Category Archives: Jungle

1960s Boonie Hat

The floppy bush or ‘boonie’ hat has been a mainstay of British Army tropical headgear since the Second World War and we have covered numerous variations of it on the blog over the years. Tonight however we are looking at a transitional design that sits between the World War Two design we looked at here and the introduction of the DPM hat in the mid-1970s:imageThe hat is a shade or two lighter in colour compared to the wartime design, however that may just be down to extensive wear and fading. The design is broadly similar to its earlier incarnation, with circular stitching round the rim to reinforce it:imageAnd loops for vegetation to be attached:imageThe top vents are covered with brass grilles, however this hat has clearly had a hard life and they are heavily corroded:imageOne new feature to this pattern of hat is the addition of two fabric tabs with metal grommets in them on the underside of the hat:imageThese allow a chinstrap to be threaded through if required. The inside of the hat has a stamped size, 7, and both an NSN number and what appears to be an old style stores code:imageThis suggests that the hat was made in that transitional period in the 1960s when NSN numbers were just starting to be introduced. This boonie hat was clearly used, as the original owner has written his name and regiment  inside in permanent marker:imageThe boonie’s longevity is due to a number of factors. It is comfortable, effective at protecting the wearer’s head from sun and rain and can easily be folded flat to put in a pocket:imageIt also has that indefinable ‘allyness’ that soldiers are always seeking- the wearer of a battered boonie is automatically a grizzled veteran who has seen much action (regardless of whether he used his boonie for years in the jungle or had just bought one from Silvermans…). These hats are then customised as one ex-regular explains:

They’re cut down – it’s a fashion statement with a modicum of practicality. It is important to remember that all British soldiers strive to look “Ally” at all times. There are three levels of Ally (1) not-Ally (2) Ally (3) Ally as Fuck.

Issue kit or cheap civvie stuff is Not-Ally. Issue kit altered or supplemented with expensive or special forces stuff is Ally and rare, foreign and very cool stuff whilst standing over the body of a terrorist and chomping a cigar whilst staring 1000 yards into the distance is Ally-as-Fuck.

The issue bush hat has a large brim. It is there to protect against sun, fire ants dropping down the back of your neck and provide shade when fighting those ungrateful ex-colonies in South East Asia.

The problem is that the brims get wet and droop and look shite (the trick is to sow in some copper wire to keep it rigid). However, that big brim will maintain not ally and prevent moving to the hallowed Ally status. Therefore soldiers cut them down (or have tailors do it) – Three reasons in order of importance.

  1. It allows you to get a better tan increasing your chance of getting laid on R&R or on your return.
  2. The long brim is too long and flops annoyingly, shorter is smarter and more soldier like
  3. There isn’t a rule against it, therefore it is fashionable to do it.

British Army Wellco Jungle Boots

We seem to have covered a lot of different pairs of boots on the blog this year, we round out our selection though with a pair of American made Wellco jungle boots:imageThe British Army purchased these boots in quite large numbers form the US for issue to troops on jungle deployments and in training in jungle environments. The boots are lightweight, as is so often the case with jungle boots, and feature a two part construction with leather for the lower portions, and fabric for the area above the ankle:imageLeather reinforcing goes up the whole of the front of the boot in order to mount the eyeholes and clasps for the laces:imageAs befits boots that are likely to get very wet and then need to dry rapidly, two drainage holes are fitted to the lower portion of the boot:imageThe soles of the boots are made of heavy duty rubber and have a pattern known as a ‘Panama Sole’:imageThis design was invented by a US soldier called Raymond Dobie in World War II and uses a series of angled rubber lugs in the soles to push soft mud from the soles, clearing them and providing much better grip in greasy clay or mud. Each sole has the size (here 12) moulded into the rubber, indicating that these were manufactured for the British Army rather than for the US military as the sizes are those used in Britain, not America. The official stores catalogue describes the boots as:

Boots, Combat, Jungle. Hot weather. Calf length derby style boot with black leather uppers and nylon leg. Speed loop & eyelet lace closure. Rubber moulded sole. Drainage plugs inside arches.

The inside of the tongue has a white stamping indicating size, NSN number and date of manufacture. As this is an area of high wear, these can be hard to read sometimes:imageEach boot also has a maker’s tag with the US flag and the name Wellco embroidered on it:imageAs ever we can rely upon Arrsepedia to give a humorous and not necessarily accurate reason as to why the British Army adopted US produced boots:

Being British of course, we decided to make our own version of the US jungle boot and came out with something that looked like a DMS boot with the ankle bit removed and replaced with green canvas, thus looking like a slightly more ally NHS orthopaedic shoe.

Under rigorous jungle conditions, these lasted about 14.7 seconds and so combat arms personnel posted to Belize were finally, and very grudgingly, issued with US jungle boots which they actually got to keep. Woo hoo!

These boots were produced in sizes from 3 to 15, in half size increments and each size was offered in regular, wide and extra wide. This resulted in a bewildering 74 different size and width combinations for this design of boot!

Modern British Army Mosquito Head Net

The British Army has recognised the need to protect troops from insect bites in the field, especially in tropical areas where malaria is rife. A number of different mosquito nets designed to be worn over the head have been issued over the years and tonight we are looking at the most modern design of these:imageThis net is made of a nylon mesh, in olive green. Rather than being a simple bag, a round piece is sewn into the crown to give it a little more structure and fit better over a head and under a cap:imageAn elasticated drawstring is provided to allow the net to be closed off around the neck and prevent insects from flying up underneath it:imageThese nets are issued in small polythene bags from the manufacturers:imageThese have a sticky label with a stores barcode and details of who made them:imageConeen Defence Ltd is a Northern Irish company specialising in the manufacture of military uniforms and accessories and they have been supplying the MoD for over fifteen years, with manufacturing bases in India, Bangladesh and China. Their advertising material describes their company as:

Cooneen Defence provides the clothing needs of military and police personnel across the world both combat, patrol and operational garments.

Military and Police Authorities demand clothing solutions which will perform in the most challenging environments. With more than 15 years’ experience in providing UK Ministry of Defence with the vast majority of their clothing requirements, from cargo trousers to berets, parade wear, to medical wear, flights suits to marine coveralls, Cooneen have an institutional wealth of experience and knowledge in the design, manufacture and supply of high volume garments to authorities with a remit to protect the public and national interests.

Although the name of the contractor appears on the outer label, it is not mentioned on the label sewn into the net, instead there is just a contract number:imageThe insect head net is one of the standard pieces of equipment a soldier would expect to receive when deploying in the so called ‘black bag’ of essential equipment. The accompanying Army pamphlet has this, admittedly brief, information on the net:Capture

Stainless Steel Jack Knife with Spike

The stainless steel jungle jack knife is a fairly easy item to pick up, and we have looked at an example previously here. A few weeks back however I came across a variant that I had not found before, an example with a ‘spike’ on the back:imageThe spike sits across the back of the knife, and in this example has suffered quite badly from corrosion over the years:imageThe use of the spike is often recorded as being for the removal of stones from horses’ hooves. Whilst I am sure it would do this job, in the jungles of East Asia in the 1950s, this would seem to be a rather superfluous tool! As a sailor I was always taught that it was for splitting the strands of rope to allow them to be spliced correctly and this seems a much more probable explanation!

The rest of this jack knife is entirely conventional with a single blade and a can opener being included:imageA large loop is fitted for a lanyard to be secured to:imageThis example was made by JH Thompson in 1956:imageThese examples seem marginally rarer than the two piece clasp knife, but a quick search of the web suggests they are still out there and were being manufactured as late SAS the 1990s. I suspect there is no logic behind which version troops were given, but it is a nice variant to add to my little collection of jack knives.

Anti-Malarial Dust Gun

The British Army used a variety of methods to control malaria, with anti-mosquito creams and mosquito netting being two of the best known. However it was far better to destroy the mosquitos before they even became airborne, so it was common to treat stagnant pools of water to kill the insects larvae. Oil was often used which clogged up the larvae’s breathing tubes, however other methods were also employed, as described by the 1934 Army Mannual of Hygiene and Sanitation:

Paris Green is a green powder containing arsenite of copper, is practically insoluble in water, and is a most effective larvicide. It is mixed with road dust, sawdust or some other similar material to keep it afloat and is then sprayed on the surface of the water. The particles are eaten by anopheline larvae, which are surface feeders, and the chemical acts as a poison. To be effective against culicine lavae, which feed below the surface, Paris Green must be mixed with wet sand or some other material which will carry it below the surface of the water.

Paris Green is most effective for large areas of water which cannot be controlled effectively by oiling. The quantity required is about one pound of Paris Green to the acre and the dilution with dust should be about 5 per cent. For large areas of water and about 1 per cent for small.

It has no effect on domestic animals, fish, or crops such as rice, and the water treated is not rendered unfit for domestic purposes; its disadvantages are that it does not kill pupae and, as it contains arsenic, care must be taken by persons handling it.

Tonight we are looking at a dust gun, used by the British military, to deliver this compound. My thanks go to Owen Thompson who kindly helped me add this one to the collection. The dust gun is a large tinplate pump, painted green, designed to spray out the dust and Paris Green mix:imageAt the front is a large screw on lid that can be removed to refill the dust compartment:imageOnto the main dust container is riveted a small maker’s plate:imageThe words ‘TOP’ are stencilled onto the dust gun canister to ensure it is used the right way round:imageAt the end of the dust gun is a wooden handle:imageThis is connected to a metal rod inside, with a rubber bung on the end:imageThis creates a seal so that as the pump is moved back and forth the air pressure forces the dust mixture out of the nozzle at the opposite end:imageThis nozzle has snapped off, a similar dust gun on the IWM website has a nozzle almost twice as long. The handle has stamped onto it the /|\ mark and a date of 1946:imageAlthough the 1934 hygiene manual described Paris Green as safe in the prescribed quantities, it is now known to be highly toxic if used in higher concentrations, as discovered by some users in North Africa during the war:

Mosquitoes and malaria were a big problem in that area, and so very strict measures were taken to control them. We had already lost one driver, Albert Fairclough, from Yorkshire. He was sent back to England as incurable, having had constant malaria over some nine months.

The main control was to mix up one shovel full of Paris Green arsenic with 50 shovels full of sand, mix well and spread over all the pools of water within half a mile of the camp. When the anopheles mosquito larvae finally came up for air, this poison was sucked in, and it was goodbye to yet another mosquito before it could take flight.

One poison party was supervised by a corporal, not the brightest star in the firmament, who confused the instructions. Thus, when the villagers’ cattle came to drink, they keeled over … dead! Naturally, the buzzards came to clean up the environment — they also keeled over … dead. Now the North African vulture is a gourmet meal for many villagers, and so we had a local hospital full of very sick villagers.

It was understood by many that a promissory note was handed over to the headman of the village. The note had been signed — on the spot — by one Winston S Churchill. It was just as well that we were on our way to the real war in Italy.

44 Pattern Bayonet Frog

Included in the standard items of webbing for the 44 pattern set was a bayonet frog. Interestingly a bayonet frog was also supplied on the side of the basic pouch, but clearly it was felt a separate one would be useful as well. The frog is clearly copied from the 37 pattern design, but made in the newer more rot proof webbing:imageThe official webbing pamphlet describes it thus:

Bayonet Frog- This is provided with a woven hole in the upper scabbard loop to enable the No. 4, No. 5, or No. 7 bayonet to be carried by inserting the stud through the hole. The No. 1 bayonet is held in the frog in the usual way by the stud of the scabbard being inserted between the web loops.  imageA narrow web loop is provided to slip over the hilt of the No. 1 or the No. 5 bayonet to prevent swinging. imageThis frog is clearly unissued, as can be seen by the rear which has no wear at all:imageThe markings include the frog’s store code ‘CN2006’ and the manufacturer and date:imageDespite the integral bayonet loops on the 44 pattern basic pouch, these separate frogs must have been useful as manufacture continued into the mid-1960s, with dates of 1966 observed on some examples. Ironically however most examples found today seem to be in mint condition and never issued.

WS88 Set Instruction Card

Continuing my on-going project to collect up all the accessories for my Malayan Emergency era WS88 set radio, I have recently managed to pick up the aluminium operators instruction card. This card is made of metal, with operating instructions etched into the front and the back, as the radio was designed to be used in tropical conditions aluminium was a good choice as it was more resilient than card and less prone to corrosion than steel or brass might have been. The front of the card offers some first principles:SKMBT_C36416071107080_0001aWith illustrations of the general set up of the radio system:SKMBT_C36416071107080_0001 - CopyAnd how to wear it:SKMBT_C36416071107080_0001The rear of the card gives operating instructions:SKMBT_C36416071107081_0001Including diagrams of how to set up the radio for transmitting:SKMBT_C36416071107081_0001 - CopyAnd some detailed text on how to test, operate and maintain the radio:SKMBT_C36416071107081_0001 - Copy (2)This card would have acted as an aide memoire to the designated radio operator and as a quick guide to anyone who was forced to use the radio in an emergency. The card itself slots into the back of the radio pouch and has a stores number of ZA32991.