This Sunday’s photograph is a rather lovely informal snap of a pair of junior officers, taken around the time of the outbreak of World War One:Both men are from the Lancashire Fusiliers, as can be seen from their cap badges:Whilst you cannot see the rank of the left-hand man, the chap on the right has the cuff rank of a lieutenant:Both are wearing officer’s service dress and the Sam Browne leather equipment set. The waterbottle of the left hand man is very obvious:A number of different water bottles were available for the officer to purchase, of varying prices, as seen in this period advertisement:The man on the right has both sword:And a pistol ammunition pouch:Presumably he is also wearing a holster, but it is obscured by his arm. The officers seem to be on exercise, and their men can just be seen in the background between them:It is however the small boy muscling in on the picture on the left I particularly like:Assuming these officers are regulars and the photo is pre-WW1, they were part of the 2nd Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers- the 1st Battalion being in Karachi at the time. The 2nd Battalion was sent to France and spent the war on the Western Front, in which case it is highly likely these officers were to see service in France.
This week’s photograph comes from between the wars and depicts a small group of Royal Marines under instruction on a beach:The men can easily be identified as marines by their cap badges:In front of them is a Lewis gun with a number of spare magazines:And an ammunition box tucked underneath the bench:They are clearly in the tropics as they are wearing KD shirts and shorts:In the background can be seen a group of sailors wearing tropical whites, milling about on the shore:A set of Lee Enfield rifles can be seen stacked up in a rifle ‘tepee’ on the sand:This all suggest the marines are part of a detachment on board a ship who have taken the opportunity to come ashore to get in a bit of weapons practice where they have more space. It was rare for a ship smaller than a cruiser to have a marine detachment so they have probably come off of a cruiser or a battleship. The islands look Mediterranean so it seems likely that they were part of one of the cruiser squadrons that made cruises of the islands in the eastern Mediterranean in the 1920s and 1930s.
The Lewis gun was ideal for the Royal Marines at this period in history. They were often deployed in small groups ashore as landing parties; rifles were portable but had a limited rate of fire whilst the Vickers although offering high rates of fire was far too big and bulky to deploy quickly and easily from a boat. The Lewis was man portable but could lay down far higher rates of fire than a traditional rifle allowing a small party to have a disproportionate effect in a skirmish. It was also used as a close in anti-aircraft gun, with ten being the standard issue to capital ships in 1933. They were fixed to special mountings that allowed them to be fired into the air and traversed quickly to follow the biplanes of the era.
It is amazing how quickly the military can recover from major conflicts and return to the peacetime rounds of training, socialising and competitions. These are the life blood of regiments in peacetime and tonight we have a wonderful photograph that is helpfully captioned on the back! (A very rare occurrence believe me). This photograph depicts the awarding of the Evelyn Wood Cup in Aldershot on 12th August 1922:The Evelyn Wood Cup was a competition in which different regiments competed in a competition with marching and marksmanship at its core. As with so many of these military competitions I am struggling to find many details of when it was established, but it certainly seems to have been started before 1907 and was being contested as late as 1967. If anyone can furnish further information please get in touch. The Times of 9th August 1922 explained that the cup:
Includes a march of eight miles in fighting order, and is open to company teams of four platoons, each platoon containing two rifle and two Lewis gun sections. The competition will be carried out under a scheme which supposes a retiring and invisible enemy. It is severely practical and calls not only for shooting skill, but also calls for most of the skills necessary to succeed against the assumed enemy.
More details come from the report on 1923’s competition:
The conditions imposed a preliminary march of eight miles in battle order, by company teams of one officer, one sergeant, and two rifle and two light-gun sections of one leader and six men each.
Among the teams of thirty 480 rounds of ammunition were distributed, and these, together with the oppressive heat, the weight of shrapnel helmets, gas masks, packs and weapons, made tiring work of the march. For the march 2 ¼ hours were allowed, but while 50 points were deducted for every five minutes r part of five minutes over time, two points were credited when the march occupied less than the time allowed.
The march demonstrated the full benefits which athletic sport confer upon the marching men. Several teams lost men by the way, seven falling out of one team. The 2nd Cameron Highlanders, who last week won the athletic championship of the Command, finished thirty minutes inside the time limit with every member of the team.
In the centre of the photograph we can see the cup itself being handed over by an elderly and senior officer:This ceremony seems to be part of a larger set of competitions as a table behind him is positively groaning with trophies!I am not entirely sure, but I believe the officer receiving the cup might be from the Scots Guards, based in the dicing on his cap band:Other Guards officers can be seen in the background:Interestingly the photograph is embossed with the stamp of ‘Gale and Polden’ of Aldershot:This famous company is better known for its range of weapons pamphlets from the Second World War.
This photograph illustrates the benefits of a caption on the back as it has made research much easier than would have otherwise been the case.
At the outbreak of the Great War men flocked to the colours in unprecedented numbers. This sudden increase in numbers put great strains on a military used to a steady trickle of new recruits in peacetime. As well as being short of trained NCOs to instruct these new recruits and billets to house them even simple things such as uniforms and weapons were in short supply. It was not as simple as just ordering more uniforms- khaki cloth would take time to produce in large quantities and needed to be prioritised for troops on active service rather than training.
To solve this problem the War Office placed orders for 500,000 suits of blue serge as a stopgap measure for troops under instruction. This week’s image shows a unit kitted out in Kitchener’s Blues undergoing rifle drill early in the First World War:The men wear simple single breasted jackets, trousers and field service caps in the dark blue serge:In the case of the Bradford Pals, uniforms were supplied by the city with men issued two of the navy blue uniforms with caps. The local MP supplied the men with silver buttons emblazoned with the city’s coat of arms to sew on. As befitted a city built on the woollen trade the uniforms were made of the finest quality wool with good, colour-fast dyes used in their manufacture. The men of the Bradford Pals were delighted to hear that the blue dye in some Lancashire regiment’s uniforms had run as a result of cost cutting!
Returning to our postcard we can see that the men are armed with obsolete Charger Loading Lee Enfield rifles rather than the more modern SMLE:Again the latest service rifles were being sent to the front line so older rifles were pressed into service for training.
Despite the shortages of uniform, officers were still kitted out in khaki uniforms (at their own expense) and an officer can be seen standing in front of the men:Sadly I have no context for this interesting image and I do not know where it was taken or which regiment is represented.
It is always nice to rediscover something in your collection you had forgotten you had. This was the case last week when I came across a photograph album I bought many years ago containing a large number of images from a man who had served on the Longmoor Military Railway from 1945 until the mid 1950s. As well as many great shots of the men themselves, there are also some fantastic photographs of the locomotives in service and over the coming few months I will be dipping into this album every so often to bring you some of the gems. We start tonight with a nice shot of a soldier in front of an S160 locomotive:The soldier wears shirt, beret and battledress trousers to give an informal work uniform suitable for working on locomotives:The engine itself is numbered 93257:This was an American produced S160 locomotive, built by ALCO in January of 1944, and named Major General Carl R Gray Jr:The S160 was a cheap mass produced locomotive produced in the USA for use on the railways of Europe following their liberation. The engine was designed by Major J W Marsh of the US Army Corps of Engineers and huge numbers were shipped to the United Kingdom before D-Day. Whilst many were stored in the open, a significant number were pressed into service in the UK, helping the vastly overworked engines of the big four railway companies. British railway men liked the self-cleaning grates of these new engines, but found the axle-boxes difficult to keep oiled and certain aspects of the design caused confusion due to the differing working practices on both sides of the Atlantic.
The S160 at Longmoor Military Railway seems to have been a lone example with the British Army, acquired in January 1945, and one former railwayman at the LMR noted that it was only used occasionally. It was still in existence as late as 1955, but I have had difficulty tracking down the full history of the locomotive in LMR service.
Tonight’s photograph was a very generous birthday present from my brother, the original photograph a very impressive 18 inches by 14 inches and mounted on card. The photograph depicts the winning team from the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards at the 1929 McCalmont Cup:The cup itself can be seen in the centre of the photograph, with a miniature version in front:I believe this cup would have been for a shooting competition as the men are posing with Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifles:Interestingly one of the officers, with a particularly fine chest of medals, has a rifle as well:All the men in the photograph are experienced soldiers, with a multitude of proficiency badges on their sleeves:And the man sat on the front at the far right has an impressive four long service and good conduct stripes on his sleeves:These stripes indicate that this private had eighteen years of good conduct. As befits a Guards regiment the men’s uniforms are spotless, with brightly polished regimental buttons rather than General Service pattern examples. Each has a pair of white on red embroidered shoulder flashes with the regimental name:This affectation has remained with the Grenadiers to the present day, still being worn on the sleeves of modern Number 2 dress uniforms. They are also wearing regimental forage caps with gilded peaks, rather than a standard khaki service dress cap:The officers also show regimental insignia, with the distinctive elongated pips of rank peculiar to Guard’s officers:I have tried to identify anything further about the McCalmont cup and I believe it was run at the Pirbright Ranges by the London and District Rifle Meeting. As ever if anyone can help provide some more background get in touch.
This week’s photograph is a little bit different to the usual ones we look at, being both post war and in colour! This photograph depicts cadets at a summer camp at an army barracks, practicing first aid on a ‘ressusci-annie’:Having spoken to some who served in the cadets, our best guess is this photograph was taken in the early 1970s. The wooden buildings in the background are barrack accommodation and again although I have no way of being certain, it looks very much like the old Deverall Barracks at Ripon (of which I have had some personal experience many years later). The barrack blocks are large wooden huts, each holding approximately thirty men:In the foreground we can see the training dummy, used to practice mouth to mouth resuscitation:An adult instructor is leaning over demonstrating to the cadets how to use it:The cadets wear olive green uniform, with a number of styles and varieties worn, most wear beret:One though wears a jungle boonie hat:Interestingly he also wears a woolly pully over a shirt, with a 37 pattern belt round his waist. Other cadets seem to be wearing a version of a 1960 combat smock:Or shirt and lightweight trousers:This cadet seems to have some sort of mustard scarf around his neck as well! Then as now, cadet forces had very limited funds and items had to be ‘scrounged’ or purchased from a variety of sources with a somewhat hodge-podge result in many cases. Nigel Dickinson was a cadet and recalls:
That’s the kit I was given in 1975 or so, only to have it taken away almost instantly and replaced with DPM trousers – cadet pattern – and proper woolly pullies… If you wanted a smock, hard luck. There was a horrible pullover anorak thing, or of you were lucky, you got a Jacket, Overalls, OG.
Cadet photographs are pretty rare, so this informal personal snap is a very nice find, especially as it illustrates the variety of the uniform worn in this period.