Category Archives: equipment

Wartime Signals Satchel Number 1

As regular readers will know I have been picking up bits of kit for my WS38 set radio slowly over the last couple of years. This week I was very pleased to pick up a wartime signals satchel to go with the set:imageI have previously looked at an example of a signals satchel here, but that example was a post war version in green canvas with white metal fittings. This example is the correct one for wartime use and will go nicely with the radio. This is officially a ‘Signals Satchel No 1’, had a stores code of ZA 6292 and was introduced on 27th May 1938. The main body of the satchel is made from pre-shrunk woven cotton webbing, with a box lid:imageThe lid is secured with a single strap and brass buckle to secure it:imageThe inside of the satchel is lined with cotton-drill fabric to help protect the contents:imageTwo variations of the signals satchel can be found, one with the shoulder strap sewn to the satchel itself, and the more common variety such as this one that has a standard 37-pattern shoulder brace secured with brass buckles:imageThe top of the satchel is printed with ‘SATCHEL SIGNALS’:imageThe inside of the top lid is clearly marked with the date 1942 and the manufacturer ‘MECo’:imageThe strap is also stamped:imageAccording to the instruction card the signals satchel should hold:

– 2 mics and 2 phones (one for the officer)

– 1 batteries, (spare)

– 1 hooks, brace (spare)

– The instruction card

The actual batteries and junction box should have been stored in a separate pack on the back, but by all accounts only the satchel was used for much of the time so the wireless operator actually had somewhere to carry his own personal kit!

As far as I am aware this satchel was made in both Britain and Canada. I have not seen Australian, Indian or South African examples but that does not mean there was not production in these countries.

Indian Made Binoculars

It is hard to comprehend the revolution in manufacturing India went through during the Second World War. Before the war India had a very limited manufacturing base, whilst there was some modern industry in the country it was at a comparatively early stage of industrial development The Second World War acted as a catalyst and the country went through a very rapid change in a short period of time. One area that needed rapid expansion was that of optics- sights for weapons, telescopes and mirrors and of course binoculars. Tonight we are looking at a rather fine pair of binoculars manufactured in Calcutta in 1944:imageIn design they are virtually identical to the equivalent British made binoculars. There are a few detail differences compared to other sets I have. For instance on my British made binoculars the loops for the carrying strap are little brackets soldered onto the body of the binoculars. This Indian pair have a slightly expanded top plate with two cut outs through them instead for the straps to secure into:imageThe focus of the binoculars is adjusted by twisting the eyepieces to move them in and out and this changes the focal length, the eyepieces have knurling on them to make it easier to twist:imageThe two parts of the main body have a textured lacquer to aid grip:imageAnd the angle of the two halves is adjustable, around a central brass rod:imageA small guide is marked on the end to show the relative angle of the two eyepieces:imageThere are two sets of markings on the binoculars, one indicates that they are ‘Binoculars, Prism, No2. Mk II’ and they have six times magnification:imageThe other set of markings indicate they were made in Calcutta in 1944 by ‘M.I.O’:imageMIO was the ‘Mathematical Instrument Office. The 1944 History of the Indian Supply Department provides some interesting background:

During war, the numbers of firms producing scientific instruments has increased to about one hundred and sixty but very few of them are well equipped. The Mathematical Instruments Office has been enlarged and converted into an Ordnance factory and the work of manufacturing simple stores like drawing boards, stands, instruments, sun compasses etc., has been taken away from it and given to the private firms. This left the M.I.O. free to concentrate on the production of the more important stores such as binoculars, prismatic compasses, sighting telescopes etc. The industry is mainly concentrated in Calcutta with 95 of the total 160 firms located there. Lahore comes next with 21 firms.

My thanks go to Michael Skriletz for kindly sending these binoculars across the Atlantic for me.image

Larkspur Radio Aerial Bag

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the British Army introduced a new radio system called (retrospectively) the ‘Larkspur’. Unlike wartime sets Larkspur used VHF frequencies so was more reliable and the cases were hermetically sealed to allow them to be used in a variety of atmospheric conditions. The radios came into widespread use in the late 1950s and early 1960s and remained in use until replaced by ‘Clansman’ in the 1970s, the old Larkspur system remained in use into the 1980s however. I have now started to put together a Larkspur set, and like my WS38 and WS88 sets this will be a back burner project, picking up items as and when I find them at a price low enough for a tight Yorkshireman!

My first piece is the subject of tonight’s post, the aerial bag for the radio:imageThe bag is made from cotton webbing, with leather straps and buckles to secure the main pouch for the aerials, which broke down into six sections. Two pockets are fitted to the front of the bag, secured with press studs. The larger one is at the end of the bag:imageWhilst a smaller one is provided near the top flap:imageThese pockets held two metal reels of cord for use as guy ropes, one aerial earthing attachment and three guy rope ground spikes. On the rear is a belt loop and a pair of leather straps and buckles:imageThe case has large stencilled lettering on the rear, reading ‘CASE AERIAL CAT’ catalogue numbers are also provided, an old style ZA stores code and a newer NSN number:imageThis is a starting point for a new collecting area in post war radios, there seems to be an awful lot of components to these sets compared with the earlier radio sets. They are however far cheaper than wartime sets…

Beadon Flight Suit Survival Backpack

The Beadon suit was a lightweight blue-grey gabardine flight suit introduced by the RAF at the very end of the Second World War. It was designed for use in tropical areas and had numerous pockets for the carrying of survival equipment. As well as the survival equipment carried in the suit itself, pilots wearing this flight-suit were also equipped with a small bag that could be worn as a back pack to carry further survival kit in. These backpacks are actually pretty rare, so I was very lucky to be given this example at The Yorkshire Wartime Experience:imageMy thanks go to Gary Hancock for his expertise in identifying it! Sadly this example has had the straps to allow it to be used as a backpack cut off, there would originally have been two light woven cotton straps attached to the top of the bag. A series of small pockets are fitted along the bottom edge of the backpack for carrying survival equipment:imageThese are secured with metal press studs:imageA black metal zip giving access to another pocket is provided further up the front of the bag:imageThe rear of the bag, which would normally be against the wearer’s back, is far plainer:imageTwo loops are provided however, again secured with press studs:imageThese would have been used to secure the bottom of the bag to the waist belt of the Beadon suit to prevent the bag from bouncing around when being used.

A simple white cotton label is sewn into the backpack with a stores code and /|\ marking:imageThe flight suit and this associated backpack saw service right at the end of the Second World War, in the Far East. It continued in service throughout the late 1940s into the early fifties seeing service in the early years of the Malayan Emergency until replaced with the 1951 pattern suit.

Naval Detonators Tin

I am hoping some of our regular readers can help with a positive identification of tonight’s object. This is a naval detonator’s tin, made of sheet metal and painted red:imageIt turned up for £1 at the Yorkshire Wartime Experience and at that price I took a punt on it! Inside is a metal grid with holes in it for the individual detonators:imageA paper label is pasted onto the sides:imageFrom this we can see that it is naval in origin, via the ‘N’ stores code, and that it dates from 1982. The base of the tin has a circular strengthening piece stamped into it:imageIn the centre is a maker’s stamp for ‘B&SB’:imageWhat I have not been able to discover is exactly what this tin was manufactured for, or what the individual detonators were used with. If anyone can help with an identification, please comment below…

51mm Mortar Cleaning Kit

In the 1980s the British Army replaced the longstanding 2 inch mortar with a new 51mm version. Like its predecessor, this came with a dedicated cleaning kit, but it was a little more sophisticated and included more items than the fairly basic kit provided with the 2 inch version. The cleaning kit comes in a green nylon pouch, with an adjustable shoulder strap attached:imageA belt loop is also provided to give an alternative method of carriage if required:imageThe top flap is secured with ‘lift the dot’ metal fastener. Lifting the top flap reveals two small pockets, the left hand one holds a spare firing pin and small cleaning brush, the right hand one a combination tool:imageThe kit then opens further to reveal a large pocket for the cleaning brush head (sadly missing from this kit), a large pocket for the cleaning brush handle pieces and a smaller pocket for an oil bottle:imageLaid out the contents of the cleaning kit are as follows (sans brush head):51mm mortar cleaning kit contentsNote: The plastic rings in the above diagram are actually obdurating rings for the base of the mortar to achieve a gas seal.

The combination tool is a steel bar with two studs on one side:imageAnd two pins on the other:imageThis is stamped and dates from 1984 when it was produced by the Royal Ordnance Factory:imageHere we see a soldier firing the 51mm mortar, the cleaning kit can clearly be seen slung across his body:375mor103-51The UK was unusual in retaining use of a light mortar long after many other nations had dropped it, its effectiveness can be seen by this account from the recent war in Afghanistan:

My mortar man, Private Barke, used his 51mm to pretty good effect, getting his bombs on target every first or second shot. We also used it to mark the enemy for CAS (Close Air Support), firing a few smoke rounds on enemy positions.

Pack Saddlery Belly Strap

Tonight we have an interesting leather strap and toggle I picked up on the second hand market a few weeks back with little clue as to its use:imageThanks to Richard Fisher I have been able to identify this as a piece of pack saddlery, the strap boasting the designation of ‘Bands, Belly, Straps, Supporting’. This strap was one of four that attached to a pack saddle, carried by a horse or mule, using the large wooden toggle on one end:imageAttached to this toggle are two leather straps, each with a series of holes punched through:imageThese pass under the belly of the animal and attach to other straps to help hold the pack saddle securely on. The straps have two marks on them, one says ‘Rawle London 1940’:imageThe other is marked ‘R Ling & Son 1942’:imageNote also the /|\ acceptance mark. These straps are in remarkably good condition considering they are 75 years old and have probably seem little maintenance in that period. The 1937 Manual of Horsemanship, Equitation and Animal Transport offered the following advice for maintaining horse tack:

(1) Saddle seats, flaps and rifle buckets, which are required to be kept stiff, should be slightly dubbed annually, but they should be sponged occasionally with soap.

Other leather in constant use should be softened with good soap every day, and should be well dubbed every six months as follows:-

The leather having first been moistened with a sponge, the dubbin (warmed if the weather is cold) should be lightly rubbed in with a sponge or brush; after two or three days it should be rubbed off, and the leather should then be well polished with a brush or cloth.

(2) Leather must not be washed with soda or soaked in water. Its vitality is entirely destroyed by hot water. Washing with soap and lukewarm water, quickly and without soaking, will do the least harm if the precaution is taken to apply dubbin or good soap while the leather is slightly damp.

Soft soap should be very sparingly used, as it contains an excess of alkali and turns leather dark.

It is rarely necessary to scrub leather work. Parts affected by sweat from the horse, such as inside surfaces of breast collar, girths, etc., should be sponged after use with clean cold water and then soaped.

Drying leather by the fire destroys its durable properties and is forbidden.

Leather parts of harness and saddlery can be rendered more durable, and a bright colour retained much longer, by avoiding washing in water as much as possible. Leather work must, therefore, not be allowed to soak in water whilst it is being scrubbed.

(3) Dry cleaning by brush and rubber will be found sufficient to remove dust and dirt in many instances. After such cleaning, a little soap or polish for articles in daily use, or dubbin for those to be stored, may be applied.

Beeswax and saddle soap, commonly used in the service to give a polish to the grain of the leather, are not objectionable, provided that good soap is used to keep the leather mellow. The leather work of all saddlery should be kept soft and supple.