Army Forms Update: B. 295 and C. 2118

In my professional life, I have learned the concept of “continuous quality improvement”, and I have tried to implement this practice into my historical endeavors, as well.  Whether it is research for my articles, or the displays I set up at public events, I try to avoid the idea of “good enough” and always look for ways to make improvements.

In recent articles, I wrote about two different Army Forms:  the Pass, B. 295; and the War Diary and Intelligence Summary, C. 2118.  In preparing both articles, I studied numerous photographs from various sources; I examined many more photographs than I ended up using in the articles.  I had made reproductions of both forms prior to writing the articles; since then, I decided I needed to make improvements to my reproductions.

War Diary Repro C2118

Updated reproduction Army Form C. 2118, War Diary or Intelligence Summary.

The War Diary and Intelligence Summary was the easier of the two to update.  I was already happy with the appearance of this reproduction; the text was correct, the font was a close match, and I had the right number of rows and columns.  However, I was dissatisfied with the size of the document once printed.  I had decided, for logistical reasons, to set up my reproduction so I could print it on standard US letter-sized paper, which is 8 ½ by 11 inches.  However, the original form is quite wide, and my reproduction did not have the right aspect ratio; I also trimmed away quite a lot of blank paper.  I recently attended a tactical reenactment where officers and NCO’s were required to write and submit intelligence reports.  I used my reproduction C. 2118, but found it was a little too small and did not have enough room to write as much information as I wanted; I ended up using several sheets over the course of the event.

When I first made my reproduction C. 2118, I used the default margin settings in Microsoft Word.  For my updated version, I narrowed the side margins and therefore widened the entire document; I also widened the center column (“Summary of Events and Information”), where most of the text is to be written.  The result looks closer to the original, at least to my eye.  It also has more usable writing space.

The Pass was more challenging.  As mentioned in my earlier article, while studying photographs of originals, I noticed there was a remarkable variety depending on the publisher and time period.  I decided that, rather than try to make a replica of any one specific version of the Pass, to instead make a reproduction that would have the right look but be useful at living history events.  Many of the later versions had fields that did not seem relevant for my purposes, such as the closest train station and hospital to the soldier’s destination; post-war B. 295’s, including the 1946 original in my collection, often had a field for the orderly room’s telephone number.  I wanted something I could issue to a member of my unit so he could leave our display and visit the rest of the event, such as an air show; I therefore based my reproduction on the earlier versions of the form.  I had used my reproduction passes at some events and they had worked well; but again, I felt improvements were needed.

Pass Repro B295

Updated reproduction Army Form B. 295 Pass.  Note the space for the unit stamp.

I remembered King’s Regulations (1940) required that “Every pass will be stamped with the regimental office stamp before being issued” [Sec. 1601 (a)].  Additionally, nearly all the photographs of issued passes showed that they had, indeed, been stamped.  The earlier passes had been stamped directly over the text of the form, but later versions had an allocated area for the unit stamp; I therefore created such a space on my reproduction.  I then found a company that makes custom rubber stamps and ordered one for my unit.  I added text to the top of the Pass referencing the rule about a soldier returning to his unit upon mobilization of the Reserve, which was common to many of the originals; I also changed the font on some of the text.

Like the War Diary, I think my revised Pass is a significant improvement.  I have another air show coming up in a couple weeks; I’m curious to see if my lads notice any differences in their “bumf”.

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The Pass: Army Form B. 295

Like any large organization, the British Army generated a significant amount of bureaucracy, and the officers and men had seemingly mountains of paperwork to contend with.  While it may be true that “an army marches on its stomach”, it was also true that detailed records had to be kept of the units involved in the march, where they were headed, and how many rations were needed to fill their stomachs on their way.

It seemed that every specific task had its own designated form.  While the orderly room and quartermaster’s stores needed documentation in order to function, this enormous amount and variety of paperwork was met with bewilderment and scorn from the private soldier.  Bureaucratic paperwork was known as “bum fodder” or simply “bumf”* by the lower ranks; similarly, a sheet of latrine paper was ironically nicknamed the “Army Form, Blank”.

One form that was commonly encountered, and even coveted, by the private soldier was the Pass, Army Form B. 295.  Going absent without leave was a serious offense; specifically, it was a violation of Section 15 of the Army Act, and could be punished by imprisonment.  Army Form B. 295 was written authorization for leave; the soldier had to keep the pass on his person, and present it on demand to his superiors as evidence of being on approved leave.

Pass 1918 Nat Army Museum

Army Form B. 295, printed in 1917, filled out and issued in 1918.  From the collection of the National Army Museum.

According to King’s Regulations (1940),

1601. (a) Every… pass will be made out on A.F. B295, and be granted and signed by the company, etc., commander. If the period of leave does not exceed 24 hours, a soldier will not be required to state on his pass where he is going, unless notification of his destination is considered desirable owing to local conditions, or is essential to enable him to procure a railway ticket at the military concession rate. Every pass will be stamped with the regimental office stamp before being issued.

(b) If the whole Royal Army Reserve is called out, a soldier on pass will return immediately to his unit without waiting for instructions.

1604. A pass (other than a permanent pass) will not be granted for more than six days: for longer periods a furlough is necessary.

Like many Army Forms, the B. 295 appears to have been adopted in the late Victorian era; it was certainly well established by World War I.  The form itself evolved over time, with later versions typically containing more fields and requiring more detail than earlier versions.  There were also different publishers contracted to provide the forms, with some variances evident between contractors.

Pass 1932 Kings Own Royal Regt Museum

A.F. B. 295, printed in 1928, filled out and issued in 1932.  From the collection of the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum.

The B. 295 was comprised of two portions.  The main part of the document was the pass itself, issued to the soldier; there was also a smaller piece, similar to a receipt or ticket stub, which was retained by the issuing officer and kept in company records.  The forms were distributed in pads, typically of 100 forms per pad, with each sheet having a perforated line for ease of separating the pass from the stub.

Despite the variances, all passes identified the soldier’s name, rank and Army number, the dates the pass was valid, and the signature of the issuing officer.  The rule about a soldier returning to his unit upon mobilization of the Reserve was often printed on the pass itself.

Pass 1952 Kings Own Royal Regt Museum

A.F. B. 295 issued in 1952.  Unfortunately, I cannot make out the printing date on this example.  It is also unclear why the stub was not detached and retained by the issuing officer.  From the collection of the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum.

I have an original B. 295, which was printed in August, 1946, as indicated by the markings in the top left corner.  This form is on very thin off-white paper, and has grown even more delicate with age; there is also some discoloration at the edge of the form.  The entire sheet is still intact; that is, the pass has not been detached from the stub.  There are small holes showing where the form had been stapled as part of a pad.  This postwar pass has a specific space allocated for the unit stamp; unlike earlier versions, there is also a field for the unit telephone number.  The reverse of the pass has detailed instructions for a soldier who is injured or becomes ill while on leave, followed by instructions for the civilian doctor or dentist who treats the soldier.

B295 8-46 Front

The author’s original B. 295:  Pass.  The markings at the top left indicate a printing date of August, 1946.  The dark area to the right is a discoloration of the paper, not a photo error.

B295 8-46 Rear

Reverse of the same pass shown above.  Author’s collection.

Because my original form is so delicate, I keep it in a padded envelope in a desk drawer.  However, I decided to put my desktop publishing and paper crafting skills to the test by creating a reproduction pass.  I based my reproduction on the earlier, simpler versions of the form, partly to make the job easier, and partly because some of the later details were not likely to relate to a reenacting event.  I purchased a perforating tool to replicate the pass-and-stub format.  I then made pads by attaching the sheets to a cardboard backing, but I was only able to use 15 sheets per pad based on the limitations of my current stapler.

Several months ago, my reenacting unit attended an air show and set up an educational display for the public.  Any time one of the unit members wanted to leave our area and see the rest of the show, I filled out a reproduction B. 295 and handed it to him.  I enjoyed it as a small touch of living history; I hope the others did as well, although I suspect they probably grumbled about the “bumf”.

B295 Repro

The author’s attempt at a reproduction B. 295.

For any reenactor not wanting to go through the hassle of making their own B. 295, quality reproductions are available from Clever Forgery as well as Rob Van Meel’s Re-Print Military Literature; these professionally-made reproductions are far superior to my humble effort.

*Sometimes spelled “bumph”.