Tonight’s post is a little different as it is not the object we are interested in so much as how it is packaged and labelled. Like all militaries the British Army has always maintained large stores of uniform, equipment and weapons. Partly this is to allow new troops to be equipped when they join the military and partly this is to provide a reserve of materiel in case of a war breaking out and a large number of extra men needing to be equipped. There could be literally millions of items in a British Army store and there needed to be a way of tracking what was held in inventory and re-ordering supplies when they were running low. Storesmen, despite there not always helpful reputation, were essential at keeping this vast collection of items inventoried and restocked. Some idea of the scale of a military store can be seen in this photograph of RAF and WAAF storemen preparing supplies to be sent to India:When items came from the manufacturer they were normally either boxed or bundled together and tied with string, as in these two bundles, each containing ten 44 pattern brace attachments:These packs are tied together with a piece of string around the centre:And have a card label attached with a description, quantity and stores code:The same code is printed onto the webbing itself:These codes are part of the British Army code system in use before the introduction of NSN numbers in the 1960s and the codes used would all match up with a catalogue in the storeman’s office allowing items to be identified and reordered. During the Second World War the army found itself receiving men who had training as storemen in civilian life and took advantage of this, using them to man its own stores regardless of their personal preference, as related by Stan Wood:
Reality brought me back to earth when I was posted to Hinkley for army stores training. Remember the special tests and my qualifications for the Royal Signals? Well, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps needed storemen at that time and, since I was a junior storeman on enlisting, choice was non-existent. All the other lads had similar stores or warehouse experience. The course lasted about three weeks.
Many items in stores are never issued or used, and once a piece of kit is marked as obsolete, these bundles are sold on the secondary market. Most are opened by dealers and sold as individual items, but occasionally you come across complete stores bundles such as these ones that have never been opened and issued. As I have a set of 44 pattern brace attachments already I will be leaving these two packs alone as they tell their own little story as they are.