Pre-WW1 Home Service uniforms are some of the most overlooked pieces of military history out there. They are fairly inexpensive, beautifully made, completely iconic and often available in stunning condition. Regular readers may recall we looked at a scarlet tunic from the Buffs here a few years back. Tonight we have another Home Service tunic to consider, but this time for the Army Service Corps:This uniform is virtually mint, has never been issued and is absolutely stunning! It is made of a heavy dark blue wool with white collars which when issued would have been fitted with a pair of brass collar dogs. Each cuff has a white cord Hungarian knot and two small brass general service buttons:The tunic is secured with brass buttons up its front and there is an elaborate set of buttons and white cord making up ‘false pockets’ on the tail of the tunic:Rather than shoulder straps, this tunic has two white cords on the shoulders:The tunic has a white woollen half lining, and unusually this has no mothing at all, looking as good as the day it was made:A ‘WD’ and /|\ stamp is marked inside the sleeve:The tunic retains its paper label on the inside, revealing it was manufactured in April 1914:These tunics were part of the pageantry of pre-WW1 British Army life, as seen in this postcard of the Army Service Corps where a private can be seen wearing the uniform, with two long service stripes on his sleeve, on the right:This cigarette card from Ogdens also shows an Army Service Corps private wearing the uniform with the spike home service helmet:This has to be one of the nicest tunics I have ever picked up and is a beautiful and historic addition to my collection. Compared to the combat uniforms of World War one, these pre-war uniforms are largely ignored by collectors and offer a very affordable way of adding something beautifully made and over a century old to the collection.
We have been taking a weekly look at Canadian post war load bearing equipment for nearly six months now. Whilst most of the pieces are uniquely Canadian in design, they have all been of fairly standard use- ammunition pouch, belt, water bottle pouch etc. Tonight however we have a piece of 82 pattern equipment that I don’t think has been replicated by any other military (if you know better please let me know), The ‘Carrier KFS’:The ‘KFS’ stands for ‘knife, fork and spoon’ and this was a dedicated pouch for these eating implements and the C5 knife. As ever the manual provides a nice line drawing of the pouch:The pouch has a simple belt loop on the back to slide over the belt of the 82 pattern set. The main compartment holds the knife, fork and spoon and is secured with a Velcro flap:The sides of this part of the pouch are left unstitched for about half of the length to allow easier access to the contents:A second pocket is provided on the front and this was used to hold the C5 knife:This was an all metal jack knife and was the Canadian designation for the US Camillus MIL-K-818 knife. Examples were issued both with and without ‘US’ stamped on the body. The knife was to remain in service until the mid-1990s when it was replaced with a multi tool.
Whilst this pouch was issued and used, it was never universally popular and many troops found it just as convenient to store their KFS in a pocket or pouch. That the Canadian government issued a dedicated pouch though suggests they realised how important a soldier’s cutlery was to him and how essential it was that he could access them easily in the field for a snatched meal without rooting around in the bottom of a pack.
Tonight we have another item of mess tableware, this time from the 4th battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. Again my thanks go to The East Yorkshire Regiment Living History group, and Michael Lycett in particular for help with adding this sauce bottle holder to my collection:This little trivet is only about three inches in diameter, but it is heavily engraved and has a scroll on one panel marked to the ‘Fourth West Yorks’ Regt.’:A lip is fitted to the inside of the trivet, to support the bottle of sauce and prevent its base touching the table:Three elegantly styled legs are fitted to the base to support the trivet and its contents:I do not have a date for this particular object, however a 4th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment existed during the Boer War and it was the service battalion of the Regiment throughout the First World War. The 4th West Yorkshire Regiment had originally been a militia regiment, but was a Special Reserve Battalion in York at the outbreak of war. In August 1914 it moved to Falmouth, then to Redcar in December 1915 and finally to West Hartlepool in April 1916 where it formed part of the Tees Garrison. I suspect that this item dates from nearer the Great War than the Boer War and is a nice survivor. I just need to find my WW1 era bottle of ‘Yorkshire Relish’ and see if it fits into the trivet…
This week we have a second photograph from the collection belonging to Major Stevenson, this image is a fine shot of the ‘India Gate’ war memorial in New Delhi:The India Gate was designed by the prominent architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and commemorates the 82,000 Indian troops who died between 1914 and 1920. The foundation stone was laid on 10th February 1921, being completed and inaugurated in 1931 by the Viceroy. The memorial is deliberately designed to be secular with no overt religious symbols, a key consideration in a religiously diverse country such as pre-partition India.
TO THE DEAD OF THE INDIAN ARMIES WHO FELL AND ARE HONOURED IN FRANCE AND FLANDERS MESOPOTAMIA AND PERSIA EAST AFRICA GALLIPOLI AND ELSEWHERE IN THE NEAR AND THE FAR-EAST AND IN SACRED MEMORY ALSO OF THOSE WHOSE NAMES ARE HERE RECORDED AND WHO FELL IN INDIA OR THE NORTH-WEST FRONTIER AND DURING THE THIRD AFGHAN WAR
The gate is also covered in the names of 13,218 Indian war dead. The top of the gate has a large bowl, where it was planned oil could be placed and burnt on special occasions, although this has rarely ever been done:Overall the memorial stands about 137 feet tall, dwarfing the people in the foreground:These seem to be mostly military personnel with a few civilians mingling amongst:In the background can be seen a small canopy:This originally held a statue of King George V, but this was removed in 1961 and the canopy is currently empty. I believe this photograph might date from the VJ Day celebrations as a number of fighter aircraft can be seen flying overhead in formation:The India Gate War memorial still stands in New Delhi and remains a national focus for military remembrance to this day.
My thanks tonight go to my friend, and fellow Huddersfield Market lurker Michael Fletcher who has kindly helped me add tonight’s rather impressive helmet to my collection. In the 1970s a new helmet was introduced for armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) crews. This was made of fibreglass and included built in communications systems, this helmet had a distinctive flared out shape:It must be stated that this helmet was not designed to offer any ballistic protection, AFVs move at speed and have many sharp protrusions inside, the helmet was designed to prevent the crew smashing their heads on these as the vehicle lurched around. The back of the helmet rises up to allow the wearer to turn and raise his head easily without the helmet catching on the back of his head:A large microphone is fitted into the helmet that can be adjusted to sit in front of the wearer’s mouth:This is coupled with a pair of large headphones inside the helmet:These headphones put a great deal of pressure on the wearer’s head, leading to headaches after prolonged wear, soldiers quickly tried to find alternatives as recalled by one user:
Note the Velcro tabs sticking out of the ears. Pull them tight and stick them down and it allowed you to adjust the pressure of the earpieces on your ears. In theory. In practice, the Velcro was worse than useless and the earpieces acted as clamps on the ears, inducing dreadful headaches. Many, many crewmen managed to find fault, any fault with the helmet and return it for repair, to be issued with a HIB (Headset Infantry ‘B’ Vehicle) or SUH (Staff, User headset) in its stead, which they retained permanently.
The helmet has a long wire with a connection plug on the end to allow the helmet to be plugged into the AFV’s radio system:The helmet also has a raised housing on the right hand side with a small cylindrical metal cover:Removing this reveals a small connection port to allow a respirator microphone to be attached when the helmet was being worn with an S6 respirator:Whilst a good idea in theory, in reality the NBC microphone was not issued very often, as one wearer recalls:
The helmet was designed to be worn over an S6 respirator. Plug an NBC mike into the earpiece, clamp the NBC mike onto the exhaust port on the front of the respirator and you could work the radio in NBC red conditions. Otherwise, talking through the boom mike (or a Larkspur hand-held mike) was as much use as talking with hand over mouth and nostrils pinched. NBC mikes were as common as rocking-horse droppings. The plastic adapter that attached it to the S6 was non-existent. As regimental signals stores’ man, one once nearly crossed my path. I say nearly, because it didn’t get to the other side: it went straight in my pocket. I never had a problem talking on air whilst at NBC red.
The helmets were not originally fitted with chinstraps, but at some point in the 1980s one was fitted, with a black fastex buckle and Velcro adjustment:The top of the helmet has a webbing cradle and a padded ring to help support the helmet on the wearer’s head:It is on one of these webbing straps that a small stores label can be found, indicating the helmet’s use and NSN number:Happily for the collector, the helmet had a date written into the inside of it when it was accepted into service by the stores’ man of the unit it was sent to, indicating that it dates 16th July 1988:
Here we see an example of the helmet being worn on an arctic exercise in the mid-1980s. The helmet is combined with and arctic goggles/face mask, that the wearer has pushed up onto the top of the helmet:The helmet was issued with a heavy duty nylon bag to store and protect it in when not in use:This has a pair of strong handles on the top:And secures with a drawstring:The bag has a large printed label sewn inside that gives instructions on how to care for the helmet:Like the helmet, the bag was produced by Racal Acoustics Ltd and has its own store’s label with a separate NSN number:These helmets were never hugely popular and have long since been replaced in British Army service, they are however an unusual and impressive design and I am very pleased to have finally added one to my collection, especially when it is in such nice condition as this one.
Tonight we start a five part series looking at a set of cigarette cards published in 1938 by Players covering the aircraft of the Royal Air Force:This set is particularly interesting as it includes many aircraft that would have been withdrawn by the outbreak of war; biplanes and high wing bombers all saw very limited service in World War Two. It also has the most up to date fighters such as the Spitfire and hurricane so it is an interesting snap shot into a transitional period in the Royal Air Force. The captions below come from the backs of the cards and are period to the illustrations.
No 1. The Airspeed Envoy of The King’s Flight
Chosen as the equipment of the King’s Flight, this aircraft is a low-wing twin-engined monoplane. The engines are Armstrong Siddeley “Cheetah IX” 7-cylindar air-cooled radials of 350 h.p. giving a maximum speed of 203 m.p.h. and a normal cruising speed of about 170 m.p.h. The colours in which this aircraft is finished are those of the Brigade of Guards. The ‘plane was used recently to convey His Majesty on a tour of four R.A.F. stations and in addition has been frequently employed by other members of the Royal Family. It has a wing span of 52 feet 4 inches and a length of 34 feet 6 inches.No 2. Avro “Rota” Army Co-Operation Autogiro Aircraft.
A two-seater autogiro fitted with dual control. Certain of these aircraft have been supplied to Army co-operation squadrons of the Royal Air Force and are also used at the School of Army Co-operation. The aircraft has a short take-off run and lands almost vertically. An Armstrong Siddeley “Civet” radial air-cooled engine is fitted and gives the aircraft a maximum speed of about 100 m.p.h. The “Rota” has a length of 19 feet 8 ½ inches and is 11 feet 1 inch in height: The rotor diameter is 37 feet.No 3. Hawker “Audax” Army Co-Operation Aircraft
Built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd., this biplane of all metal construction is an Army co-operation machine. It is fitted with a Roll-Royce “Kestrel” engine of 480 h.p. and carries a crew of 2. The maximum speed is 169 m.p.h. It is specially designed and equipped for Army co-operation work and is fitted with wireless and electrical apparatus and a message pick-up hook. The dimensions are: wing span 37 feet 3 inches, length 29 feet 7 inches and height 10 feet 7 inches.No 4. Hawker “Hector” Army Co-Operation Aircraft
Like the “Audax” and the more recent “Lysander”, the “Hector” is an Army co-operation aircraft. It is a biplane of all metal construction with a wing span of 37 feet and carries a crew of 2. The top speed is 191 m.p.h. The “Hector” is built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd, and the engine is a Napier “Dagger III” . The “Dagger” is an unusual engine design, having 24 cylinders cast in rows of 6, an arrangement which is known as the H type. It has two crankshafts geared together to drive the airscrew shaft.No 5. Westland “Lysander” Army Co-Operation Aircraft
The “ Lysander” built by Westland Aircraft Ltd., and fitted with a Bristol “Mercury XII” engine, is designed for Army co-operation work. It is a high-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, mounts 2 machine guns, and carries a crew of 2, including the pilot. The wing span is 50 feet, and this aircraft is the first type designed exclusively for Army co-operation duties, other aircraft having been developments of existent service types.No 6. Armstrong Whitworth “Whitley” Bomber
This is a low-wing cabin monoplane bomber of all metal construction with a wing span of 84 feet. The “Whitley” is provided with enclosed gun-turrets at nose and tail, in addition to a downward-firing turret within the body, and has retractable undercarriage. It is built by the Sir W.G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Co., and fitted with two Armstrong Siddeley “Tiger VIII” of “IX” engines of 880 h.p. each. The “Whitley IV” is fitted with Rolls-Royce “Merlin” engines. There is accommodation for either 1 or 2 pilots and 3 or 4 other crew. The “Whitley” attains a speed of 192 m.p.h. and has a range of 1,500 miles.No 7. Blackburn “Skua” Dive Bomber Fighter
This dive-bomber fighter is a Blackburn product with a Bristol “Mercury IX” or “Perseus” engine. It is an all metal low wing monoplane with monocoque fuselage and retractable undercarriage, a notable feature being the tapered wing with rounded tip. The “Skua” is part of the equipment of the Fleet Air Arm and is a recent introduction. It is of interest that the “Perseus” is a sleeve valve engine and is the first engine of this type to go into general service use. The “Skua” will be allocated to aircraft carriers.No 8. Boulton Paul “Overstrand” Bomber
This aircraft is a development from the obsolete “Sidestrand”. It is a twin engine biplane bomber and is fitted with Bristol “Pegasus” engines of 590 h.p. each. A maximum speed of 150 m.p.h. is attained and the range is about 500 miles. The “Overstrand” mounts 3 machine guns, one of which is for defence against attack from below. A crew of 3 is carried. The dimensions are: wing span 72 feet, length 46 feet and height 15 feet 6 inches.No 9. Bristol “Blenheim” Bomber
A mid-wing monoplane bomber, mainly of metal construction, fitted with two Bristol “Mercury” engines with 3-bladed controllable-pitch airscrews. It normally carries a crew of 3. The armament consists of 2 machine-guns. The “Blenheim” has a retractable undercarriage and its dimensions are: wing span 56 feet 4 inches, length 39 feet 9 inches and height 9 feet 10 inches. The aircraft, which is a product of the Bristol Aeroplane Co., Ltd, attains a maximum speed of 279 m.p.h and has a range of 1000 miles with full load.No 10 Bristol “Bombay” Bomber Transport Aircraft
The performance figures of this new high-wing bomber transport are still secret. It is designed by Bristol Aeroplane Co., Ltd., and is equipped with two Bristol “Pegasus XX” engines. As a bomber the “Bombay” carries a crew of 4 but when used as a transport it carries a crew of 3 and has accommodation for 24 troops. It is of all-metal stressed skin construction, the engines being mounted in the wing which has a span of 96 feet. The enclosed gun turrets are placed in the nose and the tail, and there is intercommunication from end to end of the interior of the fuselage.
Shell dressings have come up a number of times on this blog over the years, with both British and Indian wartime examples being featured. Tonight we have a pair of post war Canadian examples and has so often been the case with the various Cold War Canadian objects I have covered, my thanks have to go to Andrew Iarocci for his help in supplying me with them. The first of this pair is a Mk III shell dressing dating from November 1954:This particular design of shell dressing had been introduced in the Second World War and unlike other Empire dressings it came is a sterile sealed packet, rather than just a sewn cotton cover. The packet has an easy tear corner, indicated with a big arrow, so the user can get the dressing out easily in a hurry:This particular dressing was made by Bauer and Black of Toronto:The dressing has instructions printed in English and French, with the initials of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps prominently displayed above them:Our second example dates form almost thirty years later and the same sterilised sealed packet is still used to protect the dressing, although by now this was the norm for armies across the world. The most obvious difference is that it is now made in a much greener shade than the 1950s example, useful as these were frequently taped onto the yoke’s of the men’s webbing:Note as well that the nomenclature has changed from ‘Shell Dressing’ to ‘Dressing, First Aid, Field’. This dressing was made in May 1982 by Kendall of Toronto:The rear of the packet has the same instructions, but again in French:This makes a great deal of sense when you remember that Canada is bi-lingual with a large French speaking population. By printing the dressings in both languages, only one design was needed for all their troops.