Throughout the Second World War handy crafts were a popular and cheap hobby for both servicemen and civilians. The resulting items often had a direct link to the conflict and those serving in the armed forces. Tonight we have an embroidered antimacassar with the badge of the Royal Engineers:
An antimacassar is a small cloth placed over teh back of a sofa or chair to protect the fabric from damage and wear. In the 1940s, when men regularly war hair oil and Brycream, these were very common to prevent grease stains from appearing on upholstery. The name comes from macassar oil that was used on the hair in the early 19th century.
During the war embroidery kits were advertised and sold through shops and magazines and consisted of a pre printed piece of fabric, embroidery silks and needles. These kits were available with virtually all regimental crests, as well as Royal Naval and Royal Air Force insignia pre printed on the cloth. As can be seen this example has the GVI version of teh Royla Engineers cap badge, dating it nicely to WW2. The finished results vary considerable based on the skill of the embroiderer, this example is very nicely sewn however as can be seen the main cap badge has been completed and the red background started but never finished:
These items are pretty easy to find and normally don’t command high prices but are still attractive and useful items; in the case of this one I have used it on the back of a chair in my lounge for the last five years.
Like the other nations of he Empire, Australia adopted the 37 pattern webbing during WW2. Like all the other nations though, Australia made modifications to suit its own troops, fighting for the most part in the jungles of SE Asia. Troops had found the thin cross straps of the traditional 37 pattern webbing rubbed soldiers’ shoulders and caused sores. What was needed were wider straps and these were introduced late in the war:
It is unclear if many of these straps reached front line troops before the end of the war, but they did see use in the conflicts that cam after. As can be seen the central portion of the strap was made twice as wide as the standard cross strap:
These wider straps helped overcome one of the greatest weaknesses of the 37 pattern system, having worn traditional 37 pattern webbing myself for a few days in a row, I can attest to how uncomfortable it can become with prolonged wear.
These straps are dated 1945 and have the D/|\D Mark of the Austalian Defence Department:
They are marked with the manufacturer ‘MB&Co’. Sadly I can find no further information on this company, but if anyone can help please let me know.
I will be honest with you, I don’t collect medals. I have never found them particularly interesting and normally they are out of my price bracket. Despite this, I have a small number of medals that I have been given over the years. My favourite is this one, an Indian Long Service and Good Conduct Medal:
This medal was given to me by a friend of my Grandfather many years ago, unfortunately both he and my grandfather are both now dead so I am not sure if they were his medals or not. The medal is made of silver with the head of King George VI on the obverse. Above this is the fixed suspension bar bearing the name of the colony ‘India’ indicating its issue to a member of the Indian Army. The Reverse has the inscription ‘For Long Service and Good Conduct’:
The medal was awarded for eighteen years unblemished service and has a crimson ribbon with white stripes down either edge. The edge of the medal is inscribed with the recipients name, number and regiment:In this case it is to Staff Sergeant D M Merson of the Indian Army Ordnance Corps. It is not unusual to find white senior NCOs in the Indian Army, working alongside their Indian colleagues during the long process of Indianisation after the end of the Great War. The Indian Army Ordnance Corps fulfilled the same role for the Indian Army as the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in the British Army, tracing its own history back as far as 1775. They were responsible for maintaining weapons, armoured vehicles and other military equipment. The Indian Army Ordnance Corps is still in existence as part of the modern Indian Army.
As most webbing produced for the British Empire during the first half of the twentieth century was designed by the same company, Mills Webbing, it can often be hard to work out which set of equipment a piece belongs to due to the similarity of designs. Tonight’s holster is an example of such a piece. I was given this holster by a friend of mine and just assumed it was a 37 pattern holster. It was only a few years later that I came across its true and much more unusual identity.
The 1919 pattern webbing set was adopted by the Royal Navy in the years immediately after the Great War. Mills had designed the set as a replacement for 08 pattern webbing for the army, but as they had millions of sets of 08 in store there was no market for Mill’s new design, so they added cutlass and pistol equipment and sold the design to the Royal Navy instead who were looking to update their leather 1901 pattern equipment.
The holster was originally designed with a wooden plug in the barrel end for protection of the weapon, however this was dropped from the design in the early thirties and it is this second pattern I have in my collection:
The most obvious difference to the 37 pattern holster is to be seen on the rear, where there are only c clips for attaching to the waist belt. The top c-clip for attaching to an ammunition pouch are missing:
The base of the holster is all in webbing on the second pattern and has a small hole for drainage:
The holster is marked and dated inside the top flap:
In this case it was made by ME Co in 1943. Interestingly like much late 1919 pattern equipment there is a /|\ mark, but no naval markings. Inside the holster is a sleeve for the pistol cleaning rod:
This allows the 1919 pattern holster to be distinguished from its 1925 pattern cousin where the cleaning rod holder is mounted on the rear outside. As can be seen all these holsters are very similar in design and are usually all sold as ’37 pattern’ which allows the canny collector to pick up a bargain and add an unusual holster to his collection.
Tonight’s item is a shell casing from a Nordenfelt 6 pounder, dating to 1901. The Nodrdenfelt Quick Firing 6 pounder was a 57mm short single barrelled gun used on board ships and for coastal defence by many different countries. Britain introduced the gun as the ‘Ordnance QF 6 Pounder Nordenfelt’ in 1885. They were used as a light gun for protection against fast moving, lightly armoured torpedo boats that were becoming popular with navies of the era. Below we can see examples on HMS Camperdown in the late 1880s:
Multiple Nordenfelt guns were mounted around the ship with clear arcs of fire to put down a large volume of shells to try and blow torpedo boats out of the water before they got into range to launch their weapons at the capital ship. The guns were light and handy to manoeuvre, easily operated and quickly reloaded by a small crew, making them ideal for close, quick firing protection. The gun had a range of approximately 4000 yards and could fire around 12 aimed shots a minute. The innovation which allowed this high rate of fire was combining the casing, propellant and shell into a single, easily handled unit. Up to this point most naval guns had used separate elements that slowed the rate of fire down. My case is approximately 12 inches high, with fairly straight sides and has traces of chroming on the outside:As can be seen the case has been modified at some point by having the top turned over, however the base of the case still has a multitude of markings:
From these we can see that the case was originally manufactured in 1901, was loaded with a Cordite Full Charge and refilled with the same charge at a later date (CFF Stamp). When it was reloaded the case was annealed (A in the circle). The gun was shortlived with the Royal Navy as the very similar Hotchkiss 6 pounder became widely adopted instead. The Nordenfelt was a simple gun to use an maintain, consisting of only 10 working parts for its breach and firing mechanism and was to be used by many navies across the world in the run up to WW1. The example below is in the Manege Military Museum, Helsinki, Finland:
Tonight we have the last of our three festive objects, with a postcard of a Christmas lunch for soldiers, somewhere behind the lines in the Great War:
As can be seen the dinner seems to be taking place in a wooden hut, though no location can be discerned. The hut has been decorated for Christmas with what look to be paper decorations and what might be green foliage, whilst a storm lantern hangs from the ceiling:The simple wooden table seems piled high with food on the white table cloth:
The men themselves seem to all be NCOs judging by the stripes visible on the sleeves and the age of those around the table:
Whilst they all seem to have white lanyards on their left shoulders indicating they are members of the Royal Artillery:Just visible behind the seated figures can be made out the bunks indicating that the barracks were normally used for sleeping and the men are not in a purpose built dining hut:
Tonight we have the second of our three festive objects, and one we can date to exactly one hundred years ago today. Following yesterday’s post we have another menu, but this time from 1914 and the 5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters:
At the top of the menu is the regiment’s crest:
The menu has playful air about it, with oysters described as ‘à la Christmas leave’ and a note referring to drinks in the margin as being for ‘Frequent Distribution’. Clearly despite the start of the Great War there was no trouble in putting on a good spread of food with six courses and coffee. The menu is clearly for the officers of the regiment and the meal is held in the Saracen’s Head, Dumow. Dunmow is in Essex and the pub is still in existence and still offers a Christmas lunch to its patrons. As can be seen the pub is an imposing old coaching inn:
The 5th Battalion was a territorial battalion of the regiment from Derby which was mobilised in August 1914. It was sent to Braintree in Essex in November 1914, less than ten miles from Dunmow where the officers were to enjoy their Christmas lunch. Christmas was to be the calm before the storm as the battalion landed in France on 25th February 1915 and formed part of the 139th (Forester) Infantry Brigade in the 46 (North Midland) Division. The Battalion was one of the first territorial units to arrive in France and was to serve there for the rest of the war, suffering many casualties. One of the most famous exchanges overheard during the Great War was about the Sherwood Foresters at the Battle of Artois in 1915.
General Henry Rawlinson: “This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires out on the right?”
Brigadier Reginald Oxley: “They are lying out in No-Man’s Land, sir, and most of them will never stand again.”
An excellent site on Derbyshire Territorials can be found here: https://derbyshireterritorials.wordpress.com/