Weapons, when not in use need to be carefully stored. As most weapons are awkward shapes a sturdy purpose built wooden box is ideal. It protects the weapon, can hold any accessories, is easy to transport and by its boxy shape is easy to stack up in a warehouse or store. The 2” mortar is no different and thanks to Gary Hancock I have now been able to add the transit case to my little mortar set up. The transit box is a sturdy wooden box, painted in gloss green paint:A pair of sturdy rope carry handles are fitted to each end to allow it to be easily moved around:A pair of heavy duty metal clasps is fitted to secure the lid, and as the box contains a weapon each of these is fitted with a loop to allow a padlock to be fitted to secure the contents:Inside the box wooden cut outs are fitted:These, together with the webbing strap, hold the mortar snuggly and prevent it from moving around in transit:A pair of wedges on the underside of the lid press down from above:The ends of the box and the edges are lined with felt to help protect the contents and make a tight seal where the lid meets the box:Note the chain to prevent the lid from falling too far back. A contents label is pasted to the underside of the lid to indicate what should be carried inside the transit case:There appears to be at least a couple of different patterns of transit cases for the 2” mortar. As well as this design there is an earlier case for the early pattern of 2” mortar which had a different type of base plate and so needed different chocks inside the box to secure it. These boxes also seem to have specific places to put the sight, cleaning kit and spares tin. Mine does not, but they fit around the mortar easily enough and I managed to get them all in with no difficulties.
Commercial companies have been producing webbing for sale to British troops for many years. These sets are often purchased because they are seen as better designed than the issue sets, or because they add to the wearer’s ‘allyness’. I have never really bothered picking up examples of this webbing because it is often hard to tell what has actually been used by a soldier and what has been sold on the commercial market for use by airsofters. Tonight though we have a set of commercially produced webbing that I am pretty confident was used by a member of the British Army and as it cost me just £10 for the full set I was quite happy to take the risk that I could be wrong.It has been suggested that this set was made by Pathfinder or Dragon Supplies, but it has no label and I have yet to find an identical pattern I can attribute to a maker. This design of webbing is clearly heavily inspired by the PLCE webbing produced for the British Army but there are a large number of differences. To start with the pouches are all sewn onto a wide padded belt which goes around the wearer’s waist as a single piece:A metal roller buckle is fitted to the front to secure this in place:A mesh yoke, very similar to that used on PLCE is fitted, the mesh providing a large surface area for weight distribution without increasing the number of layers of fabric the wearer has to deal with:This attaches to the belt with black metal tabs, each with a triangle cut out of them, just like the design used with the PLCE sets:Note the carabineer used to attach the soldiers helmet and the green tape binding up the ends of the straps, both clear indicators that this set was probably used by a serviceman. A number of different pouches are fitted around the belt, some are simple ammunition pouches for SA80 magazines:Note the small grenade pouch to the left of these. The back has large utility pouches that could be used for water bottles, personal kit or belts of GPMG ammunition:Whilst the right hand end of the set has a much larger pouch that I suspect was intended for the soldier’s respirator to fit into:All of the pouches have drainage holes in the bottom and plastic D-rings are fitted to allow items to be clipped on:The elastic cord has been added to help reduce the problem of ‘pouch bounce’ when running and is another indicator that this set was used by someone who needed them set up for regular use in the field. I really like this set, but I am not intending to add much more commercial webbing to my collection beyond this representative piece as there are so many variations and manufacturers out there and as a collector you can rarely be entirely sure that what you have bought was even used militarily.
This week’s postcard depicts two men posing with a war memorial in the 1920s:From the inscription it is clear that this memorial was presented by the Normanton Liberal Club:The memorial depicts a British tommy in his uniform and webbing, at ease with his rifle:Some research has allowed me to identify this memorial as one that stands in the gardens of the Cartmel Grange Nursing Home in Grange over Sands and it is made of cast concrete. Presumably this material was chosen because it was a cheaper option that having a cast metal or a carved stone memorial. The memorial originally stood in front of the nursing home that had been built as a convalescent home for members of the Club and Institutes Union. Until recently however he stood in another part of the grounds in disrepair and filthy, with badly patched feet:Happily about ten years ago funds were found to allow the statue to be restored and returned to his original position near the nursing home:In 1919 the Royal Academy had organised an exhibition of war memorial designs to inspire local communities who wished to erect their own local memorials. They also issued a catalogue of standard designs that could be shown to architects and stone masons when producing memorials as there were no central funds for memorials, all local monuments being paid for by their local communities by public subscription of private donations. Depending on the wealth of a community memorials could range from a simple stone with a brass plaque to a full set of cast bronze statues surrounding a marble obelisk. Today these memorials remain at the heart of British communities and are still a focus for remembrance.
I last covered the British Army shaving brush right back when the blog began as part of the wash roll covered here. That shaving brush was made of Bakelite and of reasonably high quality. Tonight though we are looking at a much cruder and presumably cheaper shaving brush that was again issued to British troops:This example is made from wood and clearly started off by being having the handle turned on a lathe, the point where the spindle was pressed into the wood still being visible on the base of the brush:The top of the handle was divided into four, with a central area to accept the bristles:After this was secured, string was tightly wound around the top of the handle to draw the four quarters together and secure the bristles into the handle:Note the recess lathed into the handle for the string to sit in. The handle is stamped in ink indicating it was made in London in 1945:The /|\ arrow clearly indicates it was made for the military. This is definitely the budget end of shaving brushes and I suspect many troops would have quickly ditched this brush in favour of a better quality civilian example, not only is the handle crude, but the bristles are coarse and unlikely to make a good lather easily.
One problem which troops in World War Two managed to avoid however was catching facial anthrax from their shaving brushes. In World War 1 it became difficult to acquire enough badger hair to make the brushes, badger hair being the best material as it held water better than other animal hair. Substitute hair, including horse hair was used instead. Unfortunately herbivores such as horses are susceptible to anthrax and some suppliers of this hair did not thoroughly clean and disinfect it before it was made into brushes. This led to an outbreak of subcutaneous anthrax amongst soldiers using the low cost bristles. It was found that brushes with lighter bristles were more likely to give off anthrax. This was because manufacturers were less inclined to disinfect this colour hair as it reduced its resemblance to badger hair. Darker bristles were more likely to be disinfected as they could not be disguised as badger hair and so were less likely to carry anthrax.
I am a great fan of badged camouflage shirts, they are cheap, easily available and there are many different variations out there to collect, they also seem to have more character and more of a history to them than a mint unissued item. I suspect that in years to come these shirts will become increasingly collectible, but for now they remain cheap on the secondary market. We have looked at a number of these on the blog over the years and tonight it is the turn of an RAF badged desert DPM shirt dating from the War on Terror:The shirt is an absolutely standard CS-95 type example, but has a large ‘Royal Air Force’ title sewn above one breast pocket:And a three coloured tactical recognition flash on the sleeve:The RAF deployed large numbers of men and women to both Iraq and Afghanistan, not only as pilots and aircrew but also as ground staff, medical personnel and as part of the RAF regiment defending air bases. All these personnel wore the standard DDPM clothing of the period, with RAF and RAF regiment specific insignia sewn onto the uniforms. The scale of the RAF’s contribution in Iraq was commented upon in the Daily Mail in 2003:
Around 100 RAF warplanes will soon be in the Gulf in the biggest deployment of British offensive aerial firepower in modern times.
The announcement came yesterday, giving the strongest signal yet that an Anglo-American attack against Iraq is close.
The massive RAF contribution which also encompasses 8,000 personnel, now totals one-third of the service’s front line strength… today’s RAF is barely half the size of the 1991 force- so proportionately, yesterday’s orders represent the biggest operational commitment in decades.
Military experts said it is the largest possible strike force the RAF can muster, and will place a huge strain on the already hard-pressed service.
The deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan were to keep the RAF busy for the next decade and even today men and women of the RAF are in these countries in a limited role supporting the local militaries.
Every so often I come across a piece in my collection that I feel I surely must have covered on the blog before now, but on closer inspection find out that for some reason I have overlooked it. Tonight we have one of those pieces, the 25 pattern holster. We did look at this holster back in the early days of the blog when I compared it with the 37 pattern RAF holster here, however it has never had a post of its own and I feel that as one of the few remaining pieces of 25 pattern I haven’t covered this oversight needed amending. The holster itself is the second type of 25 pattern holster and is made of the standard blue-grey webbing used by the RAF for all its 25 pattern pieces:The earlier design of holster had featured a wooden plug in the end, much like the naval 1919 pattern holsters and was cut very differently to accommodate a Colt .455 automatic. At some point the design changed to one more suitable for revolvers which were the standard sidearm of the British Empire and this is the version I have in my collection. The lid of the holster is a simple flap secured with a brass press stud:A metal grommet is fitted into the base to allow any water to drain away:The rear of the holster has a pair of metal C-hooks to attach it to the belt with and a webbing channel to carry a cleaning rod:This exterior channel and the lack of a horizontal C-hook is the easiest way to identify these holsters as being 25 pattern rather than 37 pattern, the patterns being virtually identical otherwise.
The inside of the holster is stamped up with an Air ministry crown, a stores code and a date of 1941:These holsters were issued as part of the 25 pattern web set to RAF personnel who needed to carry sidearms. Up until the middle of the war, any airman or officer transiting from one base to another was supposed to be issued with a revolver (I doubt this was universal practice) and the accompanying webbing set. Even after this order was rescinded, webbing and sidearms were routinely carried by RAF police and men working in enemy territory such as at forward air bases. As such these 25 pattern holsters saw service right through to the 1960s when Browning Hi-Powers became the normal side arm.
This week we have another short post on the Osprey system as we look at the full size collars for the Osprey Mk IV:We have covered most of the details for these collars on the posts on the DDPM version of the collars here and the half collars for the MTP version and filler here. Details then will be familiar with the same Velcro and press stud arrangement for attaching the collar to the vest:Along with a loop on the rear to secure this section:A Velcro tab is provided to secure the front of the collar when worn, which can be tucked away on itself when not needed:The inside of the collar has two labels, one for each part:In close up we can see that the collar dates from 2012:Again, I am lacking fillers for this collar, but they do turn up from time to time so I will keep my eyes out for some and it’s another osprey component I can tick off the list.