Category Archives: Post WW2

SLR Sight Protector

When used on parade it is not unusual for specialist accessories to be used with rifles to prevent them from damaging expensive and intricate parade uniforms. Rifles are hard metal objects with many protruding parts that can easily catch and damage lace, embroidery and epaulettes on a parade uniform so special covers are often developed. The SLR was no exception and a special pressed metal cover was available to go over the front sight:imageThis was designed to slip over the front sight and attach to the barrel to keep it in place:imageThe connection to the barrel was through a stiff spring clip:imageThis clip was notorious for damaging the blueing on a barrel with repeated use and following advice from my fellow collectors I have decided that mine will not be going back on the rifle after these photographs were taken.

Inside the top of the cover are a pair of small triangular metal tabs that go either side of the front sight blade:imageThe stores number and date are stamped across the back of the cover, here dating it to 1960:imageIn this photograph of a corporal of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment at Buckingham Palace in 1971, the sight cover can be clearly seen on his rifle:FullSizeRender

Aden Emergency ‘Trench Art’ Ashtray

Between 1963 and 1967 British Troops were deployed to the Aden Protectorate to help support local troops in suppressing an Egyptian backed rebellion. Amongst the equipment deployed to the region were Saracen armoured cars, equipped with six wheels and a powerful 76mm gun:1024px-Aden,_Sheikh_Othman_1967Tonight we are looking at a souvenir ashtray produced during the Aden Emergency from a spent shell casing from one of these 76mm rounds:imageThe ashtray has been made by cutting the casing down just a fraction of an inch above its base, three cuts have then been made to provide rests for the cigarettes and a local South Arabian coin soldered in the centre:imageThe quality of this work is excellent and indicates access to machine tools. My suspicion is that this ashtray is the work of army machinists such as REME mechanics who would have the skills and tools to produce these pieces. They would have been made in the soldiers’ spare time and sold to their colleagues to raise extra beer money.

The base of the shell casing shows stencilling indicating that the shell was originally an L29A3 HESH round:imageHESH stands for ‘High Explosive Squash Head.’ HESH rounds are thin metal shells filled with plastic explosive and a delayed-action base fuze. The plastic explosive is “squashed” against the surface of the target on impact and spreads out to form a disc or “pat” of explosive. The base fuze detonates the explosive milliseconds later, creating a shock wave that, owing to its large surface area and direct contact with the target, is transmitted through the material. In the case of the metal armour of a tank, the compression shock wave is conducted through the armour to the point where it reaches the metal/air interface (the hollow crew compartment), where some of the energy is reflected as a tension wave. At the point where the compression and tension waves intersect, a high-stress zone is created in the metal, causing pieces of steel to be projected off the interior wall at high velocity. This fragmentation by blast wave is known as spalling, with the fragments themselves known as spall. The spall travels through the interior of the vehicle at high velocity, killing or injuring the crew, damaging equipment, and/or igniting ammunition and fuel. Unlike high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds, which are shaped charge ammunition, HESH shells are not specifically designed to perforate the armour of main battle tanks. HESH shells rely instead on the transmission of the shock wave through the solid steel armour.

The stamped markings on the base of the ashtray indicate that the round was 76mm in calibre and manufactured in 1963:imageThe reverse of the coin can also be see and this dates from 1964:imageThis all ties in with the Aden Emergency and helps date the ashtray to that conflict. Souvenirs from Aden are of course pretty scarce as it was a short lived conflict with only limited British troops deployed over the period so this is a rare and interesting find.

Large Military Marked Padlock

A few weeks ago I picked up a very large military padlock. Seen here in the palm of my hand you can see that this impressive lock is about six inches from top to bottom and being made from steel it is suitably heavy:imageThe padlock itself is zinc coated to prevent rust with a brass plate around the key hole:imageA sliding brass cover is loosely fitted which is designed to slip down under gravity to seal the keyhole from debris:imageThe front face of the padlock has a /|\ mark and a date of 1962:imageAs with many other padlocks, this example was produced by the Walsall Locks and Cart Gear Ltd. The padlock is also marked with the last two parts of the NSN stores code:imageI suspect that this padlock would have been used on a storage bunker, magazine or main gate on a military facility and whilst it is visually very impressive, I am informed that it is by no means the largest padlock used by the British military- I will look out for a larger one with interest!

L4 Magazines

As has been discussed in the blog before, the L4 light machine gun was an updated version of the Bren gun for the NATO 7.62mm round. The shape of this round was quite different from the older .303 as it was a rimless rather than a rimmed round. This required a brand new magazine and the familiar banana shaped Bren magazine, where the rims necessitated a sharply curved shape, was replaced with a much straighter design for the new cartridge:imageEach magazine holds thirty rounds of 7.62 and is made of pressed steel. One important feature of the magazines insisted upon from the earliest development of the L4 was that they were to be interchangeable with those of the SLR. Side by side the L4 magazine is clearly larger:imageBut the attachment points and feed lip geometry remain the same between the two designs with identical feed lips and follower design:imagePrimarily this was designed to allow troops to put SLR mags in the LMG, but this worked equally well in reverse and an L4 magazine will fit in an SLR:imageUnfortunately as the L4 is designed to feed downwards, assisted by gravity, the spring inside it struggles to feed rounds upwards and into an SLR although it was not unknown for troops to modify the springs by stretching them to better work with the SLR. The magazine when sited on the L4 sits vertically above the main receiver:imageThe L4 magazine has a locking tab on the front:imageAnd a corresponding hook for the magazine catch on the rear:imageThe base of the magazine has a button that can be depressed with a cartridge tip to allow it to be disassembled for cleaning:imageAt least two variations of the L4 magazine can be found. Early examples are seamlessly welded, whilst later production examples have a faint seam down the rear where the two stampings have been welded together:imageThe magazines are each marked on their bodies with their designation, date of manufacture and the combined ‘E’ and ‘D’ logo of Enfield:imageThe L4 magazine lacks the iconic status of its forebear, however it is a hard to find magazine now and commands high prices on the collector’s market. Filling a full 12 magazine box with L4 magazines therefore presents a much harder challenge than it does for the earlier Bren box.

Early Pattern Auscam Shirt

A few years ago the blog covered an Auscam shirt here. Recently I have been kindly given another Auscam shirt by a good friend of mine and I recently compared the two shirts side by side and it was clear that the two shirts were of slightly different patterns. The previous shirt was dated 1994, this example is 1990 dated:imageHaving spoken with various Australian collectors, it seems the patterns changed over around 1990 to 1991 and it was a gradual roll out of the new pattern, with the old design slowly being phased out as shirts became too tatty for service. This earlier pattern shirt was issued to the Australian Army from about 1988 for just a few years and this example has an embroidered badge sewn on the sleeve:imageIt is interesting to place the earlier pattern shirt alongside the later variation to compare the two patterns. On the left is the later pattern, on the right the earlier pattern. The most obvious difference is in the breast pockets, the earlier pattern has far more square pockets, the later pattern has them attached on a slant:imageThe sleeves are also different, the earlier pattern has a reinforcement panel along the forearm, which was deleted on the later pattern. The shape of the cuff securing tab also changed. The earlier design is pointed, the later pattern is cut square on the end:imageThe final difference between the two patterns is that the later pattern has added a pen pocket to the upper left hand sleeve:imageThis early pattern shirt is dated 1990 and the label inside indicates that it was made in Victoria and has an NSN printed on as well as a sizes, 100L:imageWilliam Dytes recalls:

I was in the cadets for a while, we didn’t like the old flat pocket uniforms as they got damaged a lot easier and looked out of place when everyone else had slanted pockets.

Todd Fitzgerald remembers the introduction of the new uniform:

This is the original pattern issued to Land Army circa 1988. First units issued were 1 Bde  (mechanised) in particular the Tattoo Regiment which was drawn from the 1st Brigade, were part of the issue as they toured on the Bicentennial Military Tattoo from Aug – Dec 1988

1960s ‘Drawers, Cellular’

In British Army slang ‘shreddies’ is the term for any pair of underpants (although the more disgusting the better). Although today it refers to all different types of pants, its origin comes from the green “drawers, cellular” that were issued for tropical use in the early post war period. These undergarments were made from green cellular cotton, and the open weave resembles quite closely the popular British breakfast cereal ‘shreddies’- hence the name:imageThis pair of mint, unissued underpants date to the mid-1960s and have a simple open fly:imageThe drawers are held up by an elasticated waist:imageWhilst the label sewn into the rear indicates that they date from 1965 and were made by prisoners at one of Her Majesty’s Prisons:imagePrisoners could earn small amounts of money by working whilst incarcerated and sewing small items for the military was a common task given to inmates. Previously we have seen a housewife sewing kit made at a prison and this pair of pants was another item produced by the prison service. All these items are fairly simple, nothing of the sophistication of a smock or pair of trousers seems to have been entrusted to the prison workshops!

One old soldier remembers being issued with these underpants:

Oh Yes! I had completely fogotten about the good old ‘Drawers, Cellular’ or as we used to call them. Drawers ,Dracula’! I never ever had ‘The pleasure’ of actually putting any of the three pairs we were issued on my Body! I used to use mine on Bullnights for cleaning the windows! They bought the glass up admirably!…..

Another old soldier’s website gives the following definition:

Drawers Dracular – Real name Drawers Cellular, jungle-green cotton underpants with draw strings, designed to castrate unwary A/Ts, so reducing the need for putting bromide in the tea. The most diabolical underwear ever designed. Indescribable. And why cellular?

My thanks go to Jon Mills who kindly helped me add these to my collection.

SLR Sling

The sling issued for use with the Self Loading Rifle was an update of the design that had been in service with the British Army since before World War One. Although the basic design did not change, instead of pre-shrunken cotton webbing, the new sling used heavy duty woven nylon that was dyed a dark green:imageThis material had a distinctive shine to it, making it easy to distinguish from the earlier patterns which had a Matt finish. The brass fittings at either end of the sling remained unchanged except they were now blackened rather than being left as plain brass, they were however still attached with a pair of brass rivets:imageLike most rifles, the SLR had a pair of sling swivels. One securely attached to the butt which could only move back and forth:imageAnd a second one towards the front of the rifle, just in front of the gas block, which was on a swivel so could rotate around the axis of the barrel:imageIn Northern Ireland it became common to attach the sling to just the rear sling swivel of the SLR, the free end being strapped around the soldier’s wrist to prevent someone from snatching the rifle and trying to run off with it. Alistair Mackenzie was a soldier in Northern Ireland in the mid-1970s with the Parachute Regiment and in his book ‘Pilgrim Days’ he remembers:

The primary weapon was the 7.62 SLR, and one end of the sling was attached to the butt of the rifle, with the other end attached to the holder’s wrist. This was to stop the weapon being snatched away in a melee.

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This sling has the faintest indications of a black ink maker’s stamp on it, but it is too faint to read and doesn’t provide enough contrast for the camera to pick up.