Category Archives: British Army

White Ceremonial SA80 Bayonet Frog

The SA80 bayonet has a large number of frogs available for different purposes. Alongside those for use in combat are specialist patterns for the parade ground. Black artificial leather ones are issued to The Rifles, but the most common type is a woven white nylon design:imageThe Army’s dress regulations explain:

Except in the very few units that wear black accoutrements, the waist belts, bayonet frogs, sword slings and shoulder belts etc. worn by the soldiers in Full Dress are invariably white, and this applies also in No. 1 Dress.

The frog has a plastic former inside to help it keep its shape and a piece of brass protects the throat as the bayonet is inserted and withdrawn:imageA belt loop is sewn into the top of the frog to allow it to be carried:imageA pair of brass rivets help reinforce this and prevent the weight of the bayonet from splitting the stitching:imageThe bayonet fits into the frog neatly, with just the handle visible:imageFor parades these frogs are cleaned and polished until they are sparkling. Brasso is used on the protector and rivets to make them shine and a white liquid cleaner is provided, much like emulsion paint, that is used to ensure they are sparkling and white. They are worn with a white woven nylon belt and can be seen with both the bayonet carried in them, or empty if a regiment has the freedom of a city to march with fixed bayonets through the street.555x300-guards-case-study

L60A1 Drill Baton Round

For non-lethal crowd suppression, the British army fired baton rounds that whilst painful should not cause long term injuries to those struck with them. Tonight we have an example of an inert practice round used with the L104A2 launcher, the current ‘riot gun’ in service with British military forces. The round is cylindrical and painted grey:imageThe baton itself can be seen poking out of the top of the casing and is a black rubber cylinder with a slightly rounded end:imageThe base of the cartridge has a brass insert where a .38 blank would be located to launch the round:imageThis can be clearly seen in a cutaway:s-l1600The baton round is marked in white on the main body with the words ‘ROUND 37mm AEP L60A1:imageA further letter code of ‘BBB’ is on the opposite side of the casing in much smaller white letters:imageThe official description of the weapons system is:

The attenuating energy projectile (AEP) forms part of the common weapon system approved for use by members of the police service or Her Majesty’s forces in the UK. Operational use of the AEP in the UK police service is limited to authorised officers who have been specifically trained in use of the system.

The approved AEP (designated as L60A2) is fired from a 37 mm breech loaded weapon. The approved launcher is the Heckler and Koch L104A2, equipped with an approved L18A2 optical sight.

The projectile has been designed with a nose cap that encloses a void. This design feature is intended to attenuate the delivery of the impact energy by extending the duration of the impact and minimising the peak forces. It thereby delivers a high amount of energy to maximise its effectiveness, while reducing the potential for life-threatening injury.

Reducing the rate of onset of the impact force and reducing the magnitude of the peak force, have both been shown to reduce the severity of injuries in human impact.

SA80 Bayonet

When introduced the SA80 bayonet was quite a departure for the British Army. The new SA80 rifle was very different from anything that had been issued before, being shorter and lighter than was typical at the time. The bayonet which went with it was cast as a single piece and was designed to fit over the muzzle, the rifle firing through the grip.imageThe bayonets were produced using the lost wax casting process and were produced as a single casting of six bayonets that were then separated and machined to the final design.

The bayonet was being seen by some armies at the time as obsolete, however the British had used the bayonet with the SLR in the Falklands just a few years before to some effect and felt there was still a place for it in the modern army. The SA80 pamphlet sets out the doctrine for the use of a bayonet in modern warfare:

When closing with the enemy at close quarters there may well be the occasion for hand to hand combat. The bayonet is issued specifically for this pur­pose. In most cases bayonets will be fixed in a final assault position just prior to fight­ing through an objective. Situations arise when it is not possible to shoot at the enemy. These could be, running out of ammunition, a stoppage during an assault, or the close proximity of a fellow soldier making a shot too dangerous. In these circumstances the use of the bayonet may be the only alternative. It can also have a demoralizing effect on the enemy.

The official description of the SA80 bayonet is:

The bayonet is shaped to produce good penetration when thrust, point first, into the body and is de­signed to part the ribs without embedding into the bone. It has a cutting edge which should be kept sharp; the curved part of the back of the bayonet must not be sharp­ened as this will reduce its rib parting ability. The recesses along the blade are blood channels to reduce any suction effect and enable a clean withdrawal from the body. The ribbed portion of the blade is for rope cutting. imageThere is a slot at the forward end for use with the scabbard. imageThe handle is shaped so that the bayonet can be used as a fighting knife; at the rear of the handle is the release catch which holds it onto the muzzle of the rifle.imageThe handle is heavily ribbed to allow for grip when it is used as a fighting knife and the catch ensures that the cutouts in the handle will line up with the corresponding gas slots in the muzzle of the rifle:imageThe quillion of the bayonet has a larger depth behind where the thumb would rest for a right-handed soldier using it as a fighting knife:imageUsing the bayonet with such a short rifle brings its own challenges, the following positions are illustrated by the pamphlet as the best ways to use the bayonet:capturecapture1capture2capture3

Army Service Corps Cigarette Case

Today when we think of the Great War we tend to think almost exclusively of the fighting on the Western Front. This was certainly the main focus of fighting, but troops were deployed across the globe and tonight we have a delightful souvenir from those troops stationed in the Middle East. This cigarette case is exactly what you look for as a collector- it’s attractive, named, dated and even has the location engraved into it!imageThe case is made of brass that has been silver plated and in the bottom right hand corner there is an engraving of the cap badge of the Army Service Corps:imageThe lettering indicates that this case was owned by M/348444 George Armstrong of 1019 Company who were based in Mesopotamia and Persia and there is even a date of 1918. As a collector it doesn’t get much better than this! Sadly I have so far drawn a blank on the man himself, although I have discovered that 1019 Company were a mechanised transport company that was based in Basra in what is today Iraq in 1918, they were issued with Ford vans.

The case itself is quite small and is gently curved on the rear to fit snugly into a pocket, following the curves of the owner’s body so it is comfortable to use:imageInside a pair of elastic straps are fitted to hold the cigarettes in, surprisingly they are still supple and a little stretchy even after a century:imageThis is a delightful little object and hopefully the research will come together to help me tell George Armstrong’s story.

Watercolour of POW Camp

Just as British POWs were held in camps in occupied Europe, German and Italian prisoners were held in prison camps across the United Kingdom. These camps varied form converted mills in Oldham to proper facilities with wooden huts, fences and guard towers. Tonight we have a delightful amateur watercolour of a POW camp painted, I believe, by Lt Davies of the E Yorkshire Regiment. According to his grandson he was both an amateur artist and involved with the interrogation of prisoners at some point in the war and it seems likely that he painted this piece at that time:imageThe image shows the building and entrance to the camp, rather than the prisoner’s accommodation itself. In the foreground a sentry stands in a box by a raising barrier:imageA series of camouflaged buildings stand to the right:imageA large flag flies over these with what appears to be a red dragon on it, suggesting the camp might be in Wales:imageThe number on the flag appears to be 198, which would indicate this was Camp 198, known as island Farm which was near Bridgend in South Wales. A man pushes a handcart up the main entry road, his uniform looking distinctly Germanic:imageIn the distance a large wire fence and gate, along with a raised guard tower shows where the camp itself lies:imageThe journey from capture to a POW could be traumatic for the individual soldier. Kurt Bock was captured in Holland in 1944 and describes what happened when he reached England:

…hours later, a train took us elsewhere. It was not just an ordinary train; we sat on upholstered seats. There was no screaming and spitting at us like in Holland.

Hampden Park (a large Football ground in Scotland ): long rows of tables. Interrogation:

your name, your rank, your company, your papers. Delousing station. Shower & bath… 

Next day: Nottingham. A huge camp consisting only of tents. Of course, this caused a great disappointment. Here we received cigarettes, a bag and a white handkerchief, which made a great impression on me. But I already had one valuable extra possession: a second blanket… 

The next camp was Crewe Hall, Cheshire (Camp 191). My first days there I felt only relief at the narrow escape out of hell. And this hell was still going on on the other side of the Channel. My family did not know I was safe and I did not know if my parents were alive. I had already learnt of the death of my younger brother Martin…I had nothing but my uniform. Consequently when I caught my first cold I did not have my handkerchief. through the wire a soldier from my company passed me a small red handkerchief…Our daily diet was tea with milk and sugar twice daily poured into an empty corned beef tin-if you had one!

Mk 7 Helmet

In June 2009 the British Army introduced a new combat helmet as an urgent operational requirement. This was the Mk 7 and it replaced the older Mk 6 and Mk 6A design, the shape of the helmet being updated in light of combat experience. Users of the older patterns of helmet had found it difficult to take up a prone position as the helmet dug into their body armour, tipped forward over their eyes and prevented them from firing easily. A new helmet was developed that had the same ballistic properties as the Mk 6A, but with a revised shape that allowed it to be used with body armour. The Mk 7 was a pound lighter than its predecessor and was produced in tan rather than green or black:imageThe helmet has an upgraded liner that features a mesh top section and padded panels around the head:imageThe chin strap was also upgraded with a three point suspicion system. The chin straps start at the back of the helmet:imageThey then run forward to two adjusting straps, one on either side:imageA leather chin cup is provided to hold the helmet in place:imageThis is fastened by passing the end strap through a metal loop and folding the tab back on itself. Two press studs secure it and prevent it coming undone:imageSome troops upgraded their helmets by replacing the press studs with a quick release buckle. Other changes made by troops included adding a loop to the rear of the helmet straps to allow it to be secured to body armour with a carabineer.

The manufacturer’s labels for these helmets are particularly inaccessible, being fixed under the rear of the liner. They contain details of the NSN number, a code for the manufacturer and a date, here 2011:imageJust one firm made the Mk 7 helmet, NP Aerospace Ltd who traded as Morgan Advanced Materials. The Daily Mail reported on the introduction of the Mk7 helmet back in 2009:

New helmets designed to help British troops to target the enemy are being rushed out to Afghanistan this weekend.

The Ministry of Defence is issuing the lighter headgear following soldiers’ complaints that the current helmet is unsuitable for firefights with the Taliban.

Five thousand Mark 7 helmets, along with new Osprey Assault body armour, are being sent to Afghanistan for the troops of 11 Brigade who are starting a six-month operational tour.

The new British-made Mark 7 helmet is the first major change for 20 years – and looks more like an American helmet than the current pudding basin style. It is shaped to allow a soldier to lie flat and shoot straight, without the rear rim digging into his body armour and tipping the front rim over his eyes.

British soldiers are frequently having to fight the Taliban crawling along the ground for cover. Many have complained that when they have to fire  while lying down, they struggle to aim quickly at what may be only a fleeting target…

The MoD’s Urgent Operational Requirement order for new helmets was accelerated by the introduction of US-made Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights (ACOG) that sit higher on the soldiers’ SA80 rifles.

Lt Col Matthew Tresidder, chief of staff of the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency, said 10,000 new helmets and body armour kits have been bought by the Ministry of Defence for £16million. The first 5,000 sets are going to infantry soldiers, engineers, drivers, medics, dog handlers and anyone who regularly goes ‘outside the wire’ of protected bases.

The remainder of the 9,000 servicemen in Afghanistan will continue to use the current protective kit.Royal Marine from 40 Cdo in Sangin, AfghanistanWhilst designed to make it easier for troops to shoot from a prone position, this was not to be the case in reality and just four years later the same newspaper reported that specialist troops, especially snipers, were having to remove the helmets in combat to make shots:

British Army snipers’ lives are being put at risk because they are forced to remove ill-fitting protective helmets before they shoot at the enemy.

Crack marksmen have complained that it is ‘near impossible’ to adopt a correct firing position when targeting Taliban fighters in Afghanistan because of unsuitable kit.

Problems have arisen on the frontline when the back of the standard-issue helmets rub against the top of the ballistic plates in the cutting-edge Osprey body armour

The friction means elite UK sharpshooters are struggling to get ‘beads on’ insurgents laying deadly IEDs or planning ambushes because they cannot properly line up the target in their rifle’s cross-hairs.

 To overcome the issue, some troops have taken the drastic step of removing their helmets before taking a shot – running the risk that they themselves could receive a fatal bullet to the head.

A senior officer has admitted that the ‘problem’ is affecting specialist soldiers in the warzone.

He confirmed a major review of helmets was now underway after safety fears were highlighted…

A serviceman has written anonymously to the magazine, which is published with MoD approval, flagging up concerns.

He said: ‘Snipers throughout the Army are struggling to adopt a correct fire position whilst wearing a Mark 6, 6A or 7 helmet – especially when combined with the Osprey.

‘Firing from low-profile positions such as the prone are near impossible.

‘Most service personnel go as far as to remove their helmets, especially when a more difficult shot is required, causing obvious safety concerns.

The Mk7 helmet is now being replaced with Virtus equipment and has slowly been trickling onto the collectors’ market for a few years now (despite many reservist units still using the older Mk 6 and Mk6A helmets). Its service life was brief and apparently much of the army’s stock was sent to the Ukraine when withdrawn from front line duties, proving to be a popular choice amongst troops fighting the Russians there.

Non Magnetic Mine Prodder

Even today, with all the modern electronic devices at troops disposal, the old fashioned mine probe has a place in clearing land mines. Unlike more high-tech devices, the mine probe does not risk setting off mines that are designed to detonate through electro-magnetic fields and remains an essential tool in helping to clear buried explosive devices. The army issues non-magnetic mine probes to those involved in hunting out mines and IEDs, these are made of plastic and aluminium and come in a webbing case that can be attached to the belt:imageThe webbing case encloses the probe and has a plastic fastex buckle to secure the probe into the case:image-24.jpegA plastic slider buckle is fitted to the rear to allow it to be attached to other pieces of webbing:image-25.jpegInside the probe consists of a long non-magnetic metal shaft with a plastic handle:image-26.jpegThe end of the metal shaft unscrews to reveal the probe itself:image-29.jpegThis is a non-magnetic metal spike firmly attached into a threaded plastic collar:imageThis can be flipped around and screwed into the end of the rod to allow the ground to be prodded for buried ordnance. The main shaft of the probe can be removed and the tip screwed into the plastic handle to make a shorter prodder that allows the operative to work on his stomach when under fire:captureThe plastic handle has the /|\ acceptance mark moulded into the plastic and a label with the manufacturing date of April 2009 on it:imageThe reverse has a second label with NSN number and the items details:imageThese prodders are produced by a company called ABP and in their literature they describe it as:

The Non-Magnetic Mine Prodder has been developed to locate mines buried at depths up to 250mm. Primarily intended for situations where a magnetic device could activate also be used where magnetic fields are not considered important.

 

The prodder is lightweight, man portable and is stored until use in a carrier web attached to personnel in service webbing equipment.

For the detection of landmines, mine prodders are still often used instead of metal detectors. With this prodder, the minesweeper penetrates the soil a few centimetres. If they detect any resistance, the found object must be carefully laid open. The advantage of searching for mines by means of a prodder are a detection rate of almost 100% and it is possible to clear even very difficult ground. However, this procedure is extremely time consuming and due to the high rate of false alarms, some 1000 other objects are found per mine in the mine field, a minesweeper can only search a few square meters per day, depending on the ground situation.