Broad Arrow Markings

The broad arrow or ‘crows foot’ ordnance mark has been used on British Army equipment since at least 1553 and is a helpful way of determining if everyday items are civilian or military in origin. There are a number of variations on this mark and hopefully this post will make it a bit clearer to collectors. As regular readers will know I use /|\ in text to represent the broad arrow and hopefully this will be easy to follow.


Most British Army equipment just uses the simple /|\ mark:untitled‘W /|\ D’ is also seen:untitled1The Royal Navy used a /|\ above an ‘N’ mark:image49When items were sold out of government service a second /|\ was added point to point with the first so show it was no longer military property:361South Africa

South Africa used the /|\ mark inside a ‘U’:image16Canada

Canada chose the /|\ inside a ‘C’ as its mark:1925_can_pouch_rt_rear_bigIndia

India were not as consistent at using an ordnance mark as the rest of the empire, but when they did use the mark it was in the form of the /|\ above an ‘I’:untitled3Australia

Australia were slightly different as they went for ‘D /|\ D’, the DD standing for ‘Department of Defence’:35ad971b-6687-4d9a-92fb-3deda126b83fNew Zealand

Logically enough New Zealand went for ‘N /|\ Z’:untitled2These marks are still in use today, though they are not seen as commonly as they once were.


  1. What would the marks “DLW /l\ 42” on a green enamel water bottle origin from or stands for?bottle is cover in a green/khaki colour velt and halterd/holstered in leather strapping

    • The ’42’ could be the date and the /|\ is the acceptance mark. DLW could be the depot the waterbottle was accepted into or the inspector’s initials perhaps. Is the water bottle Indian? most bottles with number and letter codes I have seen have been made and issued in the Indian sub continent. Sadly the origin and meaning of many of these markings is lost to history now.

  2. I doubt it that it has got any indian history 2 it. Its from South Africa and it looks identical like the Mark II Pattern Water Bottle Carrier, from my knowlege its from ww1 and was issued during ww2

  3. I have found a small dining fork with the D/I\D broad arrow. Would you have an idea of how old it is? There are no other markings on it.

    • It’s Australian, but it remained in use for decades. If you want to send me a picture I will see if I can date it, the shape and design of cutlery changed over the years and it is possible to get a rough guestimate from the style.

  4. I have just purchased a 3ft steel container with the following markings on the brass lid.
    M /I\ M. The person I bought it from seemed to think it was use as a food storage container. Any thoughts??

    • It’s not a mark I have seen before. It is possible that the ‘MM’ is an acronym for the manufacturer like ‘MB’ stands for the Metal Box Company. Quite who it would represent is another matter…

  5. I’m hoping you can help me identify the broad arrow marking on an office desk I bought a few years ago. The symbol stamped into one leg of the desk is a capital D, then a broad arrow, then a capital I (or 1). At the time of purchase, the seller mentioned he thought the desk had come from an office in the Australian Department of Defence. However, wouldn’t that be stamped D arrow D? I’m curious as to what this symbol means. Appreciate your suggestions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.