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I while back I posted about a ditty box from a captured (surrendered) U-Boot. http://luger.gunboards.com/showthread.php?39938-A-Ditty-box-from-an-Unterseeboot

I have since acquired a second Utensilienkaste (utensil box), this one from a Minen Abteilung (minesweeper) sailor, and found out a bit more about them from digging around in German language sources, primarily the two volume Die deutschen Marinen 1818-1918 by Rolf Noeske and Claus Stefanski .

My second box came with a small lock, and my research indicates a lock was part of the normal kit of a sailor. Initially at least, they were responsible for buying the locks themselves.

The boxes were originally intended to store items that might break in a fully loaded duffel bag, or items that might contaminate the clothing in a duffel bag, as well as small personal items such as cleaning brushes, sewing kits, toiletries, writing utensils, pipes, tobacco, etc.

By decree of the Chief of the Admiralty on 9 September 1873 (MVBI 1873, Nr. 183, S.197) the utensil box was to be made of 1 cm thick pine wood with sliding cover. The box was to be the following dimensions: length: 26 cm, width: 16cm, height: 13 cm. The bottom of the box was fastened with wooden pins. The side walls had a groove at the top in which the lid was inserted. It had a fixture for locking; the padlock the men had to procure themselves. On the surface of the end where the lock hung, was a recess for receiving a nameplate.

The Sts RMA [Staatssekretär des Reichs Marine Amt, i.e. the Secretary of the Navy] approved a new a standard box on 4 February 1895 (MVBI 1895, Nr. 30, S. 36) The new sample differed from the previous sample by reinforcing the upper four corners of the box with brass corners fastened by screws.

On 16 February 16 1901 the Sts RMA decreed (MVBI 1901, Nr. 56, S78) that utensil boxes were to be provided with a brass name plate by the Bekleidungsampt.

On 1 December 1908 the Sts RMA eliminated the distribution of utensil boxes to the men of the MatrosenArtillerieAbteilungen, the Seewehrabteilungen and the Baudivisionen.

Finally, on 10 November 10 1915, the Sts RMA (BA RM 3/v 8255. Bl 21) agreed to the proposal of the BeklAmt Kiel that, in view of the scarcity of certain metals, the delivery of the brass name plates for the men would be only voluntary, appealing to their patriotic feelings.

To understand what might typically be found in a box, the initial clothing issue for prewar sailors included:

1 clothes brush, 1 shine brush, 1 applicator brush, 1 knock whip, 1 scrubbing brush, 1 toothbrush, 1 comb, 1 mirror, 1 Nähzeugtasche, 1 pocket knife with Lanyard. 1 lock for the box, utensils, soap and shoe polish. [The Nähzeugtasche is a sewing kit, with its own defined list of contents that is a compact roll, occupying only a little of the volume of a box. You can see one of mine here: http://luger.gunboards.com/showthread.php?55129-Housewife A “knock whip” is a miniature cat-o-nine tails like whip used to knock dirt and dust off of clothing. Think miniature carpet beater.]

My new box has a brass name plate identifying to a sailor in the Minenabteilung’s second company in the class of 1909.

Now that I have all this new information, I now believe that the original owner of my first box, who was a class of ’16 sailor, probably volunteered to not get a brass plate. That makes more sense than the idea that the original plate was removed from the box to affix the one that documents it was captured, when the second plate could just as easily been attached to the other end or the top.

Interestingly, my new box has a paper name tag under the brass one, probably to identify the newly issued box until the brass plate with his name, number and unit could be prepared.

IMG_1231.jpg IMG_1232.jpg IMG_1233.jpg IMG_1234.jpg IMG_1235.jpg IMG_1236.jpg

and here are some sailors with, based on what appear to be temporary numbers, newly issued boxes.

Seesoldaten mit Utensilienkasten sm.jpg
 

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Hi Mike,
Congratulations on finding that excellent box and the photo is icing on the cake!
Best regards, Norm
 

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Great lesson on the boxes. Thanks! Your new one looks great!
Tim
 

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Hi Mike, Congratulations on finding a rare personal item like a matrosen's ditty box in great condition. The detailed history is equally interesting, proving that knowing the native language is indispensable in research. Well done!
Btw, do your German books mention and give details / history for the rare 'U-boot' 9mm ammo boxes posted last year? I suspect they may have been issued to other 'wet environment' ships like torpedo boots / destroyers as well. The Tirpitz Principles allocated P.04's to those ships also.
 

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Mike, thanks for sharing your research and photos. It gave me a little education on a rare navy accessory. It, or should I say they, have found a good home. Congrats on adding another to your collection.John
 

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Thanks for the kind remarks, guys. As a collector I greatly enjoy researching the historical usage of the items I collect. Learning more about their context and the life and times of the people who used them is extremely interesting to me.
Sadly, my German is miserable. After three years of high school German, although I paid more attention to my young and attractive Bavarian teacher than I did to conjugating verbs, I suppose I had a passable schoolboy German. Having a next door neighbor who was a German war bride at least gave me someone to practice on. But sadly, with virtually no opportunities to speak German in the past 50 years, it has largely evaporated. My reading is stumbling along with the help of my massive Oxford German dictionary, along with three dictionaries devoted to German military terms.
Much to my chagrin, when the USAF was acting as my travel agent I was always sent to Asia, never Germany. Such is life. My wife and I plan to visit Germany now that we are retired, although we are currently focused on completing vacationing in all 50 states.
 

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Hi Mike, <big snip>
Btw, do your German books mention and give details / history for the rare 'U-boot' 9mm ammo boxes posted last year? I suspect they may have been issued to other 'wet environment' ships like torpedo boots / destroyers as well. The Tirpitz Principles allocated P.04's to those ships also.
Hi Dick
No, so far I've not come across any mention of the. I think I said something in one of the ammo box threads along the same lines. As you know, the Germans had a large number of torpedo boats and minesweepers that were issued P.04's (and cutlasses!). Given the extremely low freeboard of the German torpedo boats, they were probably a wetter environment than the U-Boots and, in my opinion, extremely likely candidates for the watertight boxes. Of course, as far as I know, we don't actually know where those boxes were used at all. At least I've not seen anything in the way of official documentation that ties them even to U-boats. We know from the surviving labels they were originally used for P.04 cartridges, and every one I'm aware of has Imperial Navy acceptance stamps, but that's about all we know.
 

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Hi Mike, Thanks for thoughts on the ammo box's. With deck level only about 7+' above water (freeboard) behind the raised forecastle (bow), the torpedo boot / small destroyers were easily swamped in North Atlantic sea's and swells. One can almost get sea-sick looking at them dip & roll in those conditions. In contrast, the U-boots were damp and excessively humid from condensation in addition to water seepage from the various hatches. Meanwhile I hope you find a box and join the club of 2, Norm and myself - cheers!
 

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Mike,
You come up with some very good period pictures which we all can learn from. The sailor on the far right is wearing a Hirschfanger which I bet is unit marked it has been a number of years now since I have seen an issue Hirschfanger for auction on eBay their is just not that many around.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Another photo, this one from 1916, with the fourth Matrose from the left clearly showing his Utensilienkasten. Matrosen mit Utensilienkasten 1916.jpg
 

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Good thread Mike, I had missed it.

Fascinating history, thanks much

I made it a sticky, you can unstick you want.


Ed
 
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