Until it was merged into the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006, the Royal Scots were the most senior line regiment in the British Army, tracing their lineage back in an unbroken line to 1633. The regiment saw much service in the period immediately after the Second World War, including being deployed to Korea, Egypt and Aden as well as regular tours of Northern Ireland from the 1960s onwards. On each of those deployments the regiment’s distinctive glengarry was worn with pride whenever combat situations permitted and tonight we are looking at an example of one of those caps dating from the 1950s or 1960s:The glengarry folds flat to allow it to be easily carried in a pocket or under a shoulder strap:The glengarry is predominantly black in colour, but has a diced band of red, white and blue around the lower half:Note also the leather sweat band that is sewn around the lower edge. The regiment’s cap badge is attached with a black fabric rosette backing behind it:Removing the badge there is a second set of holes for a pair of cap badge lugs, suggesting that this cap has had a replacement badge at some point in its life:A pair of black tapes hangs down from the rear of the cap:A white inspector’s stamp with a /|\ mark is stamped into the interior of the cap:Sadly this cap has suffered from the moths a little over the years and is rather tatty now. During World War Two and earlier it was traditional to wear the glengarry steeply tilted to one side with the cap badge high on the head, after the war it became common practice across all regiments to wear them level on the head:Here we see Private Danny Hall from Glasgow (right), of the 1st Batt. Royal Scots, saying goodbye to the regiment mascot, three and a half year old Mark Baillie, of Fortingale Street, who they handed over to the replacing regiment, the 2nd Batt. the Coldstream Guards. Receiving the mini soldier is Sergeant Bob Otto from Maidenhead in Belfast, July 1970:
When serving on UN peacekeeping missions, British soldiers are trying to appear as obvious as possible, rather than camouflaged. It is important that both sides in a conflict can see that they are there to keep the peace under a UN mandate and to this end their vehicles, even armoured ones, are painted white with large UN letters painted on them. The soldiers themselves are also easily identifiable, wearing blue UN berets much of the time. Sometimes however it is necessary for them to don helmets for their own protection and in these cases blue helmet covers are issued to make it very clear that these are UN mandated forces. For the Mk6 helmet, the UN helmet cover is very similar to that issued in camouflage Colours:One thing that is very distinct however it that there are no elasticated loops for camouflage to be attached to:This is quite deliberate as the aim is to be as visible as possible, which scrim or foliage would of course negate. Otherwise the cover is unchanged, with reinforcing patches on either side:And a white drawstring to pull the cover tight around the helmet:A label is sewn into the inside giving sizing, washing instructions and stores details for the helmet cover:
These helmet covers are not as common as the camouflage variants, but are equally not very collectable at the moment so can be acquired for a few pounds in mint condition.
One regular UN deployment the British Army contribute personnel to is the buffer zone in Cyprus. This article was published in 2016 and focuses on one reservist training for this deployment:
Each year the UK celebrates the service of its military reservists on Reserves Day but Private Flora Pape, aged 26, has been too busy preparing to deploy to Cyprus on Operation TOSCA.
Flora will be one of 250 Reservists and Regular soldiers deployed on the Army Reserve-led operation. The 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (4 LANCS), the North West’s light role infantry Army Reserve battalion, will be supported by personnel from its sister Regular battalion 2 LANCS.
Flora has spent the last two weeks with her fellow troops at Longmoor Camp in Hampshire and Nesscliffe training area in Shropshire completing her United Nations mission training, which centres on learning how to manage difficult incidents – from helicopter crash sites to riots.
Flora is a self-employed professional dog walker. She said: “I normally have quite a few dogs to walk and it keeps me fit! People who work full time don’t need to worry about walking or feeding their dog during the day because I do it for them, I’ve been doing it for five years and it works really well for me. Unfortunately I have had to close the business down for the period I’m away in Cyprus, but it wasn’t a hard decision for me – this is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
As part of the Operations Company in Cyprus she will be patrolling and maintaining a stable peaceful environment along the border which has split the island since 1974 and will be on the lookout and reporting any infringements or changes from the day-to-day norm.Flora said: “This week we’ve been getting tested on everything we would be expected to deal with when we are out there, the examiners have thrown all sorts at us but we’re well prepared to deal with them, the training has been excellent. I’m really excited about Cyprus because although I’ve been adventure training with the Army in Spain and Iceland, this will be my first operational deployment.
“I’ve always loved the Army because both my parents served in it I wanted to join the Army Reserve because I needed the best of both worlds – my civilian life and job and the military one too. 4 LANCS is perfect for me; I love the Infantry because you do everything you expect to do as a soldier.”
Op TOSCA is the name given to the British contribution to the UNFICYP – the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus – one of the longest-running United Nations missions. It was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island and bring about a return to normal conditions. Since a de facto ceasefire in August 1974, UNFICYP has supervised the ceasefire lines; provided humanitarian assistance; and maintained a buffer zone between the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot forces in the north and the Greek Cypriot forces in the south.
In June 2009 the British Army introduced a new combat helmet as an urgent operational requirement. This was the Mk 7 and it replaced the older Mk 6 and Mk 6A design, the shape of the helmet being updated in light of combat experience. Users of the older patterns of helmet had found it difficult to take up a prone position as the helmet dug into their body armour, tipped forward over their eyes and prevented them from firing easily. A new helmet was developed that had the same ballistic properties as the Mk 6A, but with a revised shape that allowed it to be used with body armour. The Mk 7 was a pound lighter than its predecessor and was produced in tan rather than green or black:The helmet has an upgraded liner that features a mesh top section and padded panels around the head:The chin strap was also upgraded with a three point suspicion system. The chin straps start at the back of the helmet:They then run forward to two adjusting straps, one on either side:A leather chin cup is provided to hold the helmet in place:This is fastened by passing the end strap through a metal loop and folding the tab back on itself. Two press studs secure it and prevent it coming undone:Some troops upgraded their helmets by replacing the press studs with a quick release buckle. Other changes made by troops included adding a loop to the rear of the helmet straps to allow it to be secured to body armour with a carabineer.
The manufacturer’s labels for these helmets are particularly inaccessible, being fixed under the rear of the liner. They contain details of the NSN number, a code for the manufacturer and a date, here 2011:Just one firm made the Mk 7 helmet, NP Aerospace Ltd who traded as Morgan Advanced Materials. The Daily Mail reported on the introduction of the Mk7 helmet back in 2009:
New helmets designed to help British troops to target the enemy are being rushed out to Afghanistan this weekend.
The Ministry of Defence is issuing the lighter headgear following soldiers’ complaints that the current helmet is unsuitable for firefights with the Taliban.
Five thousand Mark 7 helmets, along with new Osprey Assault body armour, are being sent to Afghanistan for the troops of 11 Brigade who are starting a six-month operational tour.
The new British-made Mark 7 helmet is the first major change for 20 years – and looks more like an American helmet than the current pudding basin style. It is shaped to allow a soldier to lie flat and shoot straight, without the rear rim digging into his body armour and tipping the front rim over his eyes.
British soldiers are frequently having to fight the Taliban crawling along the ground for cover. Many have complained that when they have to fire while lying down, they struggle to aim quickly at what may be only a fleeting target…
The MoD’s Urgent Operational Requirement order for new helmets was accelerated by the introduction of US-made Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights (ACOG) that sit higher on the soldiers’ SA80 rifles.
Lt Col Matthew Tresidder, chief of staff of the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency, said 10,000 new helmets and body armour kits have been bought by the Ministry of Defence for £16million. The first 5,000 sets are going to infantry soldiers, engineers, drivers, medics, dog handlers and anyone who regularly goes ‘outside the wire’ of protected bases.
The remainder of the 9,000 servicemen in Afghanistan will continue to use the current protective kit.Whilst designed to make it easier for troops to shoot from a prone position, this was not to be the case in reality and just four years later the same newspaper reported that specialist troops, especially snipers, were having to remove the helmets in combat to make shots:
British Army snipers’ lives are being put at risk because they are forced to remove ill-fitting protective helmets before they shoot at the enemy.
Crack marksmen have complained that it is ‘near impossible’ to adopt a correct firing position when targeting Taliban fighters in Afghanistan because of unsuitable kit.
Problems have arisen on the frontline when the back of the standard-issue helmets rub against the top of the ballistic plates in the cutting-edge Osprey body armour
The friction means elite UK sharpshooters are struggling to get ‘beads on’ insurgents laying deadly IEDs or planning ambushes because they cannot properly line up the target in their rifle’s cross-hairs.
To overcome the issue, some troops have taken the drastic step of removing their helmets before taking a shot – running the risk that they themselves could receive a fatal bullet to the head.
A senior officer has admitted that the ‘problem’ is affecting specialist soldiers in the warzone.
He confirmed a major review of helmets was now underway after safety fears were highlighted…
A serviceman has written anonymously to the magazine, which is published with MoD approval, flagging up concerns.
He said: ‘Snipers throughout the Army are struggling to adopt a correct fire position whilst wearing a Mark 6, 6A or 7 helmet – especially when combined with the Osprey.
‘Firing from low-profile positions such as the prone are near impossible.
‘Most service personnel go as far as to remove their helmets, especially when a more difficult shot is required, causing obvious safety concerns.
The Mk7 helmet is now being replaced with Virtus equipment and has slowly been trickling onto the collectors’ market for a few years now (despite many reservist units still using the older Mk 6 and Mk6A helmets). Its service life was brief and apparently much of the army’s stock was sent to the Ukraine when withdrawn from front line duties, proving to be a popular choice amongst troops fighting the Russians there.
In 2007 under a regimental restructure a number of infantry, light infantry and rifle regiments were merged together to form a single, seven battalion regiment (Five regular and two TA battalions) called ‘The Rifles’ this regiment was formed from:
- 1st Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 1st Battalion, Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, and the 1st Battalion Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment)
- 2nd Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 1st Battalion, Royal Green Jackets)
- 3rd Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 2nd Battalion, Light Infantry)
- 4th Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Green Jackets)
- 5th Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 1st Battalion, Light Infantry)
- 6th Battalion (TA) The Rifles (formed from the Rifle Volunteers)
- 7th Battalion (TA) The Rifles (formed from the Royal Rifle Volunteers minus the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment Company but with the surviving two Companies (F and G) of 4th (V) and 5th (V) Battalions of the Royal Green Jackets within The London Regiment)
The regiment adopted the rifle green beret as its headgear and tonight we are looking at an example:This beret is made from a dark green wool, with a leather sweatband. This is adjustable using a drawstring. Once the beret has been correctly adjusted, these are tied off and tucked inside the sweatband to make a neat appearance:The Rifles adopted a traditional light infantry/rifles bugle as their cap badge, here topped by the Queen’s St Edward’s Crown:Surprisingly the cap badge is of white metal, but it is not anodized aluminium stay-brite, however this seems to be the case for all of the regiments cap badges and must have been a conscious decision of the regiment when it was formed:The label inside indicates that this beret was specially made for the regiment, and is of very recent manufacture, dating back just a few years to 2015:What is really nice is that this beret has clearly been issued and used as it has the rifleman’s number and name written inside on the label:The rifles have had an eventful time over the last decade since they were formed, seeing regular deployment on active service. The 2nd Battalion, the 3rd Battalion and the 4th Battalion were all deployed in Basra in Iraq during some of the worst fighting of the Iraq War including the withdrawal from Basra Palace in September 2007.
The 1st Battalion undertook a tour in Afghanistan between October 2008 and April 2009 mentoring the Afghan National Army in Helmand Province. The 5th Battalion was one of the last British Army units to leave Iraq in May 2009. The 4th Battalion provided reinforcement cover for the elections in Afghanistan and to take part in Operation Panther’s Claw in Summer 2009. At the same time the 2nd Battalion was deployed to Sangin and was relieved in due course by the 3rd Battalion. The 2nd and 5th battalions of the Rifles returned for a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan serving in the Nahri Saraj District in October 2011. In March 2018 the 2nd Battalion returned home after a six-month operational deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Shader.
We have looked at the Mk II helmet on the blog before, here. Tonight we are looking at another example, specifically one with period scrim and camouflage on it:This helmet was given to me by the grandson of its original owner and has been stored in an attic for many decades, as such I am confident that the cover applied to it is genuine and wartime rather than a later re-enactor’s addition. The helmet is covered firstly in a layer of painted hessian sandbag material and then a finely woven net, with pieces of cord zig-zagged through to attach extra cover to:The two layers are more apparent on the underside of the helmet where the net’s drawstring has been pulled tight and the hessian backing can be seen at its perimeter:The method of camouflaging the helmet exactly complies with the army pamphlet on field craft which advised troops:
Put a hessian cover on your helmet to dull the shine, a net on top of that to hold scrim etc. and garnishing in the net to disguise the helmet’s distinctive shape, particularly the shadow under the brim.
The helmet is a shiny metal object with lines unlike anything in nature, it therefore stands out against a natural background. The layers of camouflage applied here serve different purposes. The hessian removes any potential shine from the helmet by covering the metal in its entirety. The net then breaks up the outline and allows further pieces of burlap or natural vegetation to be threaded through to reduce its ‘helmet’ like appearance and better blend into the background. This could be highly effective, but troops were warned not to take it too far as a moving bush was not realistic either!
Here troops form the Royal Scots Fusiliers clear a village during Operation Epsom in June 1944, each wearing the Mk II helmet, appropriately camouflaged and scrimmed:
My thanks tonight go to Chris Davies who has very kindly given me a selection of items that belonged to his Grandfather Captain A Davies. We shall be looking at a few different items over the coming weeks, but tonight we start with an officer’s Field Service Cap for the East Yorkshire Regiment:The official history of the East Yorkshire Regiment lists a Lt A Davies as being part of the 5th Battalion just before it landed in Sicily in 1943 and I suspect that this would be the same chap. The cap itself is a private purchase item in high quality barathea, but follows the same pattern as the other ranks’ caps:As an officer the cap badge is made of bronzed metal and the East Yorkshire regiment used a design of a Yorkshire rose in a laurel wreath on a six pointed star:The two buttons on the front of the cap are also bronzed:The differing quality of the cap is really apparent on the inside, where the cap is lined with an oil cloth, now a little degraded and stiff, but still in reasonable condition:The inside of the cap, where it meets the head has a strip of soft velvet like material to capture sweat and make the cap more comfortable to wear:This was clearly a quite expensive cap when new and is in lovely condition, despite the slightly dried out lining. As someone who has been involved with the East Yorkshire Regiment living history group for many years it is lovely to have an attributable cap for an officer of the regiment and with it being a gift it will be a treasured addition to the collection.
My thanks go to a friend and fellow collector who kindly gave me tonight’s object. Pith helmets were expensive but fragile purchases for officers at the turn of the twentieth century. They were easily crushed and so it was customary to purchase a special travel case for the helmets that protected them when not being worn. For the officer with money it was possible to purchase a very nice storage tin, with one’s name and posting sign written onto the outside. Tonight we are looking at an example of one of these tins purchased by a Major Berry before he went out to India:The tin is oval in shape and made from tinplate that has been stamped, bent and then riveted and soldered into shape. Sadly this example has suffered over the years and when first discovered had a large dent on one side that has been carefully straightened out. It is by no means restored to new, but does look attractive enough to display now.
The top of the box lid has a carrying handle riveted to it:A metal hasp is fitted to the front of the box to allow the lid to be padlocked shut, a sensible precaution in early twentieth century India where the perception was that thievery was rife:The exterior of the box is enamelled in a light brown shade, the interior though is painted a shade of blue:The box is sign written in two places and the quality of this is first rate, suggesting that this was an expensive item when new. On the lid in black shaded white lettering is the owner’s name ‘Major Berry’:The front is also marked, this time in red shaded gold lettering saying ‘Calcutta India’:This was presumably Major Berry’s posting and this case would have accompanied him out to the Raj and back again. Until 1911 Calcutta was the capital of British India and I suspect this box dates to before the Great War so the Major would have been part of the military presence here.