Monthly Archives: January 2017

51 Pattern Large Pack

In our continuing study of Canadian post war webbing we turn to the 51 pattern large pack tonight. This pack was designed to fill the same role as the large pack in the old 37 pattern equipment- to carry the soldier’s extra kit during transit rather than for use in the field. The design is clearly closely based off the old 08 pattern large pack we looked at here, but it has some uniquely Canadian features added to the basic design:imageThe basic pack has been modified by adding a webbing flap with two eyelets to the top flap to allow wire hangers for items such as the entrenching tool cover to be attached:imageA second flap with the same eyelets is provided on one side of the pack, I suspect this was for the machete to be attached:imageNotice above there is another small eyelet on the top flap of the pouch, this was carried across from the earlier design and allows a piece of string to be used to help tighten the top flaps across. Other features carried across from the earlier design include the use of 1” Twigg buckle and strap to secure the main top flap:imageAs with the rest of the 51 pattern set the brass fittings were orignally chemically blackened, as can be seen here on the ends of the straps this did not always wear well. The same strap and buckle arrangement at the top of the flap to attach the L-Straps to as the 08/37 Pattern Large Pack was carried across to the new design:imageIt does seem odd that this pack even exists- the 08/37 pattern large pack was viewed as being entirely unfit for purpose by the end of the Second World War- it wasn’t big enough, was uncomfortable to wear and was not sufficiently adaptable to the changing needs of a modern soldier. However it was cheap to produce compared to more flexible and useful framed rucksacks and in a time of post war austerity the large pack continued to be made and used in both Britain and Canada.

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British Army Tape Measure

Many tools and instruments found with a /|\ mark today date from the Second World War, however the army has continued to buy new examples to replace worn out stock right through to the present day. Although the War Department crows foot marking is less popular than it once was, items with post war dates still often have this mark, and tonight we are taking a look at one such army tape measure:imageThe tape measure is clearly marked with the /|\ stamp, a date of 1971 and a stores number:imageThe opposite side of the tape measure indicates it was made by Rabone Chesterman Ltd:imageOne of the companies forerunners, James Chestermans had been making tape measures for the military since the late nineteenth century, this advert dates from 1891:chesterman-1891-adMy tape measure has a brass winding handle in the centre, marked 33 ft indicating the length of the tape. It folds out to provide a small handle for winding the tape back in with:imageThe tape itself is marked in feet and inches on one side:imageAnd links on the other:imageA link is 66/100 of a foot, or 7.92 inches. The unit is based on Gunter’s chain, a metal chain 66 feet long with 100 links, that was formerly used in land surveying. Even after the original tool was replaced by later instruments of higher precision, the unit itself was commonly used in this application throughout the English-speaking world . The military have been closely associated with map making for many centuries and it seems that the British Army must have continued measuring in links for some map making tasks right up to the 1970s.

Indian Army Recruits practicing with Rifles and Gas Masks

This week’s photograph is a particularly nice shot of Indian troops practicing at a rifle range whilst wearing respirators:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001This image is particularly well taken, explained by the fact that this was a professionally taken photograph for press use. The label on the back indicates that it was taken for the Topical Press Agency and the description reads:

A picture taken at an Army training establishment “somewhere in India” where Indians are undergoing training in Army life. Village boys joining the Army are given the opportunity of enjoying life on a wider scale, with good pay and many opportunities for advancement.

Photo shows:- Accustoming the recruit to the rifle and gas-mask combined during rifle practice.

The men here wear Mk IV general service respirators like this one here:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copyThey also wear their traditional regimental headgear, with some wearing a simple turban:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copy-2And others wearing it with a khulla, a cloth cone worn at the centre of the turban:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copy-3There were numerous different ways of wearing the turban, as indicated by this diagram from between the wars:turbansIn the photograph above it is most likely that those with the khulla are muslim troops, and those without Sikhs. The trainees here each hold the Short Magazine Lee Enfield Rifle:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copy-4Note the white bands painted around the forestocks:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copy-5These indicate that these rifles are drill purpose examples for training and should not be used for firing. In the background can be seen the buildings of the training establishment:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copy-6And a large frame with ropes hanging down to practice rope climbing:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copy-7This is one of a series of three press photos I have picked up depicting training in the Indian Army, the quality and subject matter of these is far more interesting than many run of the mill personal snaps and we will be returning to the others over the coming weeks.

Canadian Alumium Mess Tins

Following Tuesday night’s post on the 51 pattern mess tin carriers, this might be an opportune moment to look at the Canadian mess tins themselves. These mess tins are similar to the familiar British post war aluminium design, with two rectangular pans that fit one inside the other:imageOne tin is larger than the other:imageAnd both have wire handles attached to one end with a riveted plate:imageWhere these tins differ from British mess tins is in their shape, which is distinctly squarer at the corners, here we see a British example on the left, and the Canadian mess tin on the right:imageThe design is clearly based on the pre-WW2 British aluminium mess tins which shared the squared off shape, when Britain resumed aluminium mess tin production in 1945 they altered the corners of their tins; the Canadians left the design as it was. This particular pair of tins do not have the /|\ in a ‘C’ mark of Canada, but are marked ‘CCB’ on the handle end of each tin:imageThis stands for the ‘Coulter Copper and Brass’ of Toronto, Ontario. The company produced a large number of pressed metal items for the Canadian Army throughout WW2 and into the post war period, including gas mask parts and brass button sticks. There were a number of different manufacturers of Canadian mess tins and my thanks go to Michael Skriletz for his research into the different companies:captureThese aluminium tins had a long life and were in use well into the 1980s, this example has the original owner’s name and number written on the bottom of one of the tins in permanent marker:imageI think this originally read ‘R Silman’ but it is a little worn now.

RAF Comfort’s Committee Voluntary Worker’s Badge

The range of different enamelled home front lapel badges form the Second World War is astonishing with badges issued for olunteer workers, the ARP, nursing and many more areas of voluntary service. Tonight we are looking at a small pin badge for the RAF Comforts committee:imageThis badge has an RAF eagle in the centre, with a light blue band around saying ‘RAF Comforts Committee’ and the title ‘volunary worker’ in a scroll beneath. The back of the badge has a pin fastening and a maker’s mark indicating it was manufactured by Thomas Frattorini the largest badge maker in the country:imageThe following excellent description comes from a collector on Flickr, called Stuart- Sadly I do not have a full name to afford him the full credit he deserves:

The Royal Air Force Comforts Committee (RAF Comforts Committee) was formed by the Air Council in October 1939 to determine the type and quantities of ‘knitted comforts’ required for the RAF as well as arrange for their collection, storage and distribution through their depots. Local knitting parties or groups were organised mainly by the Women’s Institute (WI) and the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) according to guidance issued by the Committee. Anyone who could knit was roped into these knitting parties and that included many men too (it was commonplace back then for men to be competent knitters). Groups needed to be registered with the Comforts Committee to ensure they got supplies of free wool and badges/certificates. As the war drew to a close in 1945, knitted comforts were also made for needy children in the liberated countries and distributed by the Red Cross.

The main forms of knitted RAF Comforts were mittens, pullovers (preferably with polo necks), woollen helmets (balaclavas) and gum-boot stockings (of oiled wool). Other items such as ordinary socks and gloves were knitted in smaller quantities as required by the RAF and only to supplement regulation uniform issues. The official colour was a grey/blue but by 1941 there was a shortage of wool as it was required in ever increasing quantities and so wool of many shades of blue and sometimes other colours were supplied for the knitted comforts. The RAF had issued a standard book containing instructions for knitting parties with approved patterns.captureThis badge issued by the RAF Comforts Committee was given free to each registered local knitting party but only the first badge (usually the party leader), additional badges required were supplied according to the amount of work done by an individual and at the cost of 1/- (one shilling) each, accompanied by the certificate. All this would have been monitored by the Comforts Committee.

Barbara Longley knitted for the Comforts Committee as a child:

I used to knit for the Royal Air Force Comforts Committee. They’d send 2lb of wool, from Berkeley Square in London, with a pattern book to make pullovers, scarves, helmets, gloves and socks. When I’d knitted the garments I used to send them to London and back would come another 2lb of wool. I’ve still got my RAF Comforts badge and personal message from Marshall of the RAF.comforts

British Army Personal Wrist Watch Dosimeter

Amongst the many items of personal NBC equipment issued to British troops is a small wrist watch type personal dosimeter used to record the levels of radiation the wearer is exposed to. This personal dosimeter is officially called a ‘Radiacmeter Personal Locket Dosimeter’ and it uses a radiophotoluminescent glass and pin diode in a lead lined nylon wrist locket:imageThe dosimeter doesn’t have any way of being read by the wearer, and requires a separate dosimeter reader. The dosimeter is worn on the wrist, over the NBC smock and gloves, and is secured with a nylon strap and metal buckle:imageAs it can’t be zeroed after reading, it needs to be worn by the same person at all times to get an accurate reading, therefore a unique serial number is inscribed on the back:imageThe instrument measures from 0-1000 Roentgens and indicates the total absorbed radiation of the soldier. As with most modern equipment a unique NSN number is embossed on the front:imageThese personal dosimeters were issued in sealed packets, only to be opened and worn when required. They are also worn by those involved in MoD jobs where radiation might be encountered and the following guidance is given to wearers on their use:

The individual wearing the dosimeter must:

Wear it properly in the radiation area;

Store it in a low background area, remote from any known sources of ionising radiation when not being worn;

Not shield it in any way. Pens, rulers or other metallic objects may shield the dosimeter;

Not immerse the dosimeter in any liquid. Particular care is to be taken to remove dosimeters from clothing before laundering. Divers are to wrap their dosimeter in two plastic bags and wear the dosimeter inside their wet suit;

Keep the dosimeter away from high temperatures, e.g. pipes and radiators;

Not share the dosimeter with anyone else;

Not damage the dosimeter or holder in any way;

Not carry the dosimeter in close proximity to luminised watches or other luminised articles;

Return the dosimeter promptly at the correct time, ensuring that a replacement is available before giving up the old one, if necessary;

Notify the supervisor, RSO or RPS immediately, if it is lost or mislaid, especially in a radiation area (even if it is later found) as the employer may need to estimate the individual’s dose;

Ensure that the dosimeter is not worn inadvertently during medical/dental X-ray examinations.

Royal Navy Kit Bag

Over the last few years we have looked at Army and RAF kitbags, however tonight we look at our first example of a Royal Navy kitbag. The RN kitbag is much larger than those used by other services, being made of a heavier duty webbing cotton fabric rather than the lightweight materials of its smaller cousins:imageThe neck of the kit bag has a series of metal eyelets and a permanently attached piece of cord to be threaded through them to draw the neck tight:imageIn February 1922 a brass bar fastener was introduced to help increase the security of these kit bags, it passed through the loops and could be secured with a padlock to reduce the risk of theft. A light canvas inner allows the inside to be drawn tight as well to help keep the contents clean and dry:imageThe base of the kit bag has a thick base seem around the edge:image
With a webbing handle in the centre, originally this stretched from seam to seam, but this shorter version seems to be a wartime economy:imageThe original owner has painted his rank ‘PO’ and initials ‘DAJ’ onto the base:imageNearly every sailor had one of these kit bags, and the 1937 Admiralty Manual of Seamanship explained:

A waterproof canvas bag will be issued to every boy on his leaving the training ship, with his name stamped on the bottom of the bag. He will retain the bag until it is worn out or until he leaves the service.

To stow the Kit in a Bag or Locker

The clothing is either folded up or rolled and tied up in handkerchiefs, care being taken that the white and blue clothing is placed in separate bundles; clothing not often worn being at the bottom.

Here we see a couple of sailors heading off on leave, with their kit bags slung on their shoulders:image