My thanks go to Andrew Dearlove for sorting me out with tonight’s object, a tin of RAF ‘blanco’. The tin is 3” across, round and painted in RAF blue-grey:The lettering on the front does not use the ‘Blanco’ trademark, instead referring to its contents as ‘Pickering’s Web Equipment Renovator’. Pickering & Sons Ltd were a company based in Sheffield who produced a large range of polishes and cleaning products form the nineteenth century onwards. Blanco was first introduced as early as 1888 as a cleaner for whitening cricket shoes, gloves and tennis balls:This round type of tin was introduced in 1954 and sold through Naafi stores. The tin has the instructions: Directions: Wash off ordinary cleaner and allow webbing to dry. Apply with stiff brush rubbing all ways for even covering. Then dry thoroughlyUnlike traditional Blanco which came in a hard block that had to be wetted before use, this type of cleaner was in the form of a paste and could be applied directly from the tin.
The edge of this tin has an ‘8MB’ mark, the combined MB indicating the tin itself was made by the ‘Metal Box Company’ for Pickerings:The following article appeared in the ‘Soldier Magazine’ in October 1954:
For some time there have been rumours that Blanco was to be superseded. In July last year SOLDIER announced that the War Office was experimenting with a new equipment cleaner. Already the Royal Air Force is using a new style renovator for webbing.
Now the Army is saying farewell to Blanco. By Christmas, troops in Britain will be wearing their web equipment with a new dressing on it. Troops overseas will have to wait up to another three or four months.
“Renovator Web Equipment,” as Army Council Instructions will call it, will replace the four khaki-green shades of Blanco. It looks rather like khaki-green boot-polish, and is put on with a brush, like boot-polish. It is water-proof, dries very quickly, does not run off, is easy to apply, is lasting, can be touched up, can be wiped over.
The new renovator comes in the same four approved khaki-green shades as Blanco- No. 3 (olive green), No.61 (khaki), No.97 (dark green) and No.103 (light green). For some reason, it is not very satisfactory in white, and so the Guards and the Royal Military Police will use existing cleaners. Similarly, the Royal Tank Regiment will continue to use blacking on its webbing.
It was the Royal Tank Regiment’s use of blacking which inspired the new renovator. Back in 1947, a suggestion was made to the War Office that this practice should be extended to all units. The authorities did not take kindly to the idea, but the War Office asked the Ministry of Supply to produce something like boot-polish, in the right colours, to take the place of Blanco.
The answer came in an experimental renovator with a wax content which made it not only waterproof, but shiny. With camouflage in mind, the War Office sent it back with a request that the shine should be taken out. As it turned out, this was not entirely possible, and the Army had to accept a certain amount of shine.
Soldiers tested the new renovator in the Ministry of Supply’s Clothing and Stores Testing Establishment at Chatham, and it had world-wide troop trials in 1951 and 1952. A number of proprietary cleaners were also tried out, but none was found as good as that produced by the Ministry of Supply.
NAAFI has now asked to arrange for a manufacturer to produce the Army’s renovator, and it will be sold exclusively by NAAFI.
It may cost the soldier slightly more to treat his equipment the first time with the new renovator than it did with Blanco. Afterwards, however, it should be cheaper to keep the equipment looking smart by retouching. The renovator must be used sparingly to prevent caking.
The renovator can be used on the 1944 webbing. This was waterproofed, and it was forbidden to use Blanco on it. The new renovator, it is claimed, will improve the waterproof properties of the equipment.
The ousting of Blanco will mean the end of those little clouds of dust which rise from rifle slings when large parades are ordered to present arms. It will also mean the end of countless Blanco jokes. The one of these that Blanco’s manufacturers liked best concerned a Guardsman who staggered into an outpost, after days lost in the desert, gasping, “Water, Water!” He was handed a water-bottle, and croaked, “At last, at last I can Blanco my webbing.”