Farewell Blanco – Hello Pickerings

October 1954 – Soldier magazine

The Army breaks with Blanco

For some time there have been rumours that Blanco was to be superseded. In July last year SOLDIER announced that the War Office was experimenting with a new equipment cleaner. Already the Royal Air Force is using a new style renovator for webbing.

Now the Army is saying farewell to Blanco. By Christmas, troops in Britain will be wearing their web equipment with a new dressing on it. Troops overseas will have to wait up to another three or four months.

“Renovator Web Equipment,” as Army Council Instructions will call it, will replace the four khaki-green shades of Blanco. It looks rather like khaki-green boot-polish, and is put on with a brush, like boot-polish. It is water-proof, dries very quickly, does not run off, is easy to apply, is lasting, can be touched up, can be wiped over.

The new renovator comes in the same four approved khaki-green shades as Blanco- No. 3 (olive green), No.61 (khaki), No.97 (dark green) and No.103 (light green). For some reason, it is not very satisfactory in white, and so the Guards and the Royal Military Police will use existing cleaners. Similarly, the Royal Tank Regiment will continue to use blacking on its webbing.

The Good Soldier

It was the Royal Tank Regiment’s use of blacking which inspired the new renovator. Back in 1947, a suggestion was made to the War Office that this practise should be extended to all units. The authorities did not take kindly to the idea, but the War Office asked the Ministry of Supply to produce something like boot-polish, in the right colours, to take the place of Blanco.

The answer came in an experimental renovator with a wax content which made it not only waterproof but shiny. With camouflage in mind, the War Office sent it back with a request that the shine should be taken out. As it turned out, this was not entirely possible, and the Army had to accept a certain amount of shine.

Soldiers tested the new renovator in the Ministry of Supply’s Clothing and Stores Testing Establishment at Chatham, and it had world-wide troop trials in 1951 and 1952. A number of proprietary cleaners were also tried out, but none was found as good as that produced by the Ministry of Supply.

NAAFI has now asked to arrange for a manufacturer to produce the Army’s renovator, and it will be sold exclusively by NAAFI.

It may cost the soldier slightly more to treat his equipment the first time with the new renovator than it did with Blanco. Afterwards, however, it should be cheaper to keep the equipment looking smart by retouching. The renovator must be used sparingly to prevent caking.

The renovator can be used on the 1944 webbing. This was waterproofed, and it was forbidden to use Blanco on it. The new renovator, it is claimed, will improve the waterproof properties of the equipment.

The ousting of Blanco will mean the end of those little clouds of dust which rise from rifle slings when large parades are ordered to present arms. It will also mean the end of countless Blanco jokes. The one of these that Blanco’s manufacturers liked best concerned a Guardsman who staggered into an outpost, after days lost in the desert, gasping, “Water, Water!” He was handed a water-bottle, and croaked, “At last, at last I can Blanco my webbing.”

One unorthodox use of Blanco in days gone by was as a preventative and cure for saddle sores.

MP white Blanco

Blanco has had a long innings with the Army. It was born in 1875 when a Volunteer (predecessor of the Territorial) named John Needham Pickering thought his family firm of polish-makers could produce something better than the traditional pipeclay for whitening the buckskin equipment the Army then wore. For ten or 15 years, a Blanco – pipeclay controversy went on in barrack-rooms, and Blanco won.

When the Army went into khaki about 1900, khaki Blanco was first produced. In 1908 web equipment came in and five years later Blanco was officially approved as the Army’s web cleaner. During World War Two some 30,000,000 blocks of Blanco were supplied to the Services; the manufacturers, Messrs. Joseph Pickering and Sons, Ltd., estimated this at between one or two blocks per man per year, which suggested that Servicemen spent less time than was popularly supposed cleaning their webbing. (This question of time spent on Blanco-ing has more than once been raised in Parliament.)

In air raids on Sheffield in 1940 Blanco production was held up for nine weeks – news which, if it had been known, was unlikely to have created any alarm or despondency.

Cutting supplied by Allen Prior, Feb 2010

soldier magazine 1954
Original Oct 1954 article

From Change number 6355 in The list of Changes for December 1954.
Buff- K.G. No. 61 (Cat No HA 13694)
Khaki, Green,
Dark – KG No.3 (Cat No HA 13693)
Light – KG No. 103 (Cat No HA 13696)
Medium – KG No 97 (Cat No HA 13695)

The above are introduced for service to replace the following

Olive Green No.3 (Cat No HA 12802)
Olive Green No.D61 (Cat No HA 12804)
Olive Green No.C103 (Cat No HA 12805)

Dated 3rd September 1954.