Machine gunners, like all soldiers, needed to remain fit and fuelled to ensure that they were as effective as possible in battle. The loads that machine gunners carried may have been different to that of a regular infantryman or cavalry soldier but it didn’t result in any different treatment and they generally received the same rations and sustenance as all other soldiers.
However, they were often not far from their transport or at least a supply line for ammunition, so may have been able to rely on frequent replenishment and potentially fresher and warmer food. For example, the Universal Carrier load included a No. 2 stove as part of the equipment so the machine gun sub-section didn’t have to rely on their individual stoves.
Second World War
The majority of the rations for machine gunners would have been carried in the form of ‘compo’ usually provided in wooden crates suitable for 10-men for one day (or five-men for two days or three-men for three days).
Individual soldiers received rations that they could carry in their small packs, usually in their mess tins. For the invasion of North Africa, a 48-hour ‘mess tin ration’ was introduced but for the later invasion of North West Europe – Operation OVERLORD – a 24-hour ration was introduced.