This article was originally written by Edward53 (Ted) on the IACMC Forum1. He has kindly given permission to reproduce it here.

Using labels and markings to date postwar British clothing and equipment

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

 

IMG 9334
For example, from the label above, the contract number SL32b/5014 identifies this P84 DPM Smock was manufactured in 1990.

 

Reference List
1. IACMC Forum
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