Category Archives: Post WW2

Early Mk 2 S6 Haversack

There are a number of different variants of the haversack issued to carry the S6 respirator. The earliest style was a kidney shaped bag we looked at here. The final version was a stiff butyl nylon example, very square in shape that we considered here. In between these two designs though was another variant, more practical than the Mk 1, but softer and less rigid than the last pattern. This design is the one we are looking at tonight:imageFeatures to notice are the different type of fabric used, it is far less ‘shiny’ and stiff than the later models. There is also a distinctive brown tape edging to the seams that is missing on the later pattern, which uses green. I am loathe to say that this is categorically an entirely different design to the later example on the blog- I suspect they are just variations on a theme and the softness of the fabric could be as much to this example having had a rough service life, whilst the later example is mint out of the factory. They do look very different though and it does seem that the brown edging is indicative of earlier production. Most of the other features of the haversack are the same though. The lid is secured with a press stud and two squares of Velcro:imageThe underside of the lid has a pair of elastic loops to allow items such as NBC gloves to be fitted here for quick use. The back of the haversack has a channel to allow it to be slid onto a belt and a pair of ‘D’ rings to attach a shoulder strap to:imageA small side pocket is fitted to allow a DKP1 packet to be carried easily for easy access. The pressed metal disk below is part of the steadying system when the haversack is carried by the shoulder strap:imageA piece of string is attached to the other side of the haversack and when it is carried at the hip this is passed around the wearer’s body and wrapped around this metal disk to prevent the haversack from bouncing around when running.

Inside are the usual pockets for spare canister, anti-diming kit, auto-injectors and other NBC kit:imageFor more details of the exact contents I refer you back to the earlier post on the final variation of this haversack.

I would be interested to know for sure whether the change in appearance between the early Mk 2 and later Mk 2 haversacks is just a manufacturing difference or whether they are genuinely different patterns of haversack. There is certainly a version of the haversack for those with the canister on the opposite side of the mask, but I am still looking out for that version…

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Royal Navy Trade Badges (Part 4)- Mine Warfare

Continuing our survey of Royal Navy trade badges, tonight we are looking at that worn by Mine Warfare ratings:imageThis badge is a printed example and has a design based around an old fashioned contact sea mine, with a ring at the bottom where a real mine would be tethered to the sea bed and the horns sticking out that would detonate when hit by a ship.

Mine warfare was one of the areas where the post war Royal Navy led the world, with specialist ships and training that few other navies could match- indeed much of the sweeping and hunting for mines in the Gulf over the last thirty years have beeped by the British rather than the US Navy as they recognised the Royal Navy’s expertise.

A 1984 leaflet from the Third Mine Countermeasure Squadron explained:

A nation that depends on sea transport for the bulk of its trade is vulnerable to the threat of enemy mines. Mines are effective weapons in terms of the cost of production and sowing; compared with the amount of damage they do, the disruption they cause, and the effort required to clear them.

The most common minesweeper of the Cold War as the Ton Class, which cleared mines using a sweep that brought the mines to the surface to be destroyed. Mine warfare ratings on these ships were responsible for the sweeps and the paravanes that held the sweeping cables in the correct orientation to the ship:imageToday, mine clearance is done by hunting individual mines using sonar and dealing with them on the sea bed by exploding a mine disposal charge next to them. This fun cartoon from the early 1980s illustrates the difference:imageWhatever the method of mine clearance, serving as a mine warfare rating was hard work on small ships, with as much danger from the sea as anything else. This photo shows the sort of seas that tossed little minesweepers around- not an easy posting!image

British Army First Series Special Vouchers

We have previously looked at a number of different wartime forms of military currency including this 1 shilling note and these NAAFI tokens. At the time I wrote about the NAAFI tokens I mentioned that at the same time they were introduced, notes for other larger denominations were also rolled out. Tonight we have a couple of those notes to look at, namely the one shilling note:SKM_C284e17102416010 - Copy (3)

SKM_C284e17102416010 - Copy (2)And a half crown note:SKM_C284e17102416010

SKM_C284e17102416040These notes are both part of the first batch of currency produced by Thomas la Rue and introduced from August 1st 1946. 52,400,000 special vouchers were produced in this initial run, with a value of just over 10 million pounds sterling. The notes were only supposed to be used in official army canteens and establishments, as printed on the rear:

This note is valid only for transactions within official canteens and organisations laid down in GROs of the theatre except as maybe expressly provided in GROs. It must in no circumstances be offered to any person who is not entitled to use British Service canteens. Improper use of this note is a disciplinary offence and may render the offender liable to penalties.

But soldiers and locals soon bypassed this system and the black market the notes were supposed to stop continued anyway. With this in mind the military secretly designed a new set of notes that were released on January 6th 1948, with these notes being immediately demonetised.

Interestingly the 1/- note is not serialised, but the 2/6 note is- suggesting that the authorities were not really worried about forgeries of the smallest denominations but did see it as a risk for half-crown notes and above.

For those of our readers overseas, and indeed many in the UK who are too young to remember pre-decimalisation currency the following guide might be helpful:

12 pennies (12d) = 1 shilling (1/-)

20 shillings (20/-) = 1 pound (£1)

240 pennies (240d) = 1 pound (£1)

Pennies could be further broken up into ha’pennies (1/2 d) and farthings (1/4d).

Other denominations included the florin (2/-), the half crown (2/6) and the Crown (5/-).

Although this sounds very complicated, people grew up using this monetary system and most had no difficulties with it at all. Indeed many people born before the mid-1960s have far better mental arithmetic skills than later generations because they had to work with this currency from childhood without calculators.

Royal Navy Trade Patches (Part 3)- Cooks

This week’s Royal Naval trade badge is for a Petty Officer Cook:imageThe badge has a six pointed star in the centre, with a letter ‘C’, surmounted by a crown. The rear of the badge is sealed to prevent the threads from coming loose:imageHere we see a Leading Cook, wearing his version of the trade badge with two stars on it, but with the same central design:imageThe 1981 recruitment leaflet gives some helpful information on the branch:

With over 70,000 men and women to cater for, Navy cooks need to have a wide range of professional skills- and be able to work to the same high standards, whether on shore or at sea, or whether it’s egg and chips on the menu or a full banquet for VIPs.

Specialist training: an eleven week course at HMS Pembroke at Chatham, Kent where you’ll learn a variety of skills including the preparation of stocks, sauces, fish, meat and vegetable dishes, salads and various hot and cold sweets; you’ll also be given instruction in bakery. When you leave HMS Pembroke you’ll go to a shore establishment to gain experience in a Naval shore galley for nine months before your first draft to a ship and the challenge of catering at sea. imageFurther progress: As a leading cook you’ll be entitled to City and Guilds 706/2 (Cookery for the Catering Industry). As a cookery instructor you would be awarded the Hotel and Catering Industry Board Teaching Certificate, and you can subsequently qualify for the City and Guilds Certificate 706/3 (Advanced Cookery for the Catering Industry).

Average time from joining the Royal Navy to first sea-going draft- 12 months

Modern Royal Navy Dress Uniform Collar

Tonight we are looking at a fairly modern pattern of Royal Naval blue collar:imageIt is worth taking a moment to compare the design to that used during the Second World War here. Despite looking very similar when worn, the modern naval collar is far simpler to fit and is held securely to the rest of the uniform using Velcro tabs on both the ‘tails’:imageAnd around the collar:imageNote also the button hole, this attaches to a button on the back of the neck of the dress uniform and ensures the collar is correctly centred. This collar is not actually of the most recent pattern as the latest examples have small button loops on the back, bottom corners of the collars to fasten to corresponding button loops on the jacket that prevent the collar flying up in the wind, this example then is an earlier design without this feature.

The collar retains the traditional mid-blue shade, with three white stripes around the edges:imageThese collars are marked with the owner’s name- today this is written on the label, but in this example the original user has printed his name on with white paint to the underside:imageI actually have a pair of collars to this sailor, each marked the same. They are identical apart from the manufacturer’s labels, one of which has washing instructions included:imageCollars are ironed to give a distinctive set of folds in them that go ‘/\/\’ and it is crucial to iron these in carefully when first issued as a wonky crease will never truly come out once ironed in! The new design of collar with Vecro was first introduced in the 1970s and caused trouble for one new recruit:

I think our class was the first to be issued with the new style No1s in 1977 with the velcro collar, (don’t know if its changed since).

The abuse I got at Culdrose when duty “PT runner” for the first time, I was bollocked & threatened with being trooped as well as a kit muster by PTO & CPOPTI For being in a “circus rig” told to come back in proper uniform. As a young 17 year old, fresh out the box, I’ll admit I wasn’t far from blubbing as I had never been chewed out like that before, told the OOW what had happened, straight away said that’s the new rig isn’t it.

At least the CPO had the decency to say sorry.88986461

MoF Emergency Feeding Spoon

In the immediate post war world there was a real worry that there could be a nuclear or conventional air strike on Britain’s cities that was far in excess of anything suffered in World War Two. To counter this threat, Civil Defence remained at the forefront of post war thought and the lessons of the Blitz were transferred to the new Cold War. One thing that had become very apparent was the difficulties in feeding displaced people and emergency services in the aftermath of a raid.

Specialist mobile kitchens manned by the WVS had played a vital role in the aftermath of mass raids and it made sense to assume that emergency feeding would be essential in the new post war world if the worst to happen. Rather than be left to chance as it had to some extent during the war, emergency feeding was given far more priority by those in charge and perhaps understandably it came under the aegis of the Ministry of Food.

What they did was set up regional stores of emergency food, along with bowls and spoons so simple hot meals could be quickly given to the public. Thankfully these were never called upon and in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall huge quantities of these bowls and spoons have been cleared out and sold on the surplus market. Tonight we have one of those simple spoons, made of a light blue plastic:imageThe spoon has a simple reinforcing rib along the back:imageAnd the pre-1952 logo for the Ministry of Food on the top of the handle:imageDuring World War Two the government had held 6.5 million tons of food for emergency feeding, but the 1950s this had dropped considerably and in 1960 582500 tons were in stores consisting of :

Corned beef (in 12oz and 6lb tins)              75000 tons

Flour (in 140 lb sacks)                                 196000 tons

Sugar (raw)                                                   252500 tons

Raw materials for processing                    36000 tons

(mainly oils and fats)

A number of different variations of these spoons exist, with some having a broader handle at the top and others made in white plastic. They are very easy to find and a nice addition to a Cold War Civil Defence collection.

Royal Navy Trade Badges (Part 2)- Radar Operations

Following  last week’s overview, tonight we are looking at our first pair of Royal Navy trade badges, these are for Radar Operations and we have both an AB2’s badge:imageAnd an AB’s badge:imageBoth have a distinctive circular design mirroring the circular plot of a traditional radar screen, four bolts of lightning can be seen in the centre, indicating the electrical nature of the role. The qualified sailor has a single star above his badge, as we discussed last week.

This image shows a British radar operator at work aboard a ship at the height of the Cold War, the circular plots are clearly visible:imageA 1981 recruitment leaflet explains what to expect if you decided to join this branch:

This involves working in the Operations Room of ships on warning radar I.e. Plotting positions of ships and aircraft. 8 weeks training at HMS Dryad. You’ll normally go to sea within six months of joining the navy.

In 1986 the BBC created a new Doomsday Book to celebrate 1000 years since the original. The description for HMS Dryad read:

HMS Dryad is situated within the 300 acre estate, 7 miles north of Portsmouth. It is the Royal Navy’s school of Maritime Operations and provides training for every grade of seaman.                               

 Officers and ratings on courses are trained to operate radars, electronic warfare sensors and various other communication channels. Training takes place in buildings housing computerised trainers, operational models of five types of Royal Navy ships. Dryad has sports and recreational facilities including an 18 hole golf course.     

 The name  Dryad is derived from Greek Mythology; Dryads being wood nymphs. Dryad was moved from Portsmouth to its present site in Southwick in 1941.It was chosen as the Headquarters for the Allied Invasion of Europe in 1944.   

One radar rating who spent a lot of time at HMS Dryad recalls:

HMS Dryad, A.K.A. Follyfoot farm, due to the country club nature of the establishment. In reality it’s the Radar training school where I spend a fair bit of my Naval career. Situated at Southwick near Portsmouth, but far enough away to be in the country.

At HMS Dryad there were Riding stables a swimming pool [open to the public at night] a Golf course and even a wood shed, where we would have to chop logs to sell to the locals, Oh yes and some radar training happened occasionally as well. There are “simulators” of ships “ops rooms” we called them “models” where all the action took place.

I remember once we were in the middle of a massive air attack during one of the “model” exercises, when Spike Ainsworth, my “surface picture reporter” accidentally switched the radar off, I quickly switched it back on again but it takes about 30 seconds to warm up. I have never seen so many headless chickens during that 30 seconds.

At this time Radar Operations was part of the Operations branch:

The Operations Branch spans such a wide range of skills that it is divided into two groups- the Seamanship Group and the Communications Group. But whatever their job, the men of the ‘Ops Branch’ have one important thing in common- they are all in the ‘front line’ of a warship in action.