Category Archives: equipment

Indian Made Lee Enfield Breech Cover

With the possible exception of the AK47, most firearms do not function well when they are covered in dirt and grit. Unfortunately the internal parts of a gun need to be oiled for them to function properly, and this oil in turn attracts dust and seizes up the action. This problem becomes more acute in arid conditions such as the North West Frontier or the deserts of Northern Africa. Whilst there is no substitute for regular cleaning of weapons by soldiers, physical covers over the working parts of a weapon can help reduce the level of dirt significantly and therefore breech covers were produced for the Lee Enfield rifles. Most of these covers were produced in the UK or Canada and use press studs to secure them, as described in this list of changes from 1915:

“The Breech cover is fully described in LoC 17368, 24 June 1915.

“the Cover is made of Double texture waterproof drill, and is fitted with 3 press studs on the left side of the rifle. Two eyelets are fitted in the cover for a lace which is knotted on the inside to retain it in position:

The cover is attached to rifle by means of the lace as follows-

Rifles Short MLE– To the guard sling swivel, or through the swivel screw hole in the lugs on the trigger guard.”

Tonight however we have an Indian produced example that uses a staples and a cloth strip to secure it:imageMy thanks go to Andrew Dearlove for helping me add this one to the collection. As can be seen the cover fits tightly over the bolt and action of the rifle, the opposite side to the fastener has a double thickness area around the bolt handle to prevent this area from wearing too quickly:imageThe cover is wrapped around the action, the staples are pushed through holes in the breech cover on the opposite side, and the whole assembly secured with the long cotton tab:imageThis allows the cover to be easily removed by quickly pulling on the tab and this allows the assembly to fall away. A pair of leather ties are fitted:imageThese secure to a ring in front of the magazine on the rifle to prevent loss of the cover:imageThe cover is made of the same rough cotton drill as Indian made gas mask bags, inside are a couple of stamps: one has a date of 1943 and a number ‘2’:imageThe second stamp is a faint purple marking with the letters ‘F.S.A’:imageQuite what this stands for is unknown now. We end with a nice illustration of a breech cover being used in the trenches of World War One to keep mud out of the action of a ‘jock’s’ SMLE:post-49107-0-30265100-1366488791

Desert DPM Bergan Cover

The British Army used a number of different rucksacks and bergans on operations during the ‘War on Terror’. One thing that most had in common though was that they were produced in a woodland green DPM camouflage. This was great in the forests of northern Europe, but not much good in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan where it stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. What the army did not want to do was to issue all its troops two separate bergans in two different camouflage patterns depending on where they were deployed- for one thing bergans are expensive! The answer they came up with was an adjustable cover in desert DPM camouflage that could be fitted over a bergan to hide the green DPM:imageThe cover is made of a poly-cotton printed in desert DPM; a cord is fitted all around the inside edge of the cover. The cover is pulled over the bergan, with the corded side closest to the back, the draw string is then tightened using the plastic tensioner to prevent the cover from slipping off:imageThis is complemented by a set of straps and Fastex clips that also help secure the cover:imageOnce fitted a neat appearance can be achieved:s-l300A stores label is sewn into the inside of the cover:imageThe covers were a common sight being used by troops in the early days of the war on terror, however today they are less common as following the adoption of MTP camouflage, one pattern is now sufficient for both temperate and arid conditions and separate covers are no longer needed for more recent bergans. Older examples are still on issue and an MTP cover has been produced for these but they are starting to be phased out as DPM bergans reach the end of their working lives. Here we see troops wearing the rucksack covers as they exit a Chinook:savas-tamtamlari-yemen-icin-caliyor--474320

Royal Navy Boot Brush

One item of militaria that regularly comes up on Huddersfield Market are army boot brushes, indeed they are so common I have restricted myself to pre-war examples and not paying more than a pound each for them. By contrast Air Ministry and Admiralty marked brushes are far rarer and I was very pleased to finally add a Royal Navy example to my collection a couple of weeks ago for the princely sum of 50p:imageUnlike army brushes which are marked with a /|\ stamp, Royal Navy brushes have ‘ADMY’ stamped into them:imageThis particular brush is dated either 1922 or 1923, but the stamp is very indistinct and I cannot make out the last digit very easily:imageThe original owner has marked it up with his surname ‘Hutchinson’:imageOne distinguishing feature of these early brushes is they often have a number of small brass nails visible on the back:imageRoyal Navy ratings were issued two boot brushes and were required to mark them with their name to indicate who they belonged to. On board ship, sailors normally kept their boot brushes in their ‘ditty’ box along with other small ‘necessaries’ and personal items. These brushes were remarkable well made, hence their survival to the present day. One sailor who joined in the 1950s remarks, The boot brushes issued, with your name stamped upon must be strong, mine are still in service, having seen me through a police career of daily polishing after 12 years RN service.

Another sailor who was serving in the 1960s recalls using boot brushes to scrub the deck of his accommodation block during initial training. In this kit layout the brushes can be seen front and centre:15894770_10154830912618428_9167821151663050466_n

20L Osprey Water Jerry Can

Part of the fitness test British Army recruits have to undertake is to carry a pair of full water jerry cans for 120m. The jerry cans used each hold 20 litres of drinking water which combined with the 1kg weight of the can itself gives the recruit a load of 42kg to carry. The jerry cans in question are made of heavy duty black polyurethane plastic and have been in service for many years:imageThey can frequently be seen in the background at Army exercises and operations, quietly providing water for thirsty troops:dscf3787The jerry can has two filling caps on the top, a large one:imageAnd a smaller one:imageBoth of these are secured with a chain to prevent loss. The larger cap allows the can to be easily filled and allows a rapid pour if needed. The smaller one is better for pouring into smaller containers such as personal water bottles. It also acts as an air inlet valve so when you are pouring from the larger opening it doesn’t ‘glug’ as air tries to get in to refill the container.

A large handle is fitted across the top of the can:imageThis has a small tag fitted to it indicating that it has been used for contaminated water at some point and should not be used to carry drinking water any more. The sides of the can have expansion grooves moulded into them, along with a /|\ mark and the words ‘WATER’:imageBelow this is a moulding indicating manufacture date, in this case October 1988, and the NSN stores number for the item. There is also the manufacturer’s name ‘Osprey’ here:imageOsprey also produce individual water bottles, again from the same heavy duty black polyurethane plastic. These jerry cans have been in service for many decades now and have proven to be a reliable and robust design for both carrying water and improving physical fitness! It seems unlikely they will be replaced anytime soon.

4th West Yorkshire Regiment Mess Table Knives

A few weeks back we looked at a mess table sauce bottle holder marked to the 4th West Yorkshire Regiment here. Tonight we are looking at a set of six knives marked to the same regiment:imageAs before my thanks go to the East Yorkshire Regiment Living History Group and Mike Lycett for their help in adding this to the collection. The knives are marked in a couple of ways. Three of them have a stamp on the blade saying ‘4th West York’:imageWhilst the other three have a cypher impressed into the bone handle, these are unfortunately rather indistinct:imageHere we can see the Prince of Wales feathers and the initials ‘WY’ for the regiment. The knives were made in Sheffield, as indicated on the blades:imageMost cutlery in the country was made in Sheffield in the first half of the twentieth century, the city having a worldwide reputation for quality and output. These knives predate stainless steel so have suffered from rust far more than later knives would. Again I suspect these date from around the time of the First World War.

Padded Ammunition Bag

I am describing tonight’s object as a mortar round ammunition bag, however from the outset I must make it clear that this is an educated guess on my part as no-one I have spoken to has been able to give me a definitive identification as to this bags exact purpose:imageThe bag is made of the same cotton twill as .303 bandoliers and has a box lid secured by two copper staples, again like a bandolier:imageThe inside of the bag is divided up into five spaces with an internal divider:imageThese pockets are the right length for a 2” mortar round, but too large as the round wobbles about. However rounds inside their metal carry tin, as used in the 1960s (see here) do fit in more comfortably and at this point I suspect that this is what was intended to be carried in the bag. Other suggestions I have heard have been for Claymore mines, grenades or Bren magazines. The base of the bag is ‘D’ shaped and heavily padded:imageThe inside of the bag has an ink stamping with an ordnance code, SV375A, a date of October 1966 and a manufacturer of C.B. & Co Ltd:imageAs always if you have some more information on this item and can confirm what it was used for please get in contact, or leave a comment below.

51 Pattern L-Straps

As we have discussed before, the Canadian 51 pattern webbing set drew heavily on earlier British and American load bearing equipment designs. The 51 pattern set used ‘L straps’ to secure the large and small packs to the rest of the webbing and these were a close copy of the British design Mills had used on the 19, 25 and 37 pattern sets. Here the ‘L strap’ is made of a dark green pre-shrunk cotton webbing and the brass fittings are chemically blackened:imageThe L-Straps attach to the large pack using two-inch Twigg buckles in the same manner as 37 pattern webbing sets to fasten to the webbing tabs on the top of the pack. One obvious thing to note though is that the 51 pattern ‘L strap’ uses a single piece of two inch webbing and attaches to the tops of the ammunition pouches with a 2” hook rather than the 1” hook seen on the earlier British designs:imageNot only does this make the ‘L Strap’ easier to manufacture, it also increases the load bearing area making the connection stronger and easier to manipulate by the wearer. The ends of the tabs have brass chapes to prevent fraying, again blackened:imageFaint manufacturer’s markings and dates can be seen on the webbing, but as with much of this pattern they are faint and often hard to read:imageI think the date here is 1951, but I could be mistaken. As with the rest of the set, it is interesting to see how the Canadians have taken a British design and modified and improved it to meet their own needs.