Despite using 9mm parabellum ammunition in its Sten and Lanchester sub machine guns, the British did not introduce a specialist drill round for training until 1951. Up until this point various commercial manufacturer’s in America and Canada had produced drill rounds for use by the British, but these rounds were very similar in appearance to standard rounds, with just small holes drilled in the case to indicate they were drill rounds. Obviously a safer form of ammunition was needed and the ‘Cartridge S.A. Drill 9mm D2 Mark 2’ was approved in 1951:These rounds allowed troops to safely practice filling magazines such as that for the Sterling:Other uses for the cartridge were to cycle rounds manually through a firearm to demonstrate its operation or to indicate it was working correctly. The cases were made of white metal, or chromed brass with three red painted flutes around the edges to allow them to be identified in the dark by touch alone:The cap chamber on the base is empty and painted red:The round has a normal brass bullet resting on a wooden spacer. The base of the cartridge has the usual head stamps indicating date and place of manufacture. In this instance two of the three rounds in my collection are heavily worn for use, but one is nice and clear:From this we can see that the round is a 9mm D2 round manufactured by Radway Green in 1976. In 1978 the round was changed to a plain silver casing without the red painted flutes and cap chamber. In 1986 production switched to Hirtenberger in Austria, probably as a money saving exercise.
I have a small selection of different bombs for my 2″ mortar, however the ones I have most of are these weighted drill rounds, of which I have four:These bombs were used to practice firing the mortar as they have the same weight as a real HE round, allowing operators to practice firing a realistic round with no risk of an explosion when it landed. The bombs have a filling of sand which is dense, but safe. The bombs have a space for a Ballistite cartridge in the tail, a small metal cover screwing over the top to protect the cartridge:These fins are not actually wartime examples, they are in fact post war Belgian tail fins; the British having sold surplus mortars and rounds after the war to European governments who then refurbished them to get further years of service. The original fins were made of a diecast alloy that was prone to metal fatigue, the Belgians upgraded the fins to steel, the fins being marked “Atelor” and dating to 1950. The bodies of these rounds are actually British as can be seen by the /|\ mark stamped into the shoulder of the bombs:This bomb also has a small ’42’ marked on the shoulder:Two different sets of markings can be seen on my bomb bodies, three of them are marked ‘NSCo’ with a mid war date on the main body:These have a flat, slotted nose cap marked “1941 F&W No 1 IS”:One however is marked “2”MOR I.D.E.I.L. 5/43″:The nose cap on this one is similar to the other examples but has a threaded central hole:The markings on this bomb read “CA/C 1944 77 No1 IS”. Note also the traces of blue paint in the slot.
As with so much of my 2″ mortar collection, my thanks have to go to Darren Pyper for his help with these items.
I am hoping some of our regular readers can help with a positive identification of tonight’s object. This is a naval detonator’s tin, made of sheet metal and painted red:It turned up for £1 at the Yorkshire Wartime Experience and at that price I took a punt on it! Inside is a metal grid with holes in it for the individual detonators:A paper label is pasted onto the sides:From this we can see that it is naval in origin, via the ‘N’ stores code, and that it dates from 1982. The base of the tin has a circular strengthening piece stamped into it:In the centre is a maker’s stamp for ‘B&SB’:What I have not been able to discover is exactly what this tin was manufactured for, or what the individual detonators were used with. If anyone can help with an identification, please comment below…
A couple of weeks back I came across a large calibre round on Huddersfield Market that I did not immediately recognise. As it was only £3 I bought it speculatively and took it home with me. Comparing it with my Boys AT round (middle) and a .50 cal drill round (lower) it was clearly slightly ‘chunkier’:Some help from other collectors has now helped me to identify the round as being a 15mm Besa round:The 15mm Besa machine gun was an enlarged version of the Czechoslovakian ZB53 machine gun and was introduced to replace the obsolescent .5 Vickers machine gun. The 15mm Besa was a long and heavy gun, weighing over 125lbs and being more than 6 feet long:It was therefore used mostly to arm wheeled armoured scout cars, such as the Humber:The round has a 1160 grain bullet fired from a 15x104mm cartridge:I believe that this is a ball round, and it has a boattailed shape, the round being filled with a lead/antimony mixture. The rounds were fired from 25 round metal belts, that reduced the rate of fire. However the machine gun was normally fired in single shots which were far more accurate than automatic fire. The round has a rimless case, with markings on the base, sadly I cannot read any markings in this case:This round was very short lived, being introduced in October 1939 as the “Cartridge S.A. Ball 15mm Mk 1z” and being declared obsolete in August 1941. The round was used primarily for training. The 15mm Besa itself would not last much longer, being declared obsolete in 1949, over 3,200 machine guns having been produced by that point. I have never come across one of these rounds before, I really like these large calibre rounds so it’s a great addition to my small but growing selection of ordnance.
At the end of last year we looked at a 1960s parachute illuminating mortar bomb here. Tonight we are looking at a second example of the parachute flare mortar bomb, this time however it is a wartime example and is far more complete than the previous one:Unlike later bombs, this example is painted black, with yellow lettering stencilled on the outside:The thin metal cap that covers the end is still extant on this bomb, and is stamped with a date of 1940:The end cap is also wartime dated, here it is 1942:The FD stands for Fry’s Die Castings Ltd, of London, who manufactured the component. The distinctive holes for a parachute illuminating bomb can be seen directly above the tail of the mortar bomb:These had closing discs over them originally which burnt away when the bomb was fired. Inside the bomb originally would have been a parachute, flare canister and small bursting charge:Unusually this bomb still has the parachute:And the burnt out remains of the flare:The 1959 mortar manual describes its operation:
The flash from the cartridge, when fired, penetrates the closing discs and ignites a delay charge; this in turn ignites a bursting charge of gunpowder which ignites and ejects the flare; a small parachute, packed in the nose of the bomb, is attached to the flare and is ejected at the same time, opening at once and suspending the flare below it.
The pamphlet also gives some guidance on the use of these bombs:
- These bombs contain a flare attached to a parachute. When the bomb is fired at an angle of 80 degrees the parachute is ejected at a height of about 600 feet. At this height the flare gives its best performance. It will burn for about 30 seconds, descending slowly and drifting with the wind as it does so.
- In still air or light winds the mortar should be fired at an angle of 80 degrees. This will allow the flare to be ejected at a distance of about 100 to 150 yards from the mortar position. If light is required at a greater distance the angle must be lessened as when firing smoke bombs. At its reduced height the flare will not light up so big an area.
- Whenever possible place the flare behind the enemy, as this will silhouette him against the light. To avoid our own troops being silhouetted against the light, care must be taken, especially in head winds, to ensure that flares do not drift behind our forward positions. Do not, if it can be avoided, place the flare between the enemy and our own troops as its effect will be to dazzle the defenders thus placing them at a disadvantage.
- When the wind is strong the firer will have to judge its effect and alter the angle of the mortar according to where the light is required. The principle is to fire the bomb up wind, allowing the flare to drift over the area where light is required.
- Although the flare is efficient and will light up the battlefield a good distance in front of the platoon position, its uncontrolled use may also show up the activities of our own troops. Orders will be given when flares at platoon level are not to be fired.
It is now thirty five years since the Falklands War and the islands are still littered with thousands of anti-personnel mines. In recent years great progress has been made on clearing these minefields and areas are being made safe on a regular basis. The old signs from these minefields are stacked up in a shed and it has become popular for service personnel stationed down on the islands to go and ask for a few signs to bring home as a souvenir. I have recently added one of these signs from the Falklands to my collection, with this example being a rectangular sign, with a ‘Danger Mines’ and skull and cross bones printed on it:The sign was originally held in place by two fasteners at the top and two at the bottom, but these appear to have been cut through with a gas axe:On the back is an electro pencilled serial number:This matches the number on this chitty from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal office indicating that the signs had been acquired legitimately:As it is likely the original recipient is still serving I have blanked out his details. This photograph shows one of this type of sign in situ on the islands:Some 20,000 mines were laid on the island and in 2010 the BBC reported on their clearance. Luckily no-one has been injured in recent years by these mines, thanks in part to the signs such as this one:
Following the Falklands conflict, there were initial attempts to clear mines, but many injuries resulted. The British decided it was too dangerous and instead fenced off the minefields. Warnings were posted and stiff penalties imposed on anyone who jumped the fences for, say, an unusual photo opportunity.
And it seems to have worked because no-one has been hurt in years.
As a result (and because the Falklands has relatively few mines compared to the millions laid in countries such as Angola and Cambodia) the Falklands government says it would prefer to see money spent on clearance projects in places where people are still being injured or killed.
Under an international treaty – the Ottawa Convention – the British government was required to have cleared the Falklands of all mines by March 2009, but it asked for a 10-year extension.
By 2016 good progress had been made:
Despite the overall small number of mines in the Falklands – compared with somewhere like Kuwait, which is only one-and-a-half times larger in size, but has an estimated five million mines – there has been an extensive demining operation in progress since 2009 to remove the estimated 20,000 anti-personnel and 5,000 anti-vehicle mines leftover since the 1982 conflict. Funded through the UK Foreign Office, and in response to the obligation to remove mines in their territories under the terms of the Ottawa Treaty, the clearance of mines in the Falklands is now about to finish its fourth phase and see the total number of minefields reduced to 82. There were 146 immediately after the end of war in 1982.
The 6 pounder anti-tank gun was the main towed British anti-tank gun of the middle years of the second world war, replacing the puny 2 pounder in 1942 and freeing up the 25 pounder field gun to return to its main role as an artillery piece. Development of the new weapon had started as early as 1938 and the calibre was well established as the Royal Navy had been using it since the late nineteenth century. Despite this, due to the rearming of the British Army after Dunkirk, it would be May 1942 before it entered service:The following description of the Anti Tank gun comes from the US Army’s handbook on the British military:
The 6 pounder anti-tank gun, with a muzzle velocity of 2,700 feet per second, has been designed by the British for use against enemy armoured vehicles that are not vulnerable to the 2-pounder at distances over 200 or 300 yards. A 57-mm gun, the 6-pounder will be able to engage tanks at much greater ranges than the 2-pounder, although the latter will still be important to the anti-tank defence of individual formations and units. The 6-pounder is usually mounted on a low 90-degree split-trail wheeled carriage, but it is also being installed in certain tanks. In order to facilitate the quick adoption of the proper gun for the circumstances, the wheeled carriage of the 6 pounder is designed that the 2-pounder may be mounted alternatively. It is intended that the 6-punder be standard in corps and army anti-tank organization.
Tonight we are looking at a shell casing from the 6 pounder anti-tank gun, this example being a blank cartridge:It is made of brass and is impressively large, as with all British shell casings there is a profusion of markings on the base:I have interpreted these as well as I can:These shells are always impressive things, and the markings make them fun to interpret. Sadly they do not come up at a price I am willing to pay too often, so when they do I always snap them up.
Now can I persuade my wife it’s a flower vase…