Authentic Surplus: British Army Ditty Bag
A report on a fantastic find from Abandonista Emeritus, Wendy Joffe!
This is a British Army ditty bag, or kit bag, if you will. Initially I made two incorrect assumptions: 1) It’s Royal Navy, and 2) it’s made from muslin. Absolutely wrong on both counts. The Navy ditty bags made at this time are a bit larger, of heavier canvas that has been rubberized to protect the contents. In the Age of Sail, a sailor was never without his trusty ditty bag, as it contained tools and material for the repair of, yes, sails! Later on, a ditty bag held one’s personal belongings, as a supplemental carry-all for the indispensable duffle bag. Interestingly, British soldiers were issued white ditty bags; in comparing photos of various kit bags, I figured, incorrectly, the Brits would use “army green” just like the GIs.
The guess of muslin as the material was made in haste; while it’s creamy white, with the occasional brownish fleck, it’s definitely canvas. The drawcord is twisted natural fibres, like a super-sturdy version of garden twine. Overall, the bag measures 28″ long (about 71 cm) and 15″ in diameter (about 38 cm). The seams are neatly sewn, and the interior bears some interesting marks: “130” is hand-written on one side, while the opposite shows an array of various stamps. These include the ubiquitous “broad arrow” of British military gear, above the year 1954. Atop that is probably the manufacturer’s mark: “A & L & N”. Below the date stamp is a set of four numbers (?), probably: “0 0 7 9”, which may indicate the style/lot number.
This bag was never issued; its interior is spotless, although one outside panel has some smudges from storage. Thankfully the BR “Discovered by” hang tag is still attached, and there’s a plastic leash which likely held the price ticket. (That’s too bad, I’d like to know the item number.) All in all, this is a really neat relic of the BR heyday; like the Mine Laying Gloves, it’s one of those curios that was found only in the stores.