In the past we have looked at the post war aluminium mess tins of both the UK and Canada, despite detail differences these designs are very similar and both nations used a deep pan, with a wire handle that folded over the top. Australia however went for a very different design to their post-war mess tins and tonight we have the opportunity to look at a pair of these: These mess tins are pretty hard to find on this side of the world, as indeed is any Australian Army kit, so I was very pleased to be able to add a set to my collection. There are two very notable changes between these tins and the ones we are more familiar with. Firstly the handles are made up of two parts that wrap around the sides of the pan rather than over the top. Secondly the pans themselves are much shallower, being barely more than an inch deep: The two mess tins stack inside each other in the usual way to take up less space: This pair date from February 1972, and the panel on the end has the /|\ mark and the Australian version of an NSN number: Australia is not part of NATO, but uses the same coding system and has been allocated the county code of ‘66’. This particular pair of mess tins have clearly seen service and the name of a previous owner has been scratched into the base of one of the tins: The merits of the Australian mess tin, besides it being lighter due to its smaller size, are that the twin handles make it much easier to pour hot liquids from the mess tin into a cup for instance without the risk of the handle ‘flopping’ and spilling the contents all over you hand. The smaller capacity also makes it quicker to heat up food and water in the tin- the downside is the smaller capacity which means you cannot get as much in them.
In 1963 Australia introduced a new sub machine gun to replace its venerable Owen gun. Like the Owen gun before it this new sub machine gun, known as the F1, had a top mounted magazine, but this time it used the same slightly curved magazines as the British Sterling. To go with these magazines, Australia introduced a new piece of webbing- a pouch with four pockets to hold four separate magazines on the soldier’s belt:Each pocket had a metal staple and webbing tab quick release fastener:These opened up to put each magazine into a separate compartment:Having separate top flaps meant that the soldier only had to open one at a time, reducing the risk of him forgetting to fasten the flap correctly and all the magazines dropping out. As is now standard with pouches, metal eyelets are fitted to the base of each pocket to allow water to drain away:On the back a pair of cotton webbing loops are sewn to provide a pair of belt loops to secure the pouch onto the belt:The inside of the pouch has ink stamped details with a manufacturer’s name, date of 1972 and an NSN number:Although this set of pouches did see some service with the Australians in Vietnam, they were never popular as a standard ammunition pouch could hold six magazines and took up a lot less room on the belt of a standard web set. Most of these pouches are found, like this one, in mint condition and see to have been unissued. As any Australian webbing is hard to find in the UK I have been very pleased to add this to my very small collection of post war Antipodean equipment.
If any single event can be said to have helped forge the Australian nation it was the First World War. From its experiences at Gallipoli to the Western Front, the ANZACs helped create a unique identity for the country and a sense that to be Australian was different to being English. The Australian military forces grew rapidly and officers were drawn increasingly from members of the fledgling nation rather than using the British. Tonight we have a delightful photograph, that turned up on the market a month or so back, that depicts an Australian Army officer and his wife:Sadly someone has coated the photograph with varnish at some point which has resulted in the unfortunate brown shade of the print now. On a happier note though we have the name of the officer recorded on the rear in pencil. He is a Mr A W Marler of Penrith, New South Wales. He is dressed in the standard officer’s service dress of the time:With the shirt and tie expected of his position:He wears a brown leather Sam Brown belt:And his rank of lieutenant is clearly visible from the two ‘pips’ on his shoulders:His cap has the large ‘rising sun’ cap badge of the Australian military:The same badge is repeated in smaller sizes on his collar dogs:I think this photograph was probably taken towards the end of the war as not only is his rank on his shoulders rather than his sleeves, but his wife is wearing a less formal dress associated with the later period than the more formal Edwardian clothes more often seen at the start of the Great War:I have tried to find out some more information on Lieutenant Marler, but so far I have drawn a blank. If any readers can help fill in details of his life and service please get in contact as it would be nice to add a little detail to the picture. Australian Officers had a reputation for being far more relaxed with their men than their British counterparts, as related in this anecdote:
London 1918. An English Major, red in the face with anger approaches an Aussie Major in the street. “I say” he asks “are those chaps over there yours?” The Australian has a look and replies “Yair, looks like it”. “Well” says the Pom “they just called me a silly old bastard. What are you going to do about it?” Well, you’re not are you?” asks Aus. “Of course not” fumes the Pride of England. “Well, run over there and tell ’em that they’re bloody liars” answered the Digger officer.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Australian military undertook a number of tests to find a new camouflage pattern that would suit troops operating in mainland Australia. The resultant pattern used five colours, with blotches of orange-brown, mid-brown, leaf-green and very dark-green overlaid on a greenish sand background. The splotches were in a distinctive shape, known colloquially as ‘hearts and bunnies’ and the camouflage pattern, officially designated ‘Disruptive Pattern Camouflage’ has become known as ‘Auscam’. I must confess that this has to be one of my favourite camouflage patterns so I was very pleased to be able to add an issue shirt to the collection:The shirt is secured up the front by a set of buttons hidden beneath a fly:Two angled breast pockets are fitted, one on each side of the chest:These are again secured by a pair of hidden buttons:The slanted pockets replaced an earlier design of this uniform that had straight pockets and was produced for a short period after the introduction of the camouflage pattern. A third pocket for pencils is sewn to the sleeve:Shoulder straps are fitted:These came with a lovely pair of Royal Australian Navy rank slides for an Able Seaman:Interestingly this particular rank design is one that is home-grown in the country, rather than being adopted form the British military like the other ranks insignia in the RAN.
Each cuff of the jacket has a tab and three buttons allowing the sleeve to be tightened to suit different conditions and preferences:The inside of the jacket has a worn manufacturer’s label indicating that the garment was made in Victoria in 1994:These uniforms could be seen in use by all arms of the Australian military when in ground based roles, but was obviously most commonly worn by the army:
Quite how an Australian military ID card turned up in West Yorkshire is something of a mystery, but tonight’s object did. This pass is made of buff card and was issued sometime after April 1968 when this batch of cards was reprinted:Sadly the officer who filled this out has appalling handwriting, so beyond knowing it was issued to 1202801 Recruit Jackson it is hard to make out much detail. A stamp detailing out of bounds areas is visible at the top of the card. The inside of the card has space to record a soldier’s leave and the instructions printed on the left indicate that he served on a base in Wagga Australia:There are two major bases in the area one RAAF and an Army base Blamey Barracks at the Kapooka Military Area. The site that was to become ARTC was established on a property on the southern slopes of the Pomingalarna Reserve in 1942 as a direct result of defence needs during World War II. As a part of the Royal Australian Engineers Centre thousands of engineers were trained in basic soldiering skills as well as engineering duties. In addition 47,000 regular soldiers also trained at the barracks from 1942 to 1945. The location was also the camp for members of the Australian Women’s Army Service who acted as orderlies, drivers and hospital staff during that period of time.
Following the Second World War the barracks became the 1st Recruit Training Battalion (1RTB) which was established in November 1951 with Lieutenant Colonel V.E. Dowdy appointed as the first Commanding Officer. During 1952 and 1953, 1RTB was joined by 2nd Recruit Training Battalion in temporary buildings on the ridge south of the main camp.
The RAAF also had a base in the area and the following histroy of RAAF Base Wagga comes from the Australian Air Force’s website:
RAAF Base Wagga has been an integral part of the local Wagga Wagga community since 1940. RAAF Wagga delivers technical and non-technical initial employment and postgraduate training that is fundamental to the delivery of military air and space power in support of national objectives.
RAAF Wagga supports two key headquarters of Wings from Air Force Training Group; RAAF College and Ground Training Wing; along with four major training units; No 1 Recruit Training Unit (1RTU), School of Postgraduate Studies (SPS), RAAF School of Technical Training (RAAFSTT), and the RAAF School of Administration and Logistics Training (RAAFSALT).
Combat Support Group units also provide support to the base. No 31 Squadron is responsible for the military coordination of RAAF Base Wagga and provides combat support to operations and training activities for Australian Defence Force units operating from RAAF Base Wagga. Wagga Health Centre along with No 1 Expeditionary Health Squadron detachment provide high quality health services to Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, as well as providing emergency response and first aid to the civil and defence community of the Riverina region if required. Their primary role is to support training and direct health support to the four major training units on RAAF Wagga.
The Royal Australian Air Force’s RAAF Base Wagga, in NSW’s Riverina region, is referred to as the ‘Home of the Airman’ due to the presence of Air Force recruit and trade training schools.
Returning to the leave card, we can see further space on the rear for more leave requests:The soldier who was issued this card would have kept it on his person at all times in case he needed to present it to those in authority and it was used to allow him access to and from the military base.
Over the last couple of years we have looked at sewing kits from both Britain and India and looked at examples used in the Royal Navy and a sewing kit that was part of the 1944 pattern jungle equipment. Tonight we have a very different style of sewing kit, this time hailing from Australia, and my thanks got to Rene Roof for helping me with this one and posting it off to the Northern Hemisphere. These sewing kits seem to be pretty unusual in the UK, and certainly I have never seen another one here before. From the outside the hussif is of a fairly standard design, secured by two white tapes wrapped around:Opening it up however reveals it to be of a radically different design to other examples used in the Empire:The most obvious thing to note are the two long open ended pockets to hold the thread used to repair buttons and uniforms:Certainly this is the first time I have seen this design feature and I suspect it may be unique to Australian manufacture or indeed to this one particular company producing the hussif. I am unsure if there were any particular benefits from making the hussif to this design, but equally it serves its purpose as well as any other design. A pocket at one end has room for a small greased paper packet:This sewing kit is clearly unissued, but opening up the packet reveals spare buttons, a piece of grey flannelette and a selection of needles:Also in the pocket is a small Bakelite thimble:The sewing kit is stamped with manufacturer’s details and acceptance stamp:Although it is hard to make out on this example, I have seen other examples from the same source and can confirm that the manufacturer is ‘Parkers Products Pty Ltd’ and the sewing kit dates from 1942. Examples exist from this manufacturer in both cotton drill like this and made from leather.
Following Sunday’s post on the Australian M1988 Minimi pouch, tonight we turn to the second piece of this load bearing equipment I have in my collection so far, the first pattern waterbottle and carrier:The design of the waterbottle and carrier, officially known as a ‘canteen carrier’, closely mirrors that of the earlier 1956 pattern waterbottle and cover we considered here last year, but manufactured in ‘Auscam’ camouflage, which in turn was heavily inspired by the US Army M1910 waterbottle carrier! On the rear of the carrier is a wire hanger:And two metal ‘ALICE’ style clips to secure the carrier to a belt:As with the minimi pouch we looked at previously, the waterbottle pouch has three metal grommets in the base to allow water to drain off:A piece of cotton webbing is sewn onto the front of the carrier to allow a field dressing to be attached:This was deleted on second model carriers and replaced with a pocket for a hexamine cooker. The bottle is held in the pouch by two rounded flaps, secured with press studs:The underside of the flap has details of the manufacturer, date ( November 1989) and store’s numbers:Although Australia has never been part of NATO it has adopted NATO standard stores numbers and was allocated the country code of ‘66’. The ‘canteen cover’ has a stores code of 8465-66-063-9664, the first four digits indicating the type of stores, followed by the country code and then the individual item code. The inside of the carrier is lined with green felt, this can be wetted and the slow evaporation of this water helps keep the water in the canteen cool:The waterbottle carried inside the cover seems to be identical to the green plastic example used on the earlier webbing set:This example is dated 1995: