Helmet Counterweight

Increasingly soldiers in the British army are having scopes and electronic devices mounted to the front of their combat helmets. Items such as night vision scopes are heavy and tend to pull both the helmet and the wearer’s head forward. To counter this effect balance weights can be fitted to the rear of the helmet to even out the load. A number of designs are in use, but tonight we are looking at an example commonly known as a ‘choc block’ by troops:imageThe reason for its nickname is quite obvious and this counterweight consists of sixteen separate metal weights encased in rubber. The groves make it possible for the weight to follow the contours of the helmet and the actual weight of the counterbalance can be adapted by cutting away individual blocks. The White residue between each block is a form of talc used to prevent the rubber from sticking to itself and a full block like this weighs 565grams.

The rear of the block has four Velcro hook-panels that allow it to be mounted on a corresponding piece of loop Velcro on the rear of the helmet:imageNote that the original owner of this weight has inked his name in white pen along one side of the block. An NSN number is printed onto the rear as well:imageThese items are not on general issue, but rather distributed to those most likely to need them such as members of special forces and air crews. As such they seem quite an uncommon item and I have struggled to find out much about them. There seems to be a number of different versions of helmet weights in service, of which this is just one.

Dried Milk Tin

Milk rationing was introduced in Great Britain in November 1941 when fresh bottled milk went on the ration for the first time. Each person was allowed three pints of fresh milk a week and in December 1941 tins of skimmed milk powder began to be imported from the United States:imageThese were in addition to the usual milk ration and each person was allowed one tin every four weeks. The tins cost 9d and one ration coupon and the powder made up an additional four pints. The tins were made of metal and had a paper label wrapped around them. The label was printed in red and blue and featured stars and stripes and the country of origin printed proudly on the front:imageThese packs of milk powder were specially produced in the United States for the Ministry of Food and this is marked on the side of the tin, along with a warning that the contents were not suitable for babies:imageAlternative milk powder containing whole full fat milk was also produced, especially for babies who needed the fat content to grow. The back of the label is unfortunately quite badly damaged, but gave instructions to the housewife about how to mix up the powder to make the milk:imageThe tins of milk powder were shipped form the US to Great Britain and shopkeepers in cardboard cartons, each holding 72x8oz cans:household-milk-cartonMilk powder was used for a variety of things during the war, as recalled by Anne Butcher:

Over-riding all these trifling discomforts was the non-stop foraging by the housewife to provide some variety in her family’s meals. I cannot recall ever being literally hungry, but the country had been reliant upon imports, which were now impossible because of the sea blockade. Everything was scrupulously rationed and we ate some strange things to supplement our diet.

Tea tablets were used to make the tea look stronger; babies’ dried milk or ‘National’ milk was added if it could be obtained; and saccharine was used as a sweetener. Some even resorted to using honey or jam. What a concoction – but we drank it. Bread was heavy and a dull grey colour, but it, too, was rationed – so we ate it.

Sweets were devised from a mixture of dried milk and peppermint essence with a little sugar or icing sugar if available.

Altberg Defender Boots

A few weeks back the Lowa desert boots were covered on the blog, this was the first in a mini-series of posts over the coming months covering some of the different boots used in the last ten years by the British military. When the British Army adopted the new MTP uniform it looked to replace its boots to match. Initial trials boots were in a muddy green colour, but it was quickly decided that brown was the best colour to choose and soldiers would be offered a choice of makes and models so they could chose boots that best suited them. Tonight’s boots then are a pair of Altberg Defenders and are one of the most recent patterns of boots to be given to troops:imageThe boots are made of brown leather and are a high-leg style:imageThe boots come in a large cardboard box, wrapped in tissue paper to protect them:imageIncluded in the box are a range of care leaflets and information for the user:imageThe user’s guide has detailed information on how to look after the boots and size them:imageimageimageimageThe boots are made of an Anfibio leather which is water repellent and the high leg design features a heavy duty tongue and lacing up the front:imageThe sole is very heavy duty with a multi-terrain rubber tread:imageThe manufacturer’s name is embossed into the leather on the ankle:imageFurther details are printed inside the boot and a white label has the /|\ ownership mark and NSN details on:imageThe boots are available in both Male and Female versions and in both MOD brown and black. Sizing also comes in both medium and wide fitting so there are a dazzling array of different NSN numbers for all the variants:

NATO Stock Numbers

Defender – Boots Combat High Liability – Male, Brown

PLN: 771

Male 5 Med 8430-99-512-2157
Male 5 Wide 8430-99-512-2158
Male 6 Med 8430-99-216-0801
Male 6 Wide 8430-99-216-0802
Male 7 Med 8430-99-216-0803
Male 7 Wide 8430-99-216-0804
Male 8 Med 8430-99-216-0805
Male 8 Wide 8430-99-216-0806
Male 9 Med 8430-99-216-0807
Male 9 Wide 8430-99-216-0808
Male 10 Med 8430-99-216-0809
Male 10 Wide 8430-99-216-0810
Male 11 Med 8430-99-216-0811
Male 11 Wide 8430-99-216-0812
Male 12 Med 8430-99-216-0813
Male 12 Wide 8430-99-216-0814
Male 13 Med 8430-99-216-0815
Male 13 Wide 8430-99-216-0816
Male 14 Med 8430-99-216-0817
Male 14 Wide 8430-99-216-0818
Male 15 Med 8430-99-216-0819
Male 15 Wide 8430-99-216-0820

Defender – Boots Combat High Liability – Female, Brown

PLN: 772

Female 3 Med 8435-99-216-0821
Female 3 Wide 8435-99-216-0822
Female 4 Med 8435-99-216-0823
Female 4 Wide 8435-99-216-0824
Female 5 Med 8435-99-216-0825
Female 5 Wide 8435-99-216-0826
Female 6 Med 8435-99-216-0827
Female 6 Wide 8435-99-216-0828
Female 7 Med 8435-99-216-0829
Female 7 Wide 8435-99-216-0830
Female 8 Med 8435-99-216-0831
Female 8 Wide 8435-99-216-0832
Female 9 Med 8435-99-216-0833
Female 9 Wide 8435-99-216-0834


Defender – Boots Combat High Liability – Male, Black

PLN: 775

Male 5 Med 8430-99-512-2161
Male 5 Wide 8430-99-512-2162
Male 6 Med 8430-99-383-2463
Male 6 Wide 8430-99-383-2464
Male 7 Med 8430-99-383-2465
Male 7 Wide 8430-99-383-2466
Male 8 Med 8430-99-383-2467
Male 8 Wide 8430-99-383-2468
Male 9 Med 8430-99-383-2469
Male 9 Wide 8430-99-383-2470
Male 10 Med 8430-99-383-2471
Male 10 Wide 8430-99-383-2472
Male 11 Med 8430-99-383-2473
Male 11 Wide 8430-99-383-2474
Male 12 Med 8430-99-383-2475
Male 12 Wide 8430-99-383-2476
Male 13 Med 8430-99-383-2477
Male 13 Wide 8430-99-383-2478
Male 14 Med 8430-99-383-2479
Male 14 Wide 8430-99-383-2480
Male 15 Med 8430-99-383-2481
Male 15 Wide 8430-99-383-2482


Defender – Boots Combat High Liability – Female, Black

PLN: 776

Female 3 Med 8435-99-383-2483
Female 3 Wide 8435-99-383-2484
Female 4 Med 8435-99-383-2485
Female 4 Wide 8435-99-383-2486
Female 5 Med 8435-99-383-2487
Female 5 Wide 8435-99-383-2488
Female 6 Med 8435-99-383-2489
Female 6 Wide 8435-99-383-2490
Female 7 Med 8435-99-383-2491
Female 7 Wide 8435-99-383-2492
Female 8 Med 8435-99-383-2493
Female 8 Wide 8435-99-383-2494
Female 9 Med 8435-99-383-2495
Female 9 Wide 8435-99-383-2496


Military Uniforms of the British Empire Overseas Cigarette Cards (Part2)

New Zealand Mounted Rifles

 11From 1909 until 1930, military service was compulsory in New Zealand; since that date the compulsory service provisions of the Defence Act have not been enforced, but can be brought into operation without legislation. Since 1931 service in the Territorials and cadets has been voluntary. In march 1936, the strength totalled 779 officers and 8,251 other ranks, and 946 bandsmen. 98,950 troops served during the Great War in the N.Z. Expeditionary Forces in Samoa, Egypt, Gallipoli, Palestine and on the Western Front; 16,697 lost their lives on active service. All New Zealand’s Territorial Forces are to be reorganised and extensively mechanised. We show a trooper of the N.Z. Mounted Rifles; Parliament House, Wellington, appears in the background.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

 12This famous force was established in 1873 as the Northwest Mounted Police. A year later, the Force, 300 strong, marched 2,000 miles into Indian territory, and so impressed the inhabitants that Government control over them was effectively established. The reputation then gained for courage, integrity and efficiency has since become world-wide. In 1920, the Northwest mounted amalgamated with the Dominion Police to form the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, upon whom the government depends for the enforcement of federal law throughout Canada. Their duties include such diverse activities as the suppression of the drug traffic and the punishment of Indians for murdering persons accused of witchcraft.

Aide-de-Camp to the Viceroy of India

 13The personal staff of the Viceroy and Governor General of India includes both British and Indian Aides-de-camp. The latter are selected from among the Viceroy’s Commissioned Officers of Indian Army units. We show an Indian Aide-de-Campe holding the rank of Risaldar Major, or senior Indian officer, in an Indian Cavalry regiment, who for his distinguished services has been awarded the honorary rank of Captain. A Musalman of the Punjab, he belongs to a class which provides a larger proportion of recruits to the Indian Army than any other section of India’s population. The background portrays the Viceroy’s House, New Delhi.

The Scinde Horse

 14The Scinde Horse (14th Prince of Wale’s Own Cavalry) is one of the twenty-one Cavalry regiments of the Indian Army. It had its origin in two regiments of Scinde Irregular Horse Raised in Hyderabad in 1839 and ’46 respectively. These two regiments were absorbed into the regular forces about 1860 and ultimately became the 35th Scinde Horse and the 36th Jacob’s Horse. They saw active service in Northern and Central India, Persia and Afghanistan and, during the Great War, in France and Palestine. They were amalgamated in 1921. The present regiment is recruited from Pathans, Sikhs and Musalman Rajputs of the Punjab. We show the Risaldar-Major in full dress; a scene on the N.W. Frontier appears in the background.

The Poona Horse (17th Queen Victoria’s Own Cavalry)

 15The Poona Horse is the descendent of the 3rd Regiment of Bombay Light Cavalry, raised in 1820, and the Poona Auxiliary Horse, raised about 1817-18. The later unit was absorbed into the regular forces about 1860 and the two regiments later became the 33rd Queen Victoria’s Own Light Cavalry and the 34th Prince Albert Victor’s Own Poona Horse. These were amalgamated in 1921 into the present regiment. The battle honours of which tell of service in three Afghan wars, in Persia, Abyssinia and China, as well as in the Great War. We show a Risaldar in Full Dress- a senior Indian officer of Cavalry. The background portrays Fort Jamrud, on the N.W. Frontier.

19th (KGO) Lancers

 16The history of the 19th (King George’s Own) Lancers extends back to the years immediately following the Indian Mutiny, when the 2nd Regiment of Mahratta Horse was raised at Gwalior in 1858 and Fane’s Horse was raised at Cawnpore in 1860. These two units, which later became the 18th King George’s Own Lancers and the 19th Lancers (Fane’s horse) respectively, were amalgamated in 1922 under their present designation. They had previously seen service in Northern India, China and Afghanistan and, in the Great War, in France and Palestine. The regiment is now recruited from Sikhs, Jats and Musalmans of the Punjab. We show an Indian Musalman officer (a captain in full dress); a view of the Khyber pass is seen in the background.

Madras Sappers and Miners

17The Sappers and Miners, as the engineers of the Indian Army are designated, are divided into three Corps, of which Queen Victoria’s Own Madras Sappers and Miners are the senior. The Corps was originally raised in 1780 and has taken part in almost every campaign since then in which Indian troops have shared. Its battle honours before 1914 show service in Egypt, Java, China, Persia, Abyssinia and Afghanistan, as well as in India, while in the Great War its units fought in France, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Persia and East Africa. It is recruited entirely from the Madras Presidency. We show the Subadar-Major of the Corps in full dress, standing in front of Government House, Madras.

5th Mahratta Light Infantry

 18The Subadar-Major shown in our picture belongs to the 4th Battalion, which was originally raised in 1800 as a battalion of the 8th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry. It fought through the Great War, rendering gallant service in Iraq as the 116th Mahrattas, and received its present designation in the great post-war reorganisation of 1922. It is composed entirely of Mahrattas, sturdy fighters from the uplands of the Bombay Presidency round Poona and Satara. In the days of the East India Company, the Mahrattas put up a stout resistance to the Company’s forces in the two Mahratta Wars of 1775 and 1802. The background shows the “Gateway of India”, Bombay.

6th Rajputana Rifles

 19The 6th Rajputana Rifles consists, like most of the eighteen Indian Infantry regiments, of five active and one training (the 10th) battalions. The oldest of these battalions dates back to 1775, when it formed a unit of the old Bombay Army. One or other of them saw fighting in almost every campaign since that date in which Indian troops have been employed both in and out of India, and their Great War battle honours cover France, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Persia and East Africa. They are composed of Rajputs and Jats from Rajputana, and Musalmans from the Punjab, the Subadar-Major shown in our picture being a Rajput. The War Memorial Arch, New Delhi, appears in the background.

7th Rajput Regiment

 20The Subadar shown in full dress in our picture is an Indian officer belonging to the 1st Battalion (Queen Victoria’s Own light infantry), which was originally raised in 1798. For distinguished service in 1803 under General Lake it was permitted to carry a third honorary colour, and an additional Indian officer is still included in its strength to carry this colour. During the Great War it upheld its reputation in Egypt and Iraq. It is one of the fifteen Indian cavalry and infantry units which have been selected for Indianisation. No further junior British officers will be posted to these units, although senior British officers will remain with them till Indian officers are available to take their place. The background shows the Kutub Minar, Delhi.

Sealskinz Type Green Field Hat

Sometimes I struggle researching objects, even ones still in use today. Normally however if nothing else I can find a listing on a military surplus site offering another example for sale. Tonight however even that has been a blank so this is either such a rare piece that no one else has access to them as surplus, or it’s so useless no one else wants one! Tonight we are looking at what is described by its label as ‘hat, field, green’:imageThis is a cap made of a Sealskinz type waterproof fabric that is designed to be worn under a helmet to keep the soldier’s head warm and dry in poor weather conditions. Here it can be seen being worn under a Mk VI helmet:imageThe cap is described as green, but it is actually more of a muddy khaki colour, clearly designed to match the current MTP uniforms:imageIts design is actually more complicated that you would expect with a circular, two-piece crown:imageA short piece of elastic is fitted to the rear of the cap to offer some adjustment:imageThe inside of the cap has a warm liner, covered in black fabric and a single white stores label:imageI have looked up the stores number online and it indicates that it is ‘clothing, special purpose’. There seems to have been two sizes made, a small/medium and a large/extra-large like this one. I suspect that this is designed for those serving in arctic conditions and is only issued on an as needed basis which might explain why I can find so little on the design. It is a very warm and comfortable piece of headwear, even if you look very ridiculous wearing it without the accompanying helmet!

Military Prison Dagshai Postcard

This week’s postcard continues our look at some of the hill stations of India and we are back at Dagshai for a second week, this time with an image of the military prison:SKM_C284e18100110170We touched on the military prison at Dagshai last week, but it is worthy of closer inspection. The prison was constructed in 1849 and has 54 cells, each measuring 8’x12’ of which sixteen were reserved for prisoners in solitary confinement. The cost of the building was Rs 72,873. It was primarily used to house military prisoners, British, Ghurkha and Indian although occasionally other dissidents were housed here. The front of the building has two large blocks, that I assume are administration buildings:SKM_C284e18100110170 - CopyThese survive today, however the walls are now whitewashed and the roof of the right hand block is now an attractive shade of green! The main range of buildings behind holds the gaol proper:SKM_C284e18100110170 - Copy (2)The prison is today a museum so the building is little changed from the days of this photograph, and the interior is a forbidding place:dagshai1In 1914, a wealthy Sikh, Baba Gurdit Singh from Singapore, chartered a Japanese ship, Komagatamaru, to take some 350 Sikhs to Canada. They were all ex-Army men seeking re-settlement in British-ruled Canada. They were refused disembarkation. The ship had to return to Calcutta where 20 “ring leaders” were arrested on arrival and sent to the Dagshai jail. Four of them were hanged.

On May 13, 1915, the Sikh soldiers of 23 Risala (Cavalry) were being shipped from Nagaon Cantonment in Uttar Pradesh to the war front. At the railway station a piece of luggage belonging to Dafedar Wadhawa Singh fell down and a grenade kept in it exploded. When other bags were searched more grenades were found. He, along with others, was arrested and their links to the Ghadar Party were discovered. All soldiers of the regiment were arrested and a court martial was held in Dagshai. Twelve were sentenced to death and executed by a firing squad.

In 1920, the Irish Catholic soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the Connaught Rangers mutinied against their officers. The mutineers were brought to the Dagshai jail, including their leader, James Daly. On the morning of November 2, 1920, 22-year-old Private James Daly was led out into the prison yard and was executed by a firing squad.

“It is all for Ireland. I am not afraid to die!” he wrote in his last letter to his mother. Apart from dying for his country, Daly also made history by becoming the last member of the British army to be executed for a military offence.

He was buried at the Dagshai Cemetery until 1970, when his remains were repatriated to Ireland and given a funeral with full military honours.

Mahatma Ghandi visited Dagshai to show his support for the Irishman’s cause and it is probably this link that resulted in the prison being turned into a museum once it was closed by the Indian Army in the 1970s. Today it remains a popular tourist destination, even if it is off the beaten path and many Indians and foreign visitors visit it every year.

Lineman’s Pliers

Over the years we have covered side cutting pliers a couple of times on the blog. Tonight we revisit the subject for a third, brief, time with another variant:imageAs before these pliers have the /|\ mark of British Army ownership:imageWhat makes this pair unusual and worthy of inclusion once more is the small lanyard loop on one handle:imageThis suggests to me that this pair of pliers was designed for use by a lineman and allowed a lanyard to be attached between the pliers and the user’s belt so that if they were dropped they did not fall all the way to the ground. A lineman worked with the Royal Army Signal Corps to maintain telephone wires for military communications. As such they were often up telegraph poles repairing lines and the last thing they would have wanted was to drop their pliers and then have to climb all the way down to retrieve them.

Pliers were an essential element of equipment for a Royal Signalman, and are included in the list of items Ron Pidgley packed before embarking on a landing craft for the D-Day landings:

Had I remembered to pack it all? Voltmeter, hand drill, soldering iron, solder, screw drivers, pliers, reel of light wire, emery paper and etc, the heavy 120 volt Batteries, cases of spare valves – and the ammo – 200 rounds of .303, 2 grenades, field dressing, water bottle, 24 hours of emergency rations, chocolate and fags plus matches. And a rifle.

He recalls some of the tasks his unit had to deal with:

Telephone lines were laid out, Don 8 (D8) on drums, by our line section, to the Commando HQs and it was our job to repair it should shell fire cause disconnections, as it did, often. The radio spares were kept in the chateau that was now Brigade HQ and I had a table as a workbench for the few tools and test gear.

This lineman was serving in Italy, but it gives a good view of the sort of equipment he had to work with and the large rolls of telephone wire that were needed to maintain communications:large_000000