Shell dressings have come up a number of times on this blog over the years, with both British and Indian wartime examples being featured. Tonight we have a pair of post war Canadian examples and has so often been the case with the various Cold War Canadian objects I have covered, my thanks have to go to Andrew Iarocci for his help in supplying me with them. The first of this pair is a Mk III shell dressing dating from November 1954:This particular design of shell dressing had been introduced in the Second World War and unlike other Empire dressings it came is a sterile sealed packet, rather than just a sewn cotton cover. The packet has an easy tear corner, indicated with a big arrow, so the user can get the dressing out easily in a hurry:This particular dressing was made by Bauer and Black of Toronto:The dressing has instructions printed in English and French, with the initials of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps prominently displayed above them:Our second example dates form almost thirty years later and the same sterilised sealed packet is still used to protect the dressing, although by now this was the norm for armies across the world. The most obvious difference is that it is now made in a much greener shade than the 1950s example, useful as these were frequently taped onto the yoke’s of the men’s webbing:Note as well that the nomenclature has changed from ‘Shell Dressing’ to ‘Dressing, First Aid, Field’. This dressing was made in May 1982 by Kendall of Toronto:The rear of the packet has the same instructions, but again in French:This makes a great deal of sense when you remember that Canada is bi-lingual with a large French speaking population. By printing the dressings in both languages, only one design was needed for all their troops.
A couple of weeks ago the blog covered the 64 pattern Canadian respirator haversack here. Tonight we are looking at its immediate predecessor, the 51 pattern haversack:Technically this is not actually part of the 51 pattern web set, but it is closely associated with it as it was introduced at the same time as the rest of the webbing. The similarities between this and the later design are quite clear, with a similar side opening haversack, with a large press-stud secured pocket to the front:The big difference to note is the very different material the haversack is made from, rather than the plasticised finish of the later design, this haversack is a generation earlier and made from green canvas and cotton webbing. This would be far harder to decontaminate following a nuclear or chemical incident but reflects the available technology of the 1950s when it was produced, compared to that of a decade later. The haversack was worn on the left hip, with the opening facing forward. This is secured with a metal quick release buckle and a webbing chape:Note the little webbing channel for the tab to be stored away in when the haversack is fastened. When it is undone the haversack opens with a large gusseted opening to allow the mask to be taken in and out easily:Again like the later design, a small pocket is attached to the closed end of the haversack, with another quick release tab to open it with:The back of the haversack has a complicated array of different straps and fasteners attached to it:These are to allow the wearer to either attach it to the belt of his webbing set, or to sling it over his shoulder, a second strap then going around the wearer’s waist to prevent it from flapping about if the user needs to run.
For the early 1950s date this haversack is a modern and well thought out design. Its biggest flaw is not down to the design, but rather the materials available at the period which would have made it difficult to decontaminate.
It has been quite a while since we looked at any regimental mess china on the blog, the last piece being this West Yorkshire Regiment tureen here. That example dated back to before the Great War, tonight we have a selection of more recent china that comes from the Royal Artillery. My thanks go to The East Yorkshire Regiment Living History Group and Mike Lycett in particular for the chance to add this to my collection. I have been fortunate enough to pick up a large quantity of large bowls, desert bowls, dinner plates and a solitary side plate:All have a deep red band round the edge and the regimental cypher design on them:The Royal Artillery use a complicated cypher consisting of the letter ‘RAR’ intertwined and presented with the sovereign’s crown above:In this case the crown is that of Queen Elizabeth the Second so we know these date to after 1952. The back of the plates have a maker’s mark for Dunn Bennett & Co Ltd of Burslem:This design of logo was used by the company between 1955 and 1962 so we can tie manufacture down even further to between those two dates. The Crockery is made from Vitreous Ironstone, a durable material often used for hotel and restaurant plates from the nineteenth century onwards as it was cheaper and harder wearing than porcelain. This suggests these plates were at the lower end of mess china and might have been used by a sergeant’s mess rather than by officers.
Mess dinners are often lavish affairs with crisp linen, shining cuttlery and plates, good food and plenty of alcohol. They are part of the annual calendar of a regiment and most units try and acquire their own mongrammed china to help reinforce the sense of regimental pride.
A few years ago I posted about wartime RAF kitbags here. Tonight we are looking at another example, but this time dating from the 1960s. This kit bag is far smaller than other examples we have looked at previously, being about half the length of the wartime designs:The bag has a row of brass eyelets around the throat, now quite badly corroded unfortunately:
These allowed a brass handle to be threaded through and a padlock fitted to keep the contents secure. Two blue rings are painted around the outside of the bag:RAF kitbags can be found with both one and two stripes on them. It is unclear exactly what these were for, but the most likely it was to easily distinguish between what an airman might need on voyage and what could be stowed in a ship’s hold.
The inside of the bag has a date stamp for 1967 and a stores code:Quite why the RAF changed to a smaller kit bag is unclear, unless it was just to save money. These small bags are very much a post war design and were not issued during wartime. David Henderson was an airman in the 1950s and remembers the perils of travelling with a kitbag:
My journey to Marham was routed via Euston and Liverpool Street stations (through the wisdom of some clerk GD in Cosford) to disembark at Downham Market – I can remember thinking how dark the soil was and how flat the land seemed to be in Norfolk. My other memory is travelling with full kit, webbing harness, small pack, large pack, water bottle and kitbag. The form was to balance the kitbag on top of the large pack, unfortunately as I got to the top of one of the tube escalators my SD (peak cap) slipped over my eyes and as I flicked my head back, off rolled my kitbag causing mayhem to all and sundry behind me.
The design of some of the components of the Canadian 82 pattern did not stay still, and new modifications and updates were made to certain components based on feedback from those actually using them and experience in the field. A case in point is the utility pouch which can be found in three main variants. The utility pouch was originally intended for mess tins and wet weather gear, however it evolved into a carrier for a 200rd box of ammunition for the C9 light machine gun by the third pattern and this is reflected in the three models:Left to right we have the first pattern which was introduced in 1982, the second pattern which added a hook strap and the final version which was slightly larger and fitted with grenade loops on either side. Turning the pouches over we can see clearly that the first pattern on the left lacks the hook strap to attach it to the yoke:By adding the hook strap to the second and third pattern troops had more flexibility in where on the belt they put the utility pouch and by attaching the pouch to the yoke heavier items could be carried with more support from the shoulders, preventing the belt from being deformed by the weight. All three pouches have two sets of plastic hooks and Velcro securing straps to attach them to the belt. The hook strap fitted to the second and third pattern has metal reinforcement grommets on it and can be tucked away if its position on a belt meant it was not needed:All three pouches use the same plastic and web tab quick release fasteners on the front with two positions provided to ensure the lid is secure regardless of how much has been placed inside:A webbing loop is fitted inside the pouches to allow the contents to be drawn out of the pouch:The strip of webbing goes from the top front of the pouch in a loop down to the bottom of the pouch and back up the back, pulling on it shortens the loop of fabric and draws the contents out of the pouch for easy removal.
Interestingly it is the second pattern of Utility Pouch that is illustrated in the user’s manual for the 1982 pattern set:The third pattern of utility pouch adds two fabric loops for grenades to be carried, as ever I don’t have the correct grenade for this, but a British 1970s training grenade illustrates the principle:The inside of the third pattern pouch has this rather nice manufacturer’s stamp, dating this particular example to 1991:Canadian troops tended to carry at least one of these pouches on their webbing and fire team partners and other members of the section would commonly help spread the two section light machine gunners load by carrying extra belt boxes of ammunition for them in their utility pouches.
Men joining the British Army in the late 1970s and early 1980s were issued with dark green underwear. As well as several pairs of truly horrendous y-front pants, soldiers also received two or three dark green vests and it is one of those we have tonight:The vest is a sleeveless design, made of a dark green open weave fabric. A label is sewn into the neck which would have given sizing and care instructions. The vest has seen many washes however so the printing is completely obliterated now:The hems of the vest are sewn with a heavy duty machine sewn seam to prevent them coming undone with the regular washing a garment like a vest would be subjected to:The vest was often called a ‘shreddie’ vest, the name deriving form a popular British breakfast cereal with a lattice shape. The vests seem to have been marginally more popular than the underpants, but generally they were quickly ditched in favour of more comfortable civilian underwear; although by all accounts the issue aertex underwear was useful as a cleaning cloth- apparently they were especially good at cleaning glass with!
There were many different tool rolls issued to British Army personnel to hold specialist tools together. Unfortunately very few of these tool rolls have markings indicating their original use, so collectors are left to make the best guess they can and hope someone with more knowledge can provide a positive ID. Tool rolls produced during the war tended to be a khaki shade of canvas, by the 1950s the canvas was dyed a greener shade:The tool roll is a long rectangle of canvas with a leather reinforcement and webbing loop down the centre to secure the tools:The narrow loops suggest that this tool roll might have been for something long and thin, like screwdrivers, rather than for a set of spanners which would be too wide. Flaps are provided that cover the top and bottom of the tools, and end flaps are then folded over the centre:The tool roll is then rolled up and secured with two webbing straps and buckles, a handle is fitted between the straps to make it easy to carry:The tool roll is marked with a /|\ acceptance mark, a date of 1955 and a stores code:If any readers do know the exact purpose of this tool roll, please get in contact. Although this is a nice addition, the tool roll I really want to find is one for a set of spanners as I now have six or seven WD marked spanners which I would like to display in the correct tool roll.