Cigarettes (fags)

In the modern world, where smoking is seen as a socially undesirable thing, it is often easy to forget the central role tobacco had in the lives of nearly all members of the armed forces in every country involved. Indeed tobacco was seen as so important by the British government to morale that they never rationed it (that’s not to say it was easy for civilians to find though!).

The British military took great steps to supply their men and women with their daily allotment of tobacco, both loose and cigarettes. This was supplemented by the work of the NAAFI who sold the most popular brands of the day at a reduced price to service personnel. The following are a representative sample of some of the military tobaccanalia available. These make a nice sub-set to my collection and I am always on the lookout for more to add.

Cigarette Packets

All these boxes are civilian in origin but typical of the paper packets sold at NAAFI shops and civilian tabacconists across Britain. As might be expected most would have been thrown away at the time, however as they were made in their tens of millions they are still easy to find and pretty cheap. The ones I am always looking for, but never seem to find are those with stamps saying ‘Only for sale to HM Forces’ which indicate they were specially made for the military.imageNAAFI Cigarette Tin

Similarly this tin is an example of commercial tobacco sold to members of the armed forces.imageNote the printing indicating ‘NAAFI STORES H.M. FORCES’:imageRation Tin Cigarette Tin

This grey cigarette tin was included in the 14 man ‘compo’ ration issued to troops in the field. The tin contained 50 cigarettes and was designed to be opened and distributed between the men on the battlefield. These are simple grey tins with ‘CIGARETTES’ on the top:image

Craven A Cigarette Tin

This tin is another officially issued cigarette tin, one of a number of branded tins for military use made by the big tobacco manufacturers.image

South African Comforts Committee tin

This little cigarette tin was given to South African troops in Christmas 1943 by the South African Gifts and Comforts committee:image

It has the South African springbok and pictures of the SA prime minister Jan Smuts and his wife on the front, and a message in English and Afrikaans on the rear:image


  1. I have a tin of cigarettes that were given to the south African troops in 1943. It still has all the cigareats inside and is in good condition. What would it be worth? I also have a small bible with a wooden cover – also a gift for the troops in ww2. Do you know what that would be worth?

    • Hi Jane. i am unsure of values, but JZ militaria currently has one of these South African cigarette tins for sale. It is empty and he is asking £10 for it. Values are very subjective and if you were looking to sell then eBay might get you a higher price. I am afraid I am not really qualified to offer valuations, I can only offer my expereience based on the items I see available on dealer’s sites and use these as an indicative value.
      Many Thanks


  2. So glad to see these pictures. My friend fought during WW2 and was telling me about these cylindrical compo ration cigarette tins just the other day (If this is the right type, inside they had a little handle attached to a raise-able base, perhaps made of cardboard, that you would pull to raise up all the cigarettes for easy distribution?). He was saying how he was positive he’d never see one again, so I decided to go looking around online to see if I could find any to show him or better yet, anyone selling one. I’m glad to have found your images (and site) – cheers!

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