Category Archives: British Army

2″ Mortar Transit Case

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:imageA pair of sturdy rope carry handles are fitted to each end to allow it to be easily moved around:imageA 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:imageInside the box wooden cut outs are fitted:imageThese, together with the webbing strap, hold the mortar snuggly and prevent it from moving around in transit:imageA pair of wedges on the underside of the lid press down from above:imageThe 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:imageNote 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:imageThere 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.

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Commercially Made British Army Web Set

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.imageIt 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:imageA metal roller buckle is fitted to the front to secure this in place:imageA 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:imageThis 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:imageNote 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:imageNote 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:imageWhilst 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:imageAll of the pouches have drainage holes in the bottom and plastic D-rings are fitted to allow items to be clipped on:imageThe 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.

British Army Shaving Brush

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:imageThis 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:imageThe top of the handle was divided into four, with a central area to accept the bristles:imageAfter 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:imageNote 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:imageThe /|\ 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.

Osprey Mk IV Full Collar

This week we have another short post on the Osprey system as we look at the full size collars for the Osprey Mk IV:imageWe 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:imageAlong with a loop on the rear to secure this section:imageA Velcro tab is provided to secure the front of the collar when worn, which can be tucked away on itself when not needed:imageThe inside of the collar has two labels, one for each part:imageIn close up we can see that the collar dates from 2012:imageAgain, 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.

58 Pattern Compass Pouch

When it was first introduced the 58 pattern webbing set did not include any of the pieces of webbing usually used by officers, so there was initially no binocular cases, holsters or compass pouches. It was quickly realised that these were essential components for any equipment set and by the early 1960s these pieces had been introduced, although they do not appear in the fitting instructions for the 58 pattern set. Tonight we are looking at the compass pouch from this set which accompanies the pistol and binoculars cases I already have nicely. The case is a small square pouch in the green pre-shrunk cotton typical of the 58 pattern set:imageIt is more square in shape than earlier designs and the box lid secures with a brass turn buckle rather than a press stud:imageThe lid opens to allow a marching compass to be fitted inside:imageThe interior of the pouch is padded with felt to help protect the slightly delicate compass from shocks and bumps:imageManufacturer’s details were printed on the underside of the box lid, unfortunately in this case they are now very faint and I can’t make out who made this pouch or when:imageThe rear of the pouch has a single metal ‘C’ hook and a transverse webbing loop to allow the 58 pattern yoke to be slotted through:imageFor some reason, this pouch has had a splash of yellow paint added to the rear:imageI am not sure exactly why this has been done, possibly it has been added by a previous user so he can quickly identify his piece of webbing in a pile of his comrades.

As items like the binoculars case, holster and compass pouch were produced in smaller numbers than the standard infantry 58 pattern webbing, they are slightly harder to find today than other components. Having said that, they are still out there and careful shopping will allow the collector to find them at a reasonable price. I paid £5 for this case and the dealer I bought it off had three of them for that price so they are still readily available.

Post War Insulated Thermos Type Food Flask

The British Army had started using Thermos style insulated containers for transporting hot rations to forward positions during World War Two. These cylinders had space for insulating material, usually cork, between the outer shell and the inner compartment holding the food. This insulation prevented the heat from food escaping and kept the contents hot for far longer than a standard metal container. Hot food is essential for troops in the field as it helps keep their body temperature up and is a far greater boost to morale than cold rations. Following the end of the Second World War the Army introduced a new thermos type container that was a similar diameter to its wartime counterpart, but taller allowing more rations to be carried in a single flask:imageThe container is made of metal, painted green, with large white letters prominently stencilled around the bottom reminding troops ‘this container must not be placed on a stove or fire’:imageThis is because, being a pressurised canister, if the flask is heated too much it would explode. Unlike earlier designs I believe the post war flasks used glass wool lagging rather than cork to insulate the contents. The lid of the canister is held on by three spring clips:imageThe lid itself has three hooks for these clips to attach to and has a green outer ring made of metal and a black plastic inner disc:imageA moulded set of instructions explains that the central button needs to be depressed to release the vacuum inside the canister before the lid can be removed:imageThe vacuum occurs because the soup, stew or tea placed inside the canister would be hot. Even with the insulation this will begin to cool and as it does the hot steam in the top portion of the flask would condense back into liquid. As this occurs there is less air pressure inside the flask and a vacuum seal is formed, much like what occurs in jam jars when hot jam cools. This vacuum would make it very hard to remove the lid, but by reintroducing air this seal is broken and the lid can be removed.

The underside of the lid has a large rubber gasket that helps keep the flask airtight:imageThe interior of the flask is made of plated metal to allow it to be easily cleaned and kept hygienic:imageRemoving the screws allows the interior to be removed in case any maintenance is required to the layer of lagging.

I am still trying to ascertain if there was any specific way of carrying this container in the field as it is heavy and awkward when it is empty so I can only imagine what it was like when full of a few gallons of food. There is no carrying handle on the top so, unless it was only transported by Land Rover, there does not seem to be an easy way to manoeuvre it across rough terrain.

Osprey Pistol Magazine Pouch

Among the many pouches produced for the Osprey IV system was a small pouch to carry spare 9mm magazines for the service pistol. By this stage traditional holsters had been largely replaced by hard shell plastic designs so a soft holster was not part of the Mk IV complement of equipment, however extra magazines would be required to be carried so a set of dedicated pouches was clearly desirable. The pouch is made of an MTP printed fabric with a top flap that has a more open weave than many of the other pouches in the Osprey IV set:imageThis change of fabric was presumably to give extra strength on a thin top flap that would otherwise be in danger of breaking if the more standard fabric had been used. The large top flap covers the base of the magazine and is secured with a large Velcro fastening to make it harder for the pouch to be accidently opened:imageThe magazine itself slides inside to make a secure fit, but one that allows it to be easily withdrawn:imageThe magazine used here is for a Browning Hi-Power, in service more modern magazines would have been carried, but this is the only double stack pistol magazine I have access to and illustrates the concept just fine.

A single MOLLE strap is fitted to the rear to allow the pouch to be secured to the vest:imageThe weight of even a full pistol magazine is negligible so one strap would be more than adequate. Under the strap is the standard Osprey label, printed on fabric and sewn to the rear of the pouch:imageThese pouches were not only used for carrying pistol magazines, but also occasionally saw service on operations to carry morphine syringes in a safe and secure pouch that allowed easy access in case of emergency. Although not what the designers had originally envisaged this sort of adaptation is typical of how soldiers use equipment when deployed on active service and this seems a very sensible secondary use for the pouch.