Tag Archives: British Army

Tuesday Finds

Another Tuesday, another couple of ammunition boxes…

Ammunition Boxes

Those of you who have been reading for a while will be aware I have a weakness for the humble ammunition box, these two cost me a fiver each so I couldn’t leave them there! Some restoration is needed, but I have done enough of these now that it doesn’t present any difficulties- its a messy job but its just sanding them down and a repaint. The two examples I picked up today are some of the easiest to find, indeed I already have examples of both in my collection. However they are a useful place to store items of my collection and always look good on a display at a show so at that price I was more than happy to pick them up!.

The first box is a 1943 dated B166 box used to carry either 6x 3” mortar dbombs, 6x PIAT bombs or 10x No73 grenades:

63DE6FF3-E126-4C00-B43D-B83D365D9934I already have a couple of these boxes, but due to their size and depth they are very useful- they are one of the few boxes you can fit a full set of 08 webbing for one thing!

The second box is a 1944 dated H50 box that was originally used to carry a pair of wooden H51 small arms ammunition boxes:

D5F1EC08-66E9-46BD-9611-0E0A5307B805Inside each of these wooden boxes would have been 6 cotton bandoliers of 50 rounds each, resulting in this box holding 600 rounds of .303- quite a weight when full!

Folding Saw

I am very pleased with this find as its something I have been after for a while now. This is an example of the folding saw issued as part of the standard kit on British Army tanks and fighting vehicle and to engineers. Originally introduced in WW1 this saw is housed in a leather wallet:45D8D983-F9B9-4E46-8033-04EDBA8B7985

With two belt loops to the rear:C60451C6-9F6C-458F-BDB2-27291E4796ECOne of which shows the pouch to have been made by Jabez Olliff & Co of Walsall in 1918 (?):3971743C-A573-4060-8FA0-AA0D10CFACB1Inside is a folding saw with triangular teeth and brass loops at each end:

2D6F1757-3DD0-40C0-A352-2575FA7689DDThe stampings on the brass ends reveal the saw was made in Sheffield in 1916 by Francis Wood & Son:

90E70C93-FF6D-4A88-B730-CD9B4E650BCCAlso in the pouch are two wooden handles:

B75CCD1F-2410-4050-AECF-2CF435C28D23A file for sharpening the teeth on the saw:


And a tool for setting them at the correct angle:

33BAF423-645D-4117-ADBB-B413BB44A7D5The pouch needs a bit of TLC as the leather is very dry and dirty, but its a nice complete set to add to my growing collection of British Army pioneer kit.

French Language Book

This battered little book was printed in Algiers sometime in the Second World War and as the cover says it was aimed at helping Allied Soldiers learn French:B83042F4-BF86-4448-B306-C930CCBEE314Although I can’t find a date on it, the book refers to the current tragedy facing France (The Occupation). As Algeria was invaded by the allies and the Vichy regime overthrown in late 1942, and France was liberated in 1944 it would suggest this book dates from either 1943 or 1944.

Royal Navy Sweetheart Compact

This delightful little compact has a King’s Crown Royal Naval Oficer’s badge affixed to the front:

48C3DB25-4B0B-4AF4-9511-8E4B58F796E1This sort of item is typical of the many types of souvenirs produced as ‘sweetheart’ items for soldiers, sailors and airmen to buy as gifts for their loved ones. One the rear of this compact is scratched, ‘Mrs McWalter, 22 Hermitage Road, Crumpsall, Manchester’:4E692556-5C49-4202-8657-CDC4844676A5

The Windsor Magazine

This rather battered magazine dates frm 1915 and amongst the usual stories and articles that made up the typical Edwardian magazine, are many on different aspects of WW1. We start with ‘The Spirit of Our Army and Its Moral Force in the Conflict’

16299C0E-075E-476D-A8FB-F3AA5BAE1F1FBefore going on to ‘The Dog in Modern Warfare’:


‘Men of Mark in the War’:09E95B1A-A680-41A4-9F5E-74E48CB754AEAnd ‘India’s Active Part in Medical Relief ‘

7F4A4284-90D4-43F8-8C6B-8D53B7A6B402All very uplifting stuff, interestingly, there are also some great period cartoons and adverts that use the British Tommy:


Date Codes on WW2 British Uniforms

British Army uniforms of the First and Second World war were normally manufactured with a label inside giving details of size, manufacturer and date. These labels are invaluable to collectors in confirming when a particular item of clothing dates from and are always the first thing I look at when buying a new uniform for my collection. Unfortunately these labels are often missing or washed out and then at first glance it becomes impossible to date an item of clothing. This is an example of a faded label from a service dress jacket:

2C04FD37-0B3E-46B6-9357-1292DCA74B6CLuckily for us though, the British Army also stamped clothing with letter codes that represent specific years, again this is from the service dress jacket:

57C49459-224E-4150-B6C8-1E4DD8496547 For many years these codes were something of a mystery to many of us, but thanks to the sterling work of a few members of the Warrelics Forum we now have access to a list of what the codes mean allowing collectors to date items in their collections. I hope the original poster ‘Anon’ wont mind me republishing the codes from the thirties to the fifties here for other collectors to take advantage of, hopefully they will be as useful to you as they have been to me!

t=1937 & 1956 *
s=1938 & 1957
r= 1939 & 1948
m=1944 & 1953
l=1945, 1946 & 1953
e,p=1947 *
b,a=1950 *
d,o,t=1955 *
t=1956 & 1937
x=1959 *

As can be seen some of the letters were repeated and the pattern jumps around a bit, but a combination of the letter codes and a basic knowledge of the rough periods of manufacture for certain items lets us date things pretty easily. From this set of codes we can tell that the service dress jacket shown above with a code of N dates from 1943.

British Army Insect Repellent

A lucky second chance offer on eBay has left me the proud owner of four WW2 era British Army insect repellent tins. The problems from malaria were well known to the British Army during World War Two, as was the part played by mosquitoes in its spread. To counter this, extensive issues were made of mosquito proof clothing and insect repellent. These metal tins are three inch long cylinders with instructions printed on the body:


On the outside a yellow label says: INSECT REPELLENT, Unscrew Cap at Sprinkler. Shake on to hand and apply to all areas of exposed skin. AVOID MOUTH, EYES AND FOREHEAD JUST ABOVE EYEBROWS. Reapply at intervals of two hours. KEEP CAPS TIGHTLY SCREWED.

At either end is a screwed on cap, identifying the sprinkling end and the refilling end:


Taking off the caps reveals a hole at the sprinkler end, and the insect repellent at the other:


These tins are not in the best condition, but they are quite rare now and I got four tins for the going price for one on the collector’s sites. I will use a couple in my 44 pattern webbing set and Indian 37 pattern set, and display the two in best condition.

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.


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.


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:


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


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.


Everything Bar the Kitchen Sink…A Soldiers Equipment (Part 2)

Today we move onto the entrenching tool cover. typically this was worn on the webbing either on the opposite side to the waterbottle or across the back, resting on the bum. As the name suggests the main purpose of the cover was to store the entrenching tool, however inevitably other items were also normally to be found inside.


Entrenching Tool Cover

Made of webbing, this cover was based on the earlier design for the 08 webbing. It consists of a large pocket in which the head of the tool goes and a loop and buckle arrangement at the top which secures the handle or helve of the entrenching tool:


Buckles allow it to be fastened to the bottom of the cross straps on the 37 pattern webbing. This cover is dated 1944:


Entrenching Tool

The entrenching tool comes in two parts, the head and the helve. the head is made of cast iron and has a small shovel-like end and a small pick end. The helve is a wooden handle that slots into the hole in the centre of the head:



This helve is a later war version with a bayonet slot that allows a spike bayonet to be attached to turn it into a mine probe for clearing mine fields:


Boot Polish

Typically troops also stored their boot polish in the entrenching tool cover. This period example is ‘Big Ben Brand’:



Throughout the war Dubbin was issued by the army both to waterproof boots and to act as an anti gas seal for footwear:


Dubbin is a sticky wax traditionally used to feed and waterproof leather.

Rifle Pull Through

Rifle barrels get dirty quickly through firing, so each soldier was issued a pull through to help clean them. A piece of cloth would be put in the loop at one end and the metal weight at the other would be dropped down the barrel. The cloth could then be pulled through to clean the barrel of any residue:


Although officially to be carried inside the butt of the rifle, many soldiers found this an awkward place to put the pull through as space was very limited, therefore it was very common to see it stored in the entrenching tool cover.


Another common addition made by troops in the field was t secure a sandbag under the strap on the entrenching tool cover. If all the men in a section had one, even if cut off from the rest of the army, a small firing position could be improvised:


Next time- inside the Small Pack

Mid 1990s ration pack

We come a bit more up to date for today’s post with a 24 hour ration pack from 1996. Despite being relatively recent, these ration packs are becoming quite scarce and collectible now, as most were either used or disposed of when out of date.

Containing all a soldier needs for 24 hours they were issued in a cardboard box:imageNormally the cardboard box was broken up for tinder for a hexamine burner and the contents distributed in pockets and webbing.

inside the box are the main meals vacuum packed:image

 Biscuits, chocolate and the infamous ‘Cheese Possessed’:imageFinally there are tissues, soup mix, boiled sweets and a pack with tea bags, matches etc:image

 Whilst nearly 20 years old this pack is still in good condition and apart from emptying the cheese out I have left it alone; I will not be trying it anytime soon though!