Category Archives: Inter-War

1922 Pattern Other Ranks Service Dress Cap

The other ranks peaked service dress cap was introduced in the early Edwardian era and was used up until World War One. At this stage experience in the trenches led to the cap being modified to remove wire stiffening and rigid peaks. The trench caps of 1915 were a long way from the smart SD caps of pre-war days but suited active service conditions better. After World War 1 had ended The British Army smartened up its uniform again to better represent a peacetime army and the stiff service dress cap made a reappearance for the ordinary soldier. Although cut subtly different, the interwar other ranks service dress cap was very similar to that used before the war and it is one of these interwar period examples we are looking at tonight:imageThis pattern was introduced in 1922 alongside the recut service dress jacket and was part of the post war move to bring the standards of the army back to a peacetime footing. It had been decided that the scarlet home service dress of the Edwardian era was not to be reintroduced due to the cost implication, so efforts were made to smarten up the service dress, which until that point had been for field use rather than for parade and walking out use. As well as making the jacket more fitted and introducing brass collar dogs, the cap was recut.

The peak on this cap is distinctly semi-circular rather the ‘D’ shaped and has a definite downwards angle, again indicative of interwar production:imageLater versions of the cap would make the peak almost vertical in the angle and this is more commonly found with post-WW2 examples of the cap. The underside of the peak is finished in a green leather effect:imageA brass tab is included inside the front of the cap that forces up the top of the crown, tensioning it and giving the cap its distinctive shape:imageThese were frequently modified to subtly alter the shape of the cap to suit regimental requirements and it was probably the Regimental Tailor’s job to do this so that there was consistency across the unit. The cap has a decorative chin strap in brown leather, adjusted with simple brass slider buckles:imageA brass button is sewn to either side of the cap band to attach this strap to:imageThis cap has an orange coloured artificial silk liner to it and leather cloth sweat band, sadly now badly damaged:imageMost caps produced by the military have black oil cloth linings but examples do exist with this type of liner so it is a perfectly legitimate variation of the cap. The sweat band was made of brown oil cloth, but this has not survived well in this example.

This cap was a lucky find on my local second hand market and seems to be in remarkably good condition for its age, even more unusual is that it is in a size large enough to fit my oversized head. I will be pairing this with my 1922 pattern service dress uniform to make a very smart walking out impression.

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Hand Tinted View of Devonport

This week’s photograph is a lovely hand tinted view of Devonport taken in August 1925:SKM_C284e18032911530 - CopyThis photograph shows the Hamoaze, the name for the tidal estuary of the River Tamar in Plymouth as it runs past the Royal Navy’s Devonport Dockyard. In 1925, as today, this stretch of water was unbelievably busy with military and civilian craft of all sizes, both traversing the waterways and at anchor. A number of ships can be seen in the anchorage including a civilian steamer:SKM_C284e18032911530 - Copy - CopyIn the middle distance are a couple of ships I suspect may be accommodation vessels:SKM_C284e18032911530 - Copy - Copy (2)They look to be older vessels and there appears to be some structures built onto their decks which was typical of ships taken out of service to serve as accommodation and teaching space for sailors. It was far cheaper to use a surplus vessel and moor it in the harbour than buy land and build a building on it for the same purpose! One of the ships being used for accommodation and training in Devonport harbour in 1925 was HMS Marshal Soult, a monitor. This ship had the advantages of allowing ratings to be drilled in the use of a Battleship’s guns, without the need to maintain a full size battleship for training. The ship’s large, flat deck also made it easy to fit wooden huts and classrooms on board. I do not think these ships are Marshal Soult, but may perhaps be the hulks used by HMS Defiance. HMS Defiance was the navy’s torpedo school and was based aboard hulks from 1884 until 1956 when it moved ashore to a dedicated establishment. This painting shows them from a different angle and between the vessels are four vertical masts that would match the four masts we can see in the photograph:CaptureUnfortunately the detail is too blurry in the photograph, and the angle is clearly very different, to be able to say for certain that this is indeed HMS Defiance, but it seems possible.

Also moored in the harbour is a battleship:SKM_C284e18032911530 - Copy - Copy (3)In 1925 HMS Thunderer was the sea going training vessel for cadets at Devonport, a role she fulfilled from 1921-1926. The Orion class battleship had been laid down before the Great War and after serving faithfully throughout World War one she was used for training until she was sent for scrap in August 1926.

According to the seller I purchased this photograph from, it was hand tinted by a Lt Commander Lawrence Watts of the Royal Navy Reserve. Sadly I have no further information on this, but regardless he has done a lovely job of the tinting and it remains a very attractive image to this day.

Coldstream Guards Lapel Badge

I really like regimental lapel badges. They tend to be cheap, they don’t take up any room and they are often very attractive little objects with brightly coloured enamel in their decoration. Careful hunting in junk boxes can reap rewards, such as this little Coldstream Guards badge that turned up last week for £1:imageIt is made of white metal in the shape of a Garter star and has a small half-moon lapel pin soldered to the back:imageThe star is taken from the Order of the Garter, the highest order of British Chivalry and is an eight pointed star, each of its points being a cluster of rays to give a sun beam effect. In the centre of this is the badge of St George, the red cross on a white field surrounded by a navy blue garter bearing the motto ‘Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense’. The design dates back to the reign of Charles I and the use of the badge indicates the high seniority of the Coldstream Guards, second only to the Grenadier Guards in the order of precedence.

All regiments retain close ties with their former members, but this is especially important for Guards and Cavalry regiments where regimental associations open up many doors for former soldiers. Although it is a cliché, the regimental tie and badge are still important identifiers and in social situations allow a subtle way to indicate regimental loyalties. With this in mind, small lapel badges such as this one take on a greater significance. Officially former guardsmen are represented by the Coldstream Guards Association, its website describes their role as:

The Coldstream Guards Association is a community of serving and ex-members of the Coldstream Guards, who are united by the ethos of ‘once a Coldstreamer – always a Coldstreamer’. The Association is open to all who are serving, or have served, in the Regiment, whether officer or enlisted man… It is a place to keep in touch with old friends, meet and understand the next generation of Coldstream Guardsmen and gives you the opportunity to assist in the welfare of the Regimental family where you are able.

Anzac Day Lapel Pin

On 25th April every year the people of Australia and New Zealand, together with the Cooke Islands, Pitcairn Islands and Tonga commemorate their fallen on Anzac Day. The 25th April 1915 was the day Anzac troops first landed on the Gallipoli peninsular in World War One and a year later it was officially inaugurated as a half day holiday to remember the sacrifices of Anzac troops. From the very start it was designed to be a non-denominational day of remembrance with a two minutes silence in honour of those who would not be returning. This was chosen in preference to prayer as it was open to all of any faith and none.

The Northern Territory Times and Gazette of 30th March 1920 reported:

April 25 is Anzac Day, and is a public holiday by Act of Parliament. It is really a national Australian holiday. A-N-Z-A.C-Australia New .Zealand Army Corp-a name, protected, honored and revered by the English speaking race because of its connection with the greatest military enterprise in the history of the world. Although Australia had previously participated in small wars in Africa, against the Soudanese and the Boers, Gallipoli was really our baptismal under fire. It was here that the wonderful Australian troops astounded the world and earned the respect and admiration of even the Turk. The world dearly loves a fighter and the Anzac stands on a pedestal right out on his own. So far, there has not been any official announcement that Anzac Day is to be honored by any public function in Darwin. It is inconceivable that the day will be allowed to pass without public notice or tribute locally. However, there is still plenty of time, and it is hoped that the patriotic residents of the town (and they are legion, thank God) will be given an opportunity to participate in some suitable function on Anzac Day.

During the 1920s it became established as a day of remembrance on 25th April to be observed across both Australia and New Zealand and money was raised by service chairites by selling commemorative lapel pins. It is one of these we are considering tonight:imageThe pin is simply made and has a design of a large ‘A’ in front of a flaming torch with the words ‘ANZAC DAY’ around the edges:imageLooking at the rear we can see the pin is made of thin stamped metal, with the pin soldered to the rear allowing it to be attached to a jacket lapel or a dress:imageI have been unable to find an exact match to this design of pin, but numerous other variations exist. I suspect it dates from before 1950 and there was perhaps a new design each year to encourage people to buy one annually rather than reusing the same pin every year. It would have been sold in the same way poppies were in the United Kingdom, to show solidarity with those who have lost their lives and to raise money for injured servicemen and their families.

Royal Leinster Regiment Old Comrades Association Badge

In 1922 partition occurred in Ireland and a number of regiments that had traditionally recruited from the south of the country were formally disbanded. Amongst these regiments was the Prince of Wale’s Leinster Regiment. This unit had been formed in 1881 by the combining of the 100th Regiment of Foot with the 109th Regiment of Foot and it had its home depot in Birr. The Regiment served gallantly during both the Boer and Great Wars. As with most regiments, in the aftermath of the Great War an Old Comrades Association was set up to foster the companionship soldiers had experienced in service into civilian life. Tonight we have a small lapel badge for the Old Comrades Association of the Leinster Regiment:imageThis is a small silver plate badge, with a green centre containing the cap badge, The Prince of Wale’s feathers, and the numbers ‘100’ and ‘109’ representing the numbers of the original regiments that amalgamated to form the Leinster Regiment. Around the outside of this light green centre is a blue ring with the lettering ‘OCA PoW Leinster Rgt’. The rear of the badge has a lapel fastening:imageThis badge appears to be silver plate and although I cannot read it on my copy, other examples are marked as having been manufactured by Phillips of Aldershot. The Leinster Regiment Old Comrades Association remained in existence for around seventy years until the early nineties. By that point, with few original members remaining alive, it was wound up and the remaining funds distributed to charity. Happily a new organisation has since been founded to keep alive the memory of this illustrious regiment. Their website indicates who is involved in the modern successor to the Old Comrades Association:

Membership was initially derived from ex-servicemen of the British and Irish armies as well as a few who had relatives serve with the regiment. Membership continues to grow with more members having family links with the Leinster Regiment, and as the Association continues its work we also encourage any person who has the interests of our Association at heart to join us. The Association is the sum of its members and together we will maintain the spiritus intus of the Prince Of Wales’s Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians).

The Association also describes some of the activities they have been involved with:

In October 2004 the association held a ceremony to rededicate the grave of Sgt John O’Neill VC MM, whose grave had become somewhat dilapidated over time. By September 2006 membership had exceeded 145, an excellent start for a new Association and the same year the Association was privileged to participate in the liberation commemoration ceremony held by the inhabitants of Guillemont and Ginchy in France. In March 2007 the Association held a parade in Ypres and members  marched to the Menin Gate for the ceremony of the Last Post. Each November members of the Association parade at Horse Guards for the Remembrance March in Whitehall.  The Association provides a presence at the annual Garden of Remembrance, held at Westminster Abbey in November, when all members are encouraged to support the planting of poppy crosses in the Leinster Regiment garden plot. Meetings are also held in London and Dublin.

As part of our objective of continuing the memory of the Regiment, the Association is working closely with the Council of Co. Offaly in Ireland, to develop a Leinster Regiment Collection to be housed in the County Library in the town of Birr. This collection currently houses copies of the WW1 War Diaries for the Regiment, as well as selected books, pamphlets and a photo collection on CD ROM. Our objective is to encourage descendents of Leinster soldiers to donate or loan memorabilia to the collection housed in Birr.

Royal Artillery Indian Christmas Card

Now we are all filled up on mince pies and mulled wine, we come to the last of our annual Christmas related objects, a third and final Christmas card (I hope you haven’t been too bored by all these!). This card is from a member of the Royal Artillery and shares a lot of design similarities with the example we looked at on Christmas Eve:SKM_C284e17120716040The card has the same basic design of a regimental crest on the front and a piece of ribbon in the regimental colours to secure all the parts together. Inside the card has a nice line drawing of a boar hunt in India:SKM_C284e17120716041This hunt, known as ‘pig sticking’ was hugely popular amongst officers in India before the partition. The following detailed description comes from a hunting website and explains the practice:

The modern sport is the direct descendant of bear spearing which was popular in Bengal until the beginning of the 19th century, when the bears had become so scarce that wild pigs were substituted as the quarry. The weapon used by the Bengalese was a short, heavy, broad-bladed javelin. British officers introduced the spear or lance and this has become the recognized method of hunting wild pigs in India. The season for hunting in northern India, the present headquarters of the sport, is from February to July. The best horses should be quick and not too big. Two kinds of weapon are used. The long, or underhand, spear, weighing from two to three pounds, has a light, tough bamboo shaft, from seven to eight feet long, armed with a small steel head of varying shape. This spear is held in the hand about two-thirds the distance from the point, with the knuckles turned down and the thumb along the shaft. The short, or jobbing, spear is from six to six and a half feet long, and somewhat heavier than the longer weapon. It is grasped near the butt, with the thumb up. Although easier to handle in the jungle, it permits the nearer approach of the boar and is therefore more dangerous to man and mount.

Having arrived at the bush-grown or marshland haunt of the pigs, the quarry is “reared,” i.e. chased out of its cover, by a long line of beaters, usually under the command of a mounted shikari. Sometimes dogs and guns loaded with small shot are used to induce an animal to break cover. The mounted sportsmen, placed on the edge of the cover, attack the pig as soon as it appears, the honour of “first spear,” or “spear of honour,” i.e. the thrust that first draws blood, being much coveted. As a startled or angry wild boar is a fast runner and a desperate fighter the pig-sticker must possess a good eye, a steady hand, a firm seat, a cool head and a courageous heart. For these reasons the military authorities encourage the sport, which is for the most part carried on by the tent clubs of the larger Indian station.

Robert Baden Powell gave what seems to be a most remarkable description to modern ears:

Try it before you judge. See how the horse enjoys it, see how the boar himself, mad with rage, rushes wholeheartedly into the scrap, see how you, with your temper thoroughly roused, enjoy the opportunity of wreaking it to the full. Yes, hog-hunting is a brutal sport—and yet I loved it, as I loved also the fine old fellow I fought against…Not only is pig-sticking the most exciting and enjoyable sport for both the man and horse as well, but I really believe that the boar enjoys it too.

The card was sent from Muttra, in the United Provinces:SKM_C284e17120716041 - Copy (2)Muttra was one of the main centres for the sport, as recounted by Francis Ingall in his great book ‘Last of the Bengal Lancers’:

Hog-hunting was a popular sport in the sub-continent in those days, but it was most enthusiastically pursued at Meerut, Muttra and Delhi. Generally speaking, only the male pig was considered eligible for the hunter’s spear. The wild-board of India can weigh well over three-hundred pounds; he has razor-sharp tushes about six-inches long, is incredibly speedy and agile, and knows no fear. Even the lordly tiger in his own jungle will turn away from a big tusker on the rampage. A quick flick of that massive head with its wicked tushes and man, horse or tiger lies bleeding and disembowelled in a pool of blood and guts.

King Edward’s 2nd Ghurkha Rifle’s Christmas Card

I hope you are all having a restful Christmas Eve and you are looking forward to tomorrow. As is now customary on the blog, the next three days will see us focus on Christmas related objects, this year we have three different Christmas cards. We start tonight with a card sent from an officer in the 2nd King Edward’s Own Ghurkha Rifles. I believe this card dates form between the wars and has the regiment’s crest embossed on the front:SKM_C284e17120716040 - CopyThe card is held together with a piece of ribbon in the regimental colours. Inside there is a painting of a member of the regiment during the Indian Mutiny:SKM_C284e17120716041 - CopyThe caption which accompanies this painting reads:

Incident in the Subzee Mundee, Delhi, 1857

An eye-witness to this incident relates how he saw a rebel thrust his head through an opening in a serai wall just as a man of the Regiment arrived under it. The latter at once seized the rebel by the hair and struck off his head with his khukri.

Very Christmassy!

The card was sent to ‘Aunt may’ from ‘Tim’:SKM_C284e17120716050The sender also included a short hand written message on the back:SKM_C284e17120716050 - CopyThis reads:

I have managed to get leave- 7 days- over Christmas and am travelling door to door. Everything seems to be going alright, but return here after Christmas. I am looking forward immensely to getting home.

Please give my love to William and David, with my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

The 2nd King Edward’s Own Ghurkha Rifles was one of the regiments that remained with the UK after the partition of India and was merged with other Ghurkha regiments in 1994 to become part of the Royal Ghurkha Rifles.