9mm H52 Ammunition Carton

At the start of last year I looked at a wooden H51 ammunition box here. These boxes are fairly common, what is far rarer is the sealed metal container that went inside each of these boxes, the H52 box. I was lucky enough to pick up one of these, opened, last week and the condition of this tin is fantastic:The container is made of pressed tin, soldered together and painted black. The main markings on the front indicate that it was used to hold 9mm ammunition and held 1250 cartridges in Mk 2z cartons:Beneath this is stencilled ‘RG’ for the Radway Green arsenal and the packaging date of 17th September 1959. The large white marking is a standard Government Explosives classification marking used to ensure that the ammunition is handled correctly and stored in suitable conditions to prevent deterioration or danger. The container itself is stamped on one end:These stamps indicate the box type, H52 Mk 2, and a manufacture date for the tin (as opposed to the filling date on the front) of 1957:The can was soldered shut with a pull tab lid to open, which has been pulled off and discarded from this can:These cans were fitted into the wooden H51 box, with spacers made from wood and sorbo-rubber that helped keep it tight and prevented it from moving around. Two of these H51 boxes then fitted into a metal H50 box. A quick trawl of the net suggests this carton is rather rare- presumably most were just thrown away as they are not easily reusable in the way other ammunition boxes are. Either way it is a great addition to the collection.

Canadian 64 Pattern Belt

This week’s piece of Canadian post war webbing is the 64 pattern belt. As mentioned several times before, the 64 pattern webbing set is pretty atrocious, and the belt is no exception. It is about as simple as a belt can get and is made of a simple piece of green cotton webbing:The rear of the belt has a strip of Velcro sewn to one end and this is how the belt is adjusted. The hook piece of Velcro is sewn to the end of the webbing, passes through the buckle and is looped back to stick to the loop piece:The buckle itself is made from heavy duty green plastic, with male and female halves:These fit one over the other, with the two shallow prongs falling down into the two holes of the corresponding belt part:It might just be me, but I found this belt nearly impossible to undo without resorting to something to pry the two halves of the belt back apart! The belts were not very successful as the Velcro weakened over time and came undone. It was common to see the ends of the belt secured with gun-tape or a spare brass keeper off the old 51 pattern set.

2″ Mortar Sight

When first introduced the 2” mortar was issued with a separate collimating sight to enable it to be aimed and laid onto targets. This sight was made of metal and was fully adjustable:Twin spirit levels are fitted to ensure it is at the correct angle:Whilst the sight itself consists of a large rear notch and triangular front post:An adjustable dial on the side allows it to be moved in an arc for range:The sight has a circular collar that allows it to be slipped over the barrel of the mortar:This is knurled on the inside to allow it to grip the metal, a large twist screw being used to tighten it:The outside of the collar is marked up indicating it is for the 2” mortar:The sight is very well made and clearly well thought out, it was however quickly dropped when it was discovered that a white painted line on the barrel of the mortar worked just as well and was one less piece of equipment for the user to carry. Ironically troops found it quicker and more accurate to use the line than the sight and the army were pleasantly surprised to find the rate of fire could be far higher than they had originally envisaged.

Originally the 2” mortar sight has a specialised case to carry it in, however I have been unable to find any examples or photographs of the case- if anyone has any information please let me know and I will update the post accordingly.

1915 Sentimental Postcard

This week’s postcard takes a sentimental tone, with this image from the First World War:The verse on the front of the card reads:

Together in Thought

I look into your eyes and say,

Though from you I must go away,

Yet with you, dear, my heart will stay,

Until we meet again some day.

The photograph is clearly a studio shot, complete with studio props as the soldier is actually wearing the 1888 style leather bandolier, which was largely obsolete by this period:The postcard was sent in 1915, as witnessed by the postmark on the rear:The message is not the clearest, being written in pencil and subject to a hundred years of wear, but as best I can make out it reads:

Aug 19th 1915

Dear Agnes

Just a line hoping you’re all well as its leave time at present, I am just packing up to go to Swindon. I am going on ahead to the advance party so I shall be travelling all night as it is at the other side of London. All the others are coming on Friday. I was hoping to see you on Saturday but it cannot be helped. Tell old Wilson he is going to be with us as soon as ???? Best wishes your Harry.

It is always nice to get a postcard which has been used and helps tie down an exact date. These sentimental cards were hugely popular, but are largely ignored by collectors today- I rather like them as they reflect the senders emotions and feelings towards their loved ones in a way that often does not come across from other images and accounts.

6 Pounder Blank Shell Casing

The 6 pounder anti-tank gun was the main towed British anti-tank gun of the middle years of the second world war, replacing the puny 2 pounder in 1942 and freeing up the 25 pounder field gun to return to its main role as an artillery piece. Development of the new weapon had started as early as 1938 and the calibre was well established as the Royal Navy had been using it since the late nineteenth century. Despite this, due to the rearming of the British Army after Dunkirk, it would be May 1942 before it entered service:The following description of the Anti Tank gun comes from the US Army’s handbook on the British military:

The 6 pounder anti-tank gun, with a muzzle velocity of 2,700 feet per second, has been designed by the British for use against enemy armoured vehicles that are not vulnerable to the 2-pounder at distances over 200 or 300 yards. A 57-mm gun, the 6-pounder will be able to engage tanks at much greater ranges than the 2-pounder, although the latter will still be important to the anti-tank defence of individual formations and units. The 6-pounder is usually mounted on a low 90-degree split-trail wheeled carriage, but it is also being installed in certain tanks. In order to facilitate the quick adoption of the proper gun for the circumstances, the wheeled carriage of the 6 pounder is designed that the 2-pounder may be mounted alternatively. It is intended that the 6-punder be standard in corps and army anti-tank organization.

Tonight we are looking at a shell casing from the 6 pounder anti-tank gun, this example being a blank cartridge:It is made of brass and is impressively large, as with all British shell casings there is a profusion of markings on the base:I have interpreted these as well as I can:These shells are always impressive things, and the markings make them fun to interpret. Sadly they do not come up at a price I am willing to pay too often, so when they do I always snap them up.

Now can I persuade my wife it’s a flower vase…

MOLLE Water Bottle Pouch

It has been a while since we last looked at a Desert DPM MOLLE pouch, so tonight we are going to look at the water bottle pouch from this set. This pouch is one of the largest components of the MOLLE system:It is designed to carry the standard black plastic 1L water bottle that has been in service since the early 1960s (see here for more on the bottle):The pouch is made from the usual infra-red resistant Cordua nylon fabric, printed in desert DPM camouflage and secured with a pull tab fastener:The lid is also secured with a large Velcro tab under the top flap:A metal grommet on the base allows water to drain out of the pouch if needed:The back of the pouch has the usual heavy duty straps and lift the dot fasteners of all the MOLLE pouches:The label indicates that this pouch was manufactured in 2007:The water bottle pouch is up there with ammunition for having to carry a lot of weight, and the straps are suitably heavy duty. They only lasted a small period of time in front line service before being replaced with better sets and like all this kit, these pouches are readily available and sell for peanuts- this one cost me just £1.

Air Ministry Spanner

I keep an eye out for military spanners and I have a number of wartime /|\ marked examples now. This week however I picked up my first RAF spanner:Despite the extensive use made of tools by the RAF throughout the war, marked examples do seem scarcer than their army equivalents. This spanner is marked ‘AM’ with a crown for the Air Ministry and dated 1940:The spanner is marked on the opposite side for the thread sizes it works with. One end is for 3/8 British Standard Whitworth (BSW) and 7/16 British Standard Fine (BSF), whilst the opposite end is marked up for 5/16 BSW and 3/8 BSF:BSW was the first standard screw thread size, developed by Joseph Whitworth in 1841 and was used across the Empire. The British Standard Fine (BSF) standard has the same thread angle as the BSW, but has a finer thread pitch and smaller thread depth. This is more like the modern “mechanical” screw and was used for fine machinery and for steel bolts.

Whitworth (spanner) markings refer to the bolt diameter rather than the distance across the flats of the hexagon (A/F) as in other standards. Confusion also arises because BSF hexagon sizes can be one size smaller than the corresponding Whitworth hexagon. This leads to instances where a spanner (wrench) marked 7/16BSF is the same size as one marked 3/8W as in this case. In both cases the spanner jaw width of 0.710 in, the width across the hexagon flat, is the same. However, in World War II the size of the Whitworth hexagon was reduced to the same size as the equivalent BSF hexagon purely to save metal during the war and they never went back to the old sizes afterwards. Despite being long superseded by metric threads and bolts, these imperial threads and bolt heads are still in widespread use throughout the world, a legacy from the nineteenth century that shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon.