Monthly Archives: January 2016

Royal Navy No6 Uniform Jacket

The Naval Ratings handbook of 1968 noted that ‘Tropical rig (No 6s and No 10s). A free issue of tropical rig is made to each rating on the first occasion of drafting abroad or to ships where tropical clothing is required’. Tonight we are looking at the jacket from a set of No 6 tropical from the 1960s or 1970s:imageThe jacket is made of white cotton drill, with blue trim on the bottom and cuffs:imageOn the right sleeve is a trade patch for a rating qualified as a ‘Radar Plot’:imageThe opposite sleeve has the anchor of a Leading Hand and a single good conduct stripe indicating four years of undetected crime:imageThe blue jean collar on this uniform is permanently sewn into the rest of the uniform rather than being separate as in the temperate uniform:imageThe front of the jacket fastens with a white metal zip:imageThe full No 6 uniform is illustrated in the Ratings Handbook:imageAs can be seen it would have been worn with a silk and lanyard over a white front shirt. These uniforms were worn for ceremonial occasions in hot weather locations. Opportunities for this are far more limited today than they were in the past, for instance Hong Kong had a rich ceremonial calendar with the No 6 uniform worn on many occasions:image

 

Lee Enfield Rifle Cleaning Kit

Since the Lee Enfield rifle had been introduced, soldiers had made do with an oil bottle and a pull through stored in the butt-trap for cleaning their weapon. CaptureIt was only in 1945 that a proper cleaning kit for the rifle was introduced in a green metal box:image

The box is about the size of a contemporary tobacco tin and fits neatly in the pocket. Inside the box is divided into three parts, with space for pull through, oil bottle and 4”x2” cleaning cloths:imageOn the back of the lid is space for metal gauze and a small brush used to remove debris from in the breech of the rifle etc. Laid out all the contents can be seen clearly:imageThis set is clearly unused as the oil bottle still has the waxed packing paper around it. The base of the tin has a stores code and a date of 1945, also just visible is a stamped /|\ mark:imageSoldiers had to clean their weapons regularly to keep them in good working order. This was not always without risk as Ann Hurden, whose father was in the Home Guard, recalls:

One day after his shift at the coal mines he decided to clean the rifle he had been issued with. He pointed the rifle at the fire place and it went off with an enormous bang, the room was filled with black smoke, no one was hurt but when the smoke settled my father and Roy emerged with black faces. My mother was in the garden gathering in her washing at the time, she was too frightened to go in the house but when they came out with black faces she was very relieved. After a strong cup of tea they all had to set about cleaning the place up. Needless to say my father didn’t clean the rifle again in the house.

The 1942 training manual for the Lee Enfield set out how to clean it:

Cleaning the barrel

  1. Place a piece of flannelette, size 4 inches by 2 inches, in centre loop and wrap it round cord. Insert weight in breech. With butt on ground, pull the cord straight through the barrel. Avoid cord rubbing against the side of the barrel. Repeat as necessary, changing flannelette when required.
  2. Examine bore by holding muzzle close to the eye, draw head back and look into the groves for dirt. Repeat from breech end. If barrel is clean, oil it with flannelette 4 inches by 1 ½ inches. Should dirt still be present (as it may be after firing) use water if available.

Cleaning chamber

Use a stick about a foot long with a slot at the top for flannelette. A piece of flannelette 4 inches by 2 inches should be inserted and wrapped around the stick which is then pushed hard into the chamber and turned several times.

Cleaning outside of rifle

After cleaning barrel and chamber, wipe the dirt from all metal portions, using an oily rag. Make certain all crevices and gas escapes are clean.

Cleaning and replacing of bolt and magazine etc.

  1. Bolt:- Dirt and grit must be removed from all parts. Oil it, except in dusty climates.
  2. Magazine:- Remove dirt from inside and outside, if necessary remove platform and spring by pressing down wide end…

Presumably this neat little set made cleaning much easier, especially the tricky part of packing the pull through back into the butt of the rifle which was never easy. These sets continued in use into the 1960s and were repacked for use with the SLR until plastic cleaning sets were introduced in the seventies.

Folding Saw

A long time ago we looked at a folding saw from the First World War here. Tonight we are looking at a later example of this same tool, this one dating to the end of the Second World War. This set comes in a green cotton carrying case, rather than the leather used on the earlier design:imageOn the rear a belt loop and wire hook give options for attaching the case to belts and webbing:imageThe case is faintly stamped:imageInside the case are a number of handles, the saw and some tools:Publication1These are:

  1. Two part handles for the saw
  2. Handles for the file blades
  3. Folding Saw
  4. Files for Sharpening saw teeth
  5. Setting tool for the teeth

The two part handles are fitted to the saw for use, the male part is passed through the loop on the end of the saw blade and the female part screws on:imageThese are much more comfortable than the bit of string recommended in previous years and prevented the file handles being used for this purpose which was also common and ended up in the breaking quickly. The blade itself is faintly dated 1945, has the /|\ mark and a manufacturer’s name of Francis Wood & Sons Ltd:imageInterestingly the saw is made by the same company who made my WW1 example thirty years before. These saws are very useful for felling branches and other rough work outside, and were especially useful in the jungle for clearing small trees to create a small landing area for a helicopter or for dropping supplies.

Air Ministry Coat Hanger

It is only when you begin collecting that you realise the sheer number of different everyday items that are marked up as having been used by one of the services. War Department, Admiralty and Air Ministry marked items include everything from furniture to egg cups, and tonight we are looking at an Air Ministry coat hanger:imageThese days servicemen have to buy their own hangers; I had a desperate run to the NAAFI on my first night of basic training when I realised I needed four hangers and not the two I had been told to bring, but back in the 1930s airmen were provided with wooden hangers as part of their kit. This example is sadly incomplete as it should have a wooden bottom rail for trousers that has sadly snapped off at some point. The main body of the hanger is wood, with a metal hook to hang it and a crown and ‘AM’ for Air Ministry marked in the centre:imageOn either side of the crown are store numbers (21b/835):imageAnd the contract number 653768/37/C.I.B, which dates the hanger to 1937:imageSadly I can’t identify the manufacturer, but a web search shows C.I.B. appears on a number of different hangers with different contract dates. These coathangers would have been produced in large quantities and used by all in the RAF from the lowliest airmen to Air Marshals…all I need to find now is an AM marked wardrobe to put it in….

44 Pattern Machete and Cover

As might be expected, the 44 pattern jungle webbing set included a facility for a machete- essential in jungle conditions for clearing paths through thick secondary jungle. The machete was issued with a cover made of the same lightweight green rot resistant webbing as the main set:imageThis was clearly better suited for hot and humid conditions than the leather scabbards used before- these soaked up water and rotted quickly. This scabbard has a belt loop allowing it to be fastened to the rest of the webbing:imageThe throat of the scabbard is reinforced with metal to prevent the thin cotton from being damaged when the machete is inserted:imageThis scabbard was made by MECo 1945:imageThe machete is fairly typical of these tools, with black plastic hand grips:imageThese are partially distorted, evidence of the dangers of mosquito cream to early plastics:imageThis machete is also marked /|\ and dated 1945:imageThese machetes were given to all soldiers serving in the jungle and in this photograph from Malaya the machete can be clearly seen in the foreground while a soldier from the Manchester Regiment brews up:image

Solid Fuel Cooker

Amongst the many new items of equipment introduced in 1944 with the new jungle uniform and webbing sets was a rather useful little folding hexamine cooker for heating food and more importantly water for tea. Although these little folding cookers had been issued before, this set was a particularly neat set up, all stored in a small metal tin:imageThe lid of the tin clearly states the contents as being ‘Solid Fuel Cooker (stand, disc and tablets), instructions included’. The cooker consists of three hinged, curved plates that are spread out and a central disc fitted to make a surface on which to put the fuel:imageThe fuel comes in the form of solid fuel discs that can be broken up and burnt for heat:imageThese hexamine discs were particularly good for fuel as they gave off a lot of heat with minimal flame and smoke. A mess tin or tin mug could be stood on the cooker and its contents heated in five minutes. Instructions on how to use the cooker are printed on a tiny piece of paper:imageimageThese little sets are remarkably sort after, especially in such complete condition. As with so much of my jungle kit my thanks go to Andy Dixon for setting me up with this.

1950 Pattern Jungle Shorts

Back in 2014 we looked at the 1950 pattern jungle trousers here, now thanks to Andy Dixon I have been able to upgrade these to a mint unissued pair and add the jacket (which we will look at next week) and a pair of shorts to my collection. This pair of shorts are in mint condition and look as good as the day they were made:imageIt is unusual to get jungle clothing in condition as good as this, the demands of life in the jungle soon faded uniforms and they were often destroyed by the rigours of service. The design of the shorts is virtually identical to the trousers, but obviously recut to finish above the knee, with the thigh pocket deleted. The waist makes use of the same double strap and side buckle fastener, designed to provide a greater range of sizes, as the trousers:imageThe same button fly:imageAnd back pockets:imageThis example has a lovely clear label showing the shorts are a size ‘9’, made in 1954 by Bickley and details of the sizing:imageOfficially shorts had been discontinued for wear in the jungle during the Second World War: they provided no protection to the legs from insect bites and scratches which lead to infections. Despite this they were regularly worn on patrols in non-jungle areas and in base camps where the added ventilation they offered was welcomed by troops operating in stifling conditions. In this photograph of a radio hut in Malaya in 1957, the soldiers manning it all wear jungle green shorts, albeit not of the unloved 50 pattern:large1