First aid kits seem to have been appearing on the blog with some regularity over the last few months, and tonight we have what I am reliably informed by a former British Army driver is the first aid kit fitted in heavy army trucks such as those made by MAN. This first aid kit is as simple as they come, consisting of a simple green woven nylon bag with a flap lid:The words ‘First Aid’ are printed on the front in white lettering along with a medical cross so there is no doubt as to the contents:The rear of the bag has four strips of Velcro, presumably to allow the bag to be fastened somewhere inside a lorry’s cab nice and securely until needed- the Velcro would allow it to be removed very quickly in an emergency:Interestingly this bag has also had some additional information written on it in black permanent marker, here stating ‘First Aid Kit, 10 Person, no5’:Quite what the significance of this writing is, unfortunately, remains a mystery. I do not have a packing list for this bag, but typical contents would include bandages, sterilised wipes, field dressing etc. As ever, if you know more about this first aid kit, please leave a comment below.
The British Army’s website gives some information on the level of casualty care provided during operations in Afghanistan, this basic first aid kit being the bottom rung of a well thought out ladder of care:
All soldiers are trained and equipped to provide First Aid, both for everyday situations and to look after each other on the battlefield. Teams of soldiers engaged in high-risk activities will have the support of one or more Army Medics, also known as Combat Medical Technicians. (CMT).
Soldiers also have access to a Regimental Medical Officer (RMO), who is able to provide the same level of medical attention as a General Practitioner. RMOs are trained in the management of trauma and their presence ensures the most seriously injured receive highly skilled medical attention at the earliest opportunity.
The medical training, equipment and facilities are among the best in the world. In addition, individual medical training not only gives extra confidence to the soldiers on patrol, but enables them to react quickly and correctly to situations, meaning they are better equipped to look after each other and save lives.
It has been a while since a bayonet appeared on the blog, so tonight we are looking at an early example of an SMLE bayonet. Regular readers may recall we looked at a second world war production example here. This particular example dates back to 1915 and there are a couple of interesting points on this bayonet. The first and most obvious thing to notice is that the blade has been chromed:This was done for use on parade and makes the bayonet look particularly impressive in the sunshine, as the light catches and glints off the chroming. The ricasso of the bayonet has the date and manufacturer’s details, in this case the blade was made by Sanderson in March 1915:The opposite side has the War Department /|\ and various inspectors marks stamped into the steel:It is on the tip of the pommel that this bayonet really becomes interesting though. Here what I believe are the letters ‘6KRR’ are stamped into the metal:This indicates that the bayonet was originally issued to the 6th Kings Royal Rifle Corps. It is always nice to find a piece of equipment marked to a particular unit! The other feature of the pommel is what it is missing. In 1916 a small hole was added to the pommel to allow cleaning of the catch and springs used to attach the bayonet to the rifle. It was found that the mud of the trenches was working its way into this area and fouling up the mechanism and so a small hole was provided so a piece of wire could be inserted to unclog the catch. This bayonet, dating from before this change does not have this feature. By way of illustrating the point, here is the handle of the Second World War example, with the cleaning hole clearly visible:These little holes seem to be often referred to as ‘oiling holes’ but bayonet catches do not really need oiling, they do need to be kept clear of debris. The following is the official list of changes entry for the adding of these little holes, published on the 23rd February 1916:
17692 – Sword Bayonet, Pattern 1907, Mark I. 5 Jan 1916
23 Feb 1916
Drilling of clearance hole through pommel
In future manufacture, sword-bayonets of the above mentioned pattern ( LoC 14170 ) will have a hole drilled through the pommel to facilitate the removal of mud, dirt, &c., that may accumulate in the bottom of the mortice for the sword bar of the rifle nose-cap, and so prevent the bolt of the sword-bayonet shooting and locking the sword-bayonet on the rifle.
In workshops where the necessary machinery and tools are available the hole may be drilled, as occasion offers, through the pommel to the size and in the position shown in the accompanying drawing, the position first being marked off. “
And the official diagram that went with the change:
It is an old adage that an army marches on its stomach, but the importance of good food in military life has long been recognised. The modern army chef is an essential cog in the military machine (don’t even get servicemen started on Sodexo!). In the kitchen army chefs wear traditional chef’s whites and it is one of these we have to look at tonight:This garment is closely modelled on civilian chef’s jackets and has two rows of removable black plastic buttons running up the front:These buttons have a ball fitting at the front and a large disc at the rear:Other distinctive features of the jacket include unbuttoned cuffs, with a simple curved edge:And a small pen pocket on one sleeve:Small vents are provided under each armpit, no doubt very welcome in a hot kitchen:As with all military clothing an internal label gives details of sizing and NSN number:The role of the chef is explained on the British Army’s recruitment website:
Feeding an Army is a big job, but also a vital one. Our soldiers need solid meals to keep them going and that’s where you come in. As an Army Chef you will provide healthy food wherever you are and whatever the conditions. You cook for everyone from new recruits to royalty; serving up tasty meals – even out in the field. You also learn about administration, finance and storage, as well as picking up qualifications and enjoying all aspects of Army life: exercise, ranges, sports, travel and great mates too. It’s an amazing experience.
One Army chef describes his career:
I enlisted into the RLC in 2008 as a Chef. I have since completed postings in Germany, Edinburgh and Abingdon. I’ve deployed to Canada on numerous occasions, as well as the Falklands, Gibraltar and Kenya, providing catering support to deployed troops on exercise and operations. I’ve also worked from the main kitchen supporting up to 1,300 personnel and from numerous Messes where I’ve developed higher culinary skills. I’ve pursued my interest in kayaking, raising money for charity in the process. I take real pride in what I deliver, both as a Chef and a soldier.
These chef’s whites are often worn with a coloured peak less cap and neckerchief in the kitchen and many army chef’s have custom embroidery on the breast of their whites: Note also that rank is worn as a small metal badge pinned to the whites.
I must make a confession about tonight’s object. I was sold this toggle rope as an original, but I am not convinced- several others have looked at it and opinions are divided. Regardless of whether this is a modern copy or not, the toggle rope is an interesting object and worthy of further discussion.
Toggle ropes are pieces of rope, issued one per soldier, about six feet long:A loop is provided on one end:And a wooden toggle on the other:This allows the ropes to be joined together by linking the toggle of one rope through the loop of the next:Extremely long ropes can then be quickly put together by combining each man’s ropes:This simple tool could be invaluable and why it came to river crossings ropes were linked together and a strong swimmer took the end across to the far shore. Here it was secured and those who were weaker swimmers, or indeed non swimmers, could drag themselves across the river. Quite complex structures such as rope bridges could be assembled from these ropes: Denis Roby trained as a Commando and recalls using toggle ropes in training:
The ‘death slide’ was a rope again, but this time sloping down at an alarming angle. A toggle rope, which was about 4 foot in length, a wooden handle one end and a loop at the other, it was used as a climbing aid among other good uses. Joined with others it could be used for scaling cliffs, but on this occasion we passed it over the single rope, one hand passed through the loop and the other on the handle then slid down the rope at an alarming speed, stopping by bracing your feet against the tree at the end, or fall in the river.
The toggle rope was also used to build a bridge over the river, very difficult to use because it swung to and fro with a mind of its own. This caused a lot of laughter, but two chaps slipped and fell through the ropes into the river and were swept away and later found quite some distance away. After that a grapple net was suspended as a safety measure.
Ropes were carried in a number of ways- they could be wrapped around the waist or the shoulders:Alternatively they could be coiled up and tucked into a piece of webbing:My apologies for the atrocious rope coiling here (you wouldn’t think I was a sailor by how bad I am with rope!).
In the modern British military, it is quite common for men and women to have to launder their own uniforms and clothing on a regular basis and large capacity washing machines are provided on each floor of a modern barrack block for that purpose. These are large industrial washing machines with a far greater capacity than a standard domestic machine and it is typical for several troop’s washing to be done at the same time, in the same machine. Obviously this creates certain problems as everyone is wearing essentially identical clothing and the only differentiation is the name written on the label. To sort through three people’s washing would be a time consuming and tedious task. To solve this problem, soiled laundry bags are issued. The dirty clothes are placed into a net bag:This is then secured with the drawstring at the neck:The whole bag is then thrown in the washing machine and it is then far easier for a soldier to pick out his or her set of clothing at the end of a wash. These net bags have been issued for a number of years, and a simple white label is sewn into the neck:This is about as simple an object as you get, and these bags don’t cost the MoD very much at all so chances are if you served in the military in the last couple of decades you have one or two knocking around still. Having used them myself, they are pretty effective as long as they are not stuffed too full, as the washing inside still needs to be able to move around in the bag to be able to be cleaned properly.