A smelting ladle is used to hold and pour molten metal, often as part of a casting process. These ladles range from huge industrial ladles to small hand held examples used for small quantities of metal. Today we are looking at a military marked smelting ladle that is no bigger than a soup ladle you might have at home, so is very much designed for small casting jobs:
The ladle would most probably have been used with metals that had a low melting point such as lead or solder and these metals were essential for many trades in the army-plumbers, metal smiths, mechanics etc. would all have occasionally used small quantities of molten metal and so ladles such as this would have been standard equipment for many. The bowl of the ladle has a small lip to make pouring the molten metal both easier and safer:
This ladle has had some sort of green substance in it at some point, which is still around the bowl and underside of the ladle. Details of the ladle’s military ownership can be seen on the handle which has a stores code, /|\ mark and a date of 1945:
Charles Harrison was a plumber with the Royal Engineers and would have used a ladle such as this in his job. His family explained what his wartime career entailed:
Joining the Army at the age of 20, in 1941, Charles completed his basic training, of 6 weeks, at Perth, in Scotland. He says the training involved long marches and was ‘tough’, although to get out of the camp he volunteered to pick potatoes at nearby farms.
After training he was posted to the Royal Engineers and he worked on several construction programmes including repairing the port of Stranrar where they also installed a pipe line under the jetty. Whilst posted to Sandwich, Kent, he was sent to London to work on repairs to the London docks which had been damaged by enemy air raids. In London he was billeted, with many others, in the Tower of London, and remembers the many air raids whilst they were working. Later he and his colleagues were billeted at bomb damaged houses in the east end of London. When he had free time he enjoyed dancing, especially at the Hammersmith Palais.
Prior to the D Day invasion Charles was instructed on the construction of valves and later worked on installing valves in the concrete blocks used in the construction of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches, France. Following the invasion he went to France although, he says, they were never told that France had been invaded at the time. He travelled across the English Channel in a landing craft and says he was ‘as sick as a dog’, and was so ill he didn’t care what happened to him!
On landing, his unit set about constructing the Mulberry Harbour. They encamped in Arromanches and such were the skills of the men of the Royal Engineers that they built their own showers out of biscuit tins and by welding pipes together.