1958 Army Cigarette Case

Engraved mementos are often given to retiring military servicemen as a symbol of the regard in which they were held by their peers. Until recently smoking related objects were popular items as they were likely to be used for decades to come and would thus remind the recipient of his former colleagues on a daily basis. The cigarette case was popular in the mid twentieth century as cigarette packets at the time were made of flimsy cardboard, without any waterproofing and easily crushed. A cigarette case allowed a man to carry his cigarettes in his pocket safely without fear of damage. They were usually made of metal, as with this example:

This fairly plain cigarette case opens down the long edge and inside there would have been a strip of elastic to secure the contents, sadly this has become detached over the years, although the loops to secure it can still be seen on one half of the case:

What makes this of interest to us as militaria collectors, however, is the inscription engraved inside the case which reads “To Alan, From his Brother Officers of R.P.O., R.A.M.C. & W.R.A.C., Nottingham, 22nd Sept. 1958.”:

The R.A.M.C. is the Royal Army Medical Corps, the W.R.A.C. is the Women’s Royal Army Corps. RPO is slightly trickier, however I  believe in this case it is most likely to stand for the ‘Regimental Pay Office’. This little cigarette case was clearly a prized gift, as the level of wear on the exterior shows it has seen plenty of use, sadly without rank, surname or even regiment it would be very hard to identify to whom this case was given.


  1. Seeing as the inscription sort of hints at a medical section, perhaps it was the Regimental Pharmacy Office ? or something similar ?
    I used that style of case for years, they made less of a bulge in a uniform pocket than the cardboard packs we have here.
    My ‘dress’ one was black enamel with an RCAF collar dog epoxied to it while my day-to-day one was fake alligator hide but held twice as many cigarettes as it used both sides, it had the elastics described above but the black one had folding metal arms that worked as well or better. My pipe tobacco pouch was genuine alligator hide 😉
    I still have them all in a drawer somewhere and my pipes and humidor sit on a shelf in living room cabinet, but I quit smoking 25 years ago this year after having smoked for 25 years before that.
    One thing almost everyone involved in EOD or range work made a habit of was carrying ‘rollies’ instead of premade cigarettes.
    I started after catching myself pulling out a ‘tailor made’ cigarette while I was making up firing sets for some burns, not the place to be lighting up without thinking !!
    Rolling one gave you enough time to possibly realize it was a bad idea and probably saved more than one person from having to write up an incident report involving themselves, assuming they were still able to.
    Funny how seemingly unremarkable little things like this can lead you down a long rambling road to connected thoughts and memories, thank you 🙂

  2. I think you’re correct in your belief that RPO stands for Regimental Pay Office. Coupled with the location and the other corps on the inscription it would seem to be one of Corps Regimental Pay Offices, this one serving the RAMC, QARANC, RADC, WRAC and VAD and was located at Chalfont Drive, Western Boulevard, Nottingham (Source: Army List 1960).

    Prior to its home in Nottingham the office had moved three times in three years following the Second World War: from a factory building in Kidderminster 1947, to Lille Barracks in Aldershot 1948, to Slade Camp Oxford 1949 where an amalgamation with the RAMC and WRAC pay offices prompted a move to Nottingham
    (Source: Hansard, Pay Offices (Removal)
    Volume 469: debated on Tuesday 15 November 1949)

    I’m not sure when the corps pay offices closed and I vaguely remember various locations for the different corps, but this article mentions the reduction from 15 to 5 https://rapc-association.org.uk/pay-services-history/worthy-down/kinahan.html. As for Chalfont Drive some of the post war buildings along with a nuclear bunker survived until recently as can be seen in the photos here https://www.urbanissta.co.uk/case-study/chalfont-drive/

    • Thank you Oldarmourer for your compliment, and for your reminiscences too. I enjoy doing a bit of Googling, but I’m not in the same league as Ed who is a true military history researcher.

      • Neither am I, far from it although my Google-fu is good it’s not THAT good, that and I never thought of searching for the building in the lists since I don’t live in the UK nd we don’t have a historical registry quite that detailed here, mostly because the history is a lot shorter.

        I just remember when I’ve used or seen the items presented or their successors, or something similar and tend to ramble on reminiscing about them in hopes I can add a little bit of functionality or personal history to the descriptions.

        I’m not a historian, just old with a bunch of things cluttering up the dusty passageways of the mind, some of which might even be accurate, this is one that I’m fairly sure is because I’ve got something very similr to the depicted one sitting in a drawer 🙂

        Being that our military became greatly downsized from the mid-70’s when I joined it until the 90’s when I left it as a full time job, a lot of things were in use by all branches rather than just one as is the case in many places and although I was mostly Airforce, we did use many things that might be associated with the Army, or even the Navy.
        For example, for about five years I was a technician/instructor on anti-submarine torpedoes that were also used onboard our ships and ended up giving briefings to Naval personnel as well as the Aircrew detached to said ships, anything that flew was Airforce operated, including helicopters in field units and at sea.

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