Following on from last night’s post on the NBC Suit Mk III Smock, tonight we look at the matching trousers:These are made from the same green fabric as the smock and have the same charcoal infused fabric inners to protect against radiation. Again they come issued in a compressed and vacuum sealed package, rated for four years in storage:The trousers have distinctive diagonal strips of Velcro with matching tabs on the ends of each leg:These allow the trousers to be wrapped tightly to ensure a good fit under the rubber NBC boots issued with the set. A single pocket is provided on the thigh:The trousers are held up with a pair of integral braces that pass over the shoulders:And minimal waist adjustment is provided with another Velcro tab:Instructions on correct fitting were included in the British Army NBC manual ‘Survive to Fight’:As with the smock, a white label is sewn in indicating that this pair are a ‘small’ and were made in 1981 by Remploy:By all accounts the Mk III NBC suit was held in reserve for many years to be issued in case of war, the older Mk II being used for training throughout the Cold War. It was only in the late 1980s, many years after their introduction, that the Mk III came to be commonly seen- just as a new DPM version began to be released to replace it. The Mk III suit is very common today, with large numbers of mint sealed examples being available to purchase on eBay and similar sites.
Tonight we have part one of a two part post on the British Mk III NBC suit. This suit was introduced in 1976 and consisted of two parts, a hooded smock and a pair of trousers. Tonight we are going to look at the smock and tomorrow the trousers. Together with the S6 respirator and protective gloves and boots these made up a complete protective suit for working in nuclear and chemical battlefields:The smock was issued in a vacuum sealed bag that gave it a storage shelf life of four years. A paper label visible under the packaging helped identify the contents:A second label was provided to the back of the package, helpfully giving instructions on what to do should the hood’s slide fastener become broken!On opening the packet the smock can be removed and it consists of a mid-green, over-the-head garment made from modoacrylic and nylon:Unlike other nations the British NBC suit was designed to have air pockets inside it to make it more comfortable to wear for long periods of time- the suit being expected to give protection for up to 24 hours. The inside of the smock has a black liner made of a charcoal impregnated fabric:This is lining that protects the wearer from radiation. A large central pocket is fitted onto the front of the suit:According to ARRSE the pocket was useful for storing a packet of fags! A set of pen holders is fastened to one of the sleeves of the smock:Each sleeve has a Velcro fastener to allow the sleeves to be tightened to help provide a close seal with the gloves:A pad is sewn onto the sleeve to allow detector papers to be attached:Around the waist is another set of Velcro straps that allow this to be tightened as well:The smock has a large integrated hood:This has a drawstring that allows a tight seal to be formed with the wearer’s S6 Respirator. The inside of the hood has the smock’s label:From this we can see that the smock is a ‘Large’. The NBC suit came in five sizes, each with its own NSN number:
X Small: CH 8415-99-132-3493
Small: CH 8415-99-132-3494
Normal: CH 8415-99-132-3495
Large: CH 8415-99-132-3496
Special: CH 8415-99-132-3497
Tomorrow we will look at the accompanying trousers, but I leave you tonight with this rather frightening image of troops on exercise in Mk III NBC suits:
A naval petty officer is equivalent to an army sergeant and is the lowest of the Senior Rates in the Royal Navy. Petty Officers have a distinctive rank badge of crossed anchors beneath the sovereigns crown. Today this badge is usually worn in the form of a shoulder slide, however during the Second World War it was commonly worn as an embroidered badge on the sleeve. These were produced in gold thread for best uniforms and in red for everyday working uniform, this is an example of the latter:This has the king’s crown above the anchors, indicating a pre-1952 manufacture. The same badge is illustrated in the 1937 Seaman’s Handbook:The badge appears to be machine embroidered, and the loose threads can be seen on the back:Although today all petty officers wear ‘fore and aft’ rig, during the Second World War there were various grades of petty officer and those who had only qualified in the last year still wore the ratings’ ‘square rig’:Note the petty officer’s badge on his sleeve. However it is the double breasted monkey jacket that is most associated with the rank, again the crossed anchor badge is clearly visible:
Tonight we come to the final post on the 82 pattern webbing set, at least until I track down some more components. The Canadian Army issued a special lightweight rucksack for their troop’s NBC equipment that accompanied the 82 pattern set, although technically it was never actually a part of the equipment. This small pack was popular with troops and frequently used in the field as a general purpose haversack to supplement the ‘butt’ pack we looked at a few weeks back. The pack is made of green nylon, with three straps on the front securing the flap:These are secured with black ‘Fastex’ fasteners:The pack here is made in a mid green shade, other examples can be found with much darker colouring. Under the top flap is a drawstring that helps secure the main part of the rucksack and keeps the contents dry:One side of the pack has a small exterior pocket, secured with Velcro:The rucksack has a pair of shoulder straps sewn to the rear, with slide adjusters to allow the wearer to get a comfortable fit:Each strap is heavily padded for comfort:This pack has clearly seen heavy use as there are a number of different soldiers’ names and numbers written in pen on the underside of the top flap:The only label inside the bag is a small manufacturer’s label for ‘Just Kit’:This then ends our study of the 82 pattern set for the time being- there are still some components left to find so we will revisit the set as and when I add these to the collection. I hope this series has been of interest to you and that I have managed to raise the profile of this underappreciated set of commonwealth webbing.
Unfortunately, like so many things, the militaria market has a small number of bad eggs who will fake or adulterate items to try and make a quick profit. One common method is to try and alter dates to make them ‘wartime’ on the basis that wartime dated items are more desirable than post war items. Sadly tonight’s object has been subject to this, with some unscrupulous individual trying to alter the date of this Canadian beret from 1946 to 1945! Luckily it is still a very nice object and I picked it up for a very cheap price so I cannot complain:The beret is made of a high quality dark tan wool, with a black broadcloth fabric liner:Two black ventilation grommets are fitted to one side:Note also the leather sweat band machine sewn into the brim. A drawstring is threaded through, and secures at the back with a small bow:The inside of the cap has a printed manufacturer’s label, note how the ‘6’ has been mysteriously worn away on the date!From this we can see that not only is the beret a nice large size, but that it was also manufactured by The Dorothea Knitting Mill Ltd of Toronto. This company produced berets for the Canadian military for many years, and indeed the company is still in existence today.
The khaki beret was used by the Canadian Army from 1943 onwards to replace the Field Service side cap and was far more fashionable than the British GS Cap, leading to them becoming prized acquisitions by British troops of a sartorial nature. One thing to note about the design of the Canadian beret is that it is noticeably smaller in the crown than equivalent British examples of the period, and this seems to have been a conscious choice by the military, although it is still considerably larger than modern berets.
This week’s Sunday night image is a fine Edwardian postcard of the cruiser HMS Bedford:This shows the ship dressed for some occasion, with bunting flying from her masts and an awning on her quarterdeck. This card was sent in 1905, as seen from the postmark on the back:I particularly like the message pencilled on ‘We saw lots of boats like this yesterday. Plymouth April 23rd’. HMS Bedford was a Monmouthshire Class armoured cruiser, launched in 1901.
Bedford was designed to displace 9,800 long tons (9,960 t). The ship had an overall length of 463 feet 6 inches (141.3 m), a beam of 66 feet (20.1 m) and a deep draught of 25 feet (7.6 m). She was powered by two 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines, each driving one shaft, which produced a total of 22,000 indicated horsepower (16,000 kW) and gave a maximum speed of 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph). The engines were powered by 31 Belleville boilers. Bedford was fitted for partial oil burning as an experiment and sported three elegant tall funnels:She carried a maximum of 1,600 long tons (1,626 t) of coal and her complement consisted of 678 officers and enlisted men. Her main armament consisted of fourteen breech-loading (BL) 6-inch Mk VII guns. Four of these guns were mounted in two twin-gun turrets, one each fore and aft of the superstructure:The others positioned in casemates amidships:Six of these were mounted on the main deck and were only usable in calm weather. They had a maximum range of approximately 12,200 yards with their 100-pound (45 kg) shells. Ten quick-firing (QF) 12-pounder 12 cwt guns were fitted for defence against torpedo boats. Bedford also carried three 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns and two submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes. The ship carried a number of boats:And in the foreground can be seen a steam launch:The ship’s waterline armour belt had a maximum thickness of four inches (102 mm) and was closed off by five-inch (127 mm) transverse bulkheads. The armour of the gun turrets and their barbettes was four inches thick while the casemate armour was five inches thick. The protective deck armour ranged in thickness from .75–2 inches (19–51 mm) and the conning tower was protected by ten inches (254 mm) of armour. She was controlled from an open bridge, typical of the period:Bedford, named after the English county, was laid down on 19 February 1900 by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering at their Govan shipyard. She was launched on 31 August 1901, when she was christened by Charlotte Mary Emily Burns, wife of the Hon. James Cleland Burns, of the Cunard Line shipping family. In May 1902 she was navigated to Devonport for completion and trials. She was completed on 11 November 1903 and initially assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Channel Fleet. Bedford was briefly placed in reserve at the Nore in 1906 before being recommissioned in February 1907 for service on the China Station. She was wrecked on 21 August 1910 at Quelpart Island in the East China Sea with 18 men killed. The wreck was subsequently sold for breaking up on 10 October 1910.
On 15th July 1982 a charity called ‘The South Atlantic Fund’ was constituted to raise money to aid the victims of the war in the Falkland Islands and their families. By Autumn 1982 a sum of £11 million had been raised and one of those contributing to the fund was the Royal Mail who issued a special first day cover to raise money:Fortuitously the Royal Mail had issued a set of stamps based on famous naval personalities from history on 16th June, which provided a suitable set of stamps to display on the cover:A special envelope was printed for the South Atlantic Fund, with a design incorporating the White Ensign and the silhouette of a frigate:Inside the envelope is a card giving details of the charity and how much money the Royal Mail was aiming to collect:Alan Feinstein, Director of Public Relations at The Post Office wrote to the Daily Mail on 7th June 1982 explaining:
Mrs Such (Letters) will be pleased to learn that the Post Office will be offering for sale a million special pictorial envelopes with a maritime theme to boost the South Atlantic Fund by a minimum of £100,000.
They will go on sale at most post offices from June 28 until July 2, following the issue on June 16 of our planned Maritime Heritage stamps planned more than two years ago to celebrate the English Tourist Board’s Maritime Heritage Year.
The Post Office is guaranteeing a £100,000 minimum donation from the sale of the special envelope and the stamps bought for them, and any surplus will also go to the fund.
A special advert was taken out in the national press to advertise the covers:Sadly I have been unable to find out the exact amount of money raised by the sale of these covers, but judging by how common they are I suspect a lot were sold!