Category Archives: Inter-War

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.

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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.

Territorial Army Lapel Badge

During the late 1930s local Territorial Army units started pressurising the War Office for some form of recognition for those who had joined their ranks. It was suggested that members either be given a certificate they could frame and hang at home, or some sort of lapel badge that could be worn with civilian clothes to show the commitment of the man to the force. The War Office gauged the opinions of TA units and in 1935 it was clear most were in favour of the badge. It was finally in March 1937 that the War Office granted permission for a badge to be issued.

The design settled on was a based around the letters ‘TA’ with a kings crown above and a lion springing forward below:imageThis design was the brainchild of a Mr Coombes of the Royal Mint and was to be made of sterling silver. The badge was approved by the King in March 1938 and the order for the first 250,000 was placed on 19th March 1938.

The badges has a lapel fitting on the back and a number can be found stamped on them here:imageEach badge was uniquely numbered and a register was maintained by local TA associations. It was expected that if a man left the TA, the badge would be returned and struck off the list. Sadly it is unclear if these registers still survive, as it would be very interesting to be able to identify the original owners of these badges.

Naturally the badges numbered ‘1’ and ‘2’ were presented to the King and Queen as honorary colonels of the TA.

The design was to be used for many years and examples can be found from the post-war period with a Queen’s crown at the top, these post war examples can also be found with a pin fastener rather than the lapel fastener. The badge was also used in printed form on a variety of leaflets and posters:imageBill Spry was a member of the TA during the 1930s:

I joined the T.A in 1932 at the suggestion of my uncle, Lionel Simpson, who was already a member. After an interview at the H.Q in Park St. Drill Hall, I was given a sealed envelope to take to a doctor’s house in Cathedral R.C Cardiff for my medical examination. The door was answered by a maid, she took the envelope and told me to return the next day. I did so and she gave me a sealed envelope back which I handed in to the H.Q office. I was told that I had passed the medical! I had to add a year on to my age to join, (I was fifteen) and for my first year was rated as “Boy Spry”. I also gave my name as “William James” Spry which I thought was correct, whereas it is actually “James William” Spry. Any eventual discharge papers included these particulars and caused me quite a few problems. My first camp 1932, was in Monmouth under canvas, very wet, very miserable, ablution and toilets in the open air. We slept in bell tents my place was under the flap so that anyone entering or leaving had to step over me. In the Mess tent eight men were assigned per table. Food was supplied in one big dish for each table. The senior men then divided the food onto plates. Guess who got the smallest portion and the stringiest piece of meat! In spite of this I got the prize for the “best recruit”. Incidentally, my pay as a “boy” was eight pence per day. The following year 1933, the annual camp was in Penally, near Tenby, in huts and fine weather. Each man was issued with three heavy blankets, (no sheets). Each morning these had to be folded neatly and laid out with the rest of the kit in the proscribed manner. Returning to my hut one morning I saw with dismay that one of my blankets was missing, stolen. I reported this to my sergeant. He said “No problem, go and take someone else’s”. I said that I couldn’t do that. He replied “That’s an order, do it”.

Waiting until the hut was empty I took the blanket from another bed and put it on mine. Returning to the hut later that day I was pleased to see that the bed I had robbed was back to three blankets! I attended camp each year until 1939. In 1933 I was rated signalman, pay 3/6d f.d. In 1934, I was promoted to lance corporal, 1935 Corporal, 1936 lance sergeant. Our uniform included bandolier, breeches and spurs (very smart). This was because until 1931 horses had been used to pull the cable wagons and the army had not got around to changing our uniforms.

Photograph of L-Class Submarines

This week’s photograph is an interesting interwar image of a fleet of five British submarines tied up in harbour: SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (3)This is a small snap taken on a box-brownie and judging by the gunwale of a boat in the foreground was taken by someone on a harbour trip on a small pleasure craft. The nearest boat is L22, an L class submarine. We looked at another image of one of this class, L27 here. L22 was sold for scrap in 1935 so the image is before she went to the breakers, and perhaps shows the boats laid up waiting their fate. Other boats in the image include L52 and L20. Interestingly there is another photograph I have found showing all three of these boats tied up together at Gosport in 1933: Submarine_Flotilla_1933_at_GosportThe L-class submarine was originally planned under the emergency war programme as an improved version of the British E-class submarine. The scale of change allowed the L class to become a separate class.

The armament was increased when the 21-inch torpedoes came into service. The Group 3 boats had two QF 4-inch guns fore and aft of the lengthened conning tower. Also, 76 tons of fuel oil was carried in external wing tanks for the first time in British submarines. Several of the Group 1 boats were configured as minelayers including L11 and L12. In the Group 2 boats, L14, L17 and L24 to L27 were built as minelayers carrying 16 mines but without the two beam torpedo tubes.

The introduction of the L class came too late to contribute significantly in World War I. L2 was accidentally depth-charged by three American destroyers in early 1918. L12 torpedoed the German submarine UB-90. L10 torpedoed the German destroyer S33 in October 1918 but was sunk by accompanying destroyers.

L55 was sunk in 1919 during the British naval intervention in the Russian civil war by Bolshevik Russian destroyers. She was salvaged by the Russians and was re-commissioned by the Russians with her original service number.

The L class served throughout the 1920s and the majority were scrapped in the 1930s but three remained operational as training boats during World War II. The last three were scrapped in 1946 after long distinguished service.

In 1937 The Times reported that another of the class was up for sale:

Submarine L. 71 has been placed on the sale list at Portsmouth. This leaves only eight vessels on the effective list of the once numerous “L” class, which formed the bulk of the British flotillas for several years after the war. The class embodied the experience gained with earlier oil-engined submarines, particularly the “E” class and L.1 and L.2 were in fact begun in 1916 as E. 57 and E. 58. L.71 was begun in September 1917, by the Scott’s Shipbuilding Company, Greenock, but was not finished until 1920, when she was commissioned by Lieutenant G.A. Garnos-Williams, D.S.C., now maintenance commander at Gibraltar. Up to last year she served in the 2nd Submarine Flotilla, Home Fleet, and was among the units detached to the Eastern Mediterranean at the time of the Abyssinian concentration.

Army Rifle Association India Cup Commemorative Spoon

It is perhaps unsurprising that competitive rifle competitions have always been popular in the armed forces. Good marksmanship is an essential military skill and men competing against each other naturally try to improve their own skills which in turn translates to better trained men in the field.

The Army Rifle Association was formed in 1893 and exists today, it’s stated purpose being:

The aim of service competition shooting is to promote interest in small arms shooting for Service purposes by means of individual and collective competitions, framed to include practice in methods which will lead to increased EFFICIENCY ON THE BATTLEFIELD

These competitions became important parts of the regimental year and India was no exception with several prestigious competitions run there for regiments stationed in the country. Tonight we have a delightful spoon that brings one of these to mind:imageAlthough it is not hall marked, I suspect this spoon is in fact made of silver but being produced in India it is not marked in the same way a British made example would be. The top of the spoon has an elegant lion and the initials ARA for the Army Rifle Association:imageThe rear of the spoon is engraved ‘India Cup 1938’:imageThe India Cup was a platoon rifle and Lewis gun competition held in India and I suspect this spoon was given out to one of the participants as a souvenir of his time competing in the match.

India took its rifle competitions very seriously and until the early 1930s sent a team to the annual shooting matches at Bisley in the UK. Unfortunately at this point the cost could no longer be justified and they pulled out of the competition, as bemoaned in The Times in February 1935:

The news, just received from the Army Rifle Association of India, that for reasons of economy it is not proposed to have a team representing the Indian Empire at the Imperial meeting this year has caused surprise and regret.

For many years the India team has been built up from those on leave in this country, stiffened by a backbone of old hands who have retired from the Services, so there is no heavy cost of transport, as there is for teams from Canada and other parts of the Empire. Particularly unfortunate is it that the team should withdraw this year when there will be a big gathering of Empire marksmen to celebrate the King’s Silver Jubilee.

The criticism that this Indian team as it has been constituted for many years past does not truly represent the shooting ability of India can be made with justice; but the commandant must always cut his coat to his cloth. With a more liberal financial endowment the best Indian marksmen could be brought home instead of a team’s being picked form those who are on leave.