Between 1963 and 1967 British Troops were deployed to the Aden Protectorate to help support local troops in suppressing an Egyptian backed rebellion. Amongst the equipment deployed to the region were Saracen armoured cars, equipped with six wheels and a powerful 76mm gun:Tonight we are looking at a souvenir ashtray produced during the Aden Emergency from a spent shell casing from one of these 76mm rounds:The ashtray has been made by cutting the casing down just a fraction of an inch above its base, three cuts have then been made to provide rests for the cigarettes and a local South Arabian coin soldered in the centre:The quality of this work is excellent and indicates access to machine tools. My suspicion is that this ashtray is the work of army machinists such as REME mechanics who would have the skills and tools to produce these pieces. They would have been made in the soldiers’ spare time and sold to their colleagues to raise extra beer money.
The base of the shell casing shows stencilling indicating that the shell was originally an L29A3 HESH round:HESH stands for ‘High Explosive Squash Head.’ HESH rounds are thin metal shells filled with plastic explosive and a delayed-action base fuze. The plastic explosive is “squashed” against the surface of the target on impact and spreads out to form a disc or “pat” of explosive. The base fuze detonates the explosive milliseconds later, creating a shock wave that, owing to its large surface area and direct contact with the target, is transmitted through the material. In the case of the metal armour of a tank, the compression shock wave is conducted through the armour to the point where it reaches the metal/air interface (the hollow crew compartment), where some of the energy is reflected as a tension wave. At the point where the compression and tension waves intersect, a high-stress zone is created in the metal, causing pieces of steel to be projected off the interior wall at high velocity. This fragmentation by blast wave is known as spalling, with the fragments themselves known as spall. The spall travels through the interior of the vehicle at high velocity, killing or injuring the crew, damaging equipment, and/or igniting ammunition and fuel. Unlike high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds, which are shaped charge ammunition, HESH shells are not specifically designed to perforate the armour of main battle tanks. HESH shells rely instead on the transmission of the shock wave through the solid steel armour.
The stamped markings on the base of the ashtray indicate that the round was 76mm in calibre and manufactured in 1963:The reverse of the coin can also be see and this dates from 1964:This all ties in with the Aden Emergency and helps date the ashtray to that conflict. Souvenirs from Aden are of course pretty scarce as it was a short lived conflict with only limited British troops deployed over the period so this is a rare and interesting find.
Artillery shell fuzes are fairly delicate, with finely tolerance clockwork parts within them to ensure that they work correctly. These fuzes need protection when being transported and in the Second World War a simple brad cone was provided that slipped over the fuze to prevent it from being knocked. These cones were designed for specific fuzes and marked as such and tonight we are looking at one cover that was originally issued for use with a No207 fuze:It is a simple pressed metal cover, with a thicker lip soldered on around the base to protect a vulnerable area:The cover is stencilled around the bottom half of the cone, this indicates that this was produced in 1942:And is for a No 207 fuze:This fuze was a clockwork fuze, highly conical in shape, and used with the 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun:The 3.7 Inch AA gun was Britain’s major anti-aircraft gun of the Second World War and remained in service until 1957 and underwent development throughout the war with better fuzes, settings and predictors to enable it to keep up with improvements in German aircraft.Tom Overs was a small boy during the war and remembers:
I was nine when war broke out and growing up in the village of Cranham, near Gloucester.
As a young boy I was fascinated by all things military, and enjoyed the excitement of the arrival of men from an artillery battalion to set up their headquarters at Cranham Corner. Their job was to man the anti-aircraft batteries high on the Cotswold escarpment at Brotheridge and a smaller one close to what is now the Hatton Court Hotel.
The four guns at Brotheridge were 3.7 anti-aircraft guns, these were later supplemented by four Lewis guns which were capable of attacking the ‘lone raiders’ which used to fly low up the valleys. When fire was aimed south over the village it resulted in a hail of shrapnel falling on the common. Following such an attack this shrapnel was collected by the village children and a playground pastime was the swapping of pieces.
The main reason for the location of the batteries was to fire on enemy aircraft going on up to the Midlands, but they also protected the Gloster Aircraft Company factory at Brockworth. There were many barrage balloons surrounding the site, and when attacks were anticipated as added protection smokescreens would also be lit. I remember the thick black smoke from these, which used to stretch out over the factory. Some of these drums, I remember, were also placed ready to be lit at the side of the A46 and the Cross Hands roundabout.