Category Archives: British Army

White Metal Kit Bag D-Ring

Lurking in junk boxes and old tool chests, the brass kitbag D Ring is a very common piece of militaria and having a number of them I have pretty much stopped picking them up. Much harder to find however are examples in white metal and so I was very pleased to add this example to my collection a few weeks back:imageBrass was a strategic resource in the Second World War and its use was prioritised for key items such as shell casings. Other less strategic brass items such as cap badges and kitbag locks were made from alternative materials. In the case of cap badges plastic was used and for kitbag D-Rings a white metal was substituted.

This piece is made from the alternative metal, probably steel, but in design is similar to the older pieces. The swinging arm is hinged using a pin:imageWhilst at the opposite end a hole is cut to allow a padlock to be used to secure the kitbag:imageThis particular kit bag D Ring is very square in shape, presumably to act as a more comfortable handle when on the kitbag. There was actually a large variety in the shape of these d-rings as seen here when seen alongside a couple of brass examples:imageIn this image of a returning soldier, the kitbag d-ring can just be made out at the neck of his kitbag:FullSizeRender

Desert DPM GSR Haversack

The General Service Respirator began to be rolled out to priority troops in 2010 and at this time many troops on combat operations were still wearing DDPM uniforms, MTP being introduced simultaneously with the new respirator. The history seems a little muddy, but during this transition period a large quantity of haversacks for the new respirator were produced in the earlier pattern of camouflage. It is not clear if these were intended for combat troops with the new respirator until MTP came into widespread use, or if they were trials items used during the testing phase of the GSR. Either way large numbers were produced and being obsolete are easily available on the collectors’ market so tonight we are going to look at an example in detail.

The haversack, more properly called a ‘field pack’ is a large wedge shaped bag made of DDPM IRR Cordua nylon:imageThe inside of the pack is accessed through a large flap on the top of the pack, secured with both Velcro and press studs:imageThe inside of the pack is lined with a grey nylon and has the pack’s NSN number and designation printed on in black ink:imageA simple open pocket is sewn to one side of the pack:imageWhilst a shorter, but wider pocket is sewn to the opposite side, secured with a velcroed flap:imageA third much larger pocket is attached to the base and secured with a zip:imageThe pack is designed to be worn over the shoulder and an adjustable strap is provided for this purpose, along with a steadying strap to pass around the waist:imageThis pack was never intended to be permanently attached to a web set, however a belt loop is provided for this purpose if so desired:imageUnderneath this are a pair of T-Clips to allow it to be securely attached to a PLCE belt:imageThis pack was short lived and quickly replaced with the similar but not identical MTP version we covered here.

WW1 Telephone Magnetos

When used in telephony, magnetos are small hand cranked devices that are used to produce a small electric charge. These are used to send a current down the line to ring a bell at the opposite end to inform people that there is a call for them. By rotating an armature inside a set of horse shoe magnets an AC charge of between 50 and 100 volts. These magnetos could be housed inside the telephone itself, or as a separate unit. Tonight we are looking at a pair of telephone magnetos from the First World War:imageAlthough one of these cases magnetos is dated 1918, I cannot find a /|\ mark on either one so it is impossible to say if they are military or civilian in origin; they are however interesting objects from a century ago and worthy of closer inspection. The smaller of the two magnetos is a free standing unit, with rubber feet, a hinged lid secured with a small screw and a large winding handle on the side:imageInside the case is a set of magnets and a large brass cog wheel which is part of the gearing used to spin the armature and generate current:imageThe second magnetos is designed to be mounted on a wall or bulkhead and has a backing plate with a series of brass reinforced screw holes for attaching it vertically:imageTwo large brass screw terminals are fitted to the top of the box to attach the telephone wires to:imageThe front of the box is hinged and this was originally lockable, with a small lock escutcheon visible:imageNext to this is the date 1918 and the maker’s mark for ATM Co. The initials are repeated on the magneto inside the box:imageThese are the initials for the Automatic Telephone Exchange Company of Washington. This company had set up a factory in Liverpool in 1889 but quickly distanced itself from its American parent company. During World War One the company produced shells for the military but continued its core business, manufacturing telephone equipment for both the War Office and Admiralty, producing private exchanges for both. Whether this is one of the pieces of equipment bought by either the Admiralty or War Office is unclear, but I suspect it is likely as investment in 1918 was far more heavily skewed to the military than to civilian infrastructure projects but it is impossible to be certain.

SLR Sight Protector

When used on parade it is not unusual for specialist accessories to be used with rifles to prevent them from damaging expensive and intricate parade uniforms. Rifles are hard metal objects with many protruding parts that can easily catch and damage lace, embroidery and epaulettes on a parade uniform so special covers are often developed. The SLR was no exception and a special pressed metal cover was available to go over the front sight:imageThis was designed to slip over the front sight and attach to the barrel to keep it in place:imageThe connection to the barrel was through a stiff spring clip:imageThis clip was notorious for damaging the blueing on a barrel with repeated use and following advice from my fellow collectors I have decided that mine will not be going back on the rifle after these photographs were taken.

Inside the top of the cover are a pair of small triangular metal tabs that go either side of the front sight blade:imageThe stores number and date are stamped across the back of the cover, here dating it to 1960:imageIn this photograph of a corporal of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment at Buckingham Palace in 1971, the sight cover can be clearly seen on his rifle:FullSizeRender

Aden Emergency ‘Trench Art’ Ashtray

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:1024px-Aden,_Sheikh_Othman_1967Tonight we are looking at a souvenir ashtray produced during the Aden Emergency from a spent shell casing from one of these 76mm rounds:imageThe 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:imageThe 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:imageHESH 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:imageThe reverse of the coin can also be see and this dates from 1964:imageThis 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.

Anti Aircraft Fuze Cover

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:imageIt is a simple pressed metal cover, with a thicker lip soldered on around the base to protect a vulnerable area:imageThe cover is stencilled around the bottom half of the cone, this indicates that this was produced in 1942:imageAnd is for a No 207 fuze:imageThis fuze was a clockwork fuze, highly conical in shape, and used with the 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun:783879_-_photo_1_1442403291_bigThe 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.800px-The_British_Army_in_the_United_Kingdom_1939-45_H40431Tom 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.

Large Military Marked Padlock

A few weeks ago I picked up a very large military padlock. Seen here in the palm of my hand you can see that this impressive lock is about six inches from top to bottom and being made from steel it is suitably heavy:imageThe padlock itself is zinc coated to prevent rust with a brass plate around the key hole:imageA sliding brass cover is loosely fitted which is designed to slip down under gravity to seal the keyhole from debris:imageThe front face of the padlock has a /|\ mark and a date of 1962:imageAs with many other padlocks, this example was produced by the Walsall Locks and Cart Gear Ltd. The padlock is also marked with the last two parts of the NSN stores code:imageI suspect that this padlock would have been used on a storage bunker, magazine or main gate on a military facility and whilst it is visually very impressive, I am informed that it is by no means the largest padlock used by the British military- I will look out for a larger one with interest!