I am never surprised at the wide variety of equipment that was taken into military service and marked as such. If I can find something weird and wonderful that is marked for the Indian Army as well then so much the better. Tonight’s object definitely falls into this category and is a pair of Indian Army marked molar extractors:This dental tool has a large pair of jaws to clamp around the tooth for extraction:The handles are deeply grooved to aid grip and this tool is specifically designed for the left upper molars, as marked on the inside of the handle:Note also the /|\ over ‘I’ mark showing it was accepted into Indian Army service. The tool appears to be dated 1929, If I am interpreting this mark correctly:A circular maker’s mark is stamped onto the inside of the opposite side and indicates that this instrument was manufactured in England, before being shipped out to India:This is typical for the interwar period where manufacturing in India was not sufficiently developed to allow these items to be sourced in the sub-continent. The Second World War would see a massive increase in the capacity of the region to produce high quality medical equipment and by the time of independence India would be self-sufficient for this type of simple tool.
Visiting the dentist could be traumatic in the early twentieth century, as described by trooper Tom Canning:
Whilst in training with the Royal Armoured Corps in Barnard Castle, I broke a tooth which necessitated a visit to the Dentist.
Now I have disliked all forms of dentistry as it appears to be filled with people who enjoy hurting other people when there have been many ways of preventing pain of all sorts for many years past.
There was no escape however, and I started the trudge towards the 59th regts. camp some two miles away along the road to west Auckland, hoping that some strange disease had overtaken the Dentist, and that the appointment would be cancelled.
No such luck as I was ushered into the torture chamber. Sure enough I was now one tooth short of the establishment for fighting an enemy. ” I can rectify that” said the chief torturer ” I shall give you a new tooth”, and he proceeded to level off the offending left front incisor.
When he was finished he then suggested that I reappear – same time – same place next week.
The walk back to Streatlam camp was spent in musing how this Dentist could grow another tooth in my head, with no full understanding of how he was to achieve this miracle.
The next visit made it abundantly clear when he started drilling – upwards to-wards my brain ! After six weeks of this torture he then, like a third rate magician, produced this tooth on what appeared to be a very long spike. He then glued this “tooth” into my head – remember that this was way before the advent of “crazy glue” and other forms of adhesives.
On completion of this task he then handed me a mirror. ” but the tooth is blue” I remarked – ” not a problem ” he replied – ” it will be white as snow very soon”!
This I thought, was a ‘porkie” of great dimension which after four years overseas without the benefit of another dentist – the tooth remained blue.
Finally attaining civilian status, this blue thing finally fell off leaving this spike unadorned, much to the amusement of my Dentist who then established that in the course of my wanderings through Europe this spike had moved and affected many of my top teeth. The consequences of this were a complete overhaul of my mouth which left me in the position that should anything stressful occur in my mouth, all I have to do is to mail my dentures to the nearest dental mechanic for his attention and return mailing! No more Dentists for me!
When we looked at the ARP first aid kit a few months back it included a tin of Vaseline. We did not look at it in any great detail at the time, but since then I have picked up another example and I felt it was worthy of a further look. The humble tin of Vaseline was seen extensively both in civilian’s first aid and beauty cupboards and in the field with armed personnel. The petroleum jelly had a number of uses including treating minor cuts and scrapes, moisturising dry skin and even as part of an improvised hearing defender for use in air raids! Sir John Anderson advised householders to:
Keep a tin handy with some pieces of cotton wool in it, each smeared with a little Vaseline…Stuff one of them firmly but not tightly into each ear when the noise begins. You will find it a great help.
Vaseline had been invented in the 1860s in the US by a man called Robert Augustus Cheesborough who found a way to purify the by products of the oil drilling process to create what he originally called ‘Wonder Jelly’. The name quickly changed to ‘Vaseline’ and in the 1900s production spread globally with manufacturing in England dominating the European market.
This tin dates from the 1940s and is typical of those used in wartime:The company used round metal tins, with large yellow printing on them to make it clear what was inside the tin. Despite being an American brand, the tins are marked up as ‘London’, presumably because consumers at the time preferred locally produced products to overseas imports. The Vaseline was clearly only packaged in the UK though, as small writing round the edge of the tin indicates the jelly itself was refined in the US:The tin the Vaseline is stored in was made by the Metal Box Company who we have met many times before on the blog. Their manufacturer’s code can just be made out on the edge of the lid:This tin is still filled with the petroleum jelly it was first filled with and looks like it would still be serviceable today (although I am not about to try it):Vaseline was advertised as a suitable product for female war workers and those involved in work where dry skin could be a hazard, as seen in this advertisement from the Daily Mail:It was also sold as a suitable gift for servicemen, with tins being small enough to be easily carried and the Vaseline useful for a multitude of things on active service. Indeed its healing properties were such that the US government ordered Vaseline impregnated gauze to help treat front line soldiers who had suffered severe burns.
At the outbreak of World War One it was recognised that there would not be enough professionally qualified nursing staff in the country to support the number of casualties that might be expected from the front. To help boost the numbers of medical staff available civilian groups were rapidly set up by concerned citizens to teach themselves the basics of first aid and nursing to assist those who were already qualified. This assistance was not always appreciated at first by the professionals but as war went on was to become increasingly important as medical services were pushed to breaking point. Some local authorities did encourage these enthusiastic amateurs and London County Council published some aide memoires for those learning nursing at home. Tonight we have an example of one of these, being a ‘Schedule of Infectious Diseases for Home Nursing Classes’:This trifold card was first issued in October 1914 at the very start of the great War, however there must have been a subsequent print run as we can tell by the printer’s code that this copy was one of a batch of 10,000 printed on the 23rd June 1915:Inside is a list of common infectious diseases, how long it takes for symptoms to be seen, what early indicators are and how long the patient needs to be in isolation depending on whether a disease is suspected or confirmed:The range of diseases listed is very wide and most are today vaccinated against or treatable with antibiotics. This was not an option in 1914 so isolation became far more important to prevent the spread of the disease and stop an epidemic which could take the lives of many, especially the young. This risk was all the more prevalent in wartime with troops moving around the country and thus able to spread the diseases much more quickly than would have normally been the case.
An article published in the Daily Mail in September 1915 entitled ‘Woman’s Part in the War’ set out the importance the country placed on nursing and how it was seen as a suitable outlet for women’s patriotic fervour:
No able-bodied woman is the worse for some knowledge of the common sense elements of nursing. It is not known at what moment that knowledge may be turned to account. It may be useful at any time and now particularly.
As the war proceeds many homes may have convalescents from wounds and disease to care for.
Whatsoever may be the cause of his invalidism, the returned soldier will need good nursing and skilful care: the nurse must know just the right thing to do or otherwise she will retard her patient’s recovery.
We have looked at a number of post war first field dressings over the years on the blog and these served the British military well for many decades. However once serious combat operations started in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s it became clear that it was time to look for an alternative dressing. The British Army settled on the ‘Emergency Bandage’ also commonly called the ‘Israeli bandage’. As its name would suggest, this bandage was developed by an Israeli medic in the 1980s who had noticed that the bandages used to0 control bleeding all dated form the 1940s and that his training was to use a rock to help increase pressure if a wound would not stop bleeding with just a bandage. He felt there had to be a better solution than this and began developing a bandage with a built in pressure bar in 1990/1991. Today the bandages come both with and without a pressure bar, indicated on the package. Large sales really began in 1998 and today they are a common sight with militaries around the world.
The examples produced for the British Army come in a plastic pouch that keeps them completely sterile:On first aid courses British military personnel are taught how to use this packaging to make an improvised flapper valve for sucking chest wounds. Note the British NSN number printed just above the use by date sticker. The back of the package gives instructions on how to apply the bandage:The Emergency Bandage is an elasticized bandage with a non-adhesive bandage pad sewn in. The bandages can have a built-in pressure bar, which allows the soldier to twist the bandage around the wound once, and then change the direction of the bandage, wrapping it around the limb or body part, to create pressure on the wound. Aside from this, the pressure bar also makes bandaging easier. A closure bar at the end of the bandage means that it clips neatly into place and will not slip.The bandages come in three different sizes: 4, 6, and 8 inches wide. They are similar to elastic bandages that are used to treat sprain injuries, but they have three unique features:
- the sterile non-adherent dressing that is designed to allow removing the bandage without reopening a wound.
- the pressure applicator or the pressure bar that is placed directly over the wound to stop the bleeding by applying pressure. It facilitates wrapping in various directions. This is a useful feature for stopping bleeding in groin and head injuries.
- the closure bar that is used to secure the bandage and to apply additional pressure to a wound. The closure bar can be used by a “simple sliding motion with one hand.”
The British examples delete the torsion bar, the decision being that the elasticated nature of the bandage was sufficient, but were otherwise were the same as the standard Israeli design. Here we see instructions for applying one of these bandages, again please note that British examples do not have the torsion bar depicted below:Here two British Army medics treat a wounded Afghan National Army sergeant in the back of a Chinook. The Emergency bandage can be seen on the patient’s leg, interestingly this bandage does seem to have a torsion bar suggesting that they might be using US issue bandages rather than British ones:A few years ago these bandages were very expensive and fetched up to £15 on the surplus market. Today they are far easier to find and this one cost me just £1. I now have a pair of them and they accurately fill out part of my individual first aid kit on my Osprey Mk IV set.
In the run up to World War Two British companies were quick to take advantage of the growing worry about air raids and produced a wide variety of goods that householders could buy to help protect themselves, their loved ones and their property in the event of bombing. This page from the Daily Mail in early 1939 shows some of the products advertised to the general public as being needed if the bombers came:Many of these products would be of limited use when bombs finally came, but first aid kits were a sensible purchase and although advertised as for ‘ARP’ use, they were also functional for more general accidents round the home. One such first aid kit was the ‘First Aid outfit number 4, which came in a stout cardboard box:A large label was pasted to the front with details of the boxes title, manufacturer etc.:Inside was a variety of first aid supplies:And the underside of the lid had some basic first aid instructions. These have been tailored slightly for ARP use by including advise on treating gas casualties:I am unsure if all the contents of this box are original, or how complete it is, but I suspect it is at least representative of what the outfit originally contained. Amongst other items, the box contains cotton wool, crepe and triangular bandages, a box of Elastoplast brand adhesive plasters, pins, a tin of Vaseline, an eye bath and a thermometer:There is also a small vial of insect repellent which I suspect is not original to the box, but is period so was probably added by the original purchaser.
A wide variety of first aid kits were sold to households in this period, at varying prices and with different contents. Some were far smaller than this set, with just a few bandages and slings, others were far more comprehensive and contained many more items. They were usually sold based on the size of household they were purportedly designed for, but often the retail price was a more pressing factor and a poor family with many children, if they could afford a first aid kit, would have purchased the cheaper sets regardless of the fact that they were marketed as being for a smaller number of people.