Monthly Archives: March 2018

MTP PCS Shirt

When MTP was introduced into widespread service with the British Army, the shirts followed the CS95 design but in the new material. This was rapidly superseded by a new design, the ‘PCS’ shirt that had some features brought across from UBACS shirts and it is one of these we are looking at tonight:imagePCS stands for ‘Personal Clothing System’ and was introduced in around 2011. This clothing did away with many of the buttons used on previous designs, replacing them with Velcro. The front of the shirt is zipped, with a Velcro fly over it:imageA centrally mounted rank slide is fitted, with concealed Velcro pockets on either side of the breast:imageOpening these we can see that each also has a smaller internal pocket as well:imageThe bottom of each sleeve has three slots to allow foam padding to be fitted, like the UBACS shirt, to make it more comfortable when lying down firing a rifle:imageNote also the small buttons for securing the cuffs. Further up each sleeve is a large diagonally mounted pocket:imageThese were supplied with blanking panels (missing on this example) to cover up the loop part of Velcro. Opened up like this, insignia can be attached using Velcro for operations and then removed for either security or for washing.

The collar of the shirt can either be worn open in the usual fashion, or turned up and secured with a Velcro tab:imageInterestingly, although referred to by everyone as a shirt, this is actually designated by the army as a jacket:imageWhen the PCS was issued it was designed to always be worn untucked at the waist and with the sleeves down by the army (the navy though tucked in and rolled sleeves). The army decided that it would like to return to tucked in shirts and rolled sleeves in the summer quite quickly. The PCS shirt is not idea for this due to its bulk and a supplementary design has now been introduced with plain sleeves and without the large Velcro panels on the sleeves. This is worn in the summer and it is much easier to make this look smart than the PCS shirt!

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Book Review- Webley and Scott Automatic Pistols

Personally I find the early development of automatic hand guns fascinating, with many different and experimental weapons developed. Some would see great success like the Mauser C96, others were finicky and prone to breakages and dropped into obscurity. Britain was slow off the mark to create an indigenous automatic handgun and it would be the first decade of the twentieth century that finally saw the Webley and Scott company produce commercially viable guns. Before this the company had experimented in a unique concept, the automatic revolver in the form of the iconic Webley-Fosbery, which today has a cult following far in excess of its actual utility as a weapon. The automatics the company did develop had some unique features and were produced in quite large numbers, culminating in a contract to produce a large bore handgun for the Royal Navy just before World War one. It is the story of these weapons that Gordon Bruce’s book Webley and Scott Automatic Pistols covers.SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAThe book starts with a fascinating biography of William Whiting, the creative mind behind the company’s automatic revolvers and pistols, it was very much due to his combination of charisma, vision, technical competence and sheer bloody-mindedness that kept the company in the market for automatic pistols. It then continues by taking a detailed look at the Webley Fosbery and then the various iterations of the Webley automatics in a variety of calibres for both the civilian and military-police markets. The book covers in great detail all the various manufacturing variations and mechanical changes to the guns over their lifetime, as well as including a number of official reports from various testing the different models underwent in the quest for a large scale contract. If this was just text it would soon become overwhelming for the reader. Happily the book is profusely illustrated with photographs of existing guns, showing their internal workings and how their designs were modified over time. These photographs are accompanied with close ups of markings, diagrams of the internal workings taken from patent applications and pictures of the weapons stripped down to their component parts. As is typical for these books all the illustrations are in black and white, however they are clear and easy to follow and help demonstrate the more technical aspects of the text well.imageimageimageThis book was first published in 1992 and I would argue that it was and will remain the definitive tome on the subject of Webley automatics for many decades to come. There is a huge amount of detail in this book and happily the author’s writing style is engaging enough that it avoids becoming too overwhelming. For a book first published a quarter of a century ago, it is still available new from Amazon for under £40. This seems an absolute steal to me, especially when compared to the prices Collector’s Grade books of the same vintage go for. If you are interested in this subject at all, I heartily recommend you pick up a copy. Sadly I suspect I will never get to own either a Webley Fosbery or a Webley Automatic as they are now scarce and expensive weapons, but their story is fascinating and they remain one of a very few indigenous British automatic handgun designs.

3 Gallon Dixie

The metal two part ‘Dixie’ cooking pot was a very long lasting piece of equipment in the British army with examples serving from before the Great War until the 1990s. Although latterly made from aluminium, up until the 1950s dixies were made of tinned iron and it is a Second World War example we are looking at tonight:imageThe name ‘dixie’ comes from the Hindi word ‘degchi’ meaning a small pot. This cooking pot is not actually that small, having a capacity of three gallons! The dixie consists of two parts, a large lower pan and a top lid that could be used as a frying pan or a serving platter:imageA pair of wire handles are provided on each side of the lid for carrying it when separate from the main pot:imageA heavy duty metal handle is also fitted to the main body to allow the dixie to be carried or hung over a fire:imageThis secures to the dixie with two massive metal eyelets:imageThis is all very heavy duty, but one must remember how heavy the pot would be when filled with stew! Like most of these dixies, the lid and main body are mismatched. The lid is dated 1940:imageWhilst the body is 1951:imageThis is typical as multiple dixies would have been in use at any one time and troops washing them up would just have put a lid with a base, regardless of the dates on them! The lid of this dixie is a little unusual in having been painted and stencilled:imageQuite what the significance of this lettering is no longer remains clear. The food that could be cooked in these dixies was a little limited as it tended to be things cooked by boiling such as stews and curries. Having said that, in the field a hot and hearty meal would have been very welcome and the size of the dixie made it easy to feed large numbers of men quite quickly, a ladle being used to spoon the contents out into each man’s mess tin. Here men snatch a quick hot meal at Cruelly, 9th July 1944. Note the dixie sat on the stove heating the food and the lid of a second dixie being used as a serving tray:23130532_359224717863710_4751526285200614535_nI am a little wary of using this dixie to prepare food in as it looks a little manky inside. It is possible to have them re-tinned so they are again food safe, but as I am unlikely to need to use it anytime soon that is a decision for another day…

Osprey Mk II Shoulder Brassards

Continuing our weekly study of the various marks of Osprey and their accessories, tonight we are looking at the brassards that were issued to enable the Mk II Osprey to be up-armoured:imageBrassards are pieces of soft armour, designed to deflect shrapnel from fragmentation devices that protect the shoulders and upper arms of the wearer. Before the introduction of Osprey, Kestrel sets of armour had included these as permanent parts of the vests to be used by troops in static but exposed positions. The Osprey system made the brassards detachable to allow a set of armour to be scaled up or down depending on threat level and operational requirement. The brassard set consists of four separate pieces of soft Kevlar armour in DDPM covers:imageThe two larger shield shaped pieces are designed to sit over the shoulders. They have a large tab at the top with Velcro and a press stud to attach to the corresponding fasteners on the vest:imageThe long strap at the bottom of the brassard wraps around the upper arm to hold the armour in position:imageThe brassards are not matching, one has a Union flag sewn to it:imageThe other has a small pouch secured with a Velcro flap:imageThe back of the brassard has a ribbed fabric to help draw sweat away from the body and prevent the brassard sliding around too much:imageThese brassards need to be held securely, but still be able to move easily to mirror the wearer’s movements. To accomplish this tabs are provided with female press studs either end of an elastic strap:imageThe brassards do not completely cover the shoulder region of the wearer, so two smaller panels are also provided that fill in the gaps on the rear of the vest:imageThese attach securely to the vest itself with Velcro and press studs and use one of the elastic fasteners to attach to the main shoulder brassard:imageEach of the components is labelled and has an NSN number, however it was intended that they were issued as a complete unit along with vest and collars. The stores catalogue does list the brassards separately to allow them to be ordered as a replacement for damaged components, but again they can only be ordered as a full set of four pieces of armour rather than as individual components.imageIt seems very unlikely that extra brassards would ever have been ordered as they were never very popular and most soldiers discarded them to reduce the weight and bulk of the Osprey system.

As with the collars, these brassards are packed out with cut up yoga mats to give them the right stiffness and weight.

South African Lewis Gun Pouches

When one thinks of a British Empire light machine gun for World War II, it is the Bren that springs to mind and it was certainly the most common weapon in service in this role. It was not the only one though and whilst the Indians used the Vickers-Berthier, the venerable Lewis gun was to see extensive service as well. Fir the British this was a second line weapon, used by the Navy, airfield defence units and the Home Guard. For the South Africans however it was their main light machine gun at the start of the war and was to remain so for a number of years. As such specialist webbing pouches were issued to carry the weapon’s distinctive magazines:imageUnfortunately I only have two of the pouches (four were needed for a full set) and the connecting strap is Indian rather than South African made, we will look at the strap in more detail separately. The pouches were designed to be worn so that there were two at the front and two at the rear as in this reconstruction:CaptureEach individual pouch is made of webbing in a circular shape to match the magazines themselves:imageThe design is a very close copy of the British WW1 Lewis pouches, however instead of a Sam Browne style stud and button hole fastener, these use blackened metal press studs to secure the top flaps:imageThese press studs are particularly poor quality and were probably made in South Africa. Opening them, the pouch splits about exactly half way to give easy access to the magazines carried within:imageNote the large flaps on the side to wrap around the edges of the magazine to help protect them further from the elements. A large metal buckle is sewn to the top of each pouch and is typical of South African manufacture, being made of a simple metal stamping, painted gold:imageThis then allows the pouch to be attached to the yoke strap. Looking at the rear we can see that on the left is a tab with a metal chape, and on the right a corresponding Twigg buckle allowing the pouch to be attached to the others in the set:imageThe underside of the top flap is stamped with the manufacturer’s name, Daniel Isaac Fram of Johannesburg, and the date 1941:imageRon Myburgh was a South African who served as an Anti-Aircraft gunner at Kizingo Camp and used Lewis guns:

We were eight men to a bell tent in the cold Transvaal winter for a little over three weeks learning rifle and marching drill and how to cure the 21 “stoppages” of the WW1 Lewis machine guns with which we were going north to East Africa to do battle… Our Battery was lodged in Tudor Camp on Mombasa Island while the other two went north to a camp outside Nairobi. I developed a high temperature here and was placed in hospital; they thought I had malaria, until a blood test showed that it was merely influenza. When I was discharged I was posted to a sandbagged position on top of the Rex Hotel [Kilindini Road] with a twin Lewis gun. We were spoilt here as we slept in a hotel bedroom and dined in the dining room. However, after a couple of weeks we were moved to a position on the South side of the entrance to Kilindini Harbour where we had to excavate three gun pits in solid coral for our “triangle” of harbour defence guns.mombasa-ron-mybur-1940-1-with-artillery-(right)My thanks go to Arthur Cook for helping me add these to the collection.

Unissued Women’s No 2 Dress Uniform Jacket

I don’t collect a lot of women’s uniform items for my collection, however occasionally something turns up where the price is so cheap I really can’t leave it there, hence the unissued Women’s Service Dress jacket tonight that I picked up for just 50p:imageThis jacket is based very closely on the men’s No2 Service dress jacket, but cut to fit the female figure and buttoning to the opposite side. Other changes made include changing the exterior pockets to a simple straight slit pocket:imageThis example has never been issued so there is a series of white thread ‘x’s up the front indicating where the buttons would be sewn:imageThis allows one uniform to be manufactured and the correct regimental buttons added later by the owner, thus saving the costs of having to have several different patterns manufactured. The shoulder straps are also sewn down with white thread:imageThe jacket came with a packet of staybrite buttons for the Adjutant General’s Corps in the pocket:imageThe Adjutant General’s Corps was formed in 1992 and provides much of the administrative support needed to run the army. It was formed from personnel drawn from

  • Army Legal Corps
  • Corps of Royal Military Police
  • Military Provost Staff Corps
  • Royal Army Educational Corps
  • Royal Army Pay Corps
  • Women’s Royal Army Corps
  • Staff clerks from the Royal Army Ordnance Corps
  • Clerks from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME)

The inside of the jacket is fully lined, with a small change pocket sewn in, inside of which is the original cutter’s label from when it was first manufactured:imageA white stores label is sewn into the inside of the jacket with sizing, which for women has a bust size rather than a chest size:imageThis jacket would have been worn with a khaki blouse and tie and a matching skirt, accompanied by a peaked regimental cap for parades:CaptureThis particular design of jacket has now been rendered obsolete by the new ‘FAD’ dress uniform introduced at the start of this decade and like most items of parade uniform can be picked up very cheaply on the surplus market.

Victorian Print of Gordon and Wolseley

The Boy’s Own Paper was a weekly magazine published in the United Kingdom from 1879 to 1967. During the late Victorian period it was one of the most popular boy’s papers and had a distinctly patriotic slant to its content. It published adventure stories, notes on nature, sports and games, puzzles and it included prints of famous men of the day that were frequently stuck to boy’s bedroom walls in the same manner posters are today. In the late Victorian period the heroes for many boys were the generals and admirals of the British Empire involved in daring do on the frontiers of Empire and tonight we have one of those illustrations from the Boy’s Own Paper depicting two Victorian heroes: Major General Charles Gordon and General Lord Wolseley:SKM_C45817022813520Major General Gordon

SKM_C45817022813520 - CopyMajor-General Charles George Gordon CB (28 January 1833 – 26 January 1885), also known as Chinese Gordon, Gordon Pasha, and Gordon of Khartoum, was a British Army officer and administrator. He saw action in the Crimean War as an officer in the British Army. However, he made his military reputation in China, where he was placed in command of the “Ever Victorious Army,” a force of Chinese soldiers led by European officers. In the early 1860s, Gordon and his men were instrumental in putting down the Taiping Rebellion, regularly defeating much larger forces. For these accomplishments, he was given the nickname “Chinese Gordon” and honours from both the Emperor of China and the British.

He entered the service of the Khedive of Egypt in 1873 (with British government approval) and later became the Governor-General of the Sudan, where he did much to suppress revolts and the local slave trade. Exhausted, he resigned and returned to Europe in 1880.

A serious revolt then broke out in the Sudan, led by a Muslim religious leader and self-proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad. In early 1884 Gordon had been sent to Khartoum with instructions to secure the evacuation of loyal soldiers and civilians and to depart with them. In defiance of those instructions, after evacuating about 2,500 British civilians he retained a smaller group of soldiers and non-military men. In the buildup to battle, the two leaders corresponded, each attempting to convert the other to his faith, but neither would accede.

Besieged by the Mahdi’s forces, Gordon organised a citywide defence lasting almost a year that gained him the admiration of the British public, but not of the government, which had wished him not to become entrenched. Only when public pressure to act had become irresistible did the government, with reluctance, send a relief force. It arrived two days after the city had fallen and Gordon had been killed.

General Wolseley

SKM_C45817022813520 - Copy (2)Field Marshal Garnet Joseph Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley (4 June 1833 – 25 March 1913), was an Anglo-Irish officer in the British Army. He became one of the most influential and admired British generals after a series of successes in Canada, West Africa, and Egypt, followed by a central role in modernizing the British Army in promoting efficiency. He served in Burma, the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, China, Canada and widely throughout Africa—including his Ashanti campaign (1873–1874) and the Nile Expedition against Mahdist Sudan in 1884–85. Wolseley served as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces from 1895 to 1900. His reputation for efficiency led to the late 19th century English phrase “everything’s all Sir Garnet”, meaning, “All is in order.”

With both of these men being involved in the Sudan campaigns, I suspect that this print dates to around 1885; showing the martyred hero of Khartoum and the commanding officer of the British forces sent to suppress the rebellion.