When used in telephony, magnetos are small hand cranked devices that are used to produce a small electric charge. These are used to send a current down the line to ring a bell at the opposite end to inform people that there is a call for them. By rotating an armature inside a set of horse shoe magnets an AC charge of between 50 and 100 volts. These magnetos could be housed inside the telephone itself, or as a separate unit. Tonight we are looking at a pair of telephone magnetos from the First World War:Although one of these cases magnetos is dated 1918, I cannot find a /|\ mark on either one so it is impossible to say if they are military or civilian in origin; they are however interesting objects from a century ago and worthy of closer inspection. The smaller of the two magnetos is a free standing unit, with rubber feet, a hinged lid secured with a small screw and a large winding handle on the side:Inside the case is a set of magnets and a large brass cog wheel which is part of the gearing used to spin the armature and generate current:The second magnetos is designed to be mounted on a wall or bulkhead and has a backing plate with a series of brass reinforced screw holes for attaching it vertically:Two large brass screw terminals are fitted to the top of the box to attach the telephone wires to:The front of the box is hinged and this was originally lockable, with a small lock escutcheon visible:Next to this is the date 1918 and the maker’s mark for ATM Co. The initials are repeated on the magneto inside the box:These are the initials for the Automatic Telephone Exchange Company of Washington. This company had set up a factory in Liverpool in 1889 but quickly distanced itself from its American parent company. During World War One the company produced shells for the military but continued its core business, manufacturing telephone equipment for both the War Office and Admiralty, producing private exchanges for both. Whether this is one of the pieces of equipment bought by either the Admiralty or War Office is unclear, but I suspect it is likely as investment in 1918 was far more heavily skewed to the military than to civilian infrastructure projects but it is impossible to be certain.
When used on parade it is not unusual for specialist accessories to be used with rifles to prevent them from damaging expensive and intricate parade uniforms. Rifles are hard metal objects with many protruding parts that can easily catch and damage lace, embroidery and epaulettes on a parade uniform so special covers are often developed. The SLR was no exception and a special pressed metal cover was available to go over the front sight:This was designed to slip over the front sight and attach to the barrel to keep it in place:The connection to the barrel was through a stiff spring clip:This clip was notorious for damaging the blueing on a barrel with repeated use and following advice from my fellow collectors I have decided that mine will not be going back on the rifle after these photographs were taken.
Inside the top of the cover are a pair of small triangular metal tabs that go either side of the front sight blade:The stores number and date are stamped across the back of the cover, here dating it to 1960:In this photograph of a corporal of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment at Buckingham Palace in 1971, the sight cover can be clearly seen on his rifle:
Over the last few years I have reviewed three of the four books published in the series ‘Within the Island Fortress’ by Jon Mills. Recently I have acquired the missing volume in the set and so tonight I am looking at Volume 2 “Identity Cards, Permits and Passes”.The British government issued a myriad of different identity documents to British civilians, military personnel and civil defence workers. Further documents were provided for those from allied countries and exiled military personnel. Many of these documents have survived to the present day and this book provides a comprehensive guide to them. The book covers both the common and mundane as well as the more obscure pieces that are highly unlikely to come into a collector’s hands. As well as covering the documents themselves, the author explains much of the internal administrative process of recording the details of an entire nation and simple information such as what the letter codes on civilian identity cards mean is covered- something highly interesting and not to be found in many other publications.Unlike the other books in this series, this volume is mainly illustrated with copies of the identity documents themselves. These are reproduced in clear colour images and are all easily readable, this is part of the strength of the volume as it allows the reader to closely examine documents that are usually at best a blurry part of a larger photograph. Many of these documents were very short lived and it is remarkable how many examples have been brought together to illustrate this book. Many have the word ‘sample’ stamped across them, so I suspect they came from official archives and might be the only examples of these documents known to exist today.It is fair to say that identity cards and permits are a niche collecting area, however even if you are not a collector of these documents I do not hesitate to recommend this volume. For those with an interest in the home front this books provides a unique insight into a crucial but often overlooked aspect of the government’s increasing encroachment into people’s lives during the war and for the living historian this book is invaluable in ensuring you have the correct paperwork for your impression. Copies of the book are still available directly from the author and it is well worth picking up one for your reference library.
Between 1963 and 1967 British Troops were deployed to the Aden Protectorate to help support local troops in suppressing an Egyptian backed rebellion. Amongst the equipment deployed to the region were Saracen armoured cars, equipped with six wheels and a powerful 76mm gun:Tonight we are looking at a souvenir ashtray produced during the Aden Emergency from a spent shell casing from one of these 76mm rounds:The ashtray has been made by cutting the casing down just a fraction of an inch above its base, three cuts have then been made to provide rests for the cigarettes and a local South Arabian coin soldered in the centre:The quality of this work is excellent and indicates access to machine tools. My suspicion is that this ashtray is the work of army machinists such as REME mechanics who would have the skills and tools to produce these pieces. They would have been made in the soldiers’ spare time and sold to their colleagues to raise extra beer money.
The base of the shell casing shows stencilling indicating that the shell was originally an L29A3 HESH round:HESH stands for ‘High Explosive Squash Head.’ HESH rounds are thin metal shells filled with plastic explosive and a delayed-action base fuze. The plastic explosive is “squashed” against the surface of the target on impact and spreads out to form a disc or “pat” of explosive. The base fuze detonates the explosive milliseconds later, creating a shock wave that, owing to its large surface area and direct contact with the target, is transmitted through the material. In the case of the metal armour of a tank, the compression shock wave is conducted through the armour to the point where it reaches the metal/air interface (the hollow crew compartment), where some of the energy is reflected as a tension wave. At the point where the compression and tension waves intersect, a high-stress zone is created in the metal, causing pieces of steel to be projected off the interior wall at high velocity. This fragmentation by blast wave is known as spalling, with the fragments themselves known as spall. The spall travels through the interior of the vehicle at high velocity, killing or injuring the crew, damaging equipment, and/or igniting ammunition and fuel. Unlike high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds, which are shaped charge ammunition, HESH shells are not specifically designed to perforate the armour of main battle tanks. HESH shells rely instead on the transmission of the shock wave through the solid steel armour.
The stamped markings on the base of the ashtray indicate that the round was 76mm in calibre and manufactured in 1963:The reverse of the coin can also be see and this dates from 1964:This all ties in with the Aden Emergency and helps date the ashtray to that conflict. Souvenirs from Aden are of course pretty scarce as it was a short lived conflict with only limited British troops deployed over the period so this is a rare and interesting find.
This week’s photograph is a very charming World War One photograph of a sailor with a young girl, presumably his daughter:This card was posted in 1917 and it is hard to tell if it was a commercial image in the sentimental style of the day or a genuine portrait of a sailor and his daughter. I hope it is the latter, but of course it is impossible to say now. One item of interest however is the cap tally on the sailor’s cap worn by the girl:The name of the ship has been unpicked, just leaving the outline of the embroidery, whilst the initials ‘HMS’ remain. The reasoning behind this is unclear and again would be dependent on whether this is a genuine sailor’s issue cap or a photographer’s prop. If it is the latter then it has probably been unpicked to allow it to be used in portraits without any obvious connection to a vessel which could have proven awkward to the sitter. The alternative is that this is a wartime expedient for security issues, much like sailors in the Second World War had simple ‘H.M.S.’ cap tallies. If this is the case, which I suspect might be the real story, then the sailor becomes far more likely to be an actual sailor, the girl becomes his actual daughter and this is a sweet picture taken to send to relations- a far nicer story than a twee image taken just to sell postcards!
Artillery shell fuzes are fairly delicate, with finely tolerance clockwork parts within them to ensure that they work correctly. These fuzes need protection when being transported and in the Second World War a simple brad cone was provided that slipped over the fuze to prevent it from being knocked. These cones were designed for specific fuzes and marked as such and tonight we are looking at one cover that was originally issued for use with a No207 fuze:It is a simple pressed metal cover, with a thicker lip soldered on around the base to protect a vulnerable area:The cover is stencilled around the bottom half of the cone, this indicates that this was produced in 1942:And is for a No 207 fuze:This fuze was a clockwork fuze, highly conical in shape, and used with the 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun:The 3.7 Inch AA gun was Britain’s major anti-aircraft gun of the Second World War and remained in service until 1957 and underwent development throughout the war with better fuzes, settings and predictors to enable it to keep up with improvements in German aircraft.Tom Overs was a small boy during the war and remembers:
I was nine when war broke out and growing up in the village of Cranham, near Gloucester.
As a young boy I was fascinated by all things military, and enjoyed the excitement of the arrival of men from an artillery battalion to set up their headquarters at Cranham Corner. Their job was to man the anti-aircraft batteries high on the Cotswold escarpment at Brotheridge and a smaller one close to what is now the Hatton Court Hotel.
The four guns at Brotheridge were 3.7 anti-aircraft guns, these were later supplemented by four Lewis guns which were capable of attacking the ‘lone raiders’ which used to fly low up the valleys. When fire was aimed south over the village it resulted in a hail of shrapnel falling on the common. Following such an attack this shrapnel was collected by the village children and a playground pastime was the swapping of pieces.
The main reason for the location of the batteries was to fire on enemy aircraft going on up to the Midlands, but they also protected the Gloster Aircraft Company factory at Brockworth. There were many barrage balloons surrounding the site, and when attacks were anticipated as added protection smokescreens would also be lit. I remember the thick black smoke from these, which used to stretch out over the factory. Some of these drums, I remember, were also placed ready to be lit at the side of the A46 and the Cross Hands roundabout.
A few weeks ago I picked up a very large military padlock. Seen here in the palm of my hand you can see that this impressive lock is about six inches from top to bottom and being made from steel it is suitably heavy:The padlock itself is zinc coated to prevent rust with a brass plate around the key hole:A sliding brass cover is loosely fitted which is designed to slip down under gravity to seal the keyhole from debris:The front face of the padlock has a /|\ mark and a date of 1962:As with many other padlocks, this example was produced by the Walsall Locks and Cart Gear Ltd. The padlock is also marked with the last two parts of the NSN stores code:I suspect that this padlock would have been used on a storage bunker, magazine or main gate on a military facility and whilst it is visually very impressive, I am informed that it is by no means the largest padlock used by the British military- I will look out for a larger one with interest!