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.
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.
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”.