Weapons, when not in use need to be carefully stored. As most weapons are awkward shapes a sturdy purpose built wooden box is ideal. It protects the weapon, can hold any accessories, is easy to transport and by its boxy shape is easy to stack up in a warehouse or store. The 2” mortar is no different and thanks to Gary Hancock I have now been able to add the transit case to my little mortar set up. The transit box is a sturdy wooden box, painted in gloss green paint:A pair of sturdy rope carry handles are fitted to each end to allow it to be easily moved around:A pair of heavy duty metal clasps is fitted to secure the lid, and as the box contains a weapon each of these is fitted with a loop to allow a padlock to be fitted to secure the contents:Inside the box wooden cut outs are fitted:These, together with the webbing strap, hold the mortar snuggly and prevent it from moving around in transit:A pair of wedges on the underside of the lid press down from above:The ends of the box and the edges are lined with felt to help protect the contents and make a tight seal where the lid meets the box:Note the chain to prevent the lid from falling too far back. A contents label is pasted to the underside of the lid to indicate what should be carried inside the transit case:There appears to be at least a couple of different patterns of transit cases for the 2” mortar. As well as this design there is an earlier case for the early pattern of 2” mortar which had a different type of base plate and so needed different chocks inside the box to secure it. These boxes also seem to have specific places to put the sight, cleaning kit and spares tin. Mine does not, but they fit around the mortar easily enough and I managed to get them all in with no difficulties.
The British Army had started using Thermos style insulated containers for transporting hot rations to forward positions during World War Two. These cylinders had space for insulating material, usually cork, between the outer shell and the inner compartment holding the food. This insulation prevented the heat from food escaping and kept the contents hot for far longer than a standard metal container. Hot food is essential for troops in the field as it helps keep their body temperature up and is a far greater boost to morale than cold rations. Following the end of the Second World War the Army introduced a new thermos type container that was a similar diameter to its wartime counterpart, but taller allowing more rations to be carried in a single flask:The container is made of metal, painted green, with large white letters prominently stencilled around the bottom reminding troops ‘this container must not be placed on a stove or fire’:This is because, being a pressurised canister, if the flask is heated too much it would explode. Unlike earlier designs I believe the post war flasks used glass wool lagging rather than cork to insulate the contents. The lid of the canister is held on by three spring clips:The lid itself has three hooks for these clips to attach to and has a green outer ring made of metal and a black plastic inner disc:A moulded set of instructions explains that the central button needs to be depressed to release the vacuum inside the canister before the lid can be removed:The vacuum occurs because the soup, stew or tea placed inside the canister would be hot. Even with the insulation this will begin to cool and as it does the hot steam in the top portion of the flask would condense back into liquid. As this occurs there is less air pressure inside the flask and a vacuum seal is formed, much like what occurs in jam jars when hot jam cools. This vacuum would make it very hard to remove the lid, but by reintroducing air this seal is broken and the lid can be removed.
The underside of the lid has a large rubber gasket that helps keep the flask airtight:The interior of the flask is made of plated metal to allow it to be easily cleaned and kept hygienic:Removing the screws allows the interior to be removed in case any maintenance is required to the layer of lagging.
I am still trying to ascertain if there was any specific way of carrying this container in the field as it is heavy and awkward when it is empty so I can only imagine what it was like when full of a few gallons of food. There is no carrying handle on the top so, unless it was only transported by Land Rover, there does not seem to be an easy way to manoeuvre it across rough terrain.
During the Second World War a number of different cine cameras were used on fighter aircraft to try and record the moment a plane engaged the enemy. These small cameras were linked to the machine guns and recorded the split seconds that the gun fired and hopefully hit its target. One of the most common of these cameras was the G45 that saw service on aircraft such as the Spitfire and Hurricane and continued in use after the war on early jets such as the Vampire in both combat and for training:Whilst I do not have an example of the camera in my collection, I do have one of the small metal cine-film magazines:These magazines carried 16mm film and were loaded into the camera as in the advertisement above. A metal loop at one end of the magazine helps with inserting and removing it from the camera:Details of the film magazine and a /|\ mark are cast into the metal top cover:Each magazine was serialised and the number is repeated on the back:The top cover slides off the magazine:And this reveals two spools, one for the unexposed film and a second one that the film rolls onto when it had been used, cast arrows in the base show the correct way to load the film into the magazine:A sprung platform at one end of the magazine holds the film in place for each individual frame to be exposed:R Wallace Clarke in his book “British Aircraft Armament Vol.2: Guns and Gunsights” describes the G45 Gun Camera as follows:
In July 1939 the G45 camera gun was issued to armament schools and fighter units. Designed and manufactured by the Williamson Co. of London and Reading, it was developed from the earlier G42B which had been in service for some years. The G45 used 16 mm Orthochromatic film supplied in 7.62 m (25 ft) lengths. Frame speeds could be regulated to 16, 18 or 20 per second, these speeds corresponding to the rates of fire of the Lewis, Vickers K and Browning. It was supplied in two versions, the fixed gun type with a short lens unit, and a long lens for other use. Williamson also supplied a replica Vickers K gun, the Type 29, with a camera mount and reflector sight bracket.
The G45 proved to be an essential aid to aerial gunnery, enabling a trainee to be shown the results of his ‘shooting’ after an exercise and be advised on any improvements needed. A footage recorder was provided in the cockpit or turret, wired from contacts in the camera. In the centre of the recorder was a ‘sunny or cloudy’ switch wired to the aperture of the camera. Early problems with condensation and moisture were eased when heating elements were fitted to the lens and camera body, although they were never fully overcome. The G45 was fitted as standard on Fighter Command aircraft, but, mounted in the leading edge close to the guns, the vibration affected the film clarity. It was controlled by an electrical switch operated by the gun-firing pneumatic system, or from the turret electrical firing unit. The film was loaded into a cassette, which could be inserted either from the top or side of the housing. The G45 was one of the most practical means of weapon aiming training, and the gun camera hut in gunnery training schools was in constant use. A purpose-made cine-projector made by Specto Ltd of Windsor was used to show films. It could show frame stills or slow motion shots of the trainees’ performance.
There seems to have been a myriad of different types of camouflage cream issued and used by the British Army over the last few decades. I have now collected up three of four different variations of camo cream and tonight we are looking at a tube of brown camo cream from the 1990s. The tube is made of metal and contains just brown coloured camo cream:From the NSN number we can easily see that this tube was manufactured for the British, the -99- country code being the giveaway. The tube has a metal base plate on the bottom that is not attached to the rest of the tin, allowing a finger to be used to push up the stick of camo cream as it is used:A rubber cap is fitted to seal the top of the tube when not in use, this stops the brown camouflage from getting over everything and prevents it from drying out:This particular stick of camouflage cream was manufactured in 1997 by BCB International Ltd:This company has been around for over 160 years and is still in business supplying military and survival equipment to various countries including the UK. Their website outline the company’s history:
For over 160 years, BCB International have been designing, manufacturing and supplying personal Survival and protective equipment used by Soldiers, seafarers and adventures worldwide!
It started with a cough…
In 1854, a Dr Brown came up with a cough medicine and shipped some off to British troops suffering in the trenches in the Crimean war.
60 years later, Dr Brown’s Cough Bottle gave the initials for a registered company, BCB.
Taken over by a local Cardiff chemist Deryck Howell in 1949,
BCB remains a Howell family run firm to this day.
Wave of Fortune
A lucky encounter in the 1950s with British Defence Officials resulted in BCB designing for the world’s first life raft survival kit.
It cemented the company’s driving force CANEI: Continuous and Never Ending Innovation and sparked an impressive array of novel products including: shark repellent, ballistic protective underwear dubbed ‘Blast Boxers’ and an all-weather rations heating and barbecue cooking fuel called ‘FireDragon’.
Persistent or vesicant gasses are those that cause blistering and all known examples are heavier than air so often sit as a pool of oily liquid contaminating whatever they come into contact with. Examples of these include mustard gas and Lewisite and they present distinct challenges to personnel decontaminating equipment and vehicles afterwards. The most common method of decontaminating in World War Two was to use a bleaching powder to neutralise the gas and then wipe it off of surfaces before disposing of the contaminated rags. This was not the only tool at a decontamination party’s disposal however and tonight we are looking at a small hand held scraper that could be used for scraping vesicant gas deposits off of flat surfaces:This scraper has a wooden handle:And a large metal head:A piece of rubber is firmly attached to the head:This acts much like a window cleaner’s squeegee and allows the gas to be effectively scraped off. It is interesting to note that unusually the rubber on this scraper is still supple and hasn’t hardened or cracked at all and it would be as effective today as it was when it was made.
The scraper is dated 1942 and has a /|\ mark stamped into the metal shaft of the head:The only indication of the maker are the letter MHB. MHB appears as a makers mark stamped on a large number of military tools, sadly I have been unable to identify an exact manufacturer, even on Grace’s Guide.
Happily these scrapers were never needed and a small stock appears to have come to light in recent years as examples are regularly listed for sale on eBay for around the £10 mark.
It is perhaps unlikely that I will ever have the funds or space to be able to add a tank to my collection (plus I imagine my wife would have a few choice words to say if I did). Small items of militaria related to armour are available though and tonight we are looking at the plastic transit case for a Chieftain 120mm HESH shell:The Chieftain was Britain’s main battle tank throughout much of the Cold War and had a 120mm rifled main gun. Britain used a variety of shells with this gun including HESH, which 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.HESH ammunition has good general purpose use, being effective against most targets, though the round is generally used at relatively low velocities because high velocity excessively disperses the pat of explosive. While only effective against tanks without spaced armour or spall liners, the round is still highly favoured for combat demolition purposes. The flattened high-velocity explosive pat is capable of destroying concrete constructions much faster than a HEAT round (which is designed for armour penetration), and without the dangerous fragmentation of a traditional high-explosive (HE) fragmentation round.These rounds were delivered in individual plastic transit tubes, and two of these were packed inside a metal ammunition box. The plastic container has a screw on lid with a rubber seal to prevent any moisture from entering inside. A wire loop handle is fitted to the top to make them easier to carry:Small holes are fitted around the outside of the lid and main tube to allow a piece of wire to be fitted as a tamper prevention measure:The front of the tube has a pair of labels attached, firstly we have a diamond shaped MOD explosives label, sadly now starting to peel off:And a large contents label that shows the tube contained a 120mm HESH round, L31A7. The round was manufactured in January 1969, whilst the fuze was produced in December 1968:The tube itself has the date of manufacture moulded into the base, here for 1967:These tubes do appear from time to time, but as they were reused a number of times it is quite nice to get one with labels for as early as 1969, this example was clearly only ever used once and never refilled.
In the past we have looked at the brass Mk IV oil bottle for the Lee Enfield rifle here. These brass oil bottles were very well made, but heavy and used a valuable resource, brass, that could be better employed in making cartridge cases. During the Second World War a new design, the Mk V or Mk 5 was introduced that was made of plastic. Not only was this lighter, but it did not use a valuable commodity such as brass in its manufacture. Early bottles were prone to warping, but by the end of World War Two the design had been perfected and the bottles would continue in service until the 1990s. A number of variations of the oil bottle was produced and tonight we are looking at some of the more common black plastic examples:Each bottle is made of black plastic with a knurled section near the lid to aid grip. Unscrewing the lid reveals a plastic rod with a small spoon like tip that is used to precisely place oil in the right parts of the weapon:A rubber washer is fitted to help seal the oil inside the bottle when the lid is attached:Like many of these bottles this one is now starting to show its age and the rubber has dried and perished. A variation can be found in the lid of the bottle, with some being plain and some having the initials ‘DCP’ and an arrow logo moulded into the plastic:Unfortunately I have not been able to determine who actually made them and which company used this logo. These bottles were not only used with the Lee Enfield rifle but also saw service to carry mineral oil in the Bren gun spare barrel bag and as part of the SLR cleaning kit after the war. These humble bottles are still very common and can be found for a couple of pounds each.