Generally the 51 pattern webbing set was a well thought out system that drew on the best practices of both Britain and the US, it did however have some weaker design features and amongst the poorer design choices were the shoulder braces:In basic form these are clearly heavily inspired by Mills designs for the 19, 25 and 37 pattern sets, with one of the two having a small loop for the other to pass through:They have the same one inch ends, increasing to 2” over the shoulders but instead of being made from a single reduction woven strap, or separate components, the shoulder braces are instead produced from a piece of 2” wide, thin webbing which has been folded over and sewn on the ends:This then gives the required strength at both ends, where the tips are finished with a blackened brass chape:However the middle part of the strap, where it passes over the shoulder, is only a single layer of thin webbing:This seems a particular weak point of the set as this area is flimsy and would wear out far faster than if a more robust design, such as that used by Canada in WW2, had been chosen. One does wonder why this design choice was made, and the only reason I can think of was to save money, as this must have been a cheaper design to produce, even if it was far weaker structurally.
Update: My thanks to Michael Fletcher and Sean Featherstone for helping correctly identify the material used in this smock as being a special fire resistant fabric.
A few months back we looked at the desert DPM field jacket here. At the time we mentioned in passing the windproof smock, with a user commenting:
Windproof smock – all the advantages of the 94 smock, and is bloody excellent in dry cold. Not so clever in wet, muddy conditions. The fabric’s just too thin, and the ingrained dirt that goes with infantry trench-living will abrade it like feck, so it disintegrates, suddenly (a characteristic of all 100% cotton clobber). The hood’s a pain in the arse, even in Noggieland, where (for all the usual good tactical reasons) it was seldom used, except in the most severe cold (like -40).
Tonight we are looking at the said windproof smock, here in desert DPM fabric:One thing to notice throughout all the photographs on this post is the material the smock is made from, it is obviously a very different weave to that used in the field jacket and this is a special fire resistant fabric used for smocks issued to aircrew, pilots and others who might be exposed to fire as part of their daily duties.
Some features of the smock are clearly common across the CS95 system, so we have the usual centrally mounted rank slide:And large pockets secured with the typical sewn on buttons:Other features of note are the strips of Velcro on the sleeves to allow insignia to be added or removed, these help easily distinguish the smock from more conventional patterns:The most distinctive feature of the smock however is the hood, this has a piece of wire across the whole of the front, allowing it to be adjusted and set to a degree:When not in use it is rolled up and secured behind the neck:A cotton tape and button preventing it from unravelling:As with most items of British Army clothing a large white label is sewn into the inside of the smock with sizing, care instructions and a space for the owner to write his name and number:Note the ‘FR’ on the label indicating that the smock has been treated to make it fire resistant. As with so much of this kit, desert DPM smocks are easily available and cheap- being surplused off in large numbers following the switch to MTP clothing. As has been said many time before on this blog, if you are a new collector, this is an ideal area to start with- it’s cheap, available and its likely that in years to come the ‘War on Terror’ will become ever more collectable.
This week’s postcard is dated on the back 1913 and was sent from a Boy’s Brigade summer Camp in Grange over Sands. The image on the front though is clearly inspired by the summer camps operated by the Territorial Army before the Great War.The postcard is entitled ‘Camp Life, The Daily Post’ and has a cartoon of soldiers in khaki rushing to get their letters, with bell tents in the background. The Daily Mail in 1909 recorded the summer camp for London Territorials:
There was a great exodus of Volunteers from London on Saturday for the annual camp training.
Most of the London corps are being gathered in camps on the South Coast, and a very large proportion of them in Sussex, where for the time they come under the direction of General Lord Methuen, a large portion of whose regular troops of the Eastern command are already gathered for manœuvres in the country.
The Sussex camps for the London Volunteers have been formed at Brighton, Seaford, Worthing, Bexhill and Newhaven; while in Kent there are an extensive camp for London men at Shorncliffe and smaller ones at Sheerness, Lydd, and near Canterbury. In Hampshire a very large body of metropolitan Volunteers have gathered in camp in the New Forest, become in recent years an increasingly popular training ground; and Essex has London corps at Shoeburryness, Harwich, Clacton and Frinton.
In all the paper recorded that 25,000 men had left the capital for their annual training that August.
With the possible exception of the AK47, most firearms do not function well when they are covered in dirt and grit. Unfortunately the internal parts of a gun need to be oiled for them to function properly, and this oil in turn attracts dust and seizes up the action. This problem becomes more acute in arid conditions such as the North West Frontier or the deserts of Northern Africa. Whilst there is no substitute for regular cleaning of weapons by soldiers, physical covers over the working parts of a weapon can help reduce the level of dirt significantly and therefore breech covers were produced for the Lee Enfield rifles. Most of these covers were produced in the UK or Canada and use press studs to secure them, as described in this list of changes from 1915:
“The Breech cover is fully described in LoC 17368, 24 June 1915.
“the Cover is made of Double texture waterproof drill, and is fitted with 3 press studs on the left side of the rifle. Two eyelets are fitted in the cover for a lace which is knotted on the inside to retain it in position:
The cover is attached to rifle by means of the lace as follows-
Rifles Short MLE– To the guard sling swivel, or through the swivel screw hole in the lugs on the trigger guard.”
Tonight however we have an Indian produced example that uses a staples and a cloth strip to secure it:My thanks go to Andrew Dearlove for helping me add this one to the collection. As can be seen the cover fits tightly over the bolt and action of the rifle, the opposite side to the fastener has a double thickness area around the bolt handle to prevent this area from wearing too quickly:The cover is wrapped around the action, the staples are pushed through holes in the breech cover on the opposite side, and the whole assembly secured with the long cotton tab:This allows the cover to be easily removed by quickly pulling on the tab and this allows the assembly to fall away. A pair of leather ties are fitted:These secure to a ring in front of the magazine on the rifle to prevent loss of the cover:The cover is made of the same rough cotton drill as Indian made gas mask bags, inside are a couple of stamps: one has a date of 1943 and a number ‘2’:The second stamp is a faint purple marking with the letters ‘F.S.A’:Quite what this stands for is unknown now. We end with a nice illustration of a breech cover being used in the trenches of World War One to keep mud out of the action of a ‘jock’s’ SMLE:
Tonight we come to the fifth and final post covering the RAF Aircraft cigarette cards published by Players in the late 1930s. I hope you have enjoyed these posts as much as I have, many of these aircraft are virtually forgotten now and I must confess to having a soft spot for the lumbering biplanes of the interwar period!
Card 41- Airspeed Unnamed Radio-Controlled Target Aircraft.
Designed for the Navy and Army Anti-Aircraft Batteries, this aeroplane made its first public appearance at the Royal Air Force Display at Hendon in June 1937. Although still officially unnamed, it is usually referred to as the “Queen Wasp”. The engine is an Armstrong Siddeley “Cheetah” air-cooled 7 clylinder radial. Performance details of this aircraft are still secret. Arrangements are made for the fitting of floats in place of the usual land undercarriage, enabling the aircraft to be used either as a landplane or seaplane.
Card 42- D.H. “Queen Bee” Radio-Controlled Target Aircraft
The “Queen Bee” is virtually a standard D.H. “Tiger Moth” equipped as a radio-controlled pilotless aircraft for use as a gunnery target. Apart from the radio-control equipment, the “Queen Bee” is also fitted with catapulting points and slinging gear, and may be used either as a landplane or seaplane. The engine is a “Gipsy-Major” 4-cylinder inverted air-cooled motor of 130 h.p. Performance details are not available for publication. H.M. The king witnessed a demonstration of “Queen Bee” flying when he visited the Fleet in June, 1938.
Card 43- Airspeed “Oxford” Advanced Training Aircraft
This aircraft, which is designed for training, is a graceful low-wing monoplane, built by Airspeed Ltd., and fitted with two Armstrong Siddeley “Cheetah X” engines of 350 h.p. each. The equipment provides for training in navigation, bomb aiming and wireless operation. The “Oxford” has a wing span of 53 feet 3 inches and a top speed of 187 m.p.h. Its flight endurance is 5 hours. It is finished in bright yellow, the distinguishing colour of trainer aircraft.
Card 44- Avro “Prefect” Navigational Training Aircraft
An adaptation of the well-known Avro “Tutor” specially equipped for navigational training in the Royal Air Force. Full cloud-flying equipment, blind-flying hood, etc., are provided. Except for this specialised equipment the “Prefect” is identical to the “Tutor”. An Armstrong-Siddeley “Lynx” engine of 215 h.p. is fitted. The aircraft has a wing span of 34 feet, a length of 26 feet 6 inches and a height of 9 feet 7 inches.
Card 45- Avro “Tutor” Training Aircraft
A two-seater equal span single-bay training aircraft, used for elementary training. Complete dual control is fitted, and a 215 h.p. Armstrong Siddeley “Lynx” 7-cylinder radial air cooled engine provides a maximum speed of 122 m.p.h. A seaplane version of this aircraft, known as the “Seatutor” is also built, and is almost identical to the landplane apart from having a slightly lower performance. The “Tutor” has a wing span of 34 feet, a length of 26 feet 6 inches and a height of 9 feet 7 inches.
Card 46- D.H. “Tiger Moth” Training Aircraft
This aeroplane was designed as an efficient elementrary and intermediate training biplane, but in addition it is used in the Service for communication duties. Complete dual control is fitted and, if desired, floats may be employed in lieu of wheels, rendering the aircraft suitable for seaplane training. A D.H. “Gipsy Major” 4-cylinder-in-line inverted air cooled engine is installed, and in the case of the landplane produces a maximum speed of about 109 m.p.h. The “Tiger Moth” has a wing span of 29 feet 4 inches, a length of 23 feet 11 inches and a height of 8 feet 9 ½ inches.
Card 47- Miles “Magister” Training Aircraft
A low wing trainer monoplane built by Phillips & Powis, the Miles “Magister” is fitted with a de Havilland “Gipsy Major” engine of 130 h.p. Its lines are noticeably graceful. The wing span is 33 feet 10 inches and the length 25 feet 3 inches. The cockpits are open and are set tandem fashion. There are full controls and instruments including blind-flying equipment. Like other trainers, the “Magister” is finished in a bright shade of yellow. Trainer aircraft are specially designed and fitted for the highly important functions which they perform.
Card 48- Miles Unnamed Training Aircraft
This low-wing cantilever monoplane is a high speed trainer built by Phillips & Powis. It mounts a Rolls Royce “Kestrel XVI” engine of a maximum output of 745 h.p. The two seats are placed tandem and there are dual controls. The undercarriage is retractable, while a feature of the design is the unusually thick wing. The machine has a top speed of 295 m.p.h. Modern high-speed flying demands a special technique which this aircraft is designed to teach, but it can also be employed as a general purpose type suitable for fighting, light bombing or reconnaissance.
Card 49- Vickers “Virginia” Parachute Training Aircraft
Originally designed as a bomber, this aeroplane is now used for parachute training. An unusual feature of the design is the double set of landing wheels. The aircraft is fitted with two Napier “Lion” 12 cylinder “W” type liquid-cooled engines mounted between the wing stuts. The dimensions of the “Virginia” are imposing- wing span 87 feet 8 inches, length 62 feet 3 inches, heigh 17 feet 9 inches. A comparison of the “Virginia” with more recent types of bomber (e.g. “Battle” and “Wellesley”) shows the rapid advance made in general design.
Card 50- Vickers “Valentia” Troop Carrier
This type is a development of the “Victoria” V and VI bomber transport aeroplanes, and is fitted with two Bristol “Pegasus” II L.3 engines. Provision is made for carrying a spare engine on the bottom inner port plane. The aircraft is 59 feet long, and has a wingspan of 87 feet 7 inches. When used for transport the “Valentia” carries 21 troops besides a crew of 2, including the pilot. It has a range of about 650 miles and has been largely used for moving troops expeditiously over rough country. Most of this type are stationed abroad.
The British Army used a number of different rucksacks and bergans on operations during the ‘War on Terror’. One thing that most had in common though was that they were produced in a woodland green DPM camouflage. This was great in the forests of northern Europe, but not much good in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan where it stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. What the army did not want to do was to issue all its troops two separate bergans in two different camouflage patterns depending on where they were deployed- for one thing bergans are expensive! The answer they came up with was an adjustable cover in desert DPM camouflage that could be fitted over a bergan to hide the green DPM:The cover is made of a poly-cotton printed in desert DPM; a cord is fitted all around the inside edge of the cover. The cover is pulled over the bergan, with the corded side closest to the back, the draw string is then tightened using the plastic tensioner to prevent the cover from slipping off:This is complemented by a set of straps and Fastex clips that also help secure the cover:Once fitted a neat appearance can be achieved:A stores label is sewn into the inside of the cover:The covers were a common sight being used by troops in the early days of the war on terror, however today they are less common as following the adoption of MTP camouflage, one pattern is now sufficient for both temperate and arid conditions and separate covers are no longer needed for more recent bergans. Older examples are still on issue and an MTP cover has been produced for these but they are starting to be phased out as DPM bergans reach the end of their working lives. Here we see troops wearing the rucksack covers as they exit a Chinook:
Tonight we have a small envelope with an interesting story. From the Great War onwards soldiers were given one free ‘Privilege’ envelope a week. This allowed them to send private correspondence home without being censored. The system worked on trust, and a random selection would be checked to ensure nothing sensitive was being sent out- soldiers losing the right to the envelopes if they divulged sensitive information. As only one envelope was allowed a week, soldiers tended to put multiple letters inside, with the recipient forwarding them on to others. The system continued into the Second World War, with a buff envelope with green lettering marked on it. This envelope however is rather different from the norm:The ‘privilege’ part of the envelope has been obliterated with a large black stamp:This suggests that the stock of normal envelopes for mail that would be censored had run out and these were over marked to remove the privilege status. The recipient’s name and address is filled out on the right hand side of the envelope, here to a Private F W Brown:These envelopes remained in use into the 1950s as recalled by one ex-serviceman:
This was all we were allowed to use for about three months in 1956 prior to and during the Suez invasion. Most of the men that I served with still have them as we thought that no letter was better than these things. Mind you some of this could have been our fault as all letters prior to this had to be put into the company office unsealed to be censored. Now on standing orders when this instruction came out it informed us that what we wrote would remain confidential as long it is had no military references in them, and would never be commented on by the officers censoring the mail. Well we had to put all this to the test so we spoke about our platoon officer w#nking himself silly and one of the others being so daft he could not find his back side with both hands. Well as quick as shot they were down in the lines bawling out the men who had written these letters, only to find that complaints were put in against them for breaching Company Orders. So they refused to censor the letters and we got was the Field Post Cards for months on end. Ain’t life fun in the Army