Indian Mess Tins

Nearly a year ago we looked at the late war Indian aluminium mess tin here. Tonight we are looking at an earlier pattern of Indian mess tins, made from tined steel rather than aluminium. I have been after a pair of these distinctive tins for a while now and thanks to a generous tip off from Karkee on the Warrelics Forum I was able to track a pair down in Greece. The mess tins themselves are a fairly standard rectangular dish with handles on one end:imageOne is slightly smaller than the other:imageAnd they slot inside each other for storage:imageThe distinguishing feature of these tins however is they are made form two pieces of metal crimped and soldered together rather than a single piece pressed into shape:imageThis design change was due to the lack of manufacturing technology in India at the start of the war. The heavy machine presses were not available for mess tin manufacture, but the country made many simple tin items and the techniques from this industry readily translated into the making of these mess tins. The tins are stamped on the bottom:imageThese indicate they were made by the Metal Box Company in Calcutta in 1941:imageMess tins were widely used by all in India, with food and tea served up in them, Bill Pope of the RASC was at Deolali in India:

The regulars were in no way interested in we “transit wallahs”. We had our own cookhouse and cooks and by and large the food suited me. Banana fritters were my favourite. Our dining area was under cover, the cookhouse was some yards away. One queued up with your mess tins, these were in two halves, one for the grub, the other for the tea to wash the grub down. The walk from the cookhouse to the tables was not far, but what a shock we had the first time we trod that path. The vultures (shitehawks) were quite knowledgeable about our mealtimes and nose dived as one moved across. There would be a rush of wings and away would go everything off your plate. I believe quite a few chaps went hungry on that first meal parade, no refills!

Interestingly this pair of tins have some faint arabic markings on them:imageThis suggests that after the war they were used by one of the armies in the middle east- presumably bought as surplus. This pair of tins is in excellent condition, and whilst not cheap they are getting harder to find now that WPG seems to have exhausted their supply. WD Militaria as ever has eye watering prices- they are selling a pair for £125! Careful hunting should get you a pair a lot cheaper than that though…

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