War Drawing Pencils / Utility Pencils / WWII Pencils – Part 4


You can go back to Part 3 HERE


Next up we have the Pencils (Manufacturers’ Maximum Prices) (No. 2) Directions of 1944. I’ve cut out the middle section as it is largely a repetition of a previous Direction. Essentially these Directions just set out the updated pricing for manufacturers:

In August 1942, Utility Pencils pricing was the subject of a debate in the Commons. HC Deb 04 August 1942 vol 382 c862W recorded the discussion:

From the looks of things, when the initial pricing scheme came in there were a few issues, so much so that I assume wholesalers ended up complaining to their local representatives.

The colouring pencils below are further examples of wartime Stationery Office pencil. 48-11 was the Stationery Office code for blue colouring pencils and 48-14 was for red. As with all Stationery Office pencils, there is a slight caveat that they could actually post-date the regulations.

In the sprit of stiff upper lip British wartime satire, the Daily Record (30 May 1942) published a witty article of novel pencil saving measures:

daily record 30 may 1942The aim of the Price of Goods Act 1939 was to prevent the price of goods, specified by the Board of Trade, being raised above a ‘basic price’ for those goods. Under the 1939 Act, It was unlawful for any person to sell, agree to sell or offer to sell, any ‘price-regulated goods’ in the course of any business at a price which exceeded the permitted price.


The Prices of Goods (Price-Regulated Goods) Order 1942 was the instrument that defined that pencils would fall under the rules set by the 1939 Act.  It takes a bit of digging into the 1942 Order, so I’ve prepared an abridged version below:

In addition to being price regulated goods, in 1943, all pencils were exempted from Purchase Tax due to the Purchase Tax (Exemptions) (No. 1) Order:

I’ve set out some additional examples below of Stationery Office HB/Utility pencils.  Note the ‘Empire Cedar’ on the reverse.  This would suggest that these are most likely made from Kenyan cedar as stipulated in the earlier rules.  The below advert is from Punch 14 October 1943: Vol 203 Iss 5303.  The copy lines up with earlier articles which suggest that the despite being of a limited range, the actual cores did not need to be of lower quality.

In February 1944, the South Wales Gazette reported one of the very few examples I could find of a seller falling foul of the law.  
R. M. Ash found himself in court and the recipient of a hefty fine for selling Utility pencils above the legal fixed price:

south wales gaz 25 feb 1944A nice Rowney example below.  If this is a wartime pencil, then it would technically be a ‘War Drawing’ instead of a ‘Utility’ because it is graded.  However, I’m starting to lean towards many of these Stationery Office examples post-dating the regulation period.A couple of days later (28 July 1944) it was reported in the Surrey Mirror that the maximum prices had actually gone up!  Unfortunate timing for R.M. Ash, although it does look like even with the increase, he still would have been above the limit.

By 1945, the tide was turning and we also see a shift in advertising style.  Most of the adverts start referring to.  The example below from Punch (3 July 1945, Vol 208 Its 5433) refers notes the return of the Pedigree model.  I particularly like their fun use of ‘indelible reputation’ to advertise copying pencils.

The advert on the right is from Punch of May 14 1945.  Once again they are starting to advertise the brand name pencils, even through they were not actually allowed to produce them just yet.48-75 is the Stationery Office code for HB, therefore, this could technically be a Utility pencil.  The Cumberland advert below left was released two weeks before the end of WWII.  The copy has plenty of optimism and also refers to the return of branded pencils, in this case the famous ‘King’s Own’ range:

The advert below right from Punch 1945-01-10: Vol 208 Iss 5425, just like the advert on the left makes reference to ‘peace’, quite the departure from soldiers marching with pencils!

I know that American wartime pencils have a lot of fans.  They tend to be a bit fancier than the no-frills UK made pencils.  I don’t plan on covering anything about them in this post, however, given that I have plenty of nice examples in the collection, it won’t hurt to show a couple in this post.

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