Until it was merged into the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006, the Royal Scots were the most senior line regiment in the British Army, tracing their lineage back in an unbroken line to 1633. The regiment saw much service in the period immediately after the Second World War, including being deployed to Korea, Egypt and Aden as well as regular tours of Northern Ireland from the 1960s onwards. On each of those deployments the regiment’s distinctive glengarry was worn with pride whenever combat situations permitted and tonight we are looking at an example of one of those caps dating from the 1950s or 1960s:The glengarry folds flat to allow it to be easily carried in a pocket or under a shoulder strap:The glengarry is predominantly black in colour, but has a diced band of red, white and blue around the lower half:Note also the leather sweat band that is sewn around the lower edge. The regiment’s cap badge is attached with a black fabric rosette backing behind it:Removing the badge there is a second set of holes for a pair of cap badge lugs, suggesting that this cap has had a replacement badge at some point in its life:A pair of black tapes hangs down from the rear of the cap:A white inspector’s stamp with a /|\ mark is stamped into the interior of the cap:Sadly this cap has suffered from the moths a little over the years and is rather tatty now. During World War Two and earlier it was traditional to wear the glengarry steeply tilted to one side with the cap badge high on the head, after the war it became common practice across all regiments to wear them level on the head:Here we see Private Danny Hall from Glasgow (right), of the 1st Batt. Royal Scots, saying goodbye to the regiment mascot, three and a half year old Mark Baillie, of Fortingale Street, who they handed over to the replacing regiment, the 2nd Batt. the Coldstream Guards. Receiving the mini soldier is Sergeant Bob Otto from Maidenhead in Belfast, July 1970:
The SA80 bayonet we looked at a few weeks ago was used in combat with a black plastic scabbard that protected the blade and allowed it to be carried in the PLCE frog. When the SA80 rifle was introduced it was decided to offer two different scabbards for the bayonet. Frontline infantry would receive a version with built in saw, wire cutter and sharpening stone. Rear echelon troops received a simpler (and cheaper) scabbard without these features, the argument being that they would rarely need to use any of these features so it was safe to delete them. This simplified scabbard was made from a black Phenolite plastic:The design retained the fixing points to allow the extra features to be added if required:The differences between the two scabbards can be seen here:Other features remain the same however, so six raised grooves are provided near the throat to allow grip to remove the bayonet from the scabbard and to help add extra rigidity to this portion:A small plastic detent is used to keep the bayonet in the scabbard and prevent it from rattling around:The bayonet fits neatly inside, but will only fit in one way due to the design of the bayonet itself with its offset grip:In order to attach the scabbard to the PLCE frog, a female Fastex clip is moulded into the top of the scabbard:This marries up with a male Fastex clip sewn into the frog itself and keeps the scabbard firmly attached.
This scabbard has clearly seen some service as an armourer’s rack number is painted on it in white:These simplified scabbards are much easier to find on the collectors’ market than the full combat versions which have not been released for resale in anywhere near the same amount and can easily make five times the price of their simpler counterparts.
When serving on UN peacekeeping missions, British soldiers are trying to appear as obvious as possible, rather than camouflaged. It is important that both sides in a conflict can see that they are there to keep the peace under a UN mandate and to this end their vehicles, even armoured ones, are painted white with large UN letters painted on them. The soldiers themselves are also easily identifiable, wearing blue UN berets much of the time. Sometimes however it is necessary for them to don helmets for their own protection and in these cases blue helmet covers are issued to make it very clear that these are UN mandated forces. For the Mk6 helmet, the UN helmet cover is very similar to that issued in camouflage Colours:One thing that is very distinct however it that there are no elasticated loops for camouflage to be attached to:This is quite deliberate as the aim is to be as visible as possible, which scrim or foliage would of course negate. Otherwise the cover is unchanged, with reinforcing patches on either side:And a white drawstring to pull the cover tight around the helmet:A label is sewn into the inside giving sizing, washing instructions and stores details for the helmet cover:
These helmet covers are not as common as the camouflage variants, but are equally not very collectable at the moment so can be acquired for a few pounds in mint condition.
One regular UN deployment the British Army contribute personnel to is the buffer zone in Cyprus. This article was published in 2016 and focuses on one reservist training for this deployment:
Each year the UK celebrates the service of its military reservists on Reserves Day but Private Flora Pape, aged 26, has been too busy preparing to deploy to Cyprus on Operation TOSCA.
Flora will be one of 250 Reservists and Regular soldiers deployed on the Army Reserve-led operation. The 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (4 LANCS), the North West’s light role infantry Army Reserve battalion, will be supported by personnel from its sister Regular battalion 2 LANCS.
Flora has spent the last two weeks with her fellow troops at Longmoor Camp in Hampshire and Nesscliffe training area in Shropshire completing her United Nations mission training, which centres on learning how to manage difficult incidents – from helicopter crash sites to riots.
Flora is a self-employed professional dog walker. She said: “I normally have quite a few dogs to walk and it keeps me fit! People who work full time don’t need to worry about walking or feeding their dog during the day because I do it for them, I’ve been doing it for five years and it works really well for me. Unfortunately I have had to close the business down for the period I’m away in Cyprus, but it wasn’t a hard decision for me – this is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
As part of the Operations Company in Cyprus she will be patrolling and maintaining a stable peaceful environment along the border which has split the island since 1974 and will be on the lookout and reporting any infringements or changes from the day-to-day norm.Flora said: “This week we’ve been getting tested on everything we would be expected to deal with when we are out there, the examiners have thrown all sorts at us but we’re well prepared to deal with them, the training has been excellent. I’m really excited about Cyprus because although I’ve been adventure training with the Army in Spain and Iceland, this will be my first operational deployment.
“I’ve always loved the Army because both my parents served in it I wanted to join the Army Reserve because I needed the best of both worlds – my civilian life and job and the military one too. 4 LANCS is perfect for me; I love the Infantry because you do everything you expect to do as a soldier.”
Op TOSCA is the name given to the British contribution to the UNFICYP – the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus – one of the longest-running United Nations missions. It was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island and bring about a return to normal conditions. Since a de facto ceasefire in August 1974, UNFICYP has supervised the ceasefire lines; provided humanitarian assistance; and maintained a buffer zone between the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot forces in the north and the Greek Cypriot forces in the south.
Linemen were used to maintain and repair telephone lines used by the British Army. Much of this time was therefore spent up telegraph poles using tools such as pliers. Obviously if these were to be dropped, it would be a long way back down to retrieve them. We have previously looked at a pair of pliers with a lanyard loop and this was one way of securing the tools, more common however was a specialist webbing frog that allowed a pair of pliers to be securely fastened to the users belt, seen here in a photograph from World War Two:The webbing frog can be clearly seen and this design was to remain in production and use for many years after the end of the Second World War. Tonight we are looking at a webbing pliers frog that, although dating to 1977, is of the same design as that used in wartime. In appearance it is a simple webbing frog similar to that used for a bayonet:Unlike a bayonet frog though, there is of course no hole from a scabbard stud. The pliers are placed in nose down and the design of the tool ensures that they naturally stay in the frog securely:The frog was designed for 9″ pliers, but could be easily modified with a couple of stitches to carry 5″ or 7″ pliers as well. A loop is sewn into the frog to allow a belt to be passed through:The rear of the frog is stamped with the makers initial, MWS, a date of 1977, an NSN number and the /|\ mark indicating military ownership:Ironically, although these frogs saw far more and far longer service as part of lineman equipment, they were originally introduced in the 1930s as part of the now almost forgotten and exceptionally rare Royal Artillery pattern of webbing. The main webbing set was quickly replaced by 37 pattern equipment in World War Two, but the plier’s frog proved so useful it continued in service and manufacture for decades more.
Tonight we have a rather attractive postal cover depicting a Wellington bomber, dating from 1984. The cover itself commemorates the 31st anniversary of the last flight of the Wellington back in March 1951 and the cover itself was flown in a Lancaster bomber:Of more interest to us however is the signature, which is that of William Reid VC:William Reid was born in Baillieston, near Glasgow, on 21 December 1921 the son of a blacksmith. He was educated at Swinton Primary School and Coatbridge Higher Grade School and studied metallurgy for a time, but then applied to join the RAF. After training in Canada, he received his wings and was a sergeant when he was commissioned as a pilot officer on probation in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on 19 June 1942. He then trained on twin-engined Airspeed Oxfords at Little Rissington before moving to the Operational Training Unit at RAF North Luffenham. There, his skill as a pilot led to his being selected as an instructor, flying the Vickers Wellington, albeit with the promise of a posting to an Avro Lancaster heavy bomber unit. He was promoted to flying officer on 19 December 1942.
The posting did not materialise until July 1943, when he was sent to 1654 Conversion Unit, RAF Wigsley, near Newark-on-Trent, where he flew his first operational mission as second pilot, in a Lancaster of 9 Squadron, in a raid on Mönchengladbach. In September he was posted to 61 Squadron at RAF Syerston, Newark, to commence Lancaster bombing operations, and flew seven sorties to various German cities before the raid on Düsseldorf.His official VC citation recorded the action for which he won the medal:
On the night of November 3rd, 1943, Flight Lieutenant Reid was pilot and captain of a Lancaster aircraft detailed to attack Dusseldorf.
Shortly after crossing the Dutch coast, the pilot’s windscreen was shattered by fire from a Messerschmitt 110. Owing to a failure in the heating circuit, the rear gunner’s hands were too cold for him to open fire immediately or to operate his microphone and so give warning of danger; but after a brief delay he managed to return the Messerschmitt’s fire and it was driven off.
During the fight with the Messerschmitt, Flight Lieutenant Reid was wounded in the head, shoulders and hands. The elevator trimming tabs of the aircraft were damaged and it became difficult to control. The rear turret, too, was badly damaged and the communications system and compasses were put out of action. Flight Lieutenant Reid ascertained that his crew were unscathed and, saying nothing about his own injuries, he continued his mission.
Soon afterwards, the Lancaster was attacked by a Focke-Wulf 190. This time, the enemy’s fire raked the bomber from stem to stern. The rear gunner replied with his only serviceable gun but the state of his turret made accurate aiming impossible. The navigator was killed and the wireless operator fatally injured. The mid-upper turret was hit and the oxygen system put out of action. Flight Lieutenant Reid was again wounded and the flight engineer, though hit in the forearm, supplied him with oxygen from a portable supply.
Flight Lieutenant Reid refused to be turned from his objective and Dusseldorf was reached some 50 minutes later. He had memorised his course to the target and had continued in such a normal manner that the bomb-aimer, who was cut off by the failure of the communications system, knew nothing of his captain’s injuries or of the casualties to his comrades. Photographs show that, when the bombs were released, the aircraft was right over the centre of the target.
Steering by the pole star and the moon, Flight Lieutenant Reid then set course for home. He was growing weak from loss of blood. The emergency oxygen supply had given out. With the windscreen shattered, the cold was intense. He lapsed into semiconsciousness. The flight engineer, with some help from the bomb-aimer, kept the Lancaster in the air despite heavy anti-aircraft fire over the Dutch coast.
The North Sea crossing was accomplished. An airfield was sighted. The captain revived, resumed control and made ready to land. Ground mist partially obscured the runway lights. The captain was also much bothered by blood from his head wound getting into his eyes. But he made a safe landing although one leg of the damaged undercarriage collapsed when the load came on. Wounded in two attacks, without oxygen, suffering severely from cold, his navigator dead, his wireless operator fatally wounded, his aircraft crippled and defenceless, Flight Lieutenant Reid showed superb courage and leadership in penetrating a further 200 miles into enemy territory to attack one of the most strongly defended targets in Germany, every additional mile increasing the hazards of the long and perilous journey home. His tenacity and devotion to duty were beyond praise.
Flight Lieutenant Reid died in 2001.
The General Service groundsheet was introduced as early as 1897 and was to see service through both world wars. It was a tan sheet of rubberised fabric, 6ft 6in x 3ft and with 36 eyelets around its edges. This very versatile item could be used as a waterproof sheet on which to sleep to protect the user from the damp earth, could be used as a waterproof cape by wrapping it around a soldier’s shoulders or by joining two or more together using the eyelets and a piece of string small shelters could be constructed for a couple of men. Although supplemented by the MK VII design, which included a triangular portion and a collar to be a true cape, the original design remained in service and largely unchanged until after World War Two. At this point the colour of the groundsheet was updated from tan to dark green:The same colour change was implemented for the MK VII cape, however the groundsheet was approaching obsolescence and today although the cape remains very common, the green groundsheet is much harder to find. To be honest, until I came across this example I was not even aware that the groundsheet had been produced in green (even after more than ten years of collecting you are always learning new things!)
Other than the change in the colour, the design is unchanged and features eyelets all around the edges to allow a bivy to be constructed from multiple sheets:The groundsheet has a lovely clear maker’s stamp indicating it was produced by G Strauss & Sons in 1952:The official guidance for the making of the rubberised fabric dates back to 1917 and manufacturers were advised:
- Material and dye.- Each sheet is to be made of dyed cotton equal in quality and make to that of the sealed pattern; the dye must be similar in shade of colour to that of the sealed pattern, and must be equally fast with this to the action of atmospheric influences, weak acids and alkalis, detergents and bleaching agents.
- Proofing. – The proofing of the fabric, which is to be approximately of the same shade as that of the sealed pattern, and of smooth surface, must consist of:-
Mineral matter … not more than 52 per cent.
Sulphur … … not more than 3 per cent.
Rubber … … not less than 45 per cent, on the average (no single sheet to contain less than 43 per cent.)
The rubber is not to contain more than 10 per cent. organic matter extractable by acetone and not more than 10 per cent. organic matter extractable by alcoholic potash, after removal of acetone extract. No reclaimed, reworked, or de-resinified rubber is to be used.
The mineral matter, other than that used for colouring the proofing, is to consist of a mixture of zinc oxide and litharge.
Small additions of other ingredients, such as are generally recognised as having a beneficial influence on the composition or vulcanization, may be allowed (carbonates of magnesium excepted).
The nature and proportions of the various ingredients proposed as mineral matter, together with the nature and amount of colouring materials, must be declared at the time of tendering.
The method of conducting the analysis is that laid down in the General Appendix to Specification for Rubber Goods…
- Proofing.- The proofing must be free from grit and large sized particles of mineral matter, and must be uniformly spread over the surface of one side of the fabric; it must be of such thickness that a 3 inch square (9 square inches) of fabric shall have on its surface not less than 30 grains of proofing.
The proofing must be well vulcanized and adhere firmly to the fabric, and when detached from the fabric by a suitable solvent and dried, it must be elastic and not readily broken.
The sheets may be inspected as regards proofing during manufacture (and samples taken) by the Chief Inspector, (Inspection Department), Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, or his representative.’
This groundsheet was an excellent little find and as my collection of post war jungle kit has grown, new finds have become more infrequent making a new discovery all the nicer.
The SA80 bayonet has a large number of frogs available for different purposes. Alongside those for use in combat are specialist patterns for the parade ground. Black artificial leather ones are issued to The Rifles, but the most common type is a woven white nylon design:The Army’s dress regulations explain:
Except in the very few units that wear black accoutrements, the waist belts, bayonet frogs, sword slings and shoulder belts etc. worn by the soldiers in Full Dress are invariably white, and this applies also in No. 1 Dress.
The frog has a plastic former inside to help it keep its shape and a piece of brass protects the throat as the bayonet is inserted and withdrawn:A belt loop is sewn into the top of the frog to allow it to be carried:A pair of brass rivets help reinforce this and prevent the weight of the bayonet from splitting the stitching:The bayonet fits into the frog neatly, with just the handle visible:For parades these frogs are cleaned and polished until they are sparkling. Brasso is used on the protector and rivets to make them shine and a white liquid cleaner is provided, much like emulsion paint, that is used to ensure they are sparkling and white. They are worn with a white woven nylon belt and can be seen with both the bayonet carried in them, or empty if a regiment has the freedom of a city to march with fixed bayonets through the street.