In the Cold War, British Army Compo Rations were issued in metal tins. To open these, a small folding stamped metal tin opener was included, issued in a small greaseproof envelope. These tin openers were based on the World War Two P38 tin opener and consisted of two hinged pieces of metal:
The hook folds out and sits at 91 degrees to the main body of the can opener:
The outer greaseproof packet had instructions on how to use the can opener:
TO OPEN CAN:
Place opener on the can with rim of can inside the slot. Hold between thumb and forefinger and twist forward to puncture. Repeat motion until can is open.
The can opener was included in the “Operational Ration Pack, General Purpose” 24-hour ration pack and “Compo” Composite (14 man) Ration pack rations. The date and manufacturer are stamped onto the metal along the main body of the can opener:
The hole at one end allows the can opener to be carried on a dog tag chain and these little can openers were hugely popular as they served as can openers, bottle openers, improvised screw drivers and could be used as a small knife to cut things like cord. Some soldiers made what was referred to as the ‘gucci racing spoon’ by tying a can opener to the end of their ‘racing spoon’ to ensure they always had a means of opening and eating compo tins close at hand.
Once rations started coming in sealed plastic bags, the tin opener’s days were done, however many old soldiers still swear by them and still have them attached to their keyrings in case of emergencies!