Using labels and markings to date postwar British clothing and equipment

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    Edward53
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    Using labels and markings to date postwar British clothing and equipment

    Post by Edward53 on Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:14 pm

    In about 1970 the British Ministry of Defence stopped including dates in the labels and markings of most military clothing and equipment, a cause of much confusion to collectors of postwar kit. It is nevertheless possible to date these items fairly closely from labels and markings, using the MoD contract number.

    All British military clothing and equipment procured through official channels was, and still is, marked with a contract number. These followed fairly consistent timelines, with different contract codes such as eg CT2, CT3 and CT4 seemingly using unique numbers from a shared sequence. The CT code in a contract denotes a Section within the Ministry of Defence Contracts Branch - see Post 7 at this link. Luckily some items, mainly NBC equipment, rucksacks, jerseys and a few odd exceptions, continued to be dated after 1970. Matching up these dates with contract numbers enables a date to be inferred for other, undated items with similar contract numbers.

    This is not an infallible guide, as contracts for different items may have run at different rates, but it is a fairly reliable one. To take an example: suppose we know that an item with, say, contract number CT2A/904 was made in October 1981, and we have an undated item with contract number CT4B/844. We would assume this item was made around the same time as the first one or slightly earlier. Even allowing for different contract running times, CT4B/844 is unlikely to be a lot later than October 1981. Since CT4B/844 is a contract for a windproof arctic smock, and since a smock with this contract number in the Imperial War Museum is known to have been worn in the Falklands campaign, we can more or less confirm this even though we have no other way to date that garment.

    Early contracts seem to have been allocated to different contract offices according to the type of item contracted for, though not consistently. A/78/CLO is presumably short for Clothing, but whilst some equipment is stamped A/78/G.S. (General Service?), sometimes CLO is also used on equipment, eg. A/78/CLO/47456/CB(CT)2B is a para bergan. The CT series, which follows A/78, uses CT2 for equipment and NBC kit, CT3 for headgear and CT4 for clothing. The SL series is however not ordered in this way, and contract codes remain mixed until the DC series, with DC2 appearing to represent clothing and other items made from cotton-type fabric, and DC1 used for almost everything else.

    Unfortunately, neither MoD contracts branch nor the Public Records Office have a record of the numbering system for older contracts, or if they do, they are unable to locate it.

    If enough dated items are arranged in sequence, it can be seen that contract codes changed every few years, with a degree of overlap. Approximately:
    A/78 - early-mid 1960s to 1979
    CT2, CT3, CT4 - 1979 to 1985
    SL31 - 1983 to 1990
    SL32 - 1985 to 1994
    SL33 - 1989 to 1985
    SL34 - 1990 to 1994
    ST1 - 1994 to 2003
    CT34 - 1995 to 1997
    CC2 - 1996 to 2007
    OC2 - 2002 to 2003
    CC - 2004 to 2007
    DC1, DC2, ESL - 2003 to at least 2010

    Some of these contract ranges are very tentative, especially OC and CC for each of which just two dated items were available. There is also the unclassifiable oddity SL3 which only occurs only once.

    Below is a list in date order of dated contract numbers collected from various sources, mostly ebay:

    A/78/CLO/15578/CT4A – No. 2 dress trousers, H Lotery, 1966
    A/78/CLO/16276/CT5(a) – jacket overall, J Smith & Co, 1966
    A/78/CLO/16810/CT5(a) – trousers overall, Ashton’s overalls (Marple) Ltd, 1966
    A/78/CLO/17450/CT5a – combat smock, J Smith & Co, 1966
    A/78/G.S./13101/G.S. 1a(1) – NBC trousers, Remploy, packed May 1967 (1966 date deleted)
    A/78/CLO/23153/CT5A – NBC gloves, DAC, 1968
    A/78/G.S./20148/G.S. 1a(1) – NBC trousers, Remploy, packed Aug 1969 A/78/CLO/32935/DC67 (1) – NBC gloves, packed Nov 1971
    A/78/CLO/33893/DC69 (1) – 68 pattern smock, CW Son Ltd, 1971
    A/78/CLO/38647/DC69 (1) – 68 pattern trousers, CW Son Ltd, 1972
    A/78/CLO/38799/DC67 – respirator case, BHE Ltd, 1972
    A/78/CLO/41990/CB(CT)2A – NBC gloves, Dipco, Dec 1973
    A/78/CLO/44665/CB(CT)2C – NBC gloves, SG Ltd, 1974
    A/78/CLO/41465//M/CB(CT)1C – drawers cellular, Meridian Ltd, Feb 1975
    [above is contract no on garment, batch label also gives “Order A/78/CLO/41851/1/M/CB(CT)1C”]
    A/78/CLO/46903/CB(CT)2C – NBC suit, XAT, 1975
    A/78/CLO/47456/CB(CT)2B - rucksack, M.E.L, 1975
    A/78/CLO/46905/CB(CT)2C – NBC smock, SPE, Jan 1976
    A/78/CLO/50169/CB(CT) – NBC overboots, maker not stated, Jan 1977
    A/78/CLO/50662/CB(CT)1C – jersey man's heavy, TWK, 1977
    A/78/CLO/52159/CB(CT)2A – sleeping bag, CQC, 1977
    A/78/CLO/55654/CB(CT)2B – casualty bag, Remploy, packed May 1978
    A/78/CLO/57092/CB(CT)4A - jersey, heavy, Remploy, 1979
    A/78/CLO/57761/CB(CT)2B – NBC smock, maker not shown, April 1979
    A/78/CLO/57761/CB(CT)2B – NBC smock, maker not shown, April 1979
    A/78/CLO/56726/CB(CT) 2B – NBC gloves, S.G. Ltd, packed May 1979
    A/78/CLO/57761/CB(CT)2B – NBC trousers, maker not shown, Dec 1979
    CT4B/17 – flak jacket, James Smith and Co, 1979
    CT2B/232 – respirator haversack, Remploy, 1979
    CT2B/436 – NBC Mk3 trousers, no maker, fabric date July 1979
    CT3B/566 – lowland spats, Hobsons, 1979
    CT2B/339 – casualty protective bag, Remploy, 1980
    CT2B/431 – NBC smock, Remploy, 1980
    CT2B/496 – S6 respirator haversack, Remploy, 1980
    CT2B/544 – NBC smock, James Smith, 1980, Jan 1981 (fabric date 4/80)
    CT2A/618 – thermal overboots, Remploy, 1980
    CT2B/436 – NBC trousers, no maker, Nov 1980, Mar 1981
    CT2B/496 – S6 respirator haversack, Remploy, 1981
    CT2B/723 – NBC suit, Remploy, fabric 6/81, packed 11/81
    CT4A/803 – jersey man's heavy, Remploy, 1981
    CT4B/844 - dpm arctic smock, 180/96, GQ Defence Equipment Ltd, 1982 or earlier (IWM – issued to war artist Linda Kitson)
    CT2A/904 – NBC overboots, LBRCo, Oct 1981
    CT2B/895 – NBC gloves, S.G. Ltd, packed July 1982
    CT2B/962 – NBC smock, Remploy, June, Aug, Oct. 1982 [fabric Oct 81]
    CT2B/980 – respirator haversack, Remploy, 1982
    CT4A/1000 - jersey, J Pick & Sons Ltd, 1982
    CT4A/1001 – jersey, Remploy, 1982
    CT2A/1150 – sleeping bag, CQC, 1982
    CT2A/1285 - NBC gloves, Dipco, Feb, Dec 1982
    CT2B/1202 – NBC suit, fabric date June 1982, packed March 1983
    CT2A/1477 – 58 patt poncho roll, CWL, 1982
    CT2A/1553 – Arctic rucksack, CQC, 1982
    CT2A/2630 – NBC overboots, LBRCo, June 1983
    CT4A/1023 – Jersey, Remploy, 1983
    CT2B/1202 – NBC trousers, Remploy, Oct 1983
    CT2B/1238 - Individual Protection Kit, Remploy, 1983
    CT2A/1555 – sleeping bag, CQC, 1983
    CT2A/1682 – rucksack, CQC, 1983
    CT4B/1634 – smock reversible, Vacuum Reflex Ltd, Dec 1983
    CT2B/896 – NBC gloves, S.G. Ltd, packed Feb 1984
    CT2B/1415 – facelet mask, CQC, 1984
    CT4A/1401 – jersey, TWK, 1984
    CT4B/1415 – NBC facelet, Remploy, July 1984
    CT2B/1528 – NBC suit, Remploy, July 1984, March 1985
    CT4A/1610 – Jersey, heavy wool, Remploy, 1984/85
    CT2B/1528 – NBC trousers, Remploy, 1985
    CT2B/1653 – NBC trousers, Remploy, 1985
    CT2A/2061 – rucksack, CQC, 1984
    CT2A/2630 – NBC overboots, Leyland & B’ham Rubber Company, June 1985
    SL32b/1872 – NBC gloves, S.G. Ltd, packed Dec 1985
    SL32b/1900 – NBC smock, no maker, 1985
    SL31a/1952 – Jersey, J Pick & Sons Ltd, 1983
    SL32b/1981 – NBC gloves, Dipco, 1986
    SL32b/1987 – NBC suit, Remploy, July 1986
    SL32b/1988 – NBC suit, J S & Co (Derby), July 1986
    SL31a/2189 – NBC trousers, Supercraft, packed June 1987
    SL32b/2091 – NBC gloves, S.G. Ltd, packed July 1987
    SL31a/2349 – NBC overboots, LBR, packed July 1987
    SL32b/2389 – Jersey Heavy Wool, J Pick & Sons Ltd, 1987
    SL32b/2450 – visor cover, Helmets Ltd, 1987
    SL31b/2877 – OD foul weather jacket, Mileta Sports Ltd, 1987
    SL32a/3754 – NBC personal protection kit, Remploy, 1987
    SL31a/2442 – chemical casualty bag, Remploy, Jan 1988
    SL32a/4058 – bergen, CQC, 1988
    SL32a/4296 – sleeping bag cover, CQC, 1988
    SL31b/2935 – NBC suit, Remploy, Oct 1988
    SL31b/2935 - NBC trousers, Remploy, Dec 1988
    SL33b/3773 – NBC gloves, S.B. Ltd, packed Mar 1989
    SL33a/4??? – 58 patt pouch, CWL, 1989
    SL32a/4661 – Rucksack long, CWL, 1989
    SL31b/3205 – NBC trousers, Remploy, Dec 1989
    SL31b/3085 – NBC gloves, J North & Sons, 1990
    SL33b/4444 – NBC gloves, C.W.S. Ltd, Feb 1990
    SL33b/4481 – NBC gloves, S.B. Ltd, Feb 1990
    SL32b/5028 – NBC overboots, maker not stated, packed 1990
    SL33c/391 – headover/balaclava, VMC, 1990
    SL32b/5254 – NBC suit, Remploy, Aug 1990, May 1991
    SL3/7/51 – NBC suit, J Compton Sons, packed June 1991
    SL34b/0146 – NBC smock, Remploy, July 1991
    SL32a/4616 – bivouac bag, CQC, 1991
    SL32a/5519 – rifle grenade pouch, CQC, 1991
    SL34b series – 1990 to early/mid 90s (ddpm clothing)
    SL32a/5578 – PLCE side pouch, Remploy, 1991
    SL32a/5578 – PLCE frog, Remploy, 1991
    SL32a/5788 – compression sack for sleeping bag, A.I.L., 1992
    SL34b/0246 – NBC suit, Remploy, 6/92, 10/92 (fabric date 9/91), 3/93
    SL34b/0490 – NBC overboots, bp, packed Nov 1992
    SL32A/5975 – respirator haversack, CWL, 1993
    SL32a/6123 – dpm respirator haversack, Remploy, 1993
    SL32a/6174 – rifle grenade pouch, Jacon, 1993
    SL32a/6320 – dpm PLCE frog, Remploy, 1994
    SL34b/0742 – NBC overboots, LBR, packed Sept 1994
    SL34b/0757 – overalls white, Supercraft, 1994
    ST1A/1292 – NBC suit, LBRCO, 1994
    ST1A/1406 – 2nd patt pre-S95 desert trousers – 1993-1995?
    SL33b/5489 – NBC gloves, OWR-H, packed Jan 1995
    CT/CB 34B/0969 – NBC overboots, maker not stated, March 1995
    SL34b/0281 – NBC gloves, James North & Sons Ltd, packed Nov 94, Apr 95
    CC2/1531 – Soldier 95 ripstop smock, 1995-2000
    CT32A/6688 – SA80 cover, 1995
    CT34B/1036 – NBC overboots, Oct 1995
    CT34B/1039 – gaiters GS, 1995 and 1996
    CT34B/1060 – gaiters GS, 1995
    CT1A/1005 – PLCE belt, Papworth, 1996
    CT1A/1066 – NBC overboots, Oct 1996
    CT1A/1067 – NBC overboots, Nov 1996
    CT1A/1067 – NBC overboots, Acton, Jun 1997
    CT1A/1157 – gaiters GS, 1997
    CT34B/1154 – NBC smock, Remploy, packed Feb 1997
    CT34B/1154 – NBC trousers, Remploy, packed Sept 1997
    ST1A/1197 – NBC inner gloves, Nov 99, Feb 2000
    CT1A/1103 – NBC gloves, Mar 2000
    ST1A/1292 – NBC suit, Remploy, packed Jan 2000; June 2001; Mar 2003
    ST1A/1456 – NBC gloves, Feb 2001
    ST1A/1467 – parachute helmet, 2001
    OC2a/1593 – desert windproof smock, Supercraft (Europe) Ltd, 2002
    OC2a/1614 – desert helmet cover, Supercraft (Europe) Ltd, 2003
    OC2/1534 – vest CS95, 2003
    ST1A/1478 – NBC gloves, 2003
    DC1bESL/0010 - desert windproof smock, Armour Products, 2003
    DC1aESL/0052 – NBC trousers, Remploy, Sept 2003
    CC2/1567 – roll mat, AP Ltd, 2004
    DC1aESL/0014 – Mk6 helmet, 2004
    DC1aESL/0118 – NBC overboots, Silvertown UK Ltd, Dec 2004
    DC1aESL/0156 – PLCE belt, 2004
    DC1a/ESL/0127 – NBC smock, Remploy, 2005
    DC1a/ESL/0151 – rucksack cover, 2005
    DC1a/ESL/0237 – NBC suit, Remploy, Jan 2006
    DC2CESL/3129 – desert windproof smock, Cooneen Watts & Stone, 2006
    DC1BESL/6004 – gloves, combat, 2006
    DC4BESL/1000 – sleeping bag cover, 2006
    CC2/1567 – roll mat, AP Ltd, 2007
    DC2CESL/3154 – small pouch cover, 2007
    DC1BESL/6007 – combat gloves, 2007
    DC1aESL/0369 – gaiters, 2007
    DC1aESL/0391 – desert sheet, J & S Franklin, 2008, 2009
    DC2BESL/1000 - sleeping bag cover, 2009
    DC2CESL/3154 – rucksack covers, 2007, 2008, 2009
    DC2CESL/3129 – windproof smock, CW&S, 2009
    DC2CESL/3129 – desert helmet cover, Cooneen Watts & Stone, 2010
    DC1A/1043 – Arctic sleeping bag, 2010
    DC2B12514 – vest, 2010

    fourtycoats
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    Re: Using labels and markings to date postwar British clothing and equipment

    Post by fourtycoats on Wed Apr 08, 2015 3:33 pm

    Awesome work of erudition Edward, or, as our American friends would say, "way to go, you the man".

    CollectinSteve
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    Re: Using labels and markings to date postwar British clothing and equipment

    Post by CollectinSteve on Thu Apr 09, 2015 12:50 pm

    Or as our English friends say, "good show, chaps!" (best said in the voice of General Melchett) Very Happy

    I've got this saved on my harddrive now because there's been more than once (or once times 100) that I've wanted to date something British and came up

    And for humor of the day:

    General Melchett: You look surprised, Blackadder.

    Captain Blackadder: I certainly am, sir. I didn't realise we had any battle plans.

    General Melchett: Well, of course we have! How else do you think the battles are directed?

    Captain Blackadder: Our battles are directed, sir?

    General Melchett: Well, of course they are, Blackadder, directed according to the Grand Plan.

    Captain Blackadder: Would that be the plan to continue with total slaughter until everyone's dead except Field Marshal Haig, Lady Haig and their tortoise, Alan?

    General Melchett: Great Scott! Even you know it!

    Steve

    Edward53
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    Re: Using labels and markings to date postwar British clothing and equipment

    Post by Edward53 on Thu Apr 09, 2015 1:58 pm

    fourtycoats wrote:Awesome work of erudition Edward, or, as our American friends would say, "way to go, you the man".

    Thanks for the credit but anyone could have done this, no special skill needed.

    For some reason the link I tried to embed in the first post didn't take, so here it is: http://raoc.websitetoolbox.com/post?id=5816423&goto=nextnewest. Post 7 is where I found out what CT2, 3 and 4 stand for.

    CollectinSteve
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    Re: Using labels and markings to date postwar British clothing and equipment

    Post by CollectinSteve on Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:34 pm

    [quote="Edward53"]
    fourtycoats wrote:Thanks for the credit but anyone could have done this, no special skill needed.

    True, but not "anyone" did this... you did! So the credit does go to you.

    Steve

    LeeKitchen1975
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    Re: Using labels and markings to date postwar British clothing and equipment

    Post by LeeKitchen1975 on Sun Apr 12, 2015 8:08 am

    Very interesting read, thank you for sharing!

    Martin
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    Re: Using labels and markings to date postwar British clothing and equipment

    Post by Martin on Fri Apr 24, 2015 2:03 am

    Hi Ed,

    This is great work!

    So....

    http://camouniforms.net/index.php/western-europe/uk/p68-dpm-heavily-spotted/1076-2015-01-23-13-19-47
    A/78/Clo/44880/1/CB(CT)4A
    Would be 1974-75

    http://camouniforms.net/index.php/western-europe/uk/p68-dpm-unspotted/1078-2015-01-23-13-35-39
    CT4B/1519
    Would be 1984-85

    http://camouniforms.net/index.php/western-europe/uk/p84-dpm-lightly-spotted/1090-p84-dpm-lightly-spotted-bright-green-variation-combat-smock
    SL32b/5014
    Would be 1989-90

    And this one:

    A/78/Clo/45819/CB(CT)48
    Would be 1974-75?

    Is this correct?

    Edward53
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    Re: Using labels and markings to date postwar British clothing and equipment

    Post by Edward53 on Fri Apr 24, 2015 7:42 am

    Yes; yes; I think 1990; and yes in that order. That last one is a very rare and sought-after smock, as I'm sure you are well aware!

    Martin
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    Re: Using labels and markings to date postwar British clothing and equipment

    Post by Martin on Sun May 10, 2015 3:00 am

    Thanks Ted, I've updated articles with dates: http://camouniforms.net/index.php/western-europe/uk

    One more question:
    This late model P68 jacket: http://camouniforms.net/index.php/western-europe/uk/p68-dpm-unspotted/1077-2015-01-23-13-31-14

    Has a contract number of: J40971-1 (it's hard to see in the photo but it's clear reading the actual label).

    Do you know what this would be?

    Only thing I can think of is would it be a foreign contract? For example like these P68 smocks for Australia:
    http://camouniforms.net/index.php/oceania/australia/dpm

    Thanks for you help again.

    Regards,
    Martin.

    Edward53
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    Re: Using labels and markings to date postwar British clothing and equipment

    Post by Edward53 on Sun May 10, 2015 9:24 am

    I don't know what the J contract is. Because I haven't seen another one (and I have looked at a lot of labels), I imagine it is a foreign contract as you suggest. The only other thing I can think of is a private contract, for soldiers to buy their own dpm in the early days when there weren't enough 68 patts to go round. That's purely a guess with nothing to back it up.

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