First aid kits seem to have been appearing on the blog with some regularity over the last few months, and tonight we have what I am reliably informed by a former British Army driver is the first aid kit fitted in heavy army trucks such as those made by MAN. This first aid kit is as simple as they come, consisting of a simple green woven nylon bag with a flap lid:The words ‘First Aid’ are printed on the front in white lettering along with a medical cross so there is no doubt as to the contents:The rear of the bag has four strips of Velcro, presumably to allow the bag to be fastened somewhere inside a lorry’s cab nice and securely until needed- the Velcro would allow it to be removed very quickly in an emergency:Interestingly this bag has also had some additional information written on it in black permanent marker, here stating ‘First Aid Kit, 10 Person, no5’:Quite what the significance of this writing is, unfortunately, remains a mystery. I do not have a packing list for this bag, but typical contents would include bandages, sterilised wipes, field dressing etc. As ever, if you know more about this first aid kit, please leave a comment below.
The British Army’s website gives some information on the level of casualty care provided during operations in Afghanistan, this basic first aid kit being the bottom rung of a well thought out ladder of care:
All soldiers are trained and equipped to provide First Aid, both for everyday situations and to look after each other on the battlefield. Teams of soldiers engaged in high-risk activities will have the support of one or more Army Medics, also known as Combat Medical Technicians. (CMT).
Soldiers also have access to a Regimental Medical Officer (RMO), who is able to provide the same level of medical attention as a General Practitioner. RMOs are trained in the management of trauma and their presence ensures the most seriously injured receive highly skilled medical attention at the earliest opportunity.
The medical training, equipment and facilities are among the best in the world. In addition, individual medical training not only gives extra confidence to the soldiers on patrol, but enables them to react quickly and correctly to situations, meaning they are better equipped to look after each other and save lives.
It has been a while since a bayonet appeared on the blog, so tonight we are looking at an early example of an SMLE bayonet. Regular readers may recall we looked at a second world war production example here. This particular example dates back to 1915 and there are a couple of interesting points on this bayonet. The first and most obvious thing to notice is that the blade has been chromed:This was done for use on parade and makes the bayonet look particularly impressive in the sunshine, as the light catches and glints off the chroming. The ricasso of the bayonet has the date and manufacturer’s details, in this case the blade was made by Sanderson in March 1915:The opposite side has the War Department /|\ and various inspectors marks stamped into the steel:It is on the tip of the pommel that this bayonet really becomes interesting though. Here what I believe are the letters ‘6KRR’ are stamped into the metal:This indicates that the bayonet was originally issued to the 6th Kings Royal Rifle Corps. It is always nice to find a piece of equipment marked to a particular unit! The other feature of the pommel is what it is missing. In 1916 a small hole was added to the pommel to allow cleaning of the catch and springs used to attach the bayonet to the rifle. It was found that the mud of the trenches was working its way into this area and fouling up the mechanism and so a small hole was provided so a piece of wire could be inserted to unclog the catch. This bayonet, dating from before this change does not have this feature. By way of illustrating the point, here is the handle of the Second World War example, with the cleaning hole clearly visible:These little holes seem to be often referred to as ‘oiling holes’ but bayonet catches do not really need oiling, they do need to be kept clear of debris. The following is the official list of changes entry for the adding of these little holes, published on the 23rd February 1916:
17692 – Sword Bayonet, Pattern 1907, Mark I. 5 Jan 1916
23 Feb 1916
Drilling of clearance hole through pommel
In future manufacture, sword-bayonets of the above mentioned pattern ( LoC 14170 ) will have a hole drilled through the pommel to facilitate the removal of mud, dirt, &c., that may accumulate in the bottom of the mortice for the sword bar of the rifle nose-cap, and so prevent the bolt of the sword-bayonet shooting and locking the sword-bayonet on the rifle.
In workshops where the necessary machinery and tools are available the hole may be drilled, as occasion offers, through the pommel to the size and in the position shown in the accompanying drawing, the position first being marked off. “
And the official diagram that went with the change:
It is an old adage that an army marches on its stomach, but the importance of good food in military life has long been recognised. The modern army chef is an essential cog in the military machine (don’t even get servicemen started on Sodexo!). In the kitchen army chefs wear traditional chef’s whites and it is one of these we have to look at tonight:This garment is closely modelled on civilian chef’s jackets and has two rows of removable black plastic buttons running up the front:These buttons have a ball fitting at the front and a large disc at the rear:Other distinctive features of the jacket include unbuttoned cuffs, with a simple curved edge:And a small pen pocket on one sleeve:Small vents are provided under each armpit, no doubt very welcome in a hot kitchen:As with all military clothing an internal label gives details of sizing and NSN number:The role of the chef is explained on the British Army’s recruitment website:
Feeding an Army is a big job, but also a vital one. Our soldiers need solid meals to keep them going and that’s where you come in. As an Army Chef you will provide healthy food wherever you are and whatever the conditions. You cook for everyone from new recruits to royalty; serving up tasty meals – even out in the field. You also learn about administration, finance and storage, as well as picking up qualifications and enjoying all aspects of Army life: exercise, ranges, sports, travel and great mates too. It’s an amazing experience.
One Army chef describes his career:
I enlisted into the RLC in 2008 as a Chef. I have since completed postings in Germany, Edinburgh and Abingdon. I’ve deployed to Canada on numerous occasions, as well as the Falklands, Gibraltar and Kenya, providing catering support to deployed troops on exercise and operations. I’ve also worked from the main kitchen supporting up to 1,300 personnel and from numerous Messes where I’ve developed higher culinary skills. I’ve pursued my interest in kayaking, raising money for charity in the process. I take real pride in what I deliver, both as a Chef and a soldier.
These chef’s whites are often worn with a coloured peak less cap and neckerchief in the kitchen and many army chef’s have custom embroidery on the breast of their whites: Note also that rank is worn as a small metal badge pinned to the whites.
Tonight I have one of those objects which seems really obvious at the outset, but has generated a lot of debate amongst collectors over the years. For a long time it was assumed that these blue underpants were for issue to female troops:However the consensus now seems to be that these underpants were actually for men and were issued to those recovering from injuries in hospital. Dressings and physical incapacity made it difficult to get underwear easily on and off some patients. These underpants are fastened at one side by cotton tapes that can be undone to make it easier to get them on or off:The top tapes act as a drawstring around the waist, whilst the lower tapes help hold the pants secure. The Second World War saw great advances in medicine when it came to saving damaged limbs, and arms and legs that would have been previously amputated were now being saved, as reported in the Picture Post:
War is pointing the way. In the old days a surgeon lopped off a limb with a compound fracture, and then the patient made the best of it. One surgeon a hundred years ago is supposed to have cut off no fewer than 200 limbs in a single day; that is more than a modern surgeon amputates in the whole of his life, and today the Consultant in Orthopaedic Surgery to the Royal Air Force, Dr R Watson Jones of Liverpool, has reported that “in a series of Royal Air Force hospitals there was one amputation per 1,000 severe limb injuries, including infected wounds and compound fractures.” The wounded soldier, therefore, is easy in his mind on one score – the odds are heavy against him having to lose a limb. Further in war we cannot afford the wasteful practices of peace when a patient was treated for a fracture, discharged without any clear idea of his disability and how to treat it, and went to the courts to get compensation under the impression that his accident had made him a permanent cripple. The country needs sound men, not cripples.
With the greater number of soldiers with seriously injured legs recovering in hospital, specialist underwear would have been increasingly important. The dark blue colour is typical of hospital clothing- hospital blues and dark blue dressing gowns were also standard army issue. A simple white label is sewn onto the front of the underpants indicating they have a 34” waist and were made in 1943:As is sometimes the case, I am struggling to find anything further on these- I can find no period sources or materials to indicate when they were introduced or declared obsolete, who was actually issued them or how they were received by patients or medical staff.
The traditional ceremony of ‘crossing the line’ has been enacted for many centuries and even today, those on board ship who cross the equator for the first time are subject to a variety of high-jinx and must pay tribute to King Neptune. It has long been traditional to provide sailors with a certificate following the ceremony to prove they have crossed the equator and a few years ago we looked at an example form the carrier HMS Centaur here. Tonight we have another example of these certificates, this time from a different carrier HMS Eagle:This certificate dates from 1967, but I have been lucky enough to stumble upon an account of crossing the equator aboard HMS Eagle in 1971 that gives a great description of the atmosphere and ceremony aboard the carrier:
Tradition has it that ceremonies are performed in obeisance to King Neptune as ships cross the Equator, and a day was set aside for such merrymaking. Initiation, sacrifice, call it what you will: a representative selection of the Ship’s Company were selected to be shaved, dolloped, whitewashed and thrown to the bears. With full court regalia, mermaids, policemen, etc., the Captain was the first to sample the Eagle twin tub, whiter than white, dollopwash. (He was accused of- 1. Sailing on time; 2- ‘Did deprive the Ship’s Company of Whit weekend’; 3- was seen to smile at the return of the squadrons). The Commander, Doctor, Dentist, Schooly, youngest chap on board- were all for it and all were duly accused (in rhyme too) and ducked. The formalities over, the duckings became less formal and a few innocent and unprepared spectators were manhandled into the water, and by mid-afternoon the pools were filled with volunteers and pressed (or pushed) men. Of course, someone had to pull the plugs out; the water drained away and revealed a small collection of keys and false teeth at the bottom of the pools.
Here we see a member of the Ship’s Company of HMS Eagle being ducked in a pool, surrounded by his cheery shipmates:This certificate is part of a small grouping of artifacts all covering life on the carrier, we shall return to HMS Eagle in a few weeks for an interesting photograph of the ship herself.
This week’s postcard depicts three young lads in Scottish military uniform:This photograph is helpfully dated on the back and comes form 1918. Looking at the ages of the boys I suspect they are cadets of some sort. Despite the army having abandoned full dress uniforms in 1914, these cadets are wearing the full highland dress uniform, with kilt and sporran:High socks and spats:Glengarry:And full dress doublet:Note on the jacket the cuffs, with three buttons and gold lacing. A simple black leather belt is worn with a metal buckle. The central cadet is holding a small cane ‘swagger’ stick in his hands:It seems likely that these cadets were uniformed out of surplus stock left over from before the war. The issue of clothing cadets clearly vexed one reader of the Daily mail who wrote in March 1918:
Now that the importance of cadet training is being more fully recognised, the lack of co-ordination and organisation should be remedied without delay. Owing to the large numbers of youths being called up the ranks of cadet units are greatly depleted, with the result that quite small boys will predominate in the future.
There would be a great saving of money if, instead of the expensive outfit of khaki uniform, cap and puttees, a simpler, less expensive and more suitable uniform were adopted, similar to that supplied to cadets in Australia. This is especially applicable to junior cadets who do not feel, and perhaps naturally, the full sense of responsibility when wearing khaki…
Clearly this never happened, and even today cadets wear more or less the same uniform as the adult forces.