Category Archives: Mess tins

Product Review- WPG D-Shaped Mess Tin

Whilst I am primarily a collector these days, I do still re-enact a few times a year. As such I occasionally buy reproduction kit from the various suppliers, either in place of very rare items or to use for safety reasons where it would be unwise to use an original item. I have just taken delivery of What price Glory’s D-Shaped mess tin and tonight we are going to look at how it stacks up against an original and in comparison to other replicas on the market.

 What Price Glory (WPG) are an American company, but they offer a wide range of WW1 and WW2 British kit, and have a distribution hub in the United Arab Emirates, so items normally reach the UK within a couple of weeks. I recently ordered a set of mess tins from them, whilst I own an original set I wouldn’t want to risk eating out of them. The original tinning is very worn and they were originally made with lead based solder, so for re-enacting a reproduction set is a far safer option. The mess tins are the later pattern, without an inner tray, and come with a canvas messtin cover:FullSizeRender8

Shape

 Overall the shape of the tins are very good, as can be seen from above they closely mirror the originals:FullSizeRender6Looking face on, they are fractionally larger than my original tin, but the originals were made over a span of 150 years and by numerous companies so there is a lot of variation anyway:FullSizeRender7As can be seen the WPG tin has a little kink in the handle that allows the can to be hung on a stick over a fire, my original does not, but again this is not unusual.

 Fittings

The mess tins have a number of fittings secured to them for their handles. Looking first at the handles on the lid, there is a clear difference between the angle of the handle, the WPG example is a 90˚ to the tin, whilst the original is at a much steeper angle:FullSizeRender5Also the handle on the WPG is much more crudely riveted on than the original:FullSizeRender4Both of these things are minor points however, and the design of this handle is very similar to the original. Turning to the base the biggest problem with the tin becomes apparent. The quality of the handle fitting is decidedly crude:FullSizeRender2A comparison shows the original to have a much finer casting:FullSizeRender1The fitting of the handle here is, for me, the weakest part of the reproduction, however it is not a major issue and I imagine that with use the whole tin would tone down in colour and get a more realistic patina. The lid is a tight fit and a bit of a struggle to get off, but hopefully this will ease up with use.

 Cover

 As has been seen above, the WPG mess tin comes with its own cover. This is a nice touch as every other reproduction requires you to buy one separately. The material for the cover seems a bit dark and heavy, however again a few seasons of use would probably tone it down nicely. Unfortunately the button hole on the front has not been sewn properly and after using it twice the stitching came undone on mine. This might be an isolated incident, but was disappointing.

 Other Reproductions

 As far as I am aware the only other two companies offering a reproduction D Shaped mess tin are Soldier of Fortune (SOF) and Military History Workshop (MHW). As MHW have been out of stock for months now, I will concentrate on the SOF tin, which I had the dubious pleasure of seeing in person on their stall at the Victory Show last year. Firstly the SOF tin does have the inner frying pan tray, which the WPG example does not. In terms of shape there is not much between them, however the un-resolvable problem with the SOF tin is the material it is made out of. It appeared to be made out of some highly patterned steel, reminiscent of a galvanised bucket. Both the original and WPG’s example are made from traditional flat metal, without this pattern on. For this reason, and the included cover, I can only recommend people buy the WPG example. It is not perfect, but in my opinion the problems are very minor and it is the best on the market at the moment.

 The tin is currently out of stock, but I imagine it will soon be back. It is listed at $37, which is about £24.30. It is listed here.

Cavalry Mess Tins

We have looked at some of the different designs of mess tins used by British and Empire forces before, but tonight we are looking at another distinctive design. From the very start of organised warfare it was obvious that mounted troops needed very different equipment than that provided to infantrymen. Horses move at much higher speed and with a violent motion that would cause anything not securely fastened to the rider or the horse to fly off in short order. To this end, equipment designed for cavalry has to ensure it can be strapped down securely and this can be seen in tonight’s Cavalry pattern mess tins.

The tins themselves are circular rather than the ‘D’ shaped or rectangular shape adopted by the rest of the regular army:

30AA460A-6BEA-4319-953F-8A41025593F2The design was adopted long before the formal recording of items in stores codes and lists of changes in the 1870s and was to continue in production into the Second World War. There is a wire handle to help hold the tin which folds over to fit snuggly inside the tin:

AE4C4049-1545-44DB-A6A4-CD4E764DA3B5The remians of the tinning which covered the inside of the tin can still be faintly seen. The handle is riveted to the mess tin with four rivets and is marked /|\ and dated 1941:

0982BCBC-B49E-4BBE-B14A-A0D6F58ACDEAOn the sides are two metal loops for a leather strap to pass through to secure the lid securely to the main tin:

111D43F0-DADB-43AB-9EFF-11D6F5465DC0Sadly the lid is missing from the mess tin. Stamped in the base is the original soldiers number, 238673?:

556FD925-00FF-48E5-B218-778E14DE0956The number indicates that the tin was issued to someone who’s number was in the block allocated to the Royal Signals. Although designed for cavalry it appears these tins were issued to other non-infantry units, with examples seen in use by the artillery, engineers etc. The RAF also made extensive use of this pattern of mess tin. Even after the end of the widespread use of cavalry, much of their equipment continued in use with the ‘service’ branches who were always a lower priority for reequipping with the latest kit.

Everything Bar the Kitchen Sink (part 3)

After a long break, we are back with part three of ‘Everything Bar the Kitchen Sink’. Today we are looking at the small pack and its contents. The set up below is what I carry in my small pack for re-enacting and is by no means definitive, but it is broadly representative of the small kit carried by troops in the Normandy campaign.
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1. Jumper (Replica)- Soldiers were issued with a tan woollen jumper to wear under their BD blouse in cold weather. It was not uncommon to see troops out of the line just wearing the jumper and leaving the BD blouse off as the jumper was far more comfortable.

2. Playing Cards- For centuries soldiers have kept packs of cards with them to play in the long boring lulls between action or tasks. Even today playing cards are a common item in troop’s pockets. Officially gambling was forbidden, but this rule was frequently ignored and card games in which money changed hands were common.

3. 37 Pattern Small Pack- The small pack was made of webbing and introduced with the 37 pattern webbing equipment. It was secured to the rest of the webbing by L-Straps and was divided internally by cotton drill panels.

4. Underpants- These 1943 dated underpants were made in Australia and are made of heavy wool. They come almost down to the knee and were a useful item to keep warm in winter- even if not in the least bit flattering to the wearer.

5. Lilliput Magazine- small A5 magazines were commonly carried in packs- Men Only and Lilliput being the favourites. Lilliput was slightly more high brow with only tasteful ‘artistic’ nudes in it!

6. Washroll- See ‘Everything Bar the Kitchen Sink’ Part One for more details

7. Sterilizing Kit- This tin contains two jars of sterilising tablets- one sterilises the water in the soldier’s bottle, the other takes the foul taste of the sterilizing tablet away.

8. Mess Tins and Covers- the pair of rectangular mess tins fitting inside one another have been standard issue to troops for over 70 years now, replacing the D- shaped tins of the previous 150 years. It seems that if a design works, don’t mess with it!

9. Mirror (replica)- This small metal mirror in a cloth case would have been used for both shaving and as a signalling device. Metal is far more useful for combat equipment as it doesn’t shatter like a traditional mirror.

10. Towel- British army towels were rough thin cotton towels rather like a tea towel. This example is dated 1942 and has the /|\ in the corner.

11. Emergency Ration Tin- This metal tin contained a vitamin enhanced chocolate used as an emergency ration to be used by the soldier if all other supplies were cut off. It was only to be opened on the orders of an officer.

12. Housewife or ‘Hussif’- The housewife is a small sewing kit containing replacement buttons, needles thread and wool for darning socks.

13. Clothes Brush- with the original owner’s number clearly displayed, brushes were commonly carried to allow a quick brush up to clear dried mud off of uniforms when soldiers came off the front line

D-Shaped Mess Tin

Tonight we look at one of the longest serving items of personal kit in the British Army, the D-Shaped mess tin. First introduced before the Napoleonic war, the same basic design was to continue in use for 150 year, and despite the introduction of aluminium mess tins in the late 30s, as my example shows these were still being made in 1940.

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The mess tin comes in two parts, the body and a separate lid. The body is designed to be used as a small saucepan to boil food or water for tea, whilst the lid has a wire handle allowing it to be used as either a frying pan or a plate.

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The mess tin is made of sheet iron, tinned and soldered together and though examples are now universally a dull metal shade, the interior of this example suggests they might have been shiny when first issued:

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This example is a very late one, made by T Gowley and Sons of Birmingham in 1940:

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Whilst collectors often assume that once a new piece of kit is issued old ones were no longer made. In reality contracts took a long time to be completed and obsolete items continued to be manufactured long after they should have been discontinued, as can be seen in this example.