A few weeks ago we looked at the complete 51 pattern webbing set of Iain McRuvie here. At the time I said we would look at the individual components in more detail as and when I added them to my collection. I am happy to say that since that post a reader, Stuart Howes, has been in touch and kindly helped hook me up with a pair of mint 51 pattern ammunition pouches to start my set off with. The pouches themselves are slightly larger than a traditional 37 pattern basic pouch and are pre-dyed in a deep green shade:The flaps are secured with a quick release tab and a metal staple and loop:The back of each pouch has two sets of loops, to allow it to be worn in either a high or a low position:A central tab is fitted to the rear of the pouch with a hook on the end that can engage with eyelets on the belt to prevent the pouch from sliding along the belt:At the top a darkened metal fitting is provided to attach the pouch to the cross straps and to hook the L-straps of the pack to:These pouches are marked under the top flaps, but due to the darkness of the webbing even on these mint unissued pouches it is hard to make out many details:Here a Canadian soldier can be seen wearing the 51 pattern webbing set during trials of the Heller anti-tank weapon in 1956:In close up the pouch can be seen in greater detail:It is noticeable that it is larger than a traditional 37 pattern pouch, but otherwise the two webbing sets look similar form some angles such as this. This is the first piece of the webbing set I have picked up so far- one of several different sets I am now trying o complete. As is often the case, tracking down the components of Commonwealth equipment sets can be tricky but the fun lies in the challenge!
If any single event can be said to have helped forge the Australian nation it was the First World War. From its experiences at Gallipoli to the Western Front, the ANZACs helped create a unique identity for the country and a sense that to be Australian was different to being English. The Australian military forces grew rapidly and officers were drawn increasingly from members of the fledgling nation rather than using the British. Tonight we have a delightful photograph, that turned up on the market a month or so back, that depicts an Australian Army officer and his wife:Sadly someone has coated the photograph with varnish at some point which has resulted in the unfortunate brown shade of the print now. On a happier note though we have the name of the officer recorded on the rear in pencil. He is a Mr A W Marler of Penrith, New South Wales. He is dressed in the standard officer’s service dress of the time:With the shirt and tie expected of his position:He wears a brown leather Sam Brown belt:And his rank of lieutenant is clearly visible from the two ‘pips’ on his shoulders:His cap has the large ‘rising sun’ cap badge of the Australian military:The same badge is repeated in smaller sizes on his collar dogs:I think this photograph was probably taken towards the end of the war as not only is his rank on his shoulders rather than his sleeves, but his wife is wearing a less formal dress associated with the later period than the more formal Edwardian clothes more often seen at the start of the Great War:I have tried to find out some more information on Lieutenant Marler, but so far I have drawn a blank. If any readers can help fill in details of his life and service please get in contact as it would be nice to add a little detail to the picture. Australian Officers had a reputation for being far more relaxed with their men than their British counterparts, as related in this anecdote:
London 1918. An English Major, red in the face with anger approaches an Aussie Major in the street. “I say” he asks “are those chaps over there yours?” The Australian has a look and replies “Yair, looks like it”. “Well” says the Pom “they just called me a silly old bastard. What are you going to do about it?” Well, you’re not are you?” asks Aus. “Of course not” fumes the Pride of England. “Well, run over there and tell ’em that they’re bloody liars” answered the Digger officer.
It always amazes me the weird and wonderful events our ancestors felt worthy of commemorating in souvenir form. As well as the usual things such as Royal births, marriages and public occasions like the Great Exhibition they also produced souvenirs for political and military events. The wealth of WW1 related china being good examples we have looked at before. Tonight we are adding another, slightly different piece of commemorative china to that story. Rather than commemorating the outbreak of war, this little transfer decorated pot celebrates the diplomatic alliance between the three great allied powers of Europe; France, Russia and Great Britain:This is a cheap white vase, standing about 3” high, the transfer decoration on the front consists of three shields; on bearing the French flag, one the Union Flag and one the two headed Imperial Russian eagle. A scroll beneath reads ‘The Triple Entente’:The Triple Entente was a complicated series of treaties in the run up to the Great War for mutual assistance in case of German aggression, simply the treaties were as follows:
Franco Russian Alliance, 1894 (France & Russia)
Entente Cordiale, 1904 (France and Great Britain)
Anglo Russian Convention 1907 (Great Britain and Russia)
The alliance was not necessarily a military one, but did provide a ‘moral obligation’ for each country to support the other in time of war. The system of alliances created a house of cards that only needed a trigger point to pull Europe apart. This was to come in 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Serbia. Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia; Serbia turned to its ally Russia for support. The French than had to support Russia, this in turn brought Germany in to uphold their treaty obligations with Austro-Hungary. Germany enacted their Schlieffen Plan and invaded France, however this violated Belgian neutrality that Britain had agreed to uphold in the London Treaty of 1839 and so brought Britain and the Empire into the conflict…Yes it’s complicated and I have missed a lot out but I hope this gets over the bare bones of the outbreak of the Great War!
When Canada started producing their own 37 pattern webbing in the Second World War, they modified the British design of skeleton water bottle carrier in 1942 to closely resemble that introduced by Mills in the earlier 1919 pattern set. What this meant in reality was that the water bottle had a single long fastening strap, secured to the rear:This passed over the top of the bottle and fastened to a press stud on the front of the carrier:This was in contrast to water bottle carriers from other countries of the Empire where the fastener was on the top shoulder of the bottle. At first glance the 1919 and Canadian 1937 pattern water bottle carriers are identical, however we can tell them apart either by the markings (which are very hard to make out on this example) or by the press studs themselves. These are made by United Carr of Canada:As to why the Canadians changed the design of the carrier; that is a harder question to answer, presumably it was felt that by moving the fastener to the front manufacture could be speeded up as you were not having to sew two straps to the rest of the carrier. It also reduced the amount of brass needed as you were only reinforcing on strap end with a brass chape. It might also have made it easier to open and close the carrier when worn as the strap would be easier to access on the front of the carrier than it would on the top. There are a lot of weird and wonderful changes made by Canada to their webbing over the war years, resin impregnated tips and unique construction techniques amongst others. For those with an interest in the subject I cannot do better than point you to this thread here on Canadian webbing which is excellent.
Commonly seen in photographs of soldiers relaxing after a patrol in Afghanistan or Iraq, the issue bush hat has been in British Army use for many years in a variety of camouflage patterns. The bush hat is a simple floppy cloth hat, with a large brim to help keep off the sun:Its origins go right back to the Second World War and the Indian jungle hat we looked at here. Whilst the design has been modified over the last seventy years, the basic similarities are still clear. The hat itself has a broad brim with concentric rings of stitching to help stiffen it:Metal vents in the crown aid ventilation:Whilst loops are sewn around the base of the crown to allow vegetation and camouflaging materials to be slotted in:Unlike earlier designs, this hat has an adjustable elastic chin strap fitted, secured through two eyeleted fabric tabs sewn inside the hat:The chin strap is often removed and thrown away. Around the rear of the inside is a sewn in flap with Velcro on it that allows a detachable neck curtain to be fitted to help keep sun off the back of the neck:Again these are seldom worn and this strip is often removed from the hat. Indeed modifications to these hats are fashionable amongst many; with common changes being to reduce the width of the brim and the height of the crown in the search for ‘allyness’. This hat is obviously unissued, and comes in a useful 59 size:These hats are still produced, but today come in the current MTP camouflage; having been issued and worn one of these myself on exercise in Cyprus a few years back, I can attest to their utility and indeed my MTP example is regularly packed in the suitcase for summer holidays even now!
Tonight we have what has to be one of the cooler bits of militaria I have picked up over the years, a Mk 2 Assault Troops Lifejacket:My thanks go to Paul Hannon for helping fill in some of the history of these objects. The first assault lifejackets date back to the late 1940s and we made of a cotton type fabric such as ventile. These were awkward to dry after use and prone to rotting so in around 1980 a Mk 2 version made form nylon was introduced. Although there were still many Mk 1 versions in service at the time of the Falklands, these were gradually superseded in the first half of the 1980s by the Mk 2 such as this one. The lifejacket is worn in the stowed position around the neck:Two heavy duty straps pass backwards under the arms, with a long piece passing up through the legs. This ends in a metal spigot over which two metal reinforced tabs fit, all held in place by a quick release pin:In a hurry a man can pull the tap and the lifejacket will then fall away easily. To deploy the lifejacket the wearer pulls sharply on a red toggle:This is connected to a small CO2 bottle and valve:This particular bottle was first charged in 1980, some years before the rest of the lifejacket was produced:On pulling the valve releases the CO2 into the lifejacket that automatically inflates, breaking open the poppers along the sides:The inflated lifejacket is a vivid shade of red to allow the wearer to be easily seen in the water:Various features are fitted including black grab handles to help pull the wearer out of the water into a boat if needed:A small plastic whistle fits into a pocket on one side:Whilst a small top up valve is fitted to the opposite side to allow hte wearer to top up the air in the jacket with his mouth:This lifejacket dates to November 1982, as indicated on the stock label:It was manufactured by ‘Lifeguard’a company based in Merseyside:
Like their counterparts in British Regiments, officers in the Imperial Indian Army were required to own mess dress for formal occasions and regimental dinners. Each different regiment had a different design of mess dress, but most were designed along similar lines, with just minor changes of cut, facings and colour. I have recently picked up my first mess dress jacket and happily for me, liking all things Indian as I do, this example was made for a British 2nd Lieutenant serving with the 16th Punjab regiment:The following description of the mess dress for the 16th Punjabis comes from the 1932 Dress Regulations for India:
Scarlet cloth, 4 buttons down the front of the jacket.The jacket, cuffs, collar and shoulder straps edged with white piping.Roll collar of white cloth.Pointed cuffs of white cloth, 6 inches deep at then points and 2 ¾ inches behind. Two buttons on each cuff. 1 inch slit at the seams.Shoulder straps of white cloth, 1 ¾ inch wide at the base tapering to about 1 inch at the points; rounded points fastened with a small button and sewn at the shoulder.Badges of rank in metal.
The buttons each have the regimental title embossed upon them:The jacket has an inside pocket, with a tailor’s label, that indicates this mess dress was produced by Ranken & Co for a 2nd Lieutenant W.D. Pickett, the jacket being dated 8th January 1940:Sadly the removable insignia has been stripped form the jacket, I have found one ‘pip’ in my stores that fits but I am still looking for a second and the collar dogs for the 16th Punjabis, these however might be elusive and expensive! The holes for the collar dogs are indicated by some very neat embroidery around the edges:
A social function with different regiments could be a colourful affair in India, as recalled by Francis Ingall in ‘The Last of the Bengal Lancers’:
Balls, of course, called for formal dressing up in the evening uniform or ‘mess dress’. The variety of mess dress at such events was stunning, particularly the Indian cavalry officers who looked positively exotic. From the lemon yellow of Skinner’s Horse, to the brilliant scarlet of the 19th King George V’s Own Lancers, an artist’s palette could not have reflected as many hues. The infantry, both British and Indian, were much more staid by comparison; they wore the regular ‘bum-freezer’ jacket, starched shirt with butterfly collar and black bow-tie, as did the British cavalry who by this time (the 1930s) had given up their colourful high-necked jackets.
The 16th Punjab Regiment was formed in 1922 by amalgamation of the 30th, 31st, 33rd and 46th Punjabis, and 9th Bhopal Infantry. The class composition of the new regiment was Punjabi Muslims, Sikhs and Dogras. The new regimental badge consisted of a Maltese cross with a Muslim crescent and a Sikh quoit, surmounted by a Tudor crown with a scroll below.