WW2 Military Cutlery

I know, it’s all about ordnance, weapons and cap badges. Isn’t it?

Well no, not by a long shot. Over the years I’ve been hunting for, recovering and preserving WW2 relics, I quickly came to realise that the personal items were just as important as the truly ‘military’ finds.

Personal items shed light on what life was like for the personnel when they weren’t on the front line, in the air, or on the ocean, fighting for their lives. Everything from toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, beer bottles, shaving cream pots, marmalade jars, crockery, Marmite & Bovril jars…….they all had a story to tell about life on a base, and provide important historical information.

One of the most frequently found items is cutlery. Spoons, knifes and forks seemed to be fairly disposable back in the 1940s, or at least that’s how it seems given the volume that I’ve found. In all honesty, I am quite disappointed if I came back home from a dig and don’t  have a piece of cutlery!

Not all cutlery is marked to show it belonged to the military, but quite a lot of it is. What is interesting is the diverse methods of marking cutlery by the military to show it was for service use only. Here are plenty of examples, recovered from old airbases, military camps and even POW camps.

This first picture is of a case I use when doing displays at Military shows and schools. It saves me setting up time and gives me a readily portable display!

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Display case of marked cutlery, used when displaying finds
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RAF crest
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RAF crest
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I’ve only just recently identified this. As it was so worn, and given where I found it, I always assumed it was NAAFI crest or RAF crest or possibly squadron crest. I have now identified it as ‘The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company’. What the heck it was doing on an old USAAF base I’ll never know, but maybe one of the serviceman nicked it from the ship they were brought over in! (I have confirmed at least on ship, RMS Andes, was used as a troopship in WW2)
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Air Ministry, Queen’s crown. Not WW2 admittedly, but in miraculous condition considering how long it was in the ground. It serves to show the difference between the two types of crown.
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Air Ministry King’s crown
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WD arrow and 1944 date
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WD arrow and 1942 date
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NAAFI
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US mess kit spoon
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US spoon
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USAMD spoon, found at the site of an old WW2 hospital

The wide range of stamps not only shows which country the cutlery originated from, but also, in many instances, a date of manufacture.

Many of the AM stamped pieces came from bases that were occupied by the USAAF, showing that the RAF supplied at least some of their cutlery.

Apart from the USAMD spoon, all the above pieces came from one USAAF base.

At another base…….

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Another base, another selection of markings
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NAAFI
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King’s crown, GR (George VI)
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WD arrow and 1944 dated
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NAAFI
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NAAFI crest

More variation in markings. I particularly like the NAAFI crest.

The hole on the NAAFI fork allows for them to be either strung together, or hung on a hook, making storage easier. It is also speculated that they could be tethered to a table, using the eye, to prevent them being stolen!

As for the number, I have still never truly identified what it is. Could it be associated with the location of the NAAFI? This would mean all NAAFIs had different numbers, which would make manufacturing rather time consuming, stamping the right number into the steel……doesn’t seem plausible. Maybe it is a ‘batch’ number, or possibly an order number? The jury is still out.

***EDIT*** A friend of mine has just revealed the secret! The number is actually just a stores number, so 2904 is the NAAFI stores number for ‘Fork, for eating’ 🙂

Yet another base….

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Another base, yet another selection!
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WD arrow and 1942 dated
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Another NAAFI
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Air Ministry, King’s crown, 1940 dated

All of these are great WW2 relics, but one above all the pieces of Cutlery stands out. And the reason? The serviceman has taken time to stamp his surname and part of his service number on this fork.

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US fork
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Surname and last 4 digits of service number

I did actually track him down, PFC Walenty Zawol, USAAF, and found that he survived the war. He had 4 children and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren. I contacted one of his daughters but she was not in the slightest bit interested in having the fork back. Indeed, she was one of the rudest people I’ve ever had the misfortune to speak to. I tried another of his daughters some 3 months later and got the same reply, although slightly less rude this time.

Amazing that a family didn’t want their father’s belongings back, especially given the context, but I had to believe that perhaps he wasn’t a good dad? I suppose I’ll never know, but finding a piece of cutlery attributable to one man is pretty damn awesome!

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