Aircraft of the Royal Airforce Cigarette Card Album (Part 1)

Tonight we start a five part series looking at a set of cigarette cards published in 1938 by Players covering the aircraft of the Royal Air Force:This set is particularly interesting as it includes many aircraft that would have been withdrawn by the outbreak of war; biplanes and high wing bombers all saw very limited service in World War Two. It also has the most up to date fighters such as the Spitfire and hurricane so it is an interesting snap shot into a transitional period in the Royal Air Force. The captions below come from the backs of the cards and are period to the illustrations.

No 1. The Airspeed Envoy of The King’s Flight

Chosen as the equipment of the King’s Flight, this aircraft is a low-wing twin-engined monoplane. The engines are Armstrong Siddeley “Cheetah IX” 7-cylindar air-cooled radials of 350 h.p. giving a maximum speed of 203 m.p.h. and a normal cruising speed of about 170 m.p.h. The colours in which this aircraft is finished are those of the Brigade of Guards. The ‘plane was used recently to convey His Majesty on a tour of four R.A.F. stations and in addition has been frequently employed by other members of the Royal Family. It has a wing span of 52 feet 4 inches and a length of 34 feet 6 inches.No 2. Avro “Rota” Army Co-Operation Autogiro Aircraft.

A two-seater autogiro fitted with dual control. Certain of these aircraft have been supplied to Army co-operation squadrons of the Royal Air Force and are also used at the School of Army Co-operation. The aircraft has a short take-off run and lands almost vertically. An Armstrong Siddeley “Civet” radial air-cooled engine is fitted and gives the aircraft a maximum speed of about 100 m.p.h. The “Rota” has a length of 19 feet 8 ½ inches and is 11 feet 1 inch in height: The rotor diameter is 37 feet.No 3. Hawker “Audax” Army Co-Operation Aircraft

Built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd., this biplane of all metal construction is an Army co-operation machine. It is fitted with a Roll-Royce “Kestrel” engine of 480 h.p. and carries a crew of 2. The maximum speed is 169 m.p.h. It is specially designed and equipped for Army co-operation work and is fitted with wireless and electrical apparatus and a message pick-up hook. The dimensions are: wing span 37 feet 3 inches, length 29 feet 7 inches and height 10 feet 7 inches.No 4. Hawker “Hector” Army Co-Operation Aircraft

Like the “Audax” and the more recent “Lysander”, the “Hector” is an Army co-operation aircraft. It is a biplane of all metal construction with a wing span of 37 feet and carries a crew of 2. The top speed is 191 m.p.h. The “Hector” is built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd, and the engine is a Napier “Dagger III” . The “Dagger” is an unusual engine design, having 24 cylinders cast in rows of 6, an arrangement which is known as the H type. It has two crankshafts geared together to drive the airscrew shaft.No 5. Westland “Lysander” Army Co-Operation Aircraft

The “ Lysander” built by Westland Aircraft Ltd., and fitted with a Bristol “Mercury XII” engine, is designed for Army co-operation work. It is a high-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, mounts 2 machine guns, and carries a crew of 2, including the pilot. The wing span is 50 feet, and this aircraft is the first type designed exclusively for Army co-operation duties, other aircraft having been developments of existent service types.No 6. Armstrong Whitworth “Whitley” Bomber

This is a low-wing cabin monoplane bomber of all metal construction with a wing span of 84 feet. The “Whitley” is provided with enclosed gun-turrets at nose and tail, in addition to a downward-firing turret within the body, and has retractable undercarriage. It is built by the Sir W.G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Co., and fitted with two Armstrong Siddeley “Tiger VIII” of “IX” engines of 880 h.p. each. The “Whitley IV” is fitted with Rolls-Royce “Merlin” engines. There is accommodation for either 1 or 2 pilots and 3 or 4 other crew. The “Whitley” attains a speed of 192 m.p.h. and has a range of 1,500 miles.No 7. Blackburn “Skua” Dive Bomber Fighter

This dive-bomber fighter is a Blackburn product with a Bristol “Mercury IX” or “Perseus” engine. It is an all metal low wing monoplane with monocoque fuselage and retractable undercarriage, a notable feature being the tapered wing with rounded tip. The “Skua” is part of the equipment of the Fleet Air Arm and is a recent introduction. It is of interest that the “Perseus” is a sleeve valve engine and is the first engine of this type to go into general service use. The “Skua” will be allocated to aircraft carriers.No 8. Boulton Paul “Overstrand” Bomber

This aircraft is a development from the obsolete “Sidestrand”. It is a twin engine biplane bomber and is fitted with Bristol “Pegasus” engines of 590 h.p. each. A maximum speed of 150 m.p.h. is attained and the range is about 500 miles. The “Overstrand” mounts 3 machine guns, one of which is for defence against attack from below. A crew of 3 is carried. The dimensions are: wing span 72 feet, length 46 feet and height 15 feet 6 inches.No 9. Bristol “Blenheim” Bomber

A mid-wing monoplane bomber, mainly of metal construction, fitted with two Bristol “Mercury” engines with 3-bladed controllable-pitch airscrews. It normally carries a crew of 3. The armament consists of 2 machine-guns. The “Blenheim” has a retractable undercarriage and its dimensions are: wing span 56 feet 4 inches, length 39 feet 9 inches and height 9 feet 10 inches. The aircraft, which is a product of the Bristol Aeroplane Co., Ltd, attains a maximum speed of 279 m.p.h and has a range of 1000 miles with full load.No 10 Bristol “Bombay” Bomber Transport Aircraft

The performance figures of this new high-wing bomber transport are still secret. It is designed by Bristol Aeroplane Co., Ltd., and is equipped with two Bristol “Pegasus XX” engines. As a bomber the “Bombay” carries a crew of 4 but when used as a transport it carries a crew of 3 and has accommodation for 24 troops. It is of all-metal stressed skin construction, the engines being mounted in the wing which has a span of 96 feet. The enclosed gun turrets are placed in the nose and the tail, and there is intercommunication from end to end of the interior of the fuselage.

Post War Canadian Shell Dressings

Shell dressings have come up a number of times on this blog over the years, with both British and Indian wartime examples being featured. Tonight we have a pair of post war Canadian examples and has so often been the case with the various Cold War Canadian objects I have covered, my thanks have to go to Andrew Iarocci for his help in supplying me with them. The first of this pair is a Mk III shell dressing dating from November 1954:This particular design of shell dressing had been introduced in the Second World War and unlike other Empire dressings it came is a sterile sealed packet, rather than just a sewn cotton cover. The packet has an easy tear corner, indicated with a big arrow, so the user can get the dressing out easily in a hurry:This particular dressing was made by Bauer and Black of Toronto:The dressing has instructions printed in English and French, with the initials of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps prominently displayed above them:Our second example dates form almost thirty years later and the same sterilised sealed packet is still used to protect the dressing, although by now this was the norm for armies across the world. The most obvious difference is that it is now made in a much greener shade than the 1950s example, useful as these were frequently taped onto the yoke’s of the men’s webbing:Note as well that the nomenclature has changed from ‘Shell Dressing’ to ‘Dressing, First Aid, Field’. This dressing was made in May 1982 by Kendall of Toronto:The rear of the packet has the same instructions, but again in French:This makes a great deal of sense when you remember that Canada is bi-lingual with a large French speaking population. By printing the dressings in both languages, only one design was needed for all their troops.

XXX Corps Formation Patches

We have looked at a few different examples of divisional patches on the blog over the years. Tonight we have a nice uncut pair of badges for XXX Corps:These badges are printed onto white cotton, note the small dots indicating where to fold and tuck the edges under when sewing them to a battledress. These were issued in facing pairs, so that the badge faced forward on both sleeves. XXX Corps chose a leaping wild boar as their badge, in black on a white circle on a black square. Examples can be found either embroidered on felt or printed onto cotton like this example. This was a much cheaper and easier way of producing these badges, turning the badges over we can see how the design has bled through from the front:XXX Corps were heavily involved in several hard fought campaigns throughout WW2, with service in North Africa in 1942, Tunisia and Sicily in 1943 and Normandy, Holland and Germany from June 1944 onwards. They saw service during Operation market Garden and were commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Brian Horrocks for much of the Western European campaign.

The troops of the Corps seem to have regarded their boar badge with some affection, and when a memorial to those who had died in the corps was unveiled in Nienburg, Germany, it took the form of a large boar:A contemporary account recorded:

On December 15th on the eve of his relinquishing command of the Corps, Lieut. General Horrocks ceremonially unveiled in a square in Nienburg, the bronze boar acquired by Rear Corps at the time of the Rhine crossing. It had been mounted on a stone plinth, made by Corps RE, the design of which had been the subject of a competition, on which were engraved the battle honours 30 Corps in both the Mediterranean and European theatres together with the emblems of First Canadian Army, Second British Army and 21 Army Group.
Symbolically it was excellent in that it effectively portrayed the end of the 30 Corps war effort with the famous boar no longer rampant but at rest after his labours and his long journey along Club Route.

1950s Canadian Respirator Case

A couple of weeks ago the blog covered the 64 pattern Canadian respirator haversack here. Tonight we are looking at its immediate predecessor, the 51 pattern haversack:Technically this is not actually part of the 51 pattern web set, but it is closely associated with it as it was introduced at the same time as the rest of the webbing. The similarities between this and the later design are quite clear, with a similar side opening haversack, with a large press-stud secured pocket to the front:The big difference to note is the very different material the haversack is made from, rather than the plasticised finish of the later design, this haversack is a generation earlier and made from green canvas and cotton webbing. This would be far harder to decontaminate following a nuclear or chemical incident but reflects the available technology of the 1950s when it was produced, compared to that of a decade later. The haversack was worn on the left hip, with the opening facing forward. This is secured with a metal quick release buckle and a webbing chape:Note the little webbing channel for the tab to be stored away in when the haversack is fastened. When it is undone the haversack opens with a large gusseted opening to allow the mask to be taken in and out easily:Again like the later design, a small pocket is attached to the closed end of the haversack, with another quick release tab to open it with:The back of the haversack has a complicated array of different straps and fasteners attached to it:These are to allow the wearer to either attach it to the belt of his webbing set, or to sling it over his shoulder, a second strap then going around the wearer’s waist to prevent it from flapping about if the user needs to run.

For the early 1950s date this haversack is a modern and well thought out design. Its biggest flaw is not down to the design, but rather the materials available at the period which would have made it difficult to decontaminate.

Royal Artillery Regimental China

It has been quite a while since we looked at any regimental mess china on the blog, the last piece being this West Yorkshire Regiment tureen here. That example dated back to before the Great War, tonight we have a selection of more recent china that comes from the Royal Artillery. My thanks go to The East Yorkshire Regiment Living History Group and Mike Lycett in particular for the chance to add this to my collection. I have been fortunate enough to pick up a large quantity of large bowls, desert bowls, dinner plates and a solitary side plate:All have a deep red band round the edge and the regimental cypher design on them:The Royal Artillery use a complicated cypher consisting of the letter ‘RAR’ intertwined and presented with the sovereign’s crown above:In this case the crown is that of Queen Elizabeth the Second so we know these date to after 1952. The back of the plates have a maker’s mark for Dunn Bennett & Co Ltd of Burslem:This design of logo was used by the company between 1955 and 1962 so we can tie manufacture down even further to between those two dates. The Crockery is made from Vitreous Ironstone, a durable material often used for hotel and restaurant plates from the nineteenth century onwards as it was cheaper and harder wearing than porcelain. This suggests these plates were at the lower end of mess china and might have been used by a sergeant’s mess rather than by officers.

Mess dinners are often lavish affairs with crisp linen, shining cuttlery and plates, good food and plenty of alcohol. They are part of the annual calendar of a regiment and most units try and acquire their own mongrammed china to help reinforce the sense of regimental pride.

Officers Taking Tea in a Club, Simla

A couple of weeks back I picked up a truly wonderful photograph album from a former British Army officer, Major Stevenson, who had spent much of the war in Simla in India. We will be looking at a selection of the photographs form this album in the coming months and start today with a lovely informal shot of British officers relaxing in the town towards the end of the Second Word War:This does not look like an officer’s mess, but rather one of the many clubs that existed in India during the time of the Raj. The prominent military club was the ‘Simla United Services Club’ which this may well be. The United Services club had opened in 1844 and was restricted to commissioned military officers, army or navy chaplains, members of the Indian Civil Service and judges. The club boasted tennis courts, billiards, an extensive library and reading room and other facilities for off duty officers to relax in.

Here a group of officers are sat enjoying afternoon tea, complete with cake:An Indian waiter stands behind, wearing a turban and cummerbund:The officers themselves are sat, relaxed, in Lloyd Loom chairs. The two closest to the camera appear to be a captain:And either a second lieutenant or major:These officers would either be part of the permenant staff in the town, or passing through on the way to and from other assignments further up country. To the right of the picture can be seen sofas and soft chairs; a more relaxed area for officers to sit and read the paper, play games or chat with their colleagues:

The United Services Club in Simla closed in 1947 with the coming of Indian independence, however other clubs remain across the sub-continent and are popular amongst Indian officers and business men alike. Although their membership is now far more inclusive than it ever used to be, these clubs are a lasting legacy of the British Empire in the region.

Royal Navy Boxer Shorts

We do seem to have covered a fair selection of underwear on the blog over the years. I am not quite sure why this is, but it is an essential part of military clothing and there seems to be an inexhaustible variety of different designs and patterns. Tonight we have a pair of loose white cotton ‘boxer’ short type undergarments. These came in a large batch of Royal Navy rating’s uniform from the Second World War all from the same chap so I am confident in saying they are Royal Navy issue. The boxers are made of a distinctive weave of white cotton:Compared to some of the woollen underwear we have looked at in the past, these actually look reasonably comfortable! They have a three button fly, with white plastic buttons:Sewn eyelets are fitted in pairs to each side of the waistband:I suspect these are for clothes stops. These were small pieces of string that were used to thread Royal Navy garments together for drying on board ship. They were passed through holes on clothing and tied together. Alternatively these eyelets might have been for a cord to act as a way of tightening the waist in place of a piece of elastic in the waistband. The back of the boxers has a simple stamped stores code:The ‘NXS’ number is a contract number used by the Admiralty to identify an item and manufacturer. The ’36’ will refer to the waist size in inches I suspect. Underwear was standard issue from stores throughout the war, with most sailors receiving two pairs- one to wear and one to wash. I would imagine that many would have added extra pairs to their kitbag, either issue or civilian types, to supplement what seems a fairly meagre allowance.