Monthly Archives: July 2015

Mule Gas Mask Haversack

There are times when a collector has to rely on his intuition, common sense and knowledge of his subject to make a ‘best guess’ as to the use of an item of militaria. Tonight’s object is one such item, I have only ever seen one other example of this haversack and the owner was enquiring as to its use as well, so please be aware that some of what follows is conjecture on my part.

This haversack is made of grey-green waterproofed canvas and is a large bag, with a rounded bottom:imageThe markings inside the bag date it to 1944, the /|\ indicates it was War Department issue and identify it as being for a mule:imageThis is the point where guesswork comes in as no one seems to know what the bag was designed to carry, in my opinion it was to store a mule gas mask:imageThe size and shape are consistent with the large round gas masks issued to fit over the muzzles of these pack animals. As ever if anyone has further information please let me know! Inside the bag is a cotton divider:imageWhilst the lid is secured with Newey studs:imageAnd leather straps:imageThat pass through metal staples:imageto secure the lid:imageA webbing tape on the bottom helps support the contents:imageWhilst a pair of two inch webbing straps and buckles allow the haversack to be secured to other equipment:imageSince buying this, very obscure, item of military kit I have been kicking myself for passing over a mule gas mask that appeared on eBay last year. If anyone has one for sale or knows of where I could find one I would be very interested in adding one to my collection and completing this interesting set.

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SLR Cleaning Kit

The standard rifle used by the British Army during the Cold War was the ‘Self Loading Rifle’ or SLR, a variation of the FN FAL rifle used by many NATO countries of the period. Like all weapons systems it needed to be kept clean to work correctly. The move to automatic and semi-automatic weapons made this even more crucial as deposits of carbon and unburnt propellant soon clogged up gas parts that re-cocked the weapon. To help keep their weapons clean sodliers were issued with a small cleaning kit in a litle plastic box:imageThe plastic box has a hinged lid, in this case it has been painted yellow and someone has written ‘SLR’ on the top:imageThe inside of the lid has the NATO stores number and the date of manufacture, 1975:imageInside the box are the individual elements that make up the cleaning kit:Publication11. Nylon Brush- for cleaning loose particles off the action of the rifle

2. Chamber Brush- for cleaning stubborn dirt in the chamber of the rifle. This can be screwed onto the combi-tool for ease of use.

3. Combi-Tool- This too is designed to allow the rifle to be serviced, taken apart and cleaned and is used to set the sights on an SLR.

4. Oil Bottle- this little bottle would have held gun oil to help lubricate the weapon.

5. 4”x2” cleaning cloth

6. Mk 7 Pullthrough with scraper type metal weight.

This set makes a nice addition to my 58 pattern webbing- I just need an SLR to go with it now…

The Wolseley Helmet in Pictures: From Omdurman to El Alamein Book Review

If anything captures the essence of the final decades of Empire it is the Wolseley Helmet; this iconic headdress being worn by soldiers, sailors and airmen of the British Empire in tropical outposts throughout the first half of the twentieth century. At first glance these helmets are much of a muchness, but closer inspection reveals a myriad of different variations in the hats themselves and even more variety in the pugarees and badges worn on them. As with so much of British Imperial history, the Wolseley Helmet slipped into obscurity for decades, this book is the first published work on the subject and is likely to remain the ‘bible’ for collectors for many years to come.Wolseley200Stuart Bates and Peter Suciu’s book, The Wolseley Helmet in Pictures: From Omdurman to El Alamein’, is a lavishly produced book on this most obscure of subjects. It combines a mixture of period photographs with detailed images of surviving examples from private and museum collections:untitledaThe photograph reproduction is superb and one photograph in particular, a mule dressed in boots, Wolseley Helmet and 08 webbing, is almost worth buying the book for on its own! The original photographs are a nice mixture of on campaign photographs that show the helmets in use and studio photographs that allow them to be seen in greater detail:untitledbWhilst the photographs are superb and make up the majority of the book they do not stand in isolation, a well researched text accompanies them setting out the evolution of the headdress, variations in manufacture, obscure experimental types and the helmet in Australian, Canadian and foreign use. It is however the sheer breadth of examples that makes this book so special, with numerous regimental variations, officers and other ranks and even photographs of the only two known survivors of WW1 economy Wolseley Helemets made from straw.

The focus of the book is the army, the RAF and Royal Navy only have a single example for each service, however as the helmets used by them were basically only of a single type, this is not a problem. Alongside pictures of the helmet, other illustrations show some of the range of side flashes and badges:untitledcThis book is a nice companion piece for the authors’ other work on Military Sun Helmets of the World, this book covers the British Woslely Helmet, the other takes a broader worldwide look at all military sun helmets in a myriad of designs and is more generalist. Sadly this book, published n 2009, seems to be hard to get hold of now; I tracked my copy down to the Gloucester Regiment Museum’s online shop which seems to be the only stockist this side of the Atlantic. As with many high quality militaria books this is not a pocket money purchase but I felt £29.99 was a good price for a limited run book that covers such an interesting and obscure area of collecting. If you have an interest in the uniforms and headdress of the British Army I cannot recommend this book highly enough, but I would imagine stock is now very limited so it would not be wise to hang around!

The book is available here.

Picric Acid Dressing

Medically some of the injuries that are most susceptible to infection are burns and scalds. The exposed inner layers can easily become breeding grounds for gangrene and other nasties. The burn flesh is also extremely delicate and of course painful to the patient. Burns are very common in wartime, with explosions, fire and chemical burns all easy to come across on the battlefield. To help medical officers treat injured troops the British Army issued specialist dressings containing picric acid:imageAs can be seen this dressing is not in the best of conditions, but the instructions are still easily readable on the front:imageThe dressing is a lint dressing impregnated with dried picric acid, water is applied to dissolve the acid and make it wet, the bandage then being applied. This is wrapped in a waxed cloth wrapper, which has become very fragile on this example, and the label is then pasted to the front. The Memoranda for the ‘Guidance of Medical Officers and Other Personnel at First Aid Posts’ published in 1939 advised on the treatment of burns:

No attempt should be made at cleaning these (i.e. burns). They should simply be covered with a suitable dressing. The burn dressing (picric acid) should be moistened before application. Picric acid does not interfere with the efficiency of tannic acid dressing applied later. Morphia will probably be required.

This bandage is marked with the /|\ mark showing it is War Department property and a date of 1943:imageThese bandages are not as common as shell dressings and first field dressings so I was pleased to pick this one up, however I feel it is in too poor a condition to be put in my shell dressing bag as this would probably destroy what is left of the label. Instead it will be carefully displayed flat to keep it in as good a condition as possible.

Type F Field Telephone

The Type F Field telephone was a type of telephone in use with the British Army in the Second World War for short range communications. Unlike a radio, a field telephone relied on a physical piece of wire to link receivers to one another and a central switchboard. As such it was best for use with fixed positions such as between artillery spotters and their guns, it allowed relatively simple and secure communications, but was very vulnerable to having its wires cut by enemy fire. The type F was a Bakelite field telephone that was originally held in a wooden box as the war office were unsure how robust the early plastics would prove in the field. These fears turned out to be groundless and users frequently discarded the outer box to lighten the weight of the field telephone:imageOn the top of the telephone two raised shoulders protect a central pair of metal bells:imageThe hammer for these bells projects up from the inside through a small hole in the top cover. As the telephone had originally been designed to be used in a box, all the functioning parts are squeezed onto the front face, with a magneto handle:imageBuzzer button:image And line terminals:imageSqueezed into a small space. The top of the telephone is removable to allow for maintenance and replacement of the internal ‘S’ or ‘X’ type 3V dry cell battery:imageThe underside of the top cover has a wiring diagram to help with repairs:imageThe official handbook which accompanied the telephone helpfully provided a photograph of the insides with major components labelled:untitled3These telephones were used throughout the war, with and without the wooden boxes and were good for distances of up to five miles. The image below shows one in use, in its wooden box, in the early days of the war:Untitled4

1949 Pattern TA Officer’s Battledress Blouse

It is interesting to see the sort of embellishments officers in the British Army are allowed to make to their uniforms. Despite there being regulations on exactly how an officer’s uniform should be cut and presented, a blind eye is frequently turned to regimental and personal embellishments as long as they are not too ridiculous. Tonight we have an interesting battledress blouse that has been modified by the owner, a captain in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment:imageAs can be seen this uniform is a standard British Army 1949 pattern battledress, the label inside indicates it was made in 1954 by D Miller and Co and is a size 11:imageWhere it differs is that the officer has replaced the standard green plastic buttons on the front pockets with staybrite regimental buttons:imageThe same has been done on the cuffs:imageThe uniform has embroidered white on red felt shoulder titles:imageUnderneath this is the polar bear formation badge of the 49th West Riding and Midland TA division:imageThis territorial army division from the 1950s and 60s inherited the history and insignia of its famous wartime predecessor. The officer has a single medal ribbon on his uniform:imageThis ribbon is for the ‘Territorial Decoration’ awarded to TA reservists who had served for a minimum of twenty years. The shoulder straps have cloth ‘pips’ indicating the officer was a captain:imageThese 49 pattern battledress blouses have been widely ignored by collectors for years in favour of wartime uniforms, however with their brightly coloured insignia and the passage of time they are starting to find a more appreciative audience and are becoming increasingly collectible. Whilst plain 49 pattern BD blouses can be found from £10 upwards, those with original badges are starting to make over £50 each depending on the attractiveness of the insignia and I would expect these prices to continue to climb so they are well worth investigating now whilst they are still affordable.

Air Ministry Aldis Lamp

Tuesday’s secondhand market turned up something I have secretly wanted for a long time- an Aldis lamp. The Aldis lamp is a handheld lamp with a trigger mechanism allowing pulses of light to be modulated to send messages using Morse code. These communications are pretty secure as only those on a line of sight can see them and are still used today in periods of radio silence. Speeds of up to fourteen words a minute can be achieved by skilled operators. This Aldis lamp dates from the Second World War:imageAs can be seen the lamp is made up of three main parts, the body of the lamp holding the bulb and reflector:imageThe handle, with the trigger mechanism:imageAnd a simple optical sight allowing it to be aimed at the receiving signaller:imageThe front plate of the lamp is removable to allow the bulb to be replaced and to let the operator fit coloured lenses if required:imagePower to the lamp is fed in through a long cable at the bottom of the handle which has two terminals on the end to plug into ship or aircraft 12V electrical systems:imageAs can be seen, as is often the case, the terminals have been replaced with crocodile clips allowing the lamp to be used with a battery. This lamp is an Air Ministry example and the maker’s plate indicates it was manufactured in 1942 by The Pullin Optical Company Ltd:imageThe Aldis lamp fits snuggly inside a sturdy wooden box, with felt to help cushion it:imageThe box again has the Air Ministry logo stamped on the side:imageThe lamp was generally held in the crook of the arm or with the spare hand steadying it when signalling, as in this case aboard a Short Sunderland flying boat:untitled1A quick search on eBay shows that these lamps are still out there and should not be too hard to find if you want one, however many are RN or post war examples so check listings carefully!