There seems no ending to the weird and wonderful finds that come out of the woodwork with a military connection. Tonight we are looking at a spring balance and pan set from the army’s field butchery set:The field butchery set was designed to allow army chefs to prepare freshly slaughtered meat in the field to serve to the men as a supplement to normal rations. It comprised a wooden box with a canvas tool roll inside which carried a selection of saws, cleavers, knives, meat hooks and sharpeners. As well as this it also had a small portable weighing scale and this is what we have here.
The main spring balance is made from brass and has a scale allowing up to 4lbs to be weighed in 1oz increments:The scales are clearly marked with a /|\ stamp and a date of 1943:Below the balance is a large hook and behind this there is a loop through which three chains are fitted to attach the pan:This makes sure the pan does not go missing, but other items can also be weighed by attaching them to the large hook. The pan itself is made from sewn canvas, with a wire ring around the top edge to stiffen it:Sadly the canvas on this example is pretty rotten, but it’s still there and as I am not about to start weighing out lumps of meat I will leave it as it is for now!
The army often transferred civilian butchers into this trade as they already had the requisite skills. Albert Kemp was one of these:
I am a butcher to trade. I joined the Gordon Highlanders and did my army training at the Gordon Barracks in Aberdeen. I was trained as a slaughterman at Aldershot with Italian POWs. I was sent to Tripoli for 6 weeks, then to Ben Gazi for a year and ended up in Tobruk.
We slaughtered cattle, sheep and pigs and butchered the meat for the army kitchens. Initially we had Italian POWs working for us. After they were sent home we were given German POWs. They did the slaughtering, skinning, etc. of the meat. We picked the best of the animals – a lot of them were skin and bone.
It was quite dangerous. Libyan Arabs would come into the tents and steal. If caught, the Military police would shoot them.
I remember an incident in Tripoli while I was on guard duty at the pens where the sheep and cattle were kept. There was a lot of stealing of animals by locals and we had to chase them off. There were also wild dogs called “peyards” which would get into the pens and kill the sheep. I was dozing in the guard room when I was wakened by six German POWs shouting “Wild dog”.
I got a Thomson gun, never having fired one before. The POWs were all watching. I took aim at the dog which was 10 yards away – and missed. It shot away along the fence. I used rapid fire and killed it. I threw it over the dyke.