There are some , frankly, ridiculous pieces of military uniform out there. The military have often regarded function as being more important than style and some truly unflattering pieces of clothing have been forced upon the unfortunate wearer (KD combination suits anyone?). In the vein of ridiculous clothing pieces tonight we are looking at a one piece thermal liner:I can find very little about this piece of uniform and my guess is that it was for tank crews and similar personnel who were operating in cold conditions, such as the plains of West Germany during the cold war. The garment is made of the same green quilted nylon as other liner garments of the period (see here for a vest). Whilst jackets, vests and trousers seem pretty common, the one piece overall seems much scarcer. The liner is secured up the front by a long metal zip:A knitted collar is provided to make it more comfortable and keep the heat within the suit:These garments can become very sweaty, so open mesh is sewn under the armpits:And in the groin:This provides ventilation at points most likely to become overheated. The most obvious disadvantage of a one piece suit is that it makes answering the call of nature very difficult. The solution can be seen when we turn the liner around:A large ‘bum’ flap is provided on the seat of the suit:This is secured by Velcro and pulls open to give a large hole suitable for defecation:I wonder how practicable this would have been in reality as one would presumably wish to wear underwear beneath the liner and this would be difficult to take down without removing the whole liner! A single label is sewn into the neck of the liner, you can just make out the size ‘medium’ beneath the owner’s name and number:It has been suggested that this label is the right size and shape for clothing developed by ‘SCDRE’ the Store & Clothing Research and Development Establishment who were responsible for prototyping and testing new pieces of uniform during the Cold War. This would suggest that the reason why I can find so little information on the liner is that it is a trials garment that never went into widespread production. If anyone can help fill in more of the blanks, please comment below…
Earlier this week I was lucky enough to pick up a full set of uniform to a Royal Navy Rating from the Second World War. We will be taking a closer look at the individual components of this grouping over the coming weeks, and tonight we start with one of the most iconic pieces of uniform worn by sailors, the traditional sailor’s blue jean collar.The collar dates back to at least the 1830s, but there were no definitive patterns until 1856 when it was greed that there would be two rows of white stripes on the blue jean collar, however consultation with the Commanders in Chief of Devonport and Portsmouth and their officers resulted in the agreed pattern having three rows of white stripping. These were applied as separate hand sewn pieces of white piping until 1941 when a new composite printed tape was introduced allowing them all to be attached as a single piece by machine rather than hand sewn:The underside of the collar is lined with a white and blue striped shirting fabric:It is here the owner stamped his name to identify the collar as his:To wear the collar it was placed over the flannel before the wearer put on his jumper and secured with the various tapes and loops:The following description of how to wear the collar comes from Martin Brayley’s excellent book on Royal Naval uniforms of the Second World War:
The rear of the collar lay on the shoulders, while a central section draped down the spine. Two extension pieces ran to the front over the shoulder, through a half twist at the front with two tapes that were then passed through loops on the spinal section before being fastened with a bow at the front. The two extension pieces were connected a the front by a small strip of fabric. To improve the appearance of the collar front this strip was normally cut allowing the front sections of the collar to ‘cut away’ inside the jumper and much higher than would otherwise be possible.
This particular collar retains its manufacturer’s label that helps date it to 1941:Later examples of the collar buttoned to the top of the sailor’s trousers and did away with the complicated tapes, today Velcro is used to secure them into the No1 dress uniform and small buttons help hold it down so it is not caught by the wind and flicked up, as seen here:We will return in detail to more World War Two rating’s uniform pieces in the coming weeks and months.
At the start of last year I looked at a wooden H51 ammunition box here. These boxes are fairly common, what is far rarer is the sealed metal container that went inside each of these boxes, the H52 box. I was lucky enough to pick up one of these, opened, last week and the condition of this tin is fantastic:The container is made of pressed tin, soldered together and painted black. The main markings on the front indicate that it was used to hold 9mm ammunition and held 1250 cartridges in Mk 2z cartons:Beneath this is stencilled ‘RG’ for the Radway Green arsenal and the packaging date of 17th September 1959. The large white marking is a standard Government Explosives classification marking used to ensure that the ammunition is handled correctly and stored in suitable conditions to prevent deterioration or danger. The container itself is stamped on one end:These stamps indicate the box type, H52 Mk 2, and a manufacture date for the tin (as opposed to the filling date on the front) of 1957:The can was soldered shut with a pull tab lid to open, which has been pulled off and discarded from this can:These cans were fitted into the wooden H51 box, with spacers made from wood and sorbo-rubber that helped keep it tight and prevented it from moving around. Two of these H51 boxes then fitted into a metal H50 box. A quick trawl of the net suggests this carton is rather rare- presumably most were just thrown away as they are not easily reusable in the way other ammunition boxes are. Either way it is a great addition to the collection.
This week’s piece of Canadian post war webbing is the 64 pattern belt. As mentioned several times before, the 64 pattern webbing set is pretty atrocious, and the belt is no exception. It is about as simple as a belt can get and is made of a simple piece of green cotton webbing:The rear of the belt has a strip of Velcro sewn to one end and this is how the belt is adjusted. The hook piece of Velcro is sewn to the end of the webbing, passes through the buckle and is looped back to stick to the loop piece:The buckle itself is made from heavy duty green plastic, with male and female halves:These fit one over the other, with the two shallow prongs falling down into the two holes of the corresponding belt part:It might just be me, but I found this belt nearly impossible to undo without resorting to something to pry the two halves of the belt back apart! The belts were not very successful as the Velcro weakened over time and came undone. It was common to see the ends of the belt secured with gun-tape or a spare brass keeper off the old 51 pattern set.
When first introduced the 2” mortar was issued with a separate collimating sight to enable it to be aimed and laid onto targets. This sight was made of metal and was fully adjustable:Twin spirit levels are fitted to ensure it is at the correct angle:Whilst the sight itself consists of a large rear notch and triangular front post:An adjustable dial on the side allows it to be moved in an arc for range:The sight has a circular collar that allows it to be slipped over the barrel of the mortar:This is knurled on the inside to allow it to grip the metal, a large twist screw being used to tighten it:The outside of the collar is marked up indicating it is for the 2” mortar:The sight is very well made and clearly well thought out, it was however quickly dropped when it was discovered that a white painted line on the barrel of the mortar worked just as well and was one less piece of equipment for the user to carry. Ironically troops found it quicker and more accurate to use the line than the sight and the army were pleasantly surprised to find the rate of fire could be far higher than they had originally envisaged.
Originally the 2” mortar sight has a specialised case to carry it in, however I have been unable to find any examples or photographs of the case- if anyone has any information please let me know and I will update the post accordingly.
Together in Thought
I look into your eyes and say,
Though from you I must go away,
Yet with you, dear, my heart will stay,
Until we meet again some day.
The photograph is clearly a studio shot, complete with studio props as the soldier is actually wearing the 1888 style leather bandolier, which was largely obsolete by this period:The postcard was sent in 1915, as witnessed by the postmark on the rear:The message is not the clearest, being written in pencil and subject to a hundred years of wear, but as best I can make out it reads:
Aug 19th 1915
Just a line hoping you’re all well as its leave time at present, I am just packing up to go to Swindon. I am going on ahead to the advance party so I shall be travelling all night as it is at the other side of London. All the others are coming on Friday. I was hoping to see you on Saturday but it cannot be helped. Tell old Wilson he is going to be with us as soon as ???? Best wishes your Harry.
It is always nice to get a postcard which has been used and helps tie down an exact date. These sentimental cards were hugely popular, but are largely ignored by collectors today- I rather like them as they reflect the senders emotions and feelings towards their loved ones in a way that often does not come across from other images and accounts.
The 6 pounder anti-tank gun was the main towed British anti-tank gun of the middle years of the second world war, replacing the puny 2 pounder in 1942 and freeing up the 25 pounder field gun to return to its main role as an artillery piece. Development of the new weapon had started as early as 1938 and the calibre was well established as the Royal Navy had been using it since the late nineteenth century. Despite this, due to the rearming of the British Army after Dunkirk, it would be May 1942 before it entered service:The following description of the Anti Tank gun comes from the US Army’s handbook on the British military:
The 6 pounder anti-tank gun, with a muzzle velocity of 2,700 feet per second, has been designed by the British for use against enemy armoured vehicles that are not vulnerable to the 2-pounder at distances over 200 or 300 yards. A 57-mm gun, the 6-pounder will be able to engage tanks at much greater ranges than the 2-pounder, although the latter will still be important to the anti-tank defence of individual formations and units. The 6-pounder is usually mounted on a low 90-degree split-trail wheeled carriage, but it is also being installed in certain tanks. In order to facilitate the quick adoption of the proper gun for the circumstances, the wheeled carriage of the 6 pounder is designed that the 2-pounder may be mounted alternatively. It is intended that the 6-punder be standard in corps and army anti-tank organization.
Tonight we are looking at a shell casing from the 6 pounder anti-tank gun, this example being a blank cartridge:It is made of brass and is impressively large, as with all British shell casings there is a profusion of markings on the base:I have interpreted these as well as I can:These shells are always impressive things, and the markings make them fun to interpret. Sadly they do not come up at a price I am willing to pay too often, so when they do I always snap them up.
Now can I persuade my wife it’s a flower vase…