Some of you may have seen a thread I started a few weeks back on an Indian made enamelled plate. The thread somehow morphed into a more general discussion about Indian small kit and I have decided to put this thread together to illustrate some examples of the items and pointers to look out for with this little back water of militaria collecting. I think myself and Karkee are probably the most obsessive Indian collectors on here, but please add examples from your own collection. This is a very under researched area and there are plenty of variants and odd ball items that are not recorded in any books. The more we can share this information, the easier it is for collectors to spot items and add them to their collections.
I have tried to limit myself to small kit carried or used by Empire troops made in India. The underpants are perhaps stretching it a bit, but they were carried in the small pack and I really like how manky they are so I had to include them in this thread (apologies!)
Some general information about Indian kit.
Indian kit has a reputation for being poor quality. In some senses this is a valid point, the manufacturing industries of the sub continent were not as sophisticated as those in Europe and America and work arounds sometimes had to be developed to enable items to be made. The materials in India were also different from those in the UK, the type of cotton used to make equipment and small kit was of a different breed to that used in the rest of the Empire, with coarser fibres. This inevitably led to the items being rougher and appearing to be of poorer quality. Despite all this the items made were serviceable and helped reduce the need to ship things across the world. The vast majority of British, Empire and Chinese soldiers fighting in the Burma campaign would have had some or all of their personal kit made in India.
Sadly information on the companies involved in this manufacture is very limited. If the collector is lucky there will be a trade mark that at least enable him to identify who made the object- more often there is merely a circular Indian Army acceptance mark that indicates it is Indian and the month and year of manufacture, but that is all. Both the Indian Government and individual companies contracted to make items seem to have liked some sort of circular markings and even if not readable, a circular stamp is a common indicator the object might be Indian. As well as these marked items, there are others where there are no markings at all, and we are left trying to infer country of manufacture by the style, materials and other known examples.
This example, which follows the British design quite closely, is made of a coarse cotton weave fabric, with a tie near one end:
The makerís mark is for the fabric rather than the bag, but when mirrored indicates the material was made by Bharat Spinning Company:
Again this wash roll is of the same basic design as that produced in the UK, but the fabric is slightly rougher:
A circular stamp indicates it is Indian and I believe it was made in 1942 (the stamps can often be hard to read!):
This enamelled plate seems to have been a uniquely Indian design, the Indian army liking green tinware- presumably to aid camouflage in the jungle:
It has a circular marking for Bengal Enamel and a date of 1944:
These Indian made underpants are made of a loose weave cotton, with two metal buttons to secure the waist. The fabric is particularly thin and flimsy when compared to British made items, but presumable more comfortable in tropical conditions:
The now familiar circular stamp indicates they are Indian:
Gas Mask Bag
As far as I can determine, the Indian government never made gas masks themselves (presumably the manufacturing was beyond the ability of factories in the region) so they would have imported the masks from Britain or Canada. The bags however were made in the country and have a number of distinctive features:
Firstly the bags donít have press studs to secure them- instead they use a brass post and sewn eyelet to secure the flap:
They also have distinctive rows of holes on the base of the bag rather than the brass mesh used in British examples:
I canít find a makerís mark or acceptance stamp on this example, but the design matches known Indian examples.
This tin is included with the proviso that we cannot be sure if it is Indian. It does not appear in any reference book I am aware of, but is crudely made and has the marks for the ĎMetal Box Companyí who certainly did have factories in India producing items for the Indian Army. The tin itself is a small squat cylinder with a lid at both ends:
One end has the anti-dim compound, whilst the other has a cloth to apply it to the lenses of the gas mask:
There is a ĎMBí trademark, /|\ mark and a date of 1942:
Jungle Mess Tin
Again this is a distinctly Indian design of tin, the oval design only being produced in the last years of the war in the sub continent. It is a single aluminium pressing with a folding wire handle:
There would have been two of these tins that slotted within one another like most other designs of Empire tin. The mess tin has a makerís mark, /|\ mark and date of 1945:
Helmet Mosquito Net
The Indian made helmet mosquito net was far more effective than it's British counterpart as it used bamboo hoops to keep the net away from the face, preventing the annoying sand fly from biting through the mesh. Two tapes tied under the arms to secure it in place:
Again inside the hood is the circular Indian Army stamp:
Obviously this is just a minuscule look at some items of personal kit, I know that button sticks, mess tin bags, towels, machetes, mugs, shaving equipment, housewives and so forth were all made in India, but sadly I do not yet have examples of these in my collection. If you do please add them to this thread and hopefully we can build up a resource for collectors.