Monthly Archives: December 2015

Child’s Gas Mask

Following the baby’s gas mask we looked at before Christmas, we now turn to the next type of respirator a child would be issued when they became too old for the hood type. This gas mask is made of red rubber, with a blue container. Supposedly this is to make it look like Mickey Mouse and thus less frightening to children; how effective it was is not recorded! The government advice went:

Toddlers soon learn to put on their own masks. Let them make a game of it and they will wear their gas masks happily.

These masks cost the government 3/6 each in 1939 and the following description comes from the Civil Defence Pamphlet Volume II ‘Basic Chemical Warfare’ from 1949:

This respirator was designed for children sufficiently developed to wear a respirator, but not big enough to be satisfactorily fitted with the small size Civilian Respirator. As a rough guide it was suitable for children between the ages of about 18 months and 4 to 4 ½ years. Some Children below the age of 4 years were fitted with the small size Civilian Respirator.imageIt consists of a thin flexible moulded rubber facepiece with separate eye-pieces of non-inflammable transparent material:imageand an outlet valve. A container is screwed into a metal mount on the front of the facepiece:imageThis container, though smaller, gives the same degree of protection as that fitted to respirators for adults. The respirator is held in place by a head-harness formed of coiled springs enclosed in cotton braid: imageThe head harness is not adjustable but the tension and flexibility of the springs is such that the facepiece is held in firm but comfortable contact with the face. A hook and eye attachment to the two lower springs of the head-harness enable them to be hooked together at the back of the neck which prevents easy removal of the respirator by the child itself. A stout cardboard carton with a sling was supplied with the respirator to contain it when not in use.

This gas mask, as is often the case, has lost its cardboard carton and had it replaced with a more durable and attractive leatherette bag in russet brown:imageInside the bag is the name of the original owner, Charlotte Goatley, pencilled inside along with her address:imageThis was a wise precaution as gas masks were frequently lost or forgotten! The inside of the mask has a printed date which puts manufacture at 18th April 1940:imageApparently toddlers soon learnt to make rude noises to annoy their parents when breathing out through the flapper valve on the front, the rubber making a sound like a whoopee cushion!14b769cae40e77e243724c31ae7c991e

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Rag Time Knuts Postcard

Tonight we have a rather battered, but very interesting postcard from 1915 that I have had in my collection for a number of years. This informal group photograph was taken at hove in 1915 and according to the caption on the bottom is of the “Rag Time Knuts”:SKMBT_C36415112712220_0001This group of soldier performers come from the Ammunition Column of the 106th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. As such they would be the drivers responsible for keeping the guns supplied with ammunition. They would have worked with horses, as evidenced by the chains around the waist of this soldier:SKMBT_C36415112712220_0001 - Copy (7)And over the shoulders of this one:SKMBT_C36415112712220_0001 - Copy (8)They wear a mixture of uniforms, with many in shirt sleeves. At least two have 03 pattern bandoliers slung over their shoulders:SKMBT_C36415112712220_0001 - Copy (6)Interestingly a couple of them appear to be wearing dark blue uniforms rather than the standard khaki service dress:SKMBT_C36415112712220_0001 - Copy (5)This highlights that there were still issues in getting sufficient uniforms to men in the early years of 1915, 106 Brigade was a ‘New Army’ formation formed after the start of the war and training and uniform were perfunctory at best in the early months. Another man at the back seems to have some white work trousers on, presumably to protect his uniform whilst performing a mucky job:SKMBT_C36415112712220_0001 - Copy (9)There is just one man holding an instrument, some sort of lute or stringed affair:SKMBT_C36415112712220_0001 - Copy (4)Behind the men can be seen the peak of a bell tent:SKMBT_C36415112712220_0001 - Copy (2)And some sort of pavilion:SKMBT_C36415112712220_0001 - Copy (3)The 106th Brigade RFA left for France in August 1915, the following account comes from the Wartime Memories Project:

CVI Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, served with 24th Division. The Division was established in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Third New Army and began to assemble in the area of Shoreham. The division suffered from a lack of equipment and a lack of trained officers and NCOs to command the volunteers. In late June 1915 they moved to Aldershot for final training and they proceeded to France at the end of August. The Division concentrated in the area between Etaples and St Pol on 4 September and a few days later marched across France into the reserve for the British assault at Loos, going into action on the 26th of September and suffering heavy losses. In 1916 they suffered in the German gas attack at Wulverghem and then moved to The Somme seeing action in The Battle of Delville Wood and The Battle of Guillemont. In 1917 they were in action at The Battle of Vimy Ridge in the Spring, The Battle of Messines in June and Third Battle of Ypres in October before moving south where they were in action during The Cambrai Operations when the Germans counter attacked. In 1918 they were in action on the Somme and The Battle of Cambrai and the Final Advance in Picardy. At the Armistice the Division were in the line 1.5 miles east of the Maubeuge-Mons road. They moved back to the area between Denain and Douai at the end of November moved to St Amand-Orchies, then on the 18th of December the Division moved to Tournai for demobilisation, which was completed by 26 March 1919.

WW1 Trench Art Matchbox Cover

Although I have only been collecting militaria seriously for about eight years, I have been picking up little bits on and off since I was a child, and this matchbox cover from WW1 is something I have had for many years:imageDuring World War One virtually all troops smoked and the most common method of lighting cigarettes and pipes was a box of matches. These boxes could easily get crushed in a pocket so metal covers were often used to protect them. Examples in enamelled tin were popular, as were home-made ‘trench art’ examples in brass like this one. The basic brass covers were either made by the troops themselves from scrap brass (old artillery shells being used) or by enterprising French civilians who sold them to soldiers to decorate as they wished. This example was owned by a soldier in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, Private H Topham, who put his name and details on one side of the cover:imageThe ‘spine’ of the cover has the simple word ‘France’:imageWhilst the reverse is unusual in having a German Style cross with the date ‘1914’ on it:imageTrench art falls into a number of categories:

  • Objects made by the soldiers themselves in the front line.
  • Objects made by those convalescing after injury and prisoners of war.
  • Items made locally by civilians either during or after WW1 for sale to troops and tourists.
  • Commercially made pieces using military surplus sold after the war.

As can be expected these pieces range from the very crude (like my matchbox cover) to beautiful pieces of art. Often the quality is dependent not only on the individual making the item of trench art, but also the tools available to him. A soldier in the front line might only have access to a nail or his pocket knife to engrave his object, a soldier working in a Royal Engineers field workshop would obviously have more tools and probably more skills so could turn out a more refined piece. Here we see some French Poilu making trench art vases from shell casings:trench-art2Happily this is one area of WW1 collecting where there are few reproductions- the thousands of man hours needed to make a piece far outweigh any monetary value it might have so most pieces are original and date to WW1 or the immediate post war period.

Scottish No 6 Dress Bush Jacket

The run up to Christmas saw the secondhand market in Huddersfield go through one of its periodic ‘dry spell’ for militaria with very little worth picking up. One nice item that did come up to break the monotony however was this British Army No6 Scottish uniform tunic:imageThis light tan uniform, known as a ‘bush jacket’ was for ceremonial wear on parade in the tropics and replaced the old KD cotton uniform used up until the outbreak of World War Two. Being a parade uniform it features staybrite regimental buttons:imageIn this case they are for the Queens Dragoon Guards (I don’t know why these are attached as the regiment shouldn’t have a scottish pattern of jacket). The buttons are secured to the jacket with split rings to allow them to be removed for laundering:imageThe jacket itself has pleated patch pockets on each breast:imageAnd the usual pair of shoulder straps:imageThe most distinctive part of the jacket is the ‘cutaway’ front to allow it to be worn with a kilt:imageTwo metal belt hooks are provided on each side to support a belt in the correct position:imageThese are supported by cloth tabs inside the jacket to help distribute the weight and prevent them from twisting:imageA label is sewn into the back of the jacket identifying the type of uniform, its size ‘4’ and laundering instructions:imageThe label allows us to roughly date the jacket to the 1970s approximately- metric sizes taking over shortly afterwards. The jacket was made by Briggs, Jones & Gibson; a clothing firm with factories in Manchester and Stoke on Trent. The company had been founded just after the turn of the twentieth century and specialised in producing uniforms for bus companies and the military- World War One they had won substantial government contracts to make uniforms for the army- something it was to continue to do for many years to come. It does seem to be pretty hard to find much information on this particular design of jacket, even a search by the NATO number has not brought up any information, so as ever if people can help with further details or photographs of the jacket in use.

1925 Pattern Rucksack

This evening we are looking in more detail at the RAF 1925 pattern rucksack. This particular webbing is very complicated, with numerous straps and buckles and thus gained the name octopus from RAF personnel issued with it. This seems to be a trend across the board with the Mills Equipment Company during the interwar period. The simple packs of the 1908 pattern webbing system give way to ever more complicated systems with multiple straps for different pieces of equipment to be slung off them. It is perhaps understandable when one realises that the British Army had millions of spare sets of 08 webbing left over from World War One; a tailored webbing system was MECo’s attempt to find new markets and try and tempt the army with something that could do more than what it already had. Needless to say the Army took economy over innovation and these systems were sold to the RAF, RN and Empire nations instead.10993500_10152654392088045_3435389414497653358_nThe 1925 pattern consists of two parts, an upper and lower pack, that fasten together:imageNoticeable are the two cross straps running over the top of the upper pack’s weather flap, these were used to secure a steel helmet to the pack; when not in use they were fastened under the flap to present a neat appearance. Buckles join the two packs together at the front:imageAnd rear:imageThe lower pack is a simple webbing bag that cannot be worn on its own, it provides additional carrying capacity but would have housed non- essential kit that could be left in unit transport if required:imageThis example is Air Ministry marked, 1940 dated and named to 976966 Maule:imageInterestingly the lower pack is stamped ‘BACK’, clearly to prevent people attempting to fasten it to the upper pack incorrectly:imageThe upper pack is a small self-contained bag, capable of being worn on its own:imageTo the rear are ‘L Straps’ like those used on the 1919 and later 1937 webbing sets:imageThis part of the rucksack is dated 1939:imageThis equipment was adopted by both the RAF and the RCAF, from whom we have these details following the introduction of the 1925 pattern webbing sets:list

Two Types Christmas Card

I hope you have all had a restful and enjoyable Christmas, with that out of the way we turn to our third and final Christmas related object. Whilst we looked at a military Christmas card on Christmas Eve, tonight we have a rather different example from 1947. This card bears all the hallmarks of having been produced on a small scale locally for the senders who appear to be in some far flung corner of Empire:imageThe front of the card has a drawing of a middle eastern street, with a caption that reveals the senders names to be ‘Marjorie and Arthur’ and dates the card to Christmas 1946. The theme from the front of the card is mirrored in the tiny drawing of an Arabic gate on the back of the card:imageThe inside of the card has a quote from John Channing:imageSadly I have not been able to identify the author or the origin of this little quote. The other side of the card inner has a rather wonderful cartoon of the ‘Two Types’:imageThese cartoon characters were developed by William John Philpin Jones, a British Army officer who developed them whilst in the North Africa and Italy. The two battle hardened British Officers wear a curious mixture of non-regulation clothing, as their real life counterparts did in the theatre and make sardonic comments about life in the army. In 1938, John Jones began working as political cartoonist for the Cardiff Western Mail. During the war, he served in the Welsh Regiment in North Africa. In September 1943 he was Assistant Military Landing Officer at Salerno in Italy, and in January 1944 had the same job at Anzio. Evacuated to North Africa with shell-shock, Jones started drawing cartoons of a pair of British officers who had ‘civilianised’ their army uniforms. Jones recalled that “a lot of 8th Army officers dressed like that.” Under the signature ‘JON’, the officers made their first appearance as ‘The Two Types’ in the Eighth Army News in July 1944.The British Cartoon Archive offers some background:

The “Two Types” proved popular in the ranks, and were syndicated to other publications, including the Daily Express from 1944. However, they brought criticism from higher up. General Montgomery banned a cartoon showing one of them jumping into a slit trench at El Alamein as the German tanks approached, and saying to the other “When this lot’s over, I bet some ruddy General proposes a reunion!” Even more disastrously, Jones recalled, “General Alexander tried to ban me altogether, but Hugh Cudlipp convinced him that if he did, it would prove what the troops had always suspected – that some officers were pompous and humourless too. Alexander accepted that.” Jones was instead awarded the MBE.

Jones drew only some three hundred “Two Types” cartoons between 1943 and 1946, but over a million copies of the wartime collections were printed.

Clearly by 1946 they were well recognised archetypes and their inclusion in this Christmas card suggests the senders were still serving in the military. I am quite certain this card was not drawn by the original artist, but whoever did design it was clearly a fairly good amateur artist who has captured the characters well.