The great things about birthdays is the gifts. This is a wonderful item - thanks Brian! An exquisite card box made for an officer (surely!) in the Indian Army. I'm not sure what the wood is - any ideas? But the engravings indicate the section of the army in which the lucky owner of this box served.
The box bears the crest of the REME - the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, which was formed in October 1942 to repair and maintain all British Army equipment. It also has the crest of REME's Indian offshoot, the Indian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers formed in 1943. The corps motto of 'omnia facimus' translates as 'we can do everything'. There's confidence for you!
This crest, including 'INDIA' inscribed in a five-pointed star, remained in use until 1955, by which time - in the aftermath of independence - the IEME had been renamed the Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
The box is also inscribed with the initials of its owner - PWM. I would be intrigued to know who this might be.
We can't be sure that the contents of the box - two packs of cards, two sets of poker dice, billiard chalk and a couple of similar items - are original, but they could well be.
You can see how this would be a Godsend during the long evenings and the perpetual waiting which was a large part of army life. And the craftsmanship of the box reflects how important cards and gambling was to ease the soldiers' privations.
Canasta, by the way, is a type of rummy which was devised in the 1940s and became hugely popular in the following decade - it's been described as 'the most recent card game to gain worldwide status as a classic'.
Its popularity has waned but Canasta is still around - and it's played with two decks of cards.
Canasta, just to let you know, is Spanish for basket.
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