South African Steel Mess Tins

My thanks go to Wojiech Musial for very kindly sending me the photographs to enable me to write today’s post. South Africa invested in its armed forces at the very end of the 1930s and amongst the new equipment purchased were square aluminium mess tins. These were made in England by the London Aluminium Company and featured a distinctive acceptance mark in the form of a /|\ mark inside a ‘U’. Once war broke out in 1939 the South African Army expanded rapidly and new sources of equipment were needed as pre-war supplies dried up. Just like the British, the South Africans replaced their aluminium mess tins with tinned steel examples:

The two tins nest inside each other in the usual manner and each has a hinged wire handle:

These tins do not have a maker’s mark, and differ from British production examples in not having a reinforcing rib pressed into each side of the pans:

Each pan, however, is marked with the /|\ inside a ‘U’ acceptance mark for the South African Defence Force:

In close up it can be seen that there is also a second mark in an arabic script:

This suggests to me that one of the nations of the middle east bought these as surplus stock after the Second World War and issued them to their own troops, adding their own distinctive mark of ownership.

A faint set of numbers is stamped into the side of the tins, these may be a soldier’s service number or something more mundane such as a contract number:

I will be honest and say that these photographs are the first I have ever seen of a South African steel mess tin so it is interesting to discover they even existed, much less see an example. I suspect that like most South African equipment these are pretty rare and I will certainly be on the look out for a pair to add to my own collection.

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