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.
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!The tin itself is an H83Mk2, this example dating from 1978 and manufactured by Radway Green:The 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:The 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:The 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:The hinge end of the box repeats the contents so they can be identified quickly regardless of how the boxes are stacked on a pallet:The nature of the ammunition tin means that the fourth side of the tin has to have the details printed on the large catch:As 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.
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:Sadly 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:The ‘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:A faded label is also attached, which sadly is unreadable now:This 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:From 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:Further stamps indicate the box was made by ‘CH Ltd’ in 1944:One end of the box has ‘Gross 84’ stencilled on in yellow paint:This being the weight of the full ammunition box, including both the box and its contents.
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:Two 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:But can be folded up to form a comfortable hand hold:The edges of the box are reinforced with metal strips and a pair of metal clips secures the lid:Inside the box would originally have had a metal liner to prevent moisture damaging the ammunition, this has now gone though:The 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:From 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:The 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.
Regular readers will know I have quite a lot of ammunition boxes! Tuesday’s market brought up yet another one:This has been painted silver at some point so I need to strip it down and repaint it in service brown. The markings on the top date it to 1942:And indicate it is a P59 box:These boxes measure 19.15”x7.85”x8.5” and were used for carrying a number of different items:
25-pr. Q.F. gun Shell, H.E.
Number Packed: 4
Gross weight: 115 lbs
25-pr. Q.F. gun Shell, Chem
Number Packed: 4
Gross weight: 96 lbs
25-pr. Q.F. gun Shell, Smoke
Number Packed: 4
Gross weight: 104 lbs
Grenades No. 68
Number Packed: 17
Number Packed: 24
Gross weight: 46 lbsThe box lid is secured by two wire clasps:The rubber grips on the handle are indicative of early production runs of ammunition boxes:In this image the P59 boxes can be clearly seen as Female worker Pauline Renard stencils a case of 25-pounder shells ready for shipment at the Cherrier or Bouchard plants of the Defense Industries Limited. “July 1944 Montreal, Quebec:
These boxes are very easy to restore, I attach a wire brush to my drill and remove any loose particles, before giving it a coat of paint (always a messy job). I will update with further pictures when this one is looking a little less dishevelled.
On the whole, post war ammunition boxes are ignored by many collectors. These ammunition boxes though are cheap (often under £5) and they are easily available so they make an interesting area for collecting and research. It must also be remembered that many of these boxes are now reaching 50 years old and as time moves on they will start becoming more collectable and hopefully better appreciated by collectors. Tonight’s ammunition box dates from 1966 and its official designation is H82 Mk1:As can be seen this ammunition box is a smaller example used for belted small arms ammunition and much of what we want to know can be learnt from the markings on the side:From this we can see that the box contained 240 rounds of .30 cal mixed belt ammunition at a ration of 4 rounds to one tracer. Underneath this we see that it is in a Mk1 belt and that the ball ammunition is Mk4 rounds, the tracer Mk 1 and both were packed on `12th December 1966. The ammunition type, .30 cal, was used for the machine guns on many tanks and armoured vehicles of the period. Also on this side of the box is an MOD sticker indicating that the box contains explosives that are safety type 6:The top of the box has a handle for carrying, this is on moveable wire fasteners so it stows flat against the top of the ammunition box for easy storage:The weight of a full box, 18lb, is recorded on one end:Whilst on the other is the clip fastener for the box which secures the lid. This is also the fastener that allows the box to be mounted on the side of a weapon so ammunition can be fed from it into the breech of the machine gun:Below this is impressed the details of the box:From this we can ascertain that the box is an H82Mk1 and was manufactured in 1966. These details are added on the end as it is common practice to quickly overspray ammunition boxes on a range with the base colour once the contents had been fired to indicate they were empty. The embossed details ensured the original date of manufacture were not lost. A lot of the boxes that do come on the market have details over painted or multiple issues printed on the outside, this box is unusual in that it has only been used once and still retains all its markings and stickers. The markings were added using either rubber stamps or stencils and yellow paint. Examples of this type of box are probably the smallest ammunition boxes in my collection and are a good place for new collectors to start as they are cheap, available as surplus and don’t take up too much room. The box is also found with markings for 7.62 ammunition for use with a GPMG and as such this box is still manufactured today.
Another Tuesday, another couple of 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:
The second box is a 1944 dated H50 box that was originally used to carry a pair of wooden H51 small arms ammunition boxes:
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:
And a tool for setting them at the correct angle:
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:Although 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:
This 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’:
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’