Soldiers Personal Items Box

All soldiers were issued a set amount of equipment as per their Personal Kit Issue Form 1157.

As well as their issued equipment and uniform, each soldier had some form of box or bag for their own personal equipment and keepsakes.

The boxes used were often discarded ammunition boxes, as these were plentiful on the battlefield. These were appropriated by soldiers, customized and used to transport their personal belongings.

Here are a few bits that are carried in this particular personal box (key to the items is below)

  1. Desert Rat. The Desert Rat (a Jerboa or Lesser Egyptian Jerboa), was a common rodent found across North Africa and the nickname given to the 7th Armoured division. This is not a period item but is used to show where the nickname came from.

  2. Beer Bottle. Beer was readily available during the North Africa campaign, there was even a brewery in Cairo making a beer called Stella. Whitbread Brewery sent 500 cases of beer to honour “the defenders of Tobruk” in North Africa. Montgomery put a stop to it all when he took over command of the 8th Army.

  3. Cigarette case. Tin case, decorated during a soldier’s downtime with some engraving.

  4. Services Guide to Cairo. From the foreword ‘This Guide is published by the Co-Ordinating Council for the Welfare of the Troops in Egypt with a view to providing useful information for Officers and men of His Britannic Majesty’s Forces staying in and coming on leave to Cairo, including particulars of Services Clubs, Restaurants and places of entertainment.’

  5. Gold Flake Cigarettes. Original unopened packet of cigarettes. These days we know the dangers of smoking but back in the 40’s it was considered a great way to relax.

  6. Horlicks Tablets. Horlicks goodness consumed like a sweet.

  7. Men Only. 1942 men’s magazine, designed to amuse the soldiers, when away from home.

  8. October 1942 Daily Mirror. Period newspaper with headlines about the breakout al El Alamein.

  9. Family photograph. A memento to help remember the family back home.

  10. 8th Army Playing cards. Playing cards produced in Cairo to commemorate the 8th Army and Montgomery.

  11. Hair clippers. The only way to get a haircut in the desert was to buy a pair of hair clippers in Cairo or Alexandria and then persuade your mate to cut your hair. Anyone who managed to do a good job with the hair clippers, ended up cutting everyone’s hair.

  12. Wilkinson Sword safety razor. Soldiers were expected to shave, even though you only got 2 pints of water a day in the desert, hygiene standards had to be maintained.

  13. British No. 4 Torch with red and green filters. Batter powered torch that is almost identical to the German Daimon Telko Trio Field Torch. It has a strap on the back for attaching to a belt and a small tab for attaching to a button.

  14. Cairo Calling. Like the Radio times, it lists all the radio programmes and the frequencies that they are broadcasting on.

  15. Soldiers Bible. King James bible, given to every soldier. To some it brought comfort and protection, to others it was a source of paper.

  16. Military Pocket Watch. A much-prized possession, if the common soldier could acquire one. Luminous hands and numbers, so you could tell the time at night.

  17. A means of carrying money, notes and coins, stamps, letters etc.

  18. Italian Flag. Kingdom of Italy flag, captured in North Africa by a British soldier.

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