Category Archives: British Army

Royal Scots Glengarry

Until it was merged into the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006, the Royal Scots were the most senior line regiment in the British Army, tracing their lineage back in an unbroken line to 1633. The regiment saw much service in the period immediately after the Second World War, including being deployed to Korea, Egypt and Aden as well as regular tours of Northern Ireland from the 1960s onwards. On each of those deployments the regiment’s distinctive glengarry was worn with pride whenever combat situations permitted and tonight we are looking at an example of one of those caps dating from the 1950s or 1960s:fullsizerender 5The glengarry folds flat to allow it to be easily carried in a pocket or under a shoulder strap:fullsizerender 1The glengarry is predominantly black in colour, but has a diced band of red, white and blue around the lower half:fullsizerender 4Note also the leather sweat band that is sewn around the lower edge. The regiment’s cap badge is attached with a black fabric rosette backing behind it:fullsizerender 2Removing the badge there is a second set of holes for a pair of cap badge lugs, suggesting that this cap has had a replacement badge at some point in its life:img_2286A pair of black tapes hangs down from the rear of the cap:fullsizerender 3A white inspector’s stamp with a /|\ mark is stamped into the interior of the cap:img_2285Sadly this cap has suffered from the moths a little over the years and is rather tatty now. During World War Two and earlier it was traditional to wear the glengarry steeply tilted to one side with the cap badge high on the head, after the war it became common practice across all regiments to wear them level on the head:20140603_002921Here we see Private Danny Hall from Glasgow (right), of the 1st Batt. Royal Scots, saying goodbye to the regiment mascot, three and a half year old Mark Baillie, of Fortingale Street, who they handed over to the replacing regiment, the 2nd Batt. the Coldstream Guards. Receiving the mini soldier is Sergeant Bob Otto from Maidenhead in Belfast, July 1970:4194b61a584e389efd915deecb

SA80 Other Arms Bayonet Scabbard

The SA80 bayonet we looked at a few weeks ago was used in combat with a black plastic scabbard that protected the blade and allowed it to be carried in the PLCE frog. When the SA80 rifle was introduced it was decided to offer two different scabbards for the bayonet. Frontline infantry would receive a version with built in saw, wire cutter and sharpening stone. Rear echelon troops received a simpler (and cheaper) scabbard without these features, the argument being that they would rarely need to use any of these features so it was safe to delete them. This simplified scabbard was made from a black Phenolite plastic:imageThe design retained the fixing points to allow the extra features to be added if required:imageThe differences between the two scabbards can be seen here:imageOther features remain the same however, so six raised grooves are provided near the throat to allow grip to remove the bayonet from the scabbard and to help add extra rigidity to this portion:imageA small plastic detent is used to keep the bayonet in the scabbard and prevent it from rattling around:imageThe bayonet fits neatly inside, but will only fit in one way due to the design of the bayonet itself with its offset grip:imageIn order to attach the scabbard to the PLCE frog, a female Fastex clip is moulded into the top of the scabbard:imageThis marries up with a male Fastex clip sewn into the frog itself and keeps the scabbard firmly attached.

This scabbard has clearly seen some service as an armourer’s rack number is painted on it in white:imageThese simplified scabbards are much easier to find on the collectors’ market than the full combat versions which have not been released for resale in anywhere near the same amount and can easily make five times the price of their simpler counterparts.

Blue UN Mk 6 Helmet Cover

When serving on UN peacekeeping missions, British soldiers are trying to appear as obvious as possible, rather than camouflaged. It is important that both sides in a conflict can see that they are there to keep the peace under a UN mandate and to this end their vehicles, even armoured ones, are painted white with large UN letters painted on them. The soldiers themselves are also easily identifiable, wearing blue UN berets much of the time. Sometimes however it is necessary for them to don helmets for their own protection and in these cases blue helmet covers are issued to make it very clear that these are UN mandated forces. For the Mk6 helmet, the UN helmet cover is very similar to that issued in camouflage Colours:imageOne thing that is very distinct however it that there are no elasticated loops for camouflage to be attached to:imageThis is quite deliberate as the aim is to be as visible as possible, which scrim or foliage would of course negate. Otherwise the cover is unchanged, with reinforcing patches on either side:imageAnd a white drawstring to pull the cover tight around the helmet:imageA label is sewn into the inside giving sizing, washing instructions and stores details for the helmet cover:

These helmet covers are not as common as the camouflage variants, but are equally not very collectable at the moment so can be acquired for a few pounds in mint condition.

One regular UN deployment the British Army contribute personnel to is the buffer zone in Cyprus. This article was published in 2016 and focuses on one reservist training for this deployment:

Each year the UK celebrates the service of its military reservists on Reserves Day but Private Flora Pape, aged 26, has been too busy preparing to deploy to Cyprus on Operation TOSCA.

Flora will be one of 250 Reservists and Regular soldiers deployed on the Army Reserve-led operation. The 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (4 LANCS), the North West’s light role infantry Army Reserve battalion, will be supported by personnel from its sister Regular battalion 2 LANCS.

Flora has spent the last two weeks with her fellow troops at Longmoor Camp in Hampshire and Nesscliffe training area in Shropshire completing her United Nations mission training, which centres on learning how to manage difficult incidents – from helicopter crash sites to riots.

Flora is a self-employed professional dog walker. She said: “I normally have quite a few dogs to walk and it keeps me fit! People who work full time don’t need to worry about walking or feeding their dog during the day because I do it for them, I’ve been doing it for five years and it works really well for me. Unfortunately I have had to close the business down for the period I’m away in Cyprus, but it wasn’t a hard decision for me – this is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

As part of the Operations Company in Cyprus she will be patrolling and maintaining a stable peaceful environment along the border which has split the island since 1974 and will be on the lookout and reporting any infringements or changes from the day-to-day norm.APO WMID-2016-052-0034Flora said: “This week we’ve been getting tested on everything we would be expected to deal with when we are out there, the examiners have thrown all sorts at us but we’re well prepared to deal with them, the training has been excellent. I’m really excited about Cyprus because although I’ve been adventure training with the Army in Spain and Iceland, this will be my first operational deployment.

“I’ve always loved the Army because both my parents served in it I wanted to join the Army Reserve because I needed the best of both worlds – my civilian life and job and the military one too. 4 LANCS is perfect for me; I love the Infantry because you do everything you expect to do as a soldier.”

Op TOSCA is the name given to the British contribution to the UNFICYP – the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus – one of the longest-running United Nations missions. It was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island and bring about a return to normal conditions. Since a de facto ceasefire in August 1974, UNFICYP has supervised the ceasefire lines; provided humanitarian assistance; and maintained a buffer zone between the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot forces in the north and the Greek Cypriot forces in the south.

Plier’s Frog

Linemen were used to maintain and repair telephone lines used by the British Army. Much of this time was therefore spent up telegraph poles using tools such as pliers. Obviously if these were to be dropped, it would be a long way back down to retrieve them. We have previously looked at a pair of pliers with a lanyard loop and this was one way of securing the tools, more common however was a specialist webbing frog that allowed a pair of pliers to be securely fastened to the users belt, seen here in a photograph from World War Two:imageThe webbing frog can be clearly seen and this design was to remain in production and use for many years after the end of the Second World War. Tonight we are looking at a webbing pliers frog that, although dating to 1977, is of the same design as that used in wartime. In appearance it is a simple webbing frog similar to that used for a bayonet:imageUnlike a bayonet frog though, there is of course no hole from a scabbard stud. The pliers are placed in nose down and the design of the tool ensures that they naturally stay in the frog securely:imageThe frog was designed for 9″ pliers, but could be easily modified with a couple of stitches to carry 5″ or 7″ pliers as well. A loop is sewn into the frog to allow a belt to be passed through:imageThe rear of the frog is stamped with the makers initial, MWS, a date of 1977, an NSN number and the /|\ mark indicating military ownership:imageIronically, although these frogs saw far more and far longer service as part of lineman equipment, they were originally introduced in the 1930s as part of the now almost forgotten and exceptionally rare Royal Artillery pattern of webbing. The main webbing set was quickly replaced by 37 pattern equipment in World War Two, but the plier’s  frog proved so useful it continued in service and manufacture for decades more.

RAMC Memorial Aldershot Postcard

This week’s postcard depicts the Royal Army Medical Corps’ Boer War memorial in Aldershot:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (7)This memorial was unveiled in 1905 by King Edward VII and consists of a central, granite obelisk:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (7) - copyA small bronze sculptural plaque is fitted to the front of the obelisk:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (8) - copyramc_memorial_aldershot_groupThe names of 314 officers and men of the Corps are recorded on 14 bronze name plaques arranged in a semi-circle behind the monument:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (9) - copyThe memorial was designed by Robert Weir Schultz, whilst the sculpted group was by the Welsh sculptor William Goscombe John. In 2010 the memorial was listed, the reasons for this designation being given as:

The Royal Army Medical Corps Boer War Memorial of 1905 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Design Interest: As an elegant memorial of good quality workmanship and materials by a known sculptor and known architect. * Historical Interest: As commemorating the fallen of the Royal Army Medical Corps in the Boer War, and as a remembrance of the work of the Corps and as a visually distinctive reference for those who serve or have served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, embracing the tradition of service and the regimental bond.

YA1532 Field Telephone Strap

One of the most commonly misidentified straps out there for the webbing collector is the subject of tonight’s post. Whilst most collectors can recognise that this strap is for communications gear it is repeatedly identified as being for the WS38 wireless set:imageThis identification allows sellers to charge a premium for these straps, but the reality is rather different. The Fuller telephone system used the soil itself as a means to send telephone signals and Fuller telephones needed a large metal spike to push into the soil to act as a return for the signal. To carry these spikes, the carrying straps for the telephones were equipped with a pair of loops and a securing buckle:imageWhilst designed for Fuller telephones, the reality was that the straps were used on many different, more conventional, field telephones and here it can be seen attached to my L type set:imageTo secure the strap the end is passed through the sling loop, doubled back on itself and secured with a Twigg buckle:imageThis strap dates from 1942 and was made by the Mill’s Equipment Company:imageNote the store’s code of YA1532, the YA code clearly indicating that this was for use with field telephones.

Odd methods were sometimes called for to keep field telephones working, as recalled by Kenneth West:

Contact was by field telephone which was barely audible (strength 2-3 of 5). After about 3 days the line went dead about 9 o’clock in the evening, and as duty linesman it was my job to re-establish communications. I was allocated an escort of a young lad of about 18 years who had just joined the Coy , and subsequently his first excursion into the wild unknown. With the experience of my 22 years, I impressed upon him the necessity to have ‘one up the spout’, and to take the single signal wire in one hand and let it run through his hand as he walked about 10 yards to my rear. The only way to trace a line in the dark was to follow it by hand as it was looped along the hedgerow and fences by the side of the country road. On reaching the break, usually done by shell or mortar fire, the second man held the line as the linesman searched for the other end.

We were just over halfway to the section when the line came to an abrupt end. No blackened shell hole, just a single set of footprints in the knee deep snow leading from the German lines and across the road and fields to the outskirts of Zetten. With the youngster in a covering firing position, I reported the break to Coy HQ which was strength 5. Tying the single wire around his wrist, I went in search of the other end to contact the section. They were still very faint so I said I would make the joint and come to them and change their handset, checking the line as we went.

The handset was duly swapped, but there was no improvement. Army telephones were then earth return, so I checked the earth pin and everything seemed OK By now we had been exposed to the elements for about 1½ hours and the bladder was calling for relief, This I did in the proximity of the earth pin before returning to the cellar. The Corporal was all smiles and asked what magic I had performed as the signals were now almost full strength. When I told him of my simple remedy he scarcely believed me but showed his thanks with a tot of rum and a mug of hot char. We left them with the instructions that if they wanted to keep perfect contact, just give the line a tinkle from time to time.
On return to “A” Coy HQ I suggested that the forward section be kept adequately supplied with T.S.M. for their brew-ups, though I didn’t envy the bloke who would eventually remove the earth pin!!

Green Rubberised Groundsheet

The General Service groundsheet was introduced as early as 1897 and was to see service through both world wars. It was a tan sheet of rubberised fabric, 6ft 6in x 3ft and with 36 eyelets around its edges. This very versatile item could be used as a waterproof sheet on which to sleep to protect the user from the damp earth, could be used as a waterproof cape by wrapping it around a soldier’s shoulders or by joining two or more together using the eyelets and a piece of string small shelters could be constructed for a couple of men. Although supplemented by the MK VII design, which included a triangular portion and a collar to be a true cape, the original design remained in service and largely unchanged until after World War Two. At this point the colour of the groundsheet was updated from tan to dark green:imageThe same colour change was implemented for the MK VII cape, however the groundsheet was approaching obsolescence and today although the cape remains very common, the green groundsheet is much harder to find. To be honest, until I came across this example I was not even aware that the groundsheet had been produced in green (even after more than ten years of collecting you are always learning new things!)

Other than the change in the colour, the design is unchanged and features eyelets all around the edges to allow a bivy to be constructed from multiple sheets:imageThe groundsheet has a lovely clear maker’s stamp indicating it was produced by G Strauss & Sons in 1952:imageThe official guidance for the making of the rubberised fabric dates back to 1917 and manufacturers were advised:

  1. Material and dye.- Each sheet is to be made of dyed cotton equal in quality and make to that of the sealed pattern; the dye must be similar in shade of colour to that of the sealed pattern, and must be equally fast with this to the action of atmospheric influences, weak acids and alkalis, detergents and bleaching agents.
  2. Proofing. – The proofing of the fabric, which is to be approximately of the same shade as that of the sealed pattern, and of smooth surface, must consist of:-

Mineral matter … not more than 52 per cent.

Sulphur … … not more than 3 per cent.

Rubber … … not less than 45 per cent, on the average (no single sheet to contain less than 43 per cent.)

The rubber is not to contain more than 10 per cent. organic matter extractable by acetone and not more than 10 per cent. organic matter extractable by alcoholic potash, after removal of acetone extract. No reclaimed, reworked, or de-resinified rubber is to be used.

The mineral matter, other than that used for colouring the proofing, is to consist of a mixture of zinc oxide and litharge.

Small additions of other ingredients, such as are generally recognised as having a beneficial influence on the composition or vulcanization, may be allowed (carbonates of magnesium excepted).

The nature and proportions of the various ingredients proposed as mineral matter, together with the nature and amount of colouring materials, must be declared at the time of tendering.

The method of conducting the analysis is that laid down in the General Appendix to Specification for Rubber Goods…

  1. Proofing.- The proofing must be free from grit and large sized particles of mineral matter, and must be uniformly spread over the surface of one side of the fabric; it must be of such thickness that a 3 inch square (9 square inches) of fabric shall have on its surface not less than 30 grains of proofing.

The proofing must be well vulcanized and adhere firmly to the fabric, and when detached from the fabric by a suitable solvent and dried, it must be elastic and not readily broken.

The sheets may be inspected as regards proofing during manufacture (and samples taken) by the Chief Inspector, (Inspection Department), Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, or his representative.’

This groundsheet was an excellent little find and as my collection of post war jungle kit has grown, new finds have become more infrequent making a new discovery all the nicer.