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Things Nick Finds

I haven’t done one of these for ages…

Anyway last week saw Nick spring-clean the house. I say clean but it was more a root and branch re-organisation from the ground up. Anyway I re-found something I’d found earlier and forgotten about.

It was in the broom cupboard lurking behind enough plastic shopping bags to mke sails for a fleet of tea-clippers. I wish I could remember where I found it. I know it wasn’t in the attic. I distinctly recall searching that shortly after moving in and rather than a lost Vermeer or the impedimenta for carrying out demonology or something (it’s a very old house c. 1600) I found an oversized magazine rack and a rather shabby looking NHS commode. Who knows maybe that is what you need for dabbling in the occult?

Anyway, it was a biscuit tin. I may not recall where I originally found it but I do recall finding it. I recall that because I picked it up and nearly did myself some form of injustice. It was much heavier than biscuit tins ought to be. This is what it contained (and still does)…

cutlery1

And the obverse…

cutlery2

The box was full of these – all identical. That’s why it was so heavy.

I’d like to know if any of you can shed any light on these items. I’ll tell you a bit more. They are not attracted by a permanent magnet and feel too heavy to be aluminium. The knife is particularly odd. I’ve tried it and it feels wrong for eating with. It is also surprisingly sharp and pointed. It is single bladed. The only marks on them are on the top, “US” and on the reverse of the fork and spoon, “SKOCO” and on the knife, “OK”.

Right I’ve figured they are US Military but I am curious as to age (they look generally in very good condition) and quite how they wound-up in this ol’ place in Cheshire, England.

22 Comments

  1. RAB says:

    I’d say they were US Army circa 1944 troop utility ware, and judging by the size of them, dual purpose.

    That is to say, scoffing the G Rations with them, having first dug your foxhole with them. The knife is almost big enough to be a Roman short stabbing sword.

    Gawd knows what they are made of though, being no Metallurgist, but I’d guess, an alloy of Aluminium and steel.

  2. GW says:

    They look like cutlery from a U.S. Army mess kit. They were used during WWI, WWII and Korea. At some point, they were transitioned out of use, though I am not sure exactly when. I know they were out of use by the time of Vietnam in the 60′s.

  3. Slamlander says:

    They are a mess kit from a US Army Field kitchen, circa 1945. The material is stainless steel, which is non-ferrous/non-magnetic.

    Even now, it isn’t possible to allow Aluminum and Stainless steel.

  4. Slamlander says:

    s/allow/alloy/

  5. NickM says:

    Right, thanks guys.

    I was guessing the knife is multi-use. Not so much as a weapon but for all the many and varied things humanity has used knives for since Ugg started banging flints together.

    I’d also guessed that they were pre-Vietnam – probs WWII – so thanks for adding evidence on that score!

    Any other info gratefully appreciated.

  6. GW says:

    At any rate, yes, the cutlery is likely from WWII time frame, given that was the last time U.S. Army troops were stationed on your lovely land in force.

  7. Talwin says:

    There’s a Romanian guy called Mihai Maghiaru (I don’t know how to do the link thingy but his name comes up on Google) who writes on a website called ‘Belongings’, where post WWII migrants (in his case, to Australia) talk about some of the belongings they took with them.

    There is a picture of an identical fork and spoon to yours and Maghiaru says he ‘”borrowed” the cutlery from the US army on the way to Bremerhaven refugee camp’.

    The wonderful world of Google, eh?

  8. Ian F4 says:

    Look up US Army Mess Kit on eBay, there are several similar ones on there, it’s almost certainly WW2.

  9. Ian F4 says:

    Another search is “WW2 utensils” on eBay.

  10. NickM says:

    Ian,
    Oddly enough – when se saw this post – my wife did almost exactly the same. Blody good condition for WWII though. What did they make’em from?

  11. RAB says:

    And of course it all fitted together… the knife fork and spoon into the serving tray, and the serving tray clipped to the Skillet, contained the lot, so a soldier could just slip the lot into his backpack, with the handle standing up.

  12. JonB says:

    Nick, as Slamlander said, they’ll be stainless steel. Austenitic stainless (lotsa chrome, lotsa nickel) is non-magnetic and has very good corrosion resistance unless you start stressing it in the presence of chlorides (the dreaded stress corrosion cracking). Sitting in a biscuit tin for sixty years isn’t going to do anything to it.

    While I’m no cutlery nerd I do have to know my way around engineering materials, and have noticed that all the cutlery in my house is marked 18-8 or 18-10, classic older stainless designations (18% chrome, 8/10% nickel). I should think your mess kit is a similar alloy.

  13. Subrosa says:

    Possibly ‘borrowed’ from a PX (the equivalent of the British NAAFI) just after the WW11. I’ve seen several items, although not the full set, when I was younger.

    Just for information, the NAAFI used to lose 70%+ of their cutlery over a period of a year and that was during the 60s and 70s. I’ve no experience of the 50s.

  14. Dizzy Ringo says:

    Quite simple.

    There were a lot of US MIlitary based in North Cheshire just before D Day. In fact, as I understand it, General Patton (who was actually quite popular) managed to upset the politically correct at one stage – I forget how!

    At the weekends local families used to offer hospitality to the troops – having them to lunch for example. They used to produce things like popcorn and teach us locals how to cook it. In our case it was on the fire in the sitting room. That was fine but without the correct utensils it used to take hours to find all the popcorn in far flung corners of the room.

    Maybe the inhabitants of your house ran a cafe?

  15. GW says:

    If I recall correctly, Patton got in trouble for an innocuous speech to something like the Ladies Auxiliary just a bit before D-Day. My Patton books are with my son at the moment and I haven’t read them in 30 years, but I am pretty sure it is because he said that the U.S. and Britain would rule the world after we dispensed with the Nazis. Apparently, some acolytes of Uncle Joe Stalin were listening (think you had a few of them over there back then) and they did not take kindly to such remarks.

  16. NickM says:

    Thanks folks. As ever Kitty Kounting Kommentariat (need better initials) don’t disappoint!

  17. Lynne says:

    While the utensils may be US army issue I reckon the design is either British or Australian. Only we or thw Aussies could have the foresight to design field cutlery capable of opening beer bottles.

  18. NickM says:

    Lynne,
    I don’t think so. And you can’t open a bottle. I have tried. Anyway you do the IDF a disservice. The Galil assault rifle (an AK-47 clone) does have a bottle opener built in. Why? Apparently you could jemmy open a bottle using the magazine slot but this was liable to break things so the IDF incorporated a bottle–opener.

  19. Lynne says:

    Is it my fault the Yanks skimped on the design? Grin. And good on the IDF for considering easy access to a major coolant for their troops.

  20. Adam Collyer says:

    See this pdf file. Details on page 42.

    :)

  21. Paul Kenworthy says:

    Congrats to Adam Collyer for showing that the utensils are pattern of 1962. I loved the way everyone was so sure they were from WWII and cited eBay as a source. Many sellers on eBay have no idea what the history of the items they are selling is.

    My guess is that Nick’s were sold as surplus after the US Army switched to plastic utensils. That’s how I got mine.

    Also, the slots in the handles are for washing, not bottle opening. If you look at the meat pans on page 34 of the pdf, you will see that the lid has a D ring on it. You slip the D ring over the handle of the fry pan along with the knife, fork and spoon, and you can hold the handle while you dip them all together in hot wash water. Then a dunk in hot rinse water and you’re ready for your next meal.

    Here’s a link to a photo of a re-enactment of a WWII US Army field kitchen showing how the wash pots were set up.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/28555256@N05/5237187838/in/set-72157625413603067/

    Cheers,

    Paul

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