History of the British Military's Broad Arrow and Watches

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History and Role of the Broad Arrow

 Commonly called the "Broad Arrow" or "Crow's Foot", the crest depicting an arrowhead was long a mark of British military ownership.

 There are many theories about its origin and first use.

 The most widely accepted theory is that it originated from the arrow, the most important weapon of the medieval English army.

 Built by King Henry III of England between 1238 and 1272, Broad Arrow Tower is said to have been named after the royal property mark of London.
Another theory is that the mark originated from Henry Sidney, 1st Earl of Romney, who served as military governor from 1693 to 1702, as he used the broad arrow as his family crest, but the mark has been in use since before this.

 Some argue that a document dated 1330 issued by the king's steward, Richard de la Pole, about the purchase of wine marked each item to ensure that the king's ownership could be easily established.

 An early example of the Broad Arrow's use can be seen in some of the items recovered from the Tudor ship Mary Rose, which was sunk in 1545. From this time it became widely used in British military equipment, and was also used in Britain's overseas colonies.

"British Broad Arrow" If you start collecting antique military items, you will almost certainly come across the "Broad Arrow".

Throughout the 20th century, the mark was stamped, printed or embedded onto countless weapons and articles of clothing, designating such products as British property.
British Broad Arrow mark

The broad arrow or lance symbolized the long pointed end of an arrow or a javelin.

Broad Arrow may have been the first trademark to come into widespread use.
There are other marks combined with the Broad Arrow that have historical background.

For example, the broad arrow combined with a number underneath it is the mark commonly associated with a British prosecutor.
Broad Arrow mark (mark with a number underneath)

During the Revolutionary era, a wooden mark with three notches known as the "King's Broad Arrow" was sometimes used by the British Empire as a sign of authority.

Much of the wood used in this mark is tall white pine, the type of timber used in constructing the ships themselves and the masts of larger ships.

The Broad Arrow was also used to mark the place of origin of British prisoners when they were repatriated to Australia.

The mark below is an example of a Broad Arrow which denotes countries which were part of the UK at one time or another.

These marks can be found on many military items produced during World War I and World War II.
Broad Arrow marks indicating countries that were once part of the UK

The markings look like this, and in most cases they were engraved on the watch.

This was so that when the British military ordered watches from the Dirty Dozen, they would be immediately recognizable as belonging to the British and their allies.

That is why it is so important to measure time accurately.

If you want to know more about the history of Broad Arrow military watches, click here

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