LEGEND OF THE LOST - Army & Navy Stores
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LEGEND OF THE LOST – Army & Navy Stores

The Building of the Army and Navy now

Formed and incorporated in London on 15 September 1871, The Army & Navy Co-operative Society Ltd was formed by a faction of army and naval officers with the aim of supplying articles for domestic consumption and general use of its members at the lowest possible rates. It was based on the idea and model of two earlier other such middle-class co-operatives, the Civil Service Co-operative Society and the Civil Service Supply Association. The first store of the Army & Navy was opened in London’s Victoria Street in February 1872. The business expanded rapidly, and the society began opening stores abroad, starting with Paris in 1875. By the end of that century, they were receiving constant requests to open their branch in India, to serve the need of the homesick military personnel and the band of European Civil Servants, who badly wanted items from their home. Accordingly the first Indian Army & Navy Store was opened in Bombay in1891, while the Calcutta branch was opened with great fanfare in 1901. This was the third of the great British department stores in Calcutta; the earlier ones being Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co, and the Hall & Anderson Store.

Price List of Army and Navy Store - London
Price List of Army and Navy Store – London

The newly constructed building of the stores, situated on the Chowringhee road, resembled almost like the Writers’ Building, except the mansard roof. The building, with its red walls, the tall columns with the Corinthian Capitals and multiple pediments, has a gracefully gorgeous and majestic look.

The Army & Navy Stores used to have a catalogue, which included more than a thousand pages. They also functioned as travel agents, bankers, caterers, undertakers, insurance brokers and the retailers for the Gramophone Company of India. The Army & Navy Scotch Whiskey was very popular in those days. They had tailoring and printing departments too. They sold imported provisions, and items such as tinned beef mince. In spite of being a European store, they took the advantage of the massive sales during the Durga Puja.

Page of a Army and Navy Store Catalogue
Page of a Army and Navy Store Catalogue

The Army & Navy Stores suffered significantly during the Second World War. Some of their premises were badly damaged by bomb attacks and a depot was completely destroyed. They also suffered a great blow at the independence of India and finally closed their doors in 1948. After that, the property was acquired by the Poddars, who named mansion as Kanak Building, after the name of a lady in their family.

Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

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