While many items of military equipment survive, it is those items that were most common, but disposable, that are often hardest to find- tooth brushes and period (clean) toilet paper, ration packs etc. are all scarce. Added to that are the simple wooden crates used to transport supplies. Ammunition boxes survive in large numbers because they were useful in workshops as tool boxes, wooden crates are much less common, with most being burnt for heat at the time. Tonight we are looking at one of these rarer survivors, a crate originally used by the army for condensed milk:This crate is profusely marked; in 1947 RASC published a book with instructions for contractors in how to store tinned food being supplied to the military, Janet McDonald explains in her book From Boiled Beef to Chicken Tikka: 500 Years of Feeding the British Army:
The case was also to be marked with the description and the nett weight of the contents, the initials of the contractor, the month and year of packing, the month and year of the expiry of the warranty period, all this to be in one-inch-high characters in good oil paint or stencil ink, in the middle of one side. They were also to be marked in 1 ¼-in characters in light royal blue ‘RASC SUPS’ (Royal Army Service Corps- Supplies) horizontally and centrally about one inch from the upper edge on both the top and bottom and on each end. There should be no other markings except, if desired, identity marks such as batch or case numbers, these to be smaller characters.
As instructed then, this crate has the main description on the front:From this we can see that the crate contained 48x 16oz cans of unsweetened condensed milk; manufactured by L.M. & L Ltd. The box is faintly dated June 1948. ‘RASC SUPS’ is marked on the ends:And bottom:Further markings inside the crate probably refer to the manufacturer of the box rather than the contents:Sadly this box is missing its lid, but nonetheless is an interesting survivor- when I acquired it there was a piece of linoleum in the bottom and evidence that it had been used to hold pot-plants in a greenhouse.