Category Archives: equipment

Air Ministry Spanner

I keep an eye out for military spanners and I have a number of wartime /|\ marked examples now. This week however I picked up my first RAF spanner:Despite the extensive use made of tools by the RAF throughout the war, marked examples do seem scarcer than their army equivalents. This spanner is marked ‘AM’ with a crown for the Air Ministry and dated 1940:The spanner is marked on the opposite side for the thread sizes it works with. One end is for 3/8 British Standard Whitworth (BSW) and 7/16 British Standard Fine (BSF), whilst the opposite end is marked up for 5/16 BSW and 3/8 BSF:BSW was the first standard screw thread size, developed by Joseph Whitworth in 1841 and was used across the Empire. The British Standard Fine (BSF) standard has the same thread angle as the BSW, but has a finer thread pitch and smaller thread depth. This is more like the modern “mechanical” screw and was used for fine machinery and for steel bolts.

Whitworth (spanner) markings refer to the bolt diameter rather than the distance across the flats of the hexagon (A/F) as in other standards. Confusion also arises because BSF hexagon sizes can be one size smaller than the corresponding Whitworth hexagon. This leads to instances where a spanner (wrench) marked 7/16BSF is the same size as one marked 3/8W as in this case. In both cases the spanner jaw width of 0.710 in, the width across the hexagon flat, is the same. However, in World War II the size of the Whitworth hexagon was reduced to the same size as the equivalent BSF hexagon purely to save metal during the war and they never went back to the old sizes afterwards. Despite being long superseded by metric threads and bolts, these imperial threads and bolt heads are still in widespread use throughout the world, a legacy from the nineteenth century that shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon.

51 Pattern Entrenching Tool Cover

It’s been a month or two since we looked at any components form the Canadian 51 pattern set on a Tuesday, so this week we go back to this webbing and take a look at the entrenching tool cover:The most obvious thing to note is how radically different this cover, and indeed the tool that went inside, are from traditional British practice of the period. Up until this point the Canadians had been using the British style two piece ‘Sirhand’ entrenching tool and the traditional cover for it. From the 51 pattern set onwards we can see a move away from British influence and much closer ties with US practice of the period. The tool adopted for the 51 pattern set was a folding entrenching tool was a close copy of the US 1943 pattern tool. The following illustration comes from Andrew Iarocci’s article on Canadian load carrying equipment and shows, l to r. Canadian 51 pattern entrenching tool, US M43 entrenching tool and British 37 Pattern Sirhand entrenching tool:Returning to the cover, on the rear can be seen three sets of eyelets allowing a wire hanger to be used to attach the entrenching tool to either the belt of the 51 pattern set, or the tab provided on the flaps of the small and large packs:Note also the manufacturer’s initials ‘TIL’ for ‘Textile Industries Limited’ and the date 1952:The top flap of the entrenching tool cover is secured with a lift the dot fastener in the distinctive shield shape of the 51 pattern set:This would originally have been chemically blackened, but this has worn to a bronze colour now. In use the tool would have had its handle sticking out through a hole in the bottom of the cover, with the head at the top. The top edge of the opening for the cover has leather and webbing reinforcements to prevent the metal of the entrenching tool fraying vulnerable parts of the cover:

Extreme Cold Weather Over-Mittens

The British Army’s Extreme Cold Weather clothing system works on a layering principle, with gloves being no exception. Two layers are generally issued, an inner warm mitten and an outer layer that is thin but waterproof. This traps a layer of air between the two mittens and helps keep the wearer’s hands warm, Tonight it is this outer mitten we are looking at in detail. This over-mitten is made of a thin impermeable DPM camouflage goretex fabric and is a large, but simple mitten shape:The palm of the over mitten has a series of raised bumps over it to aid grip:In order to keep the inner air layer in the mitten, the back of the wrist has a tightening strap and buckle to help seal the glove from cold air:A drawstring at the cuff also helps seal the mitten form the cold:The inside of the cuff of the over-mittens have a label indicating size, NSN number and care instructions:Here we can see the overmittens being worn by members of 3 Commando brigade training in the Arctic in 2010:The Daily Mail reported on this training exercise at the time:

Hundreds of Royal Marines have endured freezing temperatures of almost -30c in the Arctic as they prepare for combat in Afghanistan.

Soldiers with 3 Commando Brigade are training in northern Norway where they are being taught extreme cold weather survival skills in up to six feet of snow.

Marines have been learning to ski, make shelters and use weapons on the 10-week programme headed by 45 Commando based in Arbroath, Angus.

The course is designed to provide key team-building and extreme environment experience ahead of the unit’s next tour of Afghanistan, expected next year.

Major Tony Lancashire, who as commander of Zulu Company leads around 100 men, said: ‘If you can survive here, you can fight anywhere in the world.

‘Most of our lads have been to Afghanistan and we’ll go again. If they can look after themselves here, then that will carry forward to Afghanistan as well.’

The temperature in Innset dropped to -20c last week, with the added windchill taking it down even further to a low of -28c.

Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Lee described it as ‘the toughest soldiering there is’.

He said: ‘The biggest challenge for them is undoubtedly coping with the very demanding environmental conditions. You pay hard for a mistake here.

‘You need to learn the basics, you need to understand how effectively to soldier in these conditions, and these men are rising to that challenge supremely well.’

Lt Col Lee, who took up the post in September, added: ‘For me, this is a magnificent training opportunity, both for the toughest soldiering there is, but also for breeding that teamwork and that camaraderie on which a commando unit is based.’

The Commandos have swapped their familiar green berets for fleece-lined hats while operating in the Arctic.

White sheets over their combat gear acts as camouflage and masks are worn to protect their faces from frost bite.

The Marines have been sleeping in four-man tents and eating calorie-packed freeze-dried meals made with snow melted down on their stoves.

Some are veterans who are simply refreshing their skills, but for many it is their first time in Norway and their first experience on skis.

Their skills will be tested at the end of the programme when they take part in a major international exercise called Cold Response in March.

The operation, which takes place in Norway’s Bogen area, involves 5,000 troops including 200 from the U.S. Marine Corps and will include a launch from the water to test the unit’s amphibious capabilities.

DPM Patrol Pack

Tonight’s object goes by a number of different names, ‘day sack’, ‘Northern Ireland patrol pack’ or just ‘patrol pack’. The official designation is ‘Patrol Pack, 30 Litre, DPM IRR’. Whatever designation you use, this is a handy 30 litre backpack used for carrying a lot of the items needed in the field for a soldier:The pack consists of a main compartment for carrying equipment, covered at the top by a drawstring waterproof cover:And a top pocket that passes over the whole main section of the rucksack. This has a small flat pocket ideal for paperwork and a second larger pocket to carry anything you need to get to in a hurry:Plastic Fastex buckles attach it to the main body of the pack and the space unbder this ‘flap’ gives somewhere suitable to slot larger items and pin them down to expand the carrying capacity:Two large pockets are attached to either side of the main pack, again each is secured with a Fastex buckle:Finally fabric loops are attached around the outside of the pack to allow MOLLE pouches to be fastened and further equipment to be tied on:The pack does not have an internal metal frame, being instead entirely soft. Two large padded shoulder straps are fitted:And a supporting waist belt, again using a large black plastic Fastex buckle to secure it:A green panel is fitted to the back, hidden when worn, that gives space for the soldier to write his name and number on. This was originally grren, but has been blacked out with marker to allow it to be remarked by a new owner, sadly this is badly worn and difficult to make out anymore:A label inside the bag indicates that this particular pack was manufactured in 2009:The pack is designed to give troops the ability to carry mission specific equipment for short periods of time in a more compact pack than a full size rucksack.  A number of different loads have been suggested for users, this packing list comes from the combined Commando Course:

24hr Rations, 1 Water Bottle Flask, (optional) Warm Jacket, Poncho & Pegs (1 between 2), Bivvi Bag (1 between 2), Socks, Helmet, CBA

Whilst an alternative load out used on exercise was recalled by one user:

Bivvi Bag, 1 per fire team basha (stretcher), warm kit, gore tex, emergency rations, pair of socks, bit of hexy and metal mug/mess tin, torch, HMNVS or CWS, spare batteries, a good deal of room (they were saying 50% but…) for any spare ammo radios or section kit you may get dumped with.

Black 1″ Flare Tin

A couple of years ago we looked at the red RAF 1 inch flare tin here. Tonight, thanks to my good friend Andy Dixon, we are going to look at the scarcer army flare tin in black:imageDimensionally this tin is identical to the RAF version, with a removable lid and space for three flares. The front of the tin has the contents printed on it, indicating that this tin would hold 3 green signal cartridges:imageInterestingly the same information is printed on the inside of the tin. Presumably the Metal Box Company, who manufactured this tin, sometimes printed the same design on both sides of a sheet of tin before assembly:imageThe side of the tin has a date of manufacture, June 1944 and the factory code ‘12MB’:imageThe opposite side of the tin has a run of solder down it where the box was assembled:imageThe lid is a single pressed piece of tin, with an embossed triangle on it to indicate by touch that the contents are green flares, essential for use at night where it could be crucial that the right colour is selected:imageThe lid would have been secured with a strip of bitumous tape to keep moisture out- this was simply peeled off when the user need to get a cartridge out to fire. For some reason the black tins seem to be rarer than the red examples and wartime dated ones are harder to find than post war versions so this is a nice addition to my little flare pistol collection.

40mm UGL Ammunition Bandolier

Over the past year we have looked at a number of different pouches used by the British Army to carry ammunition for the 40mm underslung grenade launcher. As well as individual pouches to attach to a MOLLE system, there was also an eleven round bandolier that was sometimes issued to personnel with the launcher:imageThis bandolier is made from the same infra red resistant Cordua nylon as PLCE equipment, and each pocket is secured with a flap fastened with Velcro and a press stud:imageThe flap is actually a piece of tape that passes right down through the individual pouch, when pulled it forces a round to rise up out of the bandolier to be easily removed. The bandolier has a shoulder strap and a waist strap to help hold the weight of the ammunition:imageThese are adjustable and use Fastex buckles to secure each strap:imageOddly the bandolier does not have a label with an NSN on it, just a manufacturer’s label:imageDespite this, these are certainly British Army issue, the stores catalogue gives them a nominal auditing price of £47.23 each and the official NSN number of 1310-99-246-1848. The bandolier can be seen being worn in the photographs that accompany the SA80 weapons pamphlet:sa80-grenade-launcher4sa80-grenade-launcher3As with much modern equipment, these bandoliers are available cheaply and easily, with this one coming from eBay for less than £10. I just need one of these now!sa80-grenade-launcher

The weapons pamphlet gives some basic information:

The grenade launcher is accurate and lightweight. It can be mounted underneath a variety of weapons. In UK service it is issued to certain units and is mounted underneath the L85A2:

a. The grenade launcher is a 40 mm single shot weapon with a side opening breech loading action, which is capable of producing:

(1) Accurate fire against point targets such as bunkers and windows up to 150 metres.

(2) Effective fire against area targets and troops in the open up to 350 metres.

(3) Its maximum effective range is 400 metres.

b. It is fitted with a quadrant sight, for use by day or night.

c. It can be fired from any of the conventional fire positions.

d. It fires a variety of 40 mm munitions including practice rounds.

e. It is fitted with an ambidextrous safety catch.

f. A removable muzzle cover is fitted to prevent the ingress of dirt, snow etc down the muzzle.sa80-grenade-launcher2

Indian Red Cross Folding Mirror

My thanks go to Rob Barnes, who has very kindly given me tonight’s object. A small folding shaving mirror given out by the Indian Red Cross:imageThis mirror is made of heavy duty cardboard covered in a printed paper, it opens out to reveal the mirror:imageAnd this can then be folded so it becomes free standing to allow you to shave with it:imageThe folded mirror is only about 3”x2” and would easily have fitted into the soldier’s wash roll. The Indian Red Cross had been founded in 1920 and supported humanitarian aid to Indian soldiers both during their service time and once they had been made prisoners of war. The Indian Red Cross is still functioning today and it’s official role, outlined in the post war period is:

(1) Aid to the sick and wounded members of the Armed Forces of the Union in accordance with the terms and spirit of the Geneva Conventions of 12th August, 1949 and discharge of other obligations devolving upon the Society under the Conventions as the recognized auxiliary of the Armed Forces Medical Services.

(2) Aid to the demobilized sick and wounded members of the Armed Forces of the Union.

(3) Maternity and Child Welfare.

(4) Junior Red Cross

(5) Nursing and ambulance work.

(6) Provision of relief for the mitigation of suffering caused by epidemics, earthquakes, famines, floods and other disasters, whether in India or outside.

(7) The establishment and maintenance of peace among all nations in accordance with the decisions of the International Red Cross Organization.

(8) Work parties to provide comforts and necessary garments, etc., for hospitals and health institutions.

(9) The expenses of management of the Society and its branches and affiliated societies and bodies.

(10) The representation of the Society on or at International or other Committees formed for furthering objects similar to those of the Society.

(11) The improvement of health, prevention of disease and mitigation of suffering and such other cognate objects as may be approved by the Society from time to time.

During World War Two they published this leaflet explaining their work and encouraging contributions:010

009It was also published in Urdu:006005And Hindi:008007

One of the major initiatives the Indian Red Cross was involved with was preparing care packages for troops captured by the Japanese, these parcels contained:

  • 8 ounces fruit in syrup
  • 16 ounces lentils
  • 2 ounces toilet soap
  • 16 ounces flour
  • 8 biscuits
  • 8 ounces margarine
  • 12 ounces Nestle’s Milk
  • 14 ounces rice
  • 16 ounces pilchards
  • 2 ounces curry powder
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 1 ounce dried eggs
  • 2 ounces tea
  • 1 ounce salt
  • 4 ounces chocolate