 lb. raisins - 1/2.  2 lb. prunes - 2/0.  1 lb. currants - 1/0.  8 lb. sugar - 4/0.  curry powder - 2d.  Salt, pepper - 8d.  Oil, vinegar - 2/0.  Ixion biscuits @ 7d. per lb. - 17/6.  
Total = £11 11/5.
Extra for breakfast: Ham (10 lbs.) - 18/0.  Eggs (5 dozen) - 15/6.  Fish - 3/6.  Bacon - 4/6.  Kippers - 4/6.  Total = £2 6/0"
The book also includes recipes for the following at camp: White Soup, Stock, Macaroni Cheese, Indian Toast, Savoury Potato Cakes, Scrap Patties, Camp Fricasse or Curry, Savoury Jelly, Russian Salad, Sheep's Head Brawn, Herrings, Cooks' Farm Eggs, Fruit Salad, Treacle Pudding, Jam Pudding, Pond Pudding, Raisin Pudding, Date/Fig/Cocoanut Pudding, Doughnuts, Scones, Oatcakes, Egg/Cheese Savoury.
"The camp variety of hay box will be found most useful - all the usual arguments in its favour hold good, indeed on occasions it is almost indispensable and, at the worst, it makes a permanent and comfortable seat for the cook.  Choose the dixie most suitable for the cooking of porridge, etc., and dig a hole 12 inches deep and 6 inches wider than the said dixie.  Line the hole thickly with hay or straw, fill the dixie with water, boil up, put the lid on tightly and place in hole.  Pack tightly all round with hay (or straw).  Fill an old cushion cover or piece of sacking with hay and ram on top of the dixie. Then sit on the cushion and go to sleep.  When you wake up and remove the cushion and the dixie a nice soft warm nest will be found.  If possible always use the same size dixie in the hay box, as this will keep the walls solid and compact.  Food that is to be cooked in the box must be started on the fire.  Porridge should boil for 10 minutes, macaroni the same, stews should simmer for half an hour at least and potatoes for 10 minutes.  Rice should boil for 5 minutes and beans for one hour.  All food requires three times as long to cook in a Hay Box as it would on a fire.  Therefore, porridge should be cooked overnight and if necessary warmed up for breakfast."