It is back to India tonight, for a World War One photograph of an army camp:The back of the photograph dates it to 1916 and says that it is Rewat Camp, in the Murree Hills in India:The camp itself consists of a large number of white tents, well secured down with guy ropes:These look to be headquarters and administration tents rather than accommodation tents which would normally be bell tents in this period. The tents are centred around a large open space, where a number of troops are stood wearing shorts, loose shirts and pith helmets:The whole encampment is surrounded by trees and the high Murree Hills:These hills meant this region was considerably cooler than the plains of India during the summer and so the region became a popular spot for those with money to retire to during the summer to escape the oppressive heat at lower heights. In winter the region becomes more alpine in climate, with heavy snows. Major General White in his book Regimental History of the 4th Battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles described arriving at the camp a year after this photograph was taken:
However we were destined for Rewat, in the Murree Hills, the idea being to segregate us as we were all malaria carriers. After the wilds of East Africa, the wilds of the Murree Hills did not sound very attractive.
After spending a night in the rest camp at Rawal Pindi, we were taken up in lorries to Sunnybank, and marched from there to Rewat, which lies about 12 miles from Murree, on the old track to Kohal…The battalion remained in the Murree Hills until the end of December 1917, the latter month being spent in Kuldana Barracks, entirely surrounded by snow.
From this account we can see that the camp was at least a semi-permanent affair, occupied over a number of seasons, despite the temporary looking nature of the tents. This region of India is now part of Pakistan and a number of Pakistani military units are still barracked and trained in the region- its climate clearly being conducive to military life.
Tuesday’s market brought up a number of nice finds, including this very nice large leather bag:This bag is designed to carry Bren gun magazines inside a Bren Gun Carrier, the bag being designed to be grabbed quickly if the crew needed to dismount quickly with their weapon. The official designation is “ Pouches, detachable ammo, filled mags, Bren, Thompson, Grenades” and the interior of the pouch is large and roomy for ammunition:The back of the case has a metal bracket riveted to the main pouch:This allows the bag to be securely fixed to the side of the vehicle, as in this preserved example where leather pouches can be seen stowed down the right hand side:Eight of these pouches were carried on each Bren Carrier, to be positioned at the commander’s discretion. According to the stowage diagram they were to contain between them ‘25 Mags, Bren .303 MG Mk II* (Filled); 8 mags, Rifle Boy’s Mk II (Filled); 12 Grenades, Hand…Case, Spare, WT, Parts 5c.’ Some suggested stowage positions are indicated in the diagram below, highlighted in red:There are a number of different versions of this bag, some made of canvas or fibre (which seem to be Canadian) and some with two fasteners, this example though has just a single strap and metal buckle to secure the top:There is a short leather carrying handle attached:This is marked with a /|\, date of 1943 and the stores code 14076 which is a generic code used for all variants of this pouch: My best guess is that the pouch held six or eight magazines originally, possibly in an inner canvas liner with subdivisions. Information on these pouches seems rather limited. Whilst this pouch is a nice item, unfortunately I haven’t got a Bren Gun Carrier to go with it!
The Second World War saw the first man portable radios, with the British adopting the WS18 set and WS38 set amongst many others. Despite being small enough to carry, these radio sets were still heavy and bulky and need to have extra accessories carried separately. Items like headsets, microphones, spare valves and junction boxes were held in a separate signals satchel, a simple shoulder bag and strap made of the ubiquitous pre-shrunk cotton webbing:The bag is secured with a single buckle and strap:Interestingly the fittings on this bag are a very white shade of brass. The flap covering the bag has sides and a front to it, offering more protection than a simple piece of cloth:A faint stores number can be seen printed on the front of the satchel:The strap passes through two metal loops, one at each side, and the length is adjusted by a pair of toothless Twigg buckles:The inside of the satchel is lined with cotton drill to protect the contents:This cotton is also passed over the ends of the bag for reinforcement, note how it has frayed where the wire from the junction box to the radio set has rubbed:The strap has another stores number printed on and a /|\ mark:In this period image the signals satchel is clearly visible hanging down:Interestingly my bag is made of a dark green webbing rather than tan and I think it is probably post war rather than of wartime manufacture, these bags being used for other purposes long after the original wireless sets had been withdrawn.
Nearly a year ago we looked at the 39 Pattern greatcoat here. Tonight we are looking at the successor to this design, the 1940 pattern. From the start it was clear that there were shortcomings with the 39 Pattern greatcoat, the main ones being the coat was too tight to be worn over equipment and that it used more material than desirable. From the front the great coat looks very similar to its predecessor:Although it is hard to tell without a direct comparison, the new pattern is 2” shorter than the 39 Pattern and a warmer lining was fitted. There are still two pockets with flaps:And a steeply stepped collar that is ¾” narrower than the 39 pattern coat and can button across in inclement weather:The most striking change is that the brass buttons have been replaced with green ‘vegetable ivory’ (plastic!) buttons:Inside the coat a printed white label gives manufacturer’s details , D Joseph, sizing and a date of 1945:The size is repeated in white paint on the material itself:Whilst the lining of one of the pockets has a /|\ and WD mark and a ‘Z’ date code:The ‘Z’ code again equates to 1945. Turning to the rear, a large vent has been added to the coat allowing it to expand over any equipment worn, giving a more comfortable fit:The half belt at the back remains the same, except for plastic rather than brass buttons:A vent at the base of the back allows the coat to be unbuttoned for greater freedom of movement:Despite these greatcoats being to a new pattern, the old 39 Pattern was never withdrawn and the two were worn concurrently throughout the war. It has been suggested that the older pattern was relegated to Home Guard duty as they had less need to wear them over equipment, but I have not seen any evidence for this yet.