The broad arrow has been used by the "government" for centuries, marking anything from ship masts to prisoners' jumpers.
I found this citation from the Longley Old Hall web site.
"Barrel staves found under plaster some years ago in the kitchen chamber have been identified as beech and pine. The former, with antiquated numbers scratched onto them, may be medieval. One pine stave has a "broad arrow" mark, similar to those found on the Mary Rose and may indicate Crown property."
The Dukes of Burgundy used the "fire steel" and sparks on their government equipment that was handed out to troops.
On the Goldiproductions Boer War & WWI Bugles,web page they have this bit of info.
"The British Military Broad Arrow
The symbol of the broad arrow, or "mark", has been used to identify crown property since as early as the rule of Richard II (1367-1400)."
ad finem fidelis