Category Archives: Ammunition Box

B.166 Ammunition Box

We are continuing our survey of British Army ammunition boxes by looking at the B.166 box tonight. This is one of the larger boxes and is amongst the easiest patterns for collectors to find- its large size making it popular as a tool box which has helped many survive to the present day. My example was bought as such and has been sanded, repainted and stencilled to make it look a little more like it did when first manufactured, as such the holes drilled through the outside of the box are not original and date from its post war life in someone’s workshop:imageThe official designation for the box is B.166 and this is stamped into the lid:imageThis particular example is dated 1945. Other features of the box are identical to British ammunition boxes of the period. The lid is attached with a pair heavy duty hinges that allow the lid to be held away from the main body of the box for easy removal of the contents:imageA pair of metal clips hold the lid down and cleats are included to allow the clips to be wired shut:imageA heavy duty metal handle is fitted to each end of the box to allow it to be carried:imageThe full weight of these boxes is such that it is easier and safer for two men to carry the box between them if possible rather than one man risk injuring himself by moving it alone. The box was used for a number of different types of ordnance, the most common being for 3” mortar rounds. The list of potential contents include:

3 in M.L. Mortar HE

3 in M.L. Mortar Smoke

3 in M.L. Mortar Chemical

3 in M.L. Mortar Practice

Number Packed: 6

Gross weight: 88 lbs

Grenades No. 73

Number Packed: 10

Gross weight: 62 lbs

Grenade No. 77

Number Packed: 34

Gross weight: 41 lbs

Grenade No. 79

Number Packed: 24

Gross weight: 56 lbs

Portfires, common

Number Packed: 200

Gross weight: – lbs

Bombs, P.I.A.T., H.E.

Bombs, P.I.A.T., Inert, practice

Of all the ammunition boxes in my collection, the B.166 is the most useful as its large size means I can pack a lot of kit inside it for storage. I now have three of this particular type of box and none have cost me more than £10 each.


P60 25 Pounder Ammunition Box

Continuing our look at a selection of British Army ammunition boxes from the Second World War, tonight we have an example of the ‘P60’ box:imageThis box is unusually shallow in depth and originally held four projectiles for the 25 pounder field gun. The 25 pounder used separate projectiles and propellant cases, the gunners adding or removing charge bags to alter range. The projectiles were packaged into separate metal ammunition boxes for safety and this is an example of one of these and was used for armour piercing shells. The box’s designation can be seen embossed into the lid:image‘MC’ would be the manufacturer’s mark and I suspect this might be Morris Cars but I cannot be sure yet; this box dates back to 1943. Apart from its shape the box is pretty conventional and has metal handles at both ends for carrying it:imageNote that as a later box this does not have the rubber grips of the M104 we looked at a few weeks back. The lid is secured with two heavy duty hinges:imageAnd a pair of wire spring clips:imageThis particular box is one of the more common to find, the 25 pounder remaining in service for many years after the Second World War, this example survived as a tool chest and has been repainted by me back into it’s original service-brown colour. Ammunition for the 25 pounder was normally held in a special armoured limber that was pulled behind the quad tractor. These limbers had their own ammunition trays and were armoured for use in a battlefield, therefore it would have been the job of the gun crew to replenish these armoured limbers form ammunition boxes such as this one during quiet times so as to keep the gun fed during battle.5796b58ae2b1a

M104 Ammunition Box

It has been a while since we looked at any ammunition boxes on the blog. Tonight we have the first wartime box I ever picked up. When I first acquired this box it was painted black and had clearly been used for a tool box at some time. Since then I have stripped it back and repainted it in ‘service brown’ and applied some markings. These are based off an original example of the box and although a little crude (I am not that good at cutting out stencils with a Stanley knife) they really help the box look the part:imageThis box is stamped into the top with its designations ‘M104’:imageThis type of box was used for carrying fuzes for artillery shells, either the 117 fuze for 25 pounders or the No213 fuze. This fuze was used for high explosive and bursting smoke rounds for the 25 pounder, 5.5 and 7.2 inch guns and was both timer delayed and percussion fired. For an excellent information sheet on this fuze, please look here. The other use it saw was to carry the ammunition shell for ‘U’ type 3” rockets. Originally the box would have had cardboard inserts to protect the contents and hold them securely for transit.

This particular box is dated 1941:imageAnd has a manufacturer’s code of AMC:imageThis is probably the mark of the Austin Motor Company who made ammunition boxes and jerry cans during the war. The box is made of steel and has a hinged lid with two wire spring fasteners to secure the lid:imageNote the small lop above the fastener- this was to pass a piece of wire through to allow the fastenings to be wired shut so it was clear the box had not been tampered with. With its early date, this box still has the rubber grips on the handles:imageThese were later deleted to save valuable rubber supplies after the Japanese invasions in the far east. The main details of the contents of the box are stencilled on the front in yellow, again this is a direct copy of an original marked example:imageI went through a phase of buying a lot of ammunition boxes a few years back, and I do really like them. Unfortunately they take up a lot of room and although useful for storage there has to be limits so I now restrict myself to only picking up nicely marked examples (and preferably the smaller boxes!)

9mm H52 Ammunition Carton

At the start of last year I looked at a wooden H51 ammunition box here. These boxes are fairly common, what is far rarer is the sealed metal container that went inside each of these boxes, the H52 box. I was lucky enough to pick up one of these, opened, last week and the condition of this tin is fantastic:The container is made of pressed tin, soldered together and painted black. The main markings on the front indicate that it was used to hold 9mm ammunition and held 1250 cartridges in Mk 2z cartons:Beneath this is stencilled ‘RG’ for the Radway Green arsenal and the packaging date of 17th September 1959. The large white marking is a standard Government Explosives classification marking used to ensure that the ammunition is handled correctly and stored in suitable conditions to prevent deterioration or danger. The container itself is stamped on one end:These stamps indicate the box type, H52 Mk 2, and a manufacture date for the tin (as opposed to the filling date on the front) of 1957:The can was soldered shut with a pull tab lid to open, which has been pulled off and discarded from this can:These cans were fitted into the wooden H51 box, with spacers made from wood and sorbo-rubber that helped keep it tight and prevented it from moving around. Two of these H51 boxes then fitted into a metal H50 box. A quick trawl of the net suggests this carton is rather rare- presumably most were just thrown away as they are not easily reusable in the way other ammunition boxes are. Either way it is a great addition to the collection.

Grenades Ammunition Box

Update: Sean Featherstone has kindly been in touch to help with the markings on this box and given me a lot more information about their meaning. I have updated the text below to reflect his information.

I have a lot of ammunition boxes, and I must confess I have largely stopped buying them as they take up a lot of room, and although they are useful for storing things inside there has to be a limit! Having said all that, if a nice one comes up at a good price with some interesting markings I will bend my rules and pick it up regardless…This particular box came up last week for £6 and although it is a very modern example, the markings are really interesting so it came home with me!imageThe tin itself is an H83Mk2, this example dating from 1978 and manufactured by Radway Green:imageThe other markings and excellent condition of the box lead me to believe this tin has been refurbished and stripped of old paint schemes and reissued. The H83 box is very common and is used for a wide variety of ordnance. The markings on the side of this box reveal it last contained 12 smoke hand grenades. The markings in the bottom left hand corner indicate the box was packed in June 2012:imageThe markings in the bottom right hand half of the box give storage instructions with maximum and minimum safe temperatures in the square box and maximum and minimum temperatures for use in the circle, the weight of a filled box and the cubic volume of the box for transport purposes are marked below. The bottom left hand corner has the ‘Batch Key Identity’ with a  mark ‘PWD’ indicating a manufacturer, ‘Pains Wessex Defence’ followed by the month, year and batch number. Similar information is displayed on the opposite side of the ammunition box:imageThe hand written note indicates that the box has been certified free from explosives before being sold as surplus. There are extensive rules surrounding certifying ammunition boxes before they go for scrap. JSP482 explains:

The Certification Free From Explosives (CFFE) regime is applicable to all packages which have contained explosives, arisings from the firing or proofing of ammunition, munitions kept in museums or as souvenirs and displays etc, and for training aids, all arisings from breakdown and disposal of ammunition and explosives and platforms and any other equipment expected to use or hold munitions. It is also applicable to equipment used to process explosives and subsequently in need of maintenance or repair. CFFE is required when such items are to be transported as non-explosives or sent to recipients for re-cycling who, because of a complete lack of knowledge of explosives, would be at risk if explosives were to be inadvertently left in a nominally empty article or package. Those at particular risk are people outside of the MoD and those who receive items for scrap. The same regime should also be used to ensure the absence of other hazardous substances e.g. White and Red Phosphorus and CS which may be associated with the Munitions.

The lid of the ammunition box has a large warning that the smoke grenades are not to be used in a confined space:imageThe hinge end of the box repeats the contents so they can be identified quickly regardless of how the boxes are stacked on a pallet:imageThe nature of the ammunition tin means that the fourth side of the tin has to have the details printed on the large catch:imageAs can be seen, for those of a geeky nature (which I am guessing is a lot of you), there is a lot of information that can be pulled off from the markings on these modern boxes. Whilst I am certainly not going to pick up loads of them, I will continue to keep an eye out for attractively marked examples.

Wooden H13 .303 Ammunition Box

Updated. This post has been updated thanks to the kind input of Gary Hancock.

Whilst metal ammunition boxes from the Second World War are pretty easy to find, wooden boxes survive in far fewer numbers- they were chopped up for firewood, rotted and were not as robust as metal cases so were more likely to be thrown away than used for tool boxes. As such they are harder for the collector to find, but if you get lucky they are often covered in old labels indicating their original contents. Tonight we have an example of a H13 box, used to store .303 ammunition:imageSadly this box is missing its lid and the metal bands that secured it; the handles are replacements I fitted as the originals were also long gone:imageThe ‘B’ on the end of the box would originally have been a raised metal plate to allow identification of contents in the dark, the ‘B’ standing for incendiary ammunition. The labels on the side of the box make up for any missing fittings however. Firstly we have a small government explosives label, pasted near the top:imageA faded label is also attached, which sadly is unreadable now:imageThis label originally read ‘Not to be fired from Synchronised Guns after 3/5/46.’ The most interesting label however is the large one identifying the original contents of the box:imageFrom this we can see the box contained 1248 rounds of incendiary ammunition, this would have been packed in 26 individual cartons of 48 rounds and would have weighed an impressive 77lbs- hence the sturdy box. These rounds were ‘B Mk VII’ rounds and were used in aircraft; the following description of the round comes courtesy of the British Military Small Arms Ammo webpage:

In early 1941 problems were encountered in service with the brass base plug of the Mark VI bullet becoming detached as the bullet left the muzzle and damaging the aircraft. To overcome this a simplified design was produced in which the steel sleeve was chamfered to the internal shape of the envelope to prevent it moving forward and the base of the bullet was closed with a steel disc over a lead plug.

“Cartridge S.A. Incendiary .303 inch B Mark VII” (and VII.z) were approved to design DD/L/11846 in 1941 and were not shown in Lists of Changes. In Naval service the design was later superseded by NOD 6322.

The case was the normal service case and had a blue annulus. Some early examples were unheadstamped or loaded into cases headstamped “B.VIZ” in an attempt to maintain secrecy but most carried the code “B.VII” or “B.VIIZ”.

The bullet had a gilding metal envelope inside which was a steel sleeve within a lead sheath. the bullet base was chamfered and closed with a steel disc and lead base plug. The bullet had a single cannelure and weighed 168 grains. The bullet tip was coloured blue for identification. The composition was 7 grains of SR 365.

The propellant charge was 36 grains of Cordite MDT 5-2 or 35.5 grains of nitro-cellulose.

Muzzle velocity was 2,370 fps.

From this it can be seen that the box is RAF rather than army related, the ammunition issued for aircraft machine guns rather than ground based small arms, the incendiary nature of the bullets helping to set fire to the fuel on enemy aircraft if they hit in the right place. One fighter pilot described the experience of being hit by incendiary ammunition:

I could smell powder smoke, hot and strong, but it didn’t make me feel tough this time. It was from the cannon shells and incendiary bullets that had hit my machine…Bullets were going between my legs, and I remember seeing a bright flash of an incendiary bullet going past my leg into the gas tank…Then a little red tongue licked out inquiringly from under the gas tank in front of my feet and became a hot little bonfire in one corner of the cockpit

Returning to the box, the box type has been stamped on the underside of the wood:imageFurther stamps indicate the box was made by ‘CH Ltd’ in 1944:imageOne end of the box has ‘Gross 84’ stencilled on in yellow paint:imageThis being the weight of the full ammunition box, including both the box and its contents.

H51 Small Arms Ammunition Box

Tonight we are looking at a very common type of ammunition box- The H51. This box is made of plywood and was used to carry a variety of small arms ammunition:imageTwo of these boxes were carried in a larger H50, (see here) but were designed with folding metal handles to allow their contents to be more easily transported to where they were needed than would have been the case with a big metal box. The handles fold flat on the lid for transport:imageBut can be folded up to form a comfortable hand hold:imageThe edges of the box are reinforced with metal strips and a pair of metal clips secures the lid:imageInside the box would originally have had a metal liner to prevent moisture damaging the ammunition, this has now gone though:imageThe boxes can be found with a large range of stencils for different ammunition; 9mm, .38 and of course .303. The .303 round was packaged in boxes, belts or bandoliers; as the markings on this box indicate:imageFrom this we can see the box contained 300 rounds of Mk 7 .303 ammunition packaged in bandoliers on 30th December 1953. The 1948 guide to inter-service ammunition and ammunition package markings, provided a representative diagram on how to mark these boxes:UntitledThe H51 box was introduced right at the end of World War II for use in the Jungle, “Pamphlet No11, Small Arms Ammunition “ dated February 1945 has the following description:

“Jungle Packages 16. as the result of requirements of a “Jungle pack” for S.A.A., Boxes H.50 and H.51 (not listed in Tables 14 and 15) have been introduced and will probably eventually become universal standard packaging”

A post was pamphlet describes the H51 and H50 boxes:

“These packages were introduced during the late war in order to give full protection to ammunition carried into jungle and tropic zones. The steel outer box is designed mainly to provide protection during transport and storage and during free or parachute dropping from aircraft.”

This box is one of two I own, the other having 9mm ammunition markings.