Monthly Archives: February 2017

1982 Pattern Belt

Tonight we are starting our detailed look at the first of our Canadian 82 pattern webbing components, the belt. Ironically the belt owed a lot to a design dating back more than seventy years before the set was introduced. The three inch wide belt of the 08 pattern webbing was particularly good at distributing weight and being comfortable for the wearer. Canada adopted the same particularly wide belt for its new 82 pattern webbing:imageIf the width of the belt was based on a very old design, the rest of the design was far more up to date; with a large black Fastex buckle being used to secure the belt:imageThis buckle was both strong and secure, but also easy to undo if needed. The belt itself was made of a cotton webbing, left plain on the inside for comfort:imageAnd with a waterproof nylon layer on the outside to make it more waterproof:imageNote the reinforced eyelets along the entire length of the belt, these allow the components of the set to attach to the belt with small plastic hooks, as detailed in the post here. This was the weakest part of the belt’s design, as recalled by one user: The biggest problem you will find is that if you remove the equipment from the belt a lot either to wash or re-position it, the grommets will pull off of the belt and stay stuck on the tabs. This ends up so that only the Velcro holds on the equipment. Not a big deal if you can turn it into QM for a new one. There were three sizes produced, as referenced in the accompanying manual, each with its own unique stores code:

Small- 8465-21-888-7111

Medium- 8465-21-888-7112

Large- 8465-21-888-7113

The manual itself has a helpful picture for soldiers to identify what the belt looks like if they were unsure!capture

RAMC/RADC Recruitment Leaflet

Recruiting leaflets are always interesting items to pick up for a collection as they very much reflect the period in which they were written and what the military at the time thought would attract potential recruits. Those from the 1930s were generic leaflets that emphasised free food, accommodation and the opportunity to play sport whilst seeing the world (such as this one). By the late 1970s the British Army had developed more targeted publicity materials and this leaflet dates from 1979 and is specifically designed to encourage recruits to consider a career with the Royal Army Medical Corps of the Royal Army Dental Corps. The cover is dominated by a large photograph of personnel from the RAMC on exercise treating a patient on a mock battlefield.skm_c45817022309580-copyThe leaflet opens out into a large single sheet. One side of this has a large selection of photographs showing various aspects of what a member of either corps might find themselves doing once trained:imageOpening the leaflet we have a brief outline of what each corps does and potential opportunities for recruits:skm_c45817022309590More detailed information is then given of each of the specialisations and what they entail:skm_c45817022309591Finally the back page of the leaflet has a large photograph of the British Military Hospital, Hong Kong and a stamp indicating this leaflet was originally given out at the Army Careers Office in Ipswich:skm_c45817022309580

Indian Troops Marching in the Desert Press Photograph

This week’s photograph considers a third and final press photograph of the Indian Army training in World War Two. The previous photographs can be viewed here and here, however unlike the last two images this one was not taken in India, but in the deserts of North Africa:skmbt_c36416120708301_0001The back of the photograph has the usual caption for the press:skmbt_c36416120708310_0001This reads:

Indian troops, which were the first of the Empire troops to take up their station in the Middle East, have soon settled down in their desert camp. The picture shows Indian troops led by British Officers, marching out of their camp in the desert.

And in the background of the photograph this camp can be seen, with a selection of tents:skmbt_c36416120708301_0001-copyAnd a single more permanent outhouse:skmbt_c36416120708301_0001-copy-2The men wear desert shorts and shirts with jumpers. Their equipment is simply a leather belt and pair of 03 pattern ammunition pouches:skmbt_c36416120708301_0001-copy-3A senior NCO marches at the head of the column with his swagger stick:skmbt_c36416120708301_0001-copy-4Note the different shade to his jumper, his collared shirt and that he wears what appears to be a Sam Browne belt without any shoulder straps. The two British Officers march in front of the main body of men:skmbt_c36416120708301_0001-copy-5Each wears the peaked cap synonymous with his status as an officer.

There was considerable interest in the Indian troops fighting in the desert, with visits to inspect them from various dignitaries. The Daily Mail of February 15th 1940 reported:

Units of the Indian Army massed in the desert outside Cairo this morning heard a message from the King-Emperor read to them by Mr Anthony Eden, Secretary for the Dominions.

Bearded Sikhs, Rajputs, Jats, Punjabis and Madrassis, dressed in Indian battle-dress of shorts, puttees and grey sweaters, and the varied turbans, cheered lustily at the end of Mr Eden’s speech.

A parade followed watched by Mr Eden, Sir miles Lampson, the British Ambassador in Cairo, and General Sir Archibald Wavell, commanding the British forces in the Near East.

Mr Eden said the whole Empire was grateful to the Indians. The unity of all sections of the Empire was the assurance of final victory.

ARP Cigarette Cards (Part 2)

Tonight we are looking at the next ten cards in the Air Raid Precautions set of Will’s cigarette cards, you can see the first post here.

Card 21 Light Trailer Fire-Pump

Under Fire Precautions schemes, the Home office is issuing to many local authorities light trailer fire-pumps of the type illustrated. This pump has the great advantage of being easily manœuvred; not only can it be towed behind any motor car, but it is also light enough to be manhandled. It is capable of delivering two useful fire-fighting streams of water, and can deliver 120 gallons per minute at a pressure of 80lb to the square inch. The pump unit can be unshipped from its chassis and carried to any convenient position where water is availableskm_c45817021416010-copy-6Card 22 Light Trailer Fire-Pump in Action

Air Raid Precautions schemes will include ample provision for emergency fire-fighting. The home Office is issuing to many local authorities light trailer fire-pumps, described on Card No. 21. The pump is here shown in action; it has been unshipped from the chassis on which it is usually carried for towing purposes, and is taking a supply of water from a garden pond, to which it has been carried by hand. The light trailer fire-pump can also work from a street mains supply, and is capable of delivering two useful fire-fighting streams of water.skm_c45817021416010-copy-5Card 23 Medium Trailer Fire-Pump

Medium trailer motor fire-pumps will be an important feature in emergency fire-brigade measures. These pumps are towed behind private cars or commercial vans ( in which the fire-men and additional fire-fighting gear may be carried), and can be manhandled over rough ground or debris impassable to ordinary fire-engines or motor cars. A pump of this type will give four good fire-fighting streams of water at high pressure.skm_c45817021416010-copy-4Card 24 Medium Trailer Fire-Pump in Action

Any scheme of Air Raid Precautions must include the provision of a great number of special fire-fighting appliances. Pumping units of the type illustrated will be required in large numbers for use under air raid conditions. They are specially designed for trailing behind motor cars or light lorries. Crews of 4 or 5 trained firemen are required to man these fire-pumps, which are capable of delivering two or more streams of water at high pressure on to a fire.skm_c45817021416010-copy-3Card 25 Emergency Heavy Pump Unit

The illustration shows a high-powered emergency fire-pump, carrying a telescopic ladder. This unit, which has been designed by the Home Office, is capable of delivering over 1,000 gallons of water a minute at high pressure, and is able to supply a number of good fire-fighting streams. There is accommodation on the unit for both crew and necessary fire-fighting gear. The chassis on which the pump is mounted is extremely mobile, and can be manœuvred in a very small space.skm_c45817021416010-copy-2Card 26 Hose-Laying Lorry

For laying long lines of delivery hose, such as may be necessary at large fires for the purpose of utilising distant water supplies, a special motor appliance is used. The lengths of hose contained in the appliance are joined together and specially packed as shown in the illustration, so that they pay out in one or more continuous lines as the appliance is driven ahead.skm_c45817021416010-copy-8Card 27 The Civilian Respirator

This respirator consists of a face-piece, to which is attached by means of a rubber band a metal box containing filters which absorb all known war gases. The face-piece is held in position by means of web straps fitting around the head. When the respirator is properly fitted and the straps adjusted, it completely protects the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs. The strap should be pinned at the right tension, so that the respirator can be slipped on in an instant. This respirator will be issued free to the public.skm_c45817021416010-copy-7Card 28 The Civilian Respirator- How to Adjust it

Great care must be taken to see that the respirator is correctly fitted and adjusted, in order that a supply of pure air, quite free from gas, is ensured for breathing. The respirator is made so that if fits closely round the face, and is provided with adjustable straps to hold it in the correct position. It is important that the respirator be tried on and the straps properly adjusted to the requirements of the wearer (see picture), so that it may be put on at a moment’s notice.skm_c45817021416012-copy-2Card 29 The Civilian Respirator- How to Remove it

The pictures shows the RIGHT way to take off a Civilian Respirator. This should be done by slipping the head harness forward from the back of the head. It is important that the respirator should be taken off in this way. The WRONG way to take it off is by taking hold of the metal box containing the filters and pulling the face-piece off by the chin. By this method there is a danger of bending and cracking the transparent window. If this window is cracked, the respirator is useless.skm_c45817021416012-copy-4Card 30 The Civilian Duty Respirator

This respirator is of stronger construction than the civilian respirator and is intended for those who might have to work in the presence of gas and could not go to a gas-protected refuge room. The respirator protects the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs against all known war-gasses. The face-piece is of moulded rubber, and the eye-pieces are of strong glass. There is an outlet valve opposite the nose; the protuberance at the side of the face-piece can be used to fit a microphone for speaking on the telephone.skm_c45817021416012-copy-3

Merchant Navy Officer’s Tunic

In 1918 George V authorised the first national uniform for members of the Merchant Navy. The uniform and rank scheme was entirely optional, many private companies already had such systems of uniform and rank based off that used by the Royal Navy, however it was adopted by many smaller firms and was in common use by many in the Second World War. Tonight we are looking at an example of one of these uniforms which dates from around the time of the Second World War:imageCompared to a Royal Navy officer’s uniform this is far lower quality, being made of a thin utilitarian wool fabric, reflecting the low rank and presumably low income of its original owner who would have had to purchase it himself. Two pleated patch pockets are sewn onto the breast of the jacket:

imageAll buttons are made of brass, with the standard merchant marine design:imageA pair of removable shoulder boards are used, rather than cuff lace. These are for a member of the engineering branch, as indicated by the purple piping to the braid:imageDuring the Second World War the First Engineer (or Chief Engineer Officer) had to hold a First Class Certificate in Steam and would have had considerable sea-going experience, he was responsible for the main and subsidiary machinery. Reporting to him was a Second Engineer who would always hold a First Class Certificate in Steam and would be gaining the experience required to permit him to seek a Chief’s post.

There were Third Engineers, Fourth Engineers, and so on, the number of them depending on the size of the vessel. All would usually have completed an apprenticeship ashore in heavy engineering, often in power stations or similar and after going to sea would have gained a Second Class Certificate in Steam. Ocean liners might have Senior and Junior rates such as Junior Seventh Engineer or Senior Ninth Engineer, depending upon the number of officers carried aboard.

The senior Engineroom ratings were the Donkeyman and the Greaser (Petty Officers), in addition to heading the “Black gang”, (engine room ratings) the former was responsible for the ship’s auxiliary power and for maintenance of cargo handling derricks, the latter ensured correct lubrication of all necessary parts of the engines and keeping the Firemen and Trimmers in order.

The Black gang, were the men who handled the coal and spent their working lives coated in coal dust as most ships were coal burning steamers. They were normally divided into two groups, the Firemen and the Trimmers. The firemen were the men who stood watches in the stokehold feeding tons of coal into the furnaces beneath the boilers to keep up a head of steam. The trimmers were the men who spent their lives in the ship’s bunkers (the hold which held the coal) and were responsible for loading barrows of coal with which they ran across planks of wood to the stokehold to maintain the piles of coal beside the men feeding the furnaces. They had to keep the level of coal within the bunkers trimmed (level) to prevent the ship becoming unstable.

Some ships carried Engineroom Storekeepers, experienced older ratings who controlled the issues of stores.

My own grandfather served during the war as a fireman on a variety of merchant ships, the heat and coal dust making for very unpleasant working conditions, especially in the tropics.ole_friele_backer_i_maskinen

General Service Respirator (GSR)

The S10 respirator used by the British Army was a very good design for its day and served well for many years, and indeed is still serving for many. It was not without its problems however and in 2010 a new and radically different design of respirator was introduced and slowly rolled out to troops. The new respirator was titled the ‘GSR’ or ‘General Service Respirator’ and is one of the most advanced designs issued to soldiers anywhere in the world:imageCompared to its predecessor the GSR was designed to allow troops to wear it for a maximum of 24 hours rather than the 4 hours of the S10. It also has a single full face visor rather than individual eyepieces for better visibility and to make it less claustrophobic and most importantly of all, twin filters to allow them to be more easily changed in a CBRN environment. Each filter is a small lozenge shape:imageThese fit either side of the mask with a locking system:imageThe filters can be turned upwards to allow the wearer to use optics and weapons, and as the mask works on one canister and has automatic valves the user can keep breathing normally whilst changing canisters- a marked improvement over other designs. The front of the mask has a removable cover allowing access to the speech diaphragm:imageThe mask is much easier to breathe through than the S10, as proved by the world record London marathon time for running in a respirator achieved by Lance Corporal Andy McMahon who took 3 hours and 28 minutes to complete it wearing a GSR and canisters. He remarked I am very impressed with the new GSR: compared to the old respirator it is almost as if you are running without one. No doubt he found the long straw built in to allow the user to drink from a water bottle very helpful on his run:imageA set of adjustable straps allow the mask to be fitted to the individual carefully:imageThese have locking bars to ensure the mask doesn’t become loose over time. The face seal of the mask is made from a soft comfortable rubber and the drinking straw protrudes into the main mask, tucking out the way when not in use:imageEach mask comes with a card history sheet so the user can record what has been done to it, settings etc. This just slots in a plastic wallet and is carried in the haversack:imageThe following diagram comes from the CBRN aide-memoire and helpfully shows all the features of the GSR:skm_c45817022208230One of those involved in the trials process made the following observations:

We are just starting conversion to GSR, feed back is generally pretty good. There has been a lot of work over the last two years to get the GSR fit for service. I think the non deforming visor is a bit of a mangling of the need for the former in the haversack. In order for the system to work the GSR needs to be kept in good shape, hence the former. Pros: Breathing resistance is much lower, easier dills due to twin canister set, better visibility and less isolation. Not been on the ranges, but it should be better. Cons: its a bit front heavy, but you get used to it and the first generation haversack is huge. However there is a new one on its way in MTP.

The British Army ordered 309,228 masks from the manufacturer’s Scott Safety, the last being delivered in 2015. The mask was well received with Air Commodore Andy hall remarking: The GSR is a superb piece of equipment, offering unprecedented levels of protection as well as being practical and, so far as is possible for a respirator, comfortable.

Late Victorian Royal Artillery Whistle

Sometimes an object comes up that you just fall in love with, this happened to me yesterday when I was accosted in Huddersfield Market by a man asking if I collected military kit. Strangely this is not such as unusual occurrence as you might think! From his pocket he produced this whistle and I instantly knew I wanted it for my collection:fullsizerenderaThe whistle is made from tin sheet, silver soldered together with a pair of Queen Victoria crown Royal Artillery buttons making up the two sides of the main chamber:fullsizerenderbA triangular wire loop is soldered to the back of the whistle to allow it to be attached to a chain:fullsizerendercInside the main chamber is a (very) dried pea. A lip has also been soldered onto the mouth piece to give something to rest the teeth again to hold it steady if you can’t hold onto it:fullsizerenderdThis piece is clearly handmade rather than being factory produced, but the quality of the work is excellent and I wonder if it might have been a show piece by an army tradesman to show his skill at tin-smithing. I don’t have an exact date for the whistle, but with the Queen Victoria’s crown buttons I would guess it dates from the late Victorian period, possibly the 1890s. It is a delightful little piece and despite costing me more than I would normally pay for this sort of thing, I am absolutely smitten with the little whistle and it has to be one of my favourite purchases of the year!