Jack Calder - Sawdust tea

Running time
2 min 40 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


In the Red Cross parcels... It depended entirely where they came from. If they came from Canada... Oh gosh, they'd have a tin of meat, a tin of creme, what they call creme, which was powdered milk, a couple of little tins of sardines, packet of biscuits, ordinary biscuits plus sweet biscuits and you might get a small piece of chocolate, small packet of tea, a little two-ounce pack, a two-ounce packet of tea or cocoa. With the tea, we used to get 20 cigarettes. With the tea... We would go and buy the empty packets off anybody else that wanted to go and we'd buy them.

We'd get two packets for a cigarette. We used a cigarette, was always a currency, and with those packets of tea, we would clean them all out nicely, fill them up with sawdust, get a little few specs of tea to put on the top, and stick them down with perhaps a little bit of jam or if there was syrup in the parcel we'd use a little bit of syrup and we'd go out to the wire at night.

This was in Italy only. We'd go out to the wire at night time and we'd say to the guards "Tony, Tony, ti daremo il te per il pane" which meant “We'll give you tea for some bread” and this went on very well for some time until the black market in Naples found that they were getting sawdust instead of tea. But those were some of the antics we used to get up to.

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