Monthly Archives: June 2016

Boot Spikes

Throughout the 1970s the British Army slowly improved the equipment offered to troops undergoing mountain and arctic warfare training. In the mid-1970s boot spikes first appear as trials items in the ‘Clothing and Equipment for Mountain and Arctic Warfare’ manual, by the 1980s they had become issue items. Getting your grip on snow and ice is always a problem, more so when you are trying to fight in such conditions, crampons or more accurately boot spikes were issued to the British Army in an attempt to help with this. The boot spikes consist of a metal plate that fits over the sole of a boot at the toe, leather straps wrap around the boot to secure it:imageAs can be seen these spikes do not fit very well on this boot, I am informed they were designed for use with much larger ski march boots and other extreme cold weather footwear. The metal plate has spikes on the front and sides for gripping snow and ice:imageThese particular boot spikes are dated 1979, with details stamped into the metal:imageThe spikes are attached to the securing straps with a large leather flap, riveted to the metal to which the front straps attach:imageThe rear straps attach to a metal plate riveted to the back of the main spike plate:imageThe straps themselves are secured by chromed roller buckles:imageBy all accounts these spikes were not a perfect solution- ice and snow rapidly froze around the metal negating their effectiveness and liberal coats of ski wax had to be added to try and get them to work. They were also difficult to carry and store when not on the foot as the sharp spikes damaged bergens and anything carried in them. These boot spikes are still in use, as noted by a journalist for the Guardian reporting on Royal marine Reservists training in the mountains:

At 7.30am, they are in the car park doing 50 burpees in full uniform because they didn’t tidy up properly after breakfast; by 12.30pm, they are climbing a kilometre-high ice ridge in a raging blizzard wearing crampons and Arctic face masks.

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Cold War Officer’s Service Dress

By the time of the Cold War the British Army Officer’s service dress had long been discarded as an item of combat clothing, however it was smart, relatively comfortable and remained in use as an item of dress and barrack wear. The 1970s and 1980s service dress was still heavily influenced by the uniforms introduced in the First World War, but had a number of subtle changes to move with the times. The World War Two era officer’s service dress we looked at in january makes an interesting comparison with this much more modern uniform. This particular officer’s service dress is for the Royal Artillery:imageThe material of the uniform has changed from a wool barathea of the Second World War, to a man-made fibre mix, and the buttons are now staybrite rather than bronzed, with the cannon badge of the regiement on them:imageAs are the officer’s pips:imageThese are secured with clutch fastenings rather than cotter pins:imageThe collar dogs however are still bronzed:imageThe jacket has pleated patch pockets with scalloped flaps on the breast:imageAnd unpleated bellowed patch pockets on the skirts:imageThe cuffs are pointed:imageThis particular jacket was made by Moss Bros of Covent Garden, illustrating that officers still went to private tailors for their uniforms:imageToday’s officers still wear a service dress that is virtually identical to this example, with minor variations for regimental distinctions. In this 1986 photograph you can see the commanding oficer of the Duke of Wellington’s regiment wearing the officers service dress:SKMBT_C36416062907090_0001

NBC Haversack Mk2

When the S6 respirator was initially introduced it was issued in a canvas wedge shaped bag, we looked at here. This haversack had a number of problems- it was too small and the material made it very hard to decontaminate. A new, larger, Mk 2 haversack was introduced as part of the 1972 trials set of webbing and was one of the few pieces that made it into general use. The haversack is made from butyl-nylon that could be scrubbed down to remove chemical and radiological particles more easily:imageThis haversack has a large box flap, secured with a press stud:imageUnderneath the flap, this stud is reinforced by two strips of Velcro:imageOn one side of the haversack is a pocket to hold the DKP1 decontamination kit:imageThe opposite side has a pressed metal disc used to wrap a securing cord around to hold the haversack close to the body when its worn with the shoulder strap rather than the belt loop:imageThe rear of the haversack has a strap and hook for slinging the bag over the shoulder and a large belt loop for attaching it to the 1958 pattern webbng set:imageAn army training manual of the period explained:

  • The respirator haversack is attached to the belt on the right side by slipping the belt through the loop on the haversack.
  • Ensure it is situated on the belt as close as possible to the right rear yoke strap.

Under the top flap of the haversack are two elastic loops for holding various items and the manufacturer’s details, NSN code and date, 1993 are printed here:imageTwo different variants of the haversack exist, with different NSN codes, one for the right handed facemask and one for the left handed version:

Haversack Mk 2 for right handed facepiece- A2 8465-99-132-2299

Haversack Mk 2a for left handed facepiece- A2 8465-99-137-1438

Inside the haversack there are a number of pockets for the various components including a large pocket at the base for a spare canister:imageThe mask fits over this, face down:imageA set of pockets across the front holds the other items:imageThe official stowage for the haversack was:

Spare Canister (Sealed): Internal pocket, right side

Kit Decontamination No1 Mk1 (DKP1): External pocket, left side.

Kit Decontamination No2 Mk1 (DKP2): Internal pocket, front

Detector Paper No2 Mk1 One Colour: Internal pocket, front

Cloth Disinfecting: Internal pocket, front

Combopens: Individual pockets within Internal pocket, front

S6 Respirator: Forehead down, canister over spare canister

Nerve Agent Pre-treatment Set (NAPS): As per Standard Operating Procedures

British Army Microammeter

As technology has advanced, so the equipment needed to service and maintain it has advanced; by the 1950s the British Army was fully mechanised and electronics, albeit of early designs, were an ever growing area of military development. This fast was recognised during the Second World War and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) was set up to help maintain the army’s weapons and vehicles. One essential tool in the workshop was the microammeter used to measure the current in an electrical circuit. These instruments were fitted in many places, permanently wired into circuits, or available as a separate instrument to use on the work bench. British military microammeters came in a grey wooden box:imageThe grey painted wooden box is seen being used as protection for a wide variety of instruments throughout both the Second World War and the immediate post war period. This example has an etched metal plate screwed to the top, with a /|\ mark indicating military ownership:imageThe front of the box is secured by a metal spring clip:imageOpening the box reveals the microammeter itself, the lid being cut on an angle so the dial is clearly visible when the instrument is in use:imageThe dial itself is made of paper beneath a glass screen, the date 1952 can be seen written on the face and the needle can swing from -50 to +50 micromaperes:imageA cloth strap is fastened to one corner to prevent the lid being opened too far:imageThese sort of instruments were very well made and saw service for decades, only being upgraded when newer more accurate digital ammeters started coming into service.

Late Victorian Royal Navy Photograph

Regular readers of this blog will know I love a good period postcard or photograph, especially when it’s packed with detail, looking at these photographs carefully highlights all sorts of little things that are not immediately apparent and tonight we have a wonderful photograph of a Royal navy warship in harbour in the late Victorian or Edwardian period that came up on Huddersfield Market a few weeks back:SKMBT_C36416061412100_0001 - Copy (12) - CopyThe ship does not appear to be painted in grey, showing that she is still in the old paint colours of the Victorian Navy. Flying from the stern is a large white ensign:SKMBT_C36416061412100_0001 - Copy (5) - CopyIn the foreground can be seen a series of large ventilators used to force fresh air to the lower decks:SKMBT_C36416061412100_0001 - Copy (2) - CopyWinding in front of these is a raised walkway:SKMBT_C36416061412100_0001 - Copy (2)Leading to a boat deck:SKMBT_C36416061412100_0001 - Copy (3) - CopyThese boats are lowered into the water by a series of davits down the side of the ship:SKMBT_C36416061412100_0001 - Copy (11) - CopyOne of these sea boats can be seen alongside the ship in the harbour:SKMBT_C36416061412100_0001 - Copy (10) - CopyThe harbour itself has a large warehouse:SKMBT_C36416061412100_0001 - Copy (6) - CopyAnd railway wagons can be seen lined up on the quay, presumably bringing coal to refuel the bunkers on the ships who have entered the port:SKMBT_C36416061412100_0001 - Copy (7) - CopyThe right hand side of the photograph is dominated by the ship’s funnels:SKMBT_C36416061412100_0001 - Copy (4) - CopyOne of the ship’s waist guns can be seen on the left, this smaller gun being part of the secondary armament designed to repel small fast torpedo boats, not the completely open back and the sailors standing around watching the photographer with mild interest:SKMBT_C36416061412100_0001 - Copy (8) - CopyA further two sailors can be seen stood next to a small hand powered tool of some sort, again the photographer must have been of more interest than their work!SKMBT_C36416061412100_0001 - Copy (9) - Copy

British Army Foam Roll Mat

If you look at photographs of the British Army on manoeuvres in the field from the 1980s onwards, you can often see a large foam cylinder strapped to the side of their bergans:PLCE-DPM-Bergen-6-900x900This cylinder is a foam sleeping mat, a thin ¼ inch piece of foam that can be rolled out to provide a rudimentary lightweight mattress in the field, it is rolled to leave the dark green side outermost:imageBrass eyelets are fitted to one edge to allow elastic cords to be attached to hold the rolled mat closed:imageThe interior of this particular mat is white, presumably to allow the mat to be used in arctic conditions as well as temperate ones:image‘18GN05’ is stencilled on the end in yellow:imageThese mats are widely decried as being pretty useless and far too thin to offer any real comfort, however they do provide a waterproof layer between the sleeper and the ground and help reduce the loss of body heat into the floor. Many troops have started replacing these sleeping mats with self inflating examples, however some prefer the old style foam roll mat:

I was issued a blow up self inflating type roll mat, used it once and reverted back to the foam type. quicker, easier, no valve to fall out and the issued foam type cover the whole body. blow up ones only the head and torso, giving me bloody cold legs. flippin devils work.

I have used one of these mats myself before now, sleeping in a wooded area under a bivvi- the sleeping mat did very little to stop my back being poked all night by tree roots! These mats are naturally shiny, so many troops get fabric covers made that can be placed over teh mat and reduce the reflection when on the march.

Royal Berkshire Regiment Scarlet Frock

As well as a dress scarlet tunic, such as the example we looked at last year, the soldier in the pre-WW1 army was also issued with a scarlet frock. This garment was simpler and cheaper than the dress tunic, and was used for everyday wear. These frocks were gradually replaced following the introduction of the khaki service dress in 1902, but were still in use up until the outbreak of World War One. As might be expected of something that was essentially work wear, these frocks survive in much fewer numbers than the tunics which found new life for many years after the conflict as band tunics. I was lucky enough to find one of these frocks this week, this example bearing the insignia of The Royal Berkshire Regiment:imageThe frock is fastened up the front with six brass general service buttons:imageBeing a Royal regiment, the Berkshires wore dark blue facings, with cuffs  in the colour:imageAnd rounded shoulder straps:imageTwo facing brass dragon collar dogs are on each collar indicate the regiment:imageThe collar itself is secured with two metal hook and eye fasteners, with a piece of cloth behind to hide the gap: imageThe rear of the frock has simple white piping down the back:imageThere are two brass hooks on the rear, sewn into the lining, which support the soldier’s waist belt:imageThe frock is a very simple garment, with no lining to the serge, and looking at the interior we can see the back of the white piping and the fabric covering the rear of the belt loops:imageThis frock has clearly been issued and used at some point as there are two long service and good conduct stripes sewn to one of the sleeves, just above the cuffs:imageI must confess I really like this item, it is in superb condition for a frock over 100 years old and has not been messed about with like so many of these garments. Thgis operiod studio shot shows the frock being worn, by a different regiment, in Malta in the late nineteenth century:image