Category Archives: equipment

Royal Navy Boot Brush (Part 2)

Last year we looked at an example of a Royal Navy boot brush here. Last week I was lucky enough to find another example of these brushes:imageThis example is a little smaller than the previous brush, but allows me to make up a nice pair:imageLike all these brushes, this one is dated, here it is 1919:imageAnd to show it is Royal Navy owned, it is stamped with an abbreviation for ‘Admiralty’:imageIt is this stamp that has warranted a post on a subject we have ostensibly already covered. Here the boot is marked as ‘ADMY’, the previous example was marked ‘ADLY’:imageQuite why this variation in marking exists is a little puzzling as one would suspect that the stamp for ownership was already made up, rather than being made of individual letters. That being the case the abbreviation should be standardised, but it is not. I wonder if the marking is dependent on which naval institution took delivery of the stores and marked them up. Whilst of no great significance I thought this was an interesting variation that might be of interest to some- all Royal Navy boot brushes are hard to find so it is instructive to have a pair to contrast.


M104 Ammunition Box

It has been a while since we looked at any ammunition boxes on the blog. Tonight we have the first wartime box I ever picked up. When I first acquired this box it was painted black and had clearly been used for a tool box at some time. Since then I have stripped it back and repainted it in ‘service brown’ and applied some markings. These are based off an original example of the box and although a little crude (I am not that good at cutting out stencils with a Stanley knife) they really help the box look the part:imageThis box is stamped into the top with its designations ‘M104’:imageThis type of box was used for carrying fuzes for artillery shells, either the 117 fuze for 25 pounders or the No213 fuze. This fuze was used for high explosive and bursting smoke rounds for the 25 pounder, 5.5 and 7.2 inch guns and was both timer delayed and percussion fired. For an excellent information sheet on this fuze, please look here. The other use it saw was to carry the ammunition shell for ‘U’ type 3” rockets. Originally the box would have had cardboard inserts to protect the contents and hold them securely for transit.

This particular box is dated 1941:imageAnd has a manufacturer’s code of AMC:imageThis is probably the mark of the Austin Motor Company who made ammunition boxes and jerry cans during the war. The box is made of steel and has a hinged lid with two wire spring fasteners to secure the lid:imageNote the small lop above the fastener- this was to pass a piece of wire through to allow the fastenings to be wired shut so it was clear the box had not been tampered with. With its early date, this box still has the rubber grips on the handles:imageThese were later deleted to save valuable rubber supplies after the Japanese invasions in the far east. The main details of the contents of the box are stencilled on the front in yellow, again this is a direct copy of an original marked example:imageI went through a phase of buying a lot of ammunition boxes a few years back, and I do really like them. Unfortunately they take up a lot of room and although useful for storage there has to be limits so I now restrict myself to only picking up nicely marked examples (and preferably the smaller boxes!)

Knee/Elbow Pads

Many changes to operational clothing and equipment came out of the British Army’s experiences in the War on Terror. One change was the almost universal adoption of knee pads on operations, and frequently during exercises in the UK as well. The ground in Afghanistan and Iraq was often very rough indeed and patrols would frequently need to drop to one knee to scan the terrain. The rough nature of the terrain made doing this repeatedly very painful and it was decided that padded knee and elbow pads should be introduced in line with other countries’ modern infantry units. The basic British knee pads are made of a padded cup, covered in DDPM fabric:imageThey are secured with a pair of elasticated tabs with a piece of ‘hook’ Velcro on the end of each:imageThese are passed around the arm or leg and the ends attached to the loop portion of the Velcro on the front of each pad:imageThe inside of the pad has a black non-slip fabric that was designed to prevent them from sliding out of position too easily (it does not work particularly effectively):imageA single label is sewn into the rear of each pad with stores information:imageThe issue knee pads were often criticised for slipping down and moving round in combat. One user though found a workable solution:

In Afghan I found that the standard issued knee pads worked well. The trick to do with the tabbing I found was to just wear one (on which ever knee you favour) and have it loose so it sits around your ankle whilst walking/running/tabbing. It only take a second to pull up to your knee and if you can’t waste a second then it won’t matter as you’ll have far more important things to worry about.

Photographs of these soft issue knee pads in service are hard to find, as most soldiers replaced them with commercial designs, I have managed to find this image though of them being worn by a soldier from the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan in 2008:imageThese soft pads have since been replaced in service and a variety of knee pads produced by companies such as Blackhawk are more common today. They are not a bad design, there are just better designs out there that replaced them and these pads can be found from under £5 a pair in the collector’s market.

DDPM MOLLE Drop Leg Harness Panel

There seems to be a constant stream of desert DPM equipment out there to find, with webbing, pouches and other forms of equipment available in huge quantities and at low prices. This is great for the collector and it is well worth building up a selection now if you want them as experience says they will not be around forever. With this in mind, I have been very pleased to add this drop leg harness panel to my collection:imageThis panel is designed to allow a holster of similar piece of load bearing equipment to be worn on the thigh in a quick draw position. The pain body of the harness consists of a DDPM panel with a set of MOLLE loops sewn to it:imageThese allow a holster to be attached in a position to suit the wearer and the panel is large enough to allow a pair of spare magazine pouches to sit alongside. At the top is a strap with a loop to attach to the user’s waist belt:imageThis is adjustable and is secured with a lift the dot fastener and Velcro:imageA pair of straps are fitted to pass round the upper thigh, one end has a male Fastex buckle on it:imageWhilst the female fastener is attached to the panel itself with small pieces of elastic to ensure a secure fit to the leg:imageThe back of the panel has a breathable fabric that is distinctly ‘rough’ to the touch, presumably to help it grip to the user’s trouser leg to hold it in position more securely:imageA simple stores label is sewn to the back:imageThis design seems to have been fairly popular and a near identical version has been produced in MTP following the adoption of that camouflage pattern. Interestingly it appears sets of these with holsters and magazine pouches have been sold as surplus in the US where they are popular on the civilian market with shooters there.

Mule Pack Saddle Breeching Strap

My thanks go to Rob Barnes tonight for his help in identifying tonight’s object- it is far easier to write about something when I know what it is!

I have (very) slowly been collecting up items of mule pack saddlery over the last year, as with so many of my projects this is very much a back burner thread to my collection with items being picked up as they appear but with no real plan to quickly complete a set. It was therefore very nice to come across a strap for a couple of pounds a few weeks back:imageThis is a ‘breeching’ strap and was part of the tack of a pack saddle used to prevent the saddle from slipping forward when the animal was going downhill. The strap itself is made of heavy duty leather, 1 ½” wide by 2 ½ feet long/ At one end a small becket is attached:imageThe opposite end is cut into a tongue:imageThere is a faint War Department /|\ mark stamped into the leather:imageIn this diagram from the 1937 Manual of Equitation, the straps can be seen at Number 4:CaptureThe manual also gives some advice on leading mules up and down hills and what steps should be taken with the breaching:

The driver should always give the animal a long rein when moving over rough or hill country; this is quickly effected by letting go of the rein with the right hand, seizing the T-piece from the outside of the ring of the bit and pulling the rein through. In difficult ground additional assistance can be given by steadying the loads and helping the animals along. It may even be necessary to unload the animals and carry the loads over an obstacle by hand.

For ascents the driver must tighten the breastpiece and loosen the breeching, doing the converse for descents. This can be quickly done without halting by means of the chain attachments of the breastpiece and breeching.

This was clearly a skilled operation however as the manual goes on to recommend:

Until the drivers gain experience, a short halt should be ordered to tighten breast pieces for ascents, and breeching and cruppers for descents.

Peltor Ear Defenders

Although ear plugs had been issued on a limited basis in the Second World War, it is only in recent times that the military have given serious thought to protecting the hearing of their men and women. Today it is a requirement of any range work that hearing protection is worn and although the government invested in expensive custom protection for soldiers on active service, most of the time simple hearing defenders are issued for training purposes:imageThe hearing defenders are often nicknamed ‘hearing duffs’ by soldiers and consist of two large plastic ‘ear muffs’, joined by a central sprung head band:imagePushing the cups up allows the hearing defenders to fold down into a small protected unit when not being worn:imageThe natural springiness of the head band is also useful when they are taken off, they can easily clip round the soldier’s leg so they are out of the way but won’t get lost, other British army examples can be found that do not fold down like these, but this pattern seems to be the most common. The inside of the ear cups have a cushioned foam ring covered in vinyl to seal against the wearer’s ears and further foam on the inner part:imageThis absorbs much of the sound and helps protect the wearer from the supersonic crack of a discharging round. The outside of the ear cup has a gold transfer with the /|\ mark and an NSN number, along with a manufacture date of 2011:imageAs can be seen these hearing defenders were manufactured by Peltor and have the model number H61FA. This model is what is known as a passive set of defenders, in other words it relies on padding to muffle sound. An active hearing defender uses electronics to filter out the noise. The ear defenders are designed to be able to be worn underneath a helmet, however from my own experience I can confirm that this is often uncomfortable and awkward for any length of time as the fit can be very tight, indeed it is not uncommon for troops to replace their hearing defenders with smaller, lighter civilian models and as long as they are rated to the same minimum safety levels this is seen as perfectly acceptable in most instances.

Large Mines Dressing

Tonight we have an example of the ‘Large Mine Dressing’, a field dressing used for the immediate treatment of wounds:imageThis example is covered in blue paper (sadly now rather damaged) and has instructions printed on the front for its use, along with a large /|\ mark indicating government ownership:imageI have struggled to find out exactly why this type of dressing was called a ‘mine’ dressing. I suspect it was first developed to deal with accidents in coal mines, but I have found out nothing definite. In form though a mine dressing is much like a shell or first field dressing, consisting of a sterile absorbent pad attached to a bandage that allows it to be drawn tight against a wound. A tape is provided at the rear of the dressing to allow the paper packet to be ripped open in an emergency:imageThe following instructions come from a RAMC training pamphlet and are about changing dressings in a hospital- in the field things were seldom this clean and organised, but the general principles would remain the same:

The assistant opens the dressing package, or, if large drums are used, places the necessary dressing material in a sterile dish.

Using two pairs of forceps, the dresser cleans the skin around the wound; he then performs the necessary toilet (removal of stitches, drains or packing and irrigation), and covers the wound with a sterile dressing. Great care must be taken to fix the dressing so it cannot slip.

All sterile material needed by the dresser is passed to him by the assistant with the forceps (Cheatle forceps) which never touch anything that is not sterile. Particular care must be taken that the forceps of the dresser never touch those of the assistant.

The dresser then discards his forceps for re-sterilisation and applies the outer dressings and bandages.

Details of procedure will vary in different hospitals, and on active service in the field modification may be inevitable. But it is important that everyone concerned in the dressing of wounds should understand the general principle.

This type of dressing was certainly issued in ARP first aid kits and it is possible it was for military use as well although any information on this type of dressing seems to be sadly limited. Unfortunately this example is rather battered, but it will suffice until I can find a nicer example for my collection.