The Larkspur Radio set was developed after the Second World War to take advantage of the improvements in radio technology that came out of the conflict. There were many different models of radios designed to be fitted to vehicles, used in bases and some man-portable models that could be carried on an operator’s back. These radios were very heavy so specialist packs with padding were designed that not only protected the radio from the elements, but also helped reduce the fatigue on the operator of carrying it. Tonight we are looking at the pack issued with the A14 man portable radio’s carrying pack:This pack features many similarities with the 44 pattern jungle webbing in use at the period, including the colour of the webbing fabric and the style of the ironmongery attached to it. The complete pack with radio looked like this example:My thanks go to Michael Whittaker of Grandad’s Kitbag for permission to use this photograph. The front of the pack has a series of loops and buckles. Two sets of straps and buckles are fitted to the top part of the pack:These undo and allow both sides of the top portion to open giving access to the radio itself (obviously missing here):The back of one of these side opening flaps has a leather and celluloid pocket sewn to it, presumably for a card containing important information needed by the radio operator.Beneath this part of the pack is another compartment:This opens downwards and outwards to allow access:This compartment was used to store the headsets, handsets and their associated cables needed to operate the radio. A separate aerial case was often slung over the rear to carry these components. To the rear of the pack are a pair of adjustable shoulder straps:The weight of the radio was clearly quite considerable so a number of padded supports are sewn on to increase the operators comfort:The only markings on the pack are a maker’s initials of ‘BLG’ and a date of 1964:This pack is superbly well made and very complicated in design. This is the second Larkspur component I have picked up and I can see this being another radio set I will end up collecting as we go forward. I am a big fan of British military radios, unfortunately they are large and expensive so as with so many areas of my collection, this is a back burner project!
My thanks go to Michael Fletcher for very kindly giving me tonight’s object, a carrying holster for a Clansman 349 personal radio:The 349 was a component of the Clansman radio system used by the British Army from the 1970s until 2010. This particular radio was for intra section communication and was a small personal radio worn in this holster on either the chest or back:The holster is made of a dark green butyl-nylon fabric, very similar to that used on the 72 pattern webbing set. The main section of the holster is a simple square pouch that the radio slips into:There would have originally been an elasticated cord and tab which fitted over the radio and attached to the Velcro at the top but this has been removed. The rear of the holster has a cut out to allow the user to reach the controls of the radio and a couple of pieces of padding to help cushion the wearer’s body from the corners of the radio:Sadly this particular cover has suffered a bit over the years and the buckle for securing the chest strap has been removed, where this strap joined the rest of the cross straps a reinforced triangle of material is sewn, but the fastening strap which would have been to the right is cut off:This originally had a tongue to go through the metal staple here:The height of the pouch on the body is determined by a metal slide buckle:The markings on this pouch have almost completely worn off, the fabric not holding the ink very well. You can however just make out the faint traces of an NSN number:With Clansman being in service for so long there are a number of pouches available for the 349 radio and I have seen some DPM examples available online. With this being the case, I would guess that this is an earlier design of holster, but it seems to have remained in service alongside the radio throughout its service history.
The modern battlefield is now full of electronic devices, with specialist radios, computers and tablet computers in use. These differ considerably from their civilian counterparts, being far more rugged than the relatively delicate mobile phones and IPads we are used to. The British Army use a system called ‘Bowman’ which in addition to having individual and unit radio systems, also has battlefield tablet computers called ‘LTDTs’ and a light weight man-pack data terminal produced by a company called L-3 Communications, called an ‘LMDT’:The Army’s website describes Bowman as:
BOWMAN exploits the latest developments in radio and computer technology to meet the needs for services well into the 21st century.
Designed to provide an integrated digital communications network interfacing with higher level systems and networks such as ISDN, Skynet V,Cormorant and FALCON.
Commanders at all levels are given secure voice and data communications as well as an integrated Global Positioning System (GPS).
Tonight we are looking at the carrying case for one of the LMDTs:This is made of DPM camouflaged Cordua nylon, and is fitted with a large belt loop on the rear to allow it to be attached to a webbing set:A small handle is fitted to the top of the case:A heavy duty shoulder strap is fitted, securing at two points on each side of the case:A heavily padded section is attached to make the LMDT more comfortable to carry (presumably it is a fairly heavy bit of kit!):The front of the case opens up, it is secured with two black plastic Fastex fasteners:Underneath this are a further pair of velcroed flaps that add protection to the screen of the LMDT when it is stowed away:Finally when the case is fully opened up it looks like this:Two elasticated straps help hold the LMDT secure, even when the case is open. NSN details are printed on the underside of the top flap:This is a beautifully well made case, and clearly very carefully designed, with openings and flap[s all over to protect the instrument, whilst still allowing it to be easily used. At this stage it seems unlikely I will find an LMDT to fit inside the case any time soon, but these things have a habit of appearing on the surplus market in due course as equipment is upgraded so perhaps something for the future…
One of the most radical changes to military operations in the last ten to fifteen years has been in the area of personal communications on the battlefield. Today soldiers each have a ‘PRR’ or Personal Role Radio, which allows them secure and quick communication between members of a section on the battlefield. Up until very recently troops had been forced to use whistles or hand signals. The PRR consists of a small headset and microphone that the user wears beneath their helmet and a small receiver and transmitter unit that is normally worn high on the chest, by one shoulder. This transmitter/receiver is carried in a small pouch that holds it securely in place whilst still allowing the operator to access the controls:This pouch is made of a lightweight, but very strong Cordua nylon. Down the side of the pouch are a pair of openings that allow manipulation of the radio’s controls:An elasticated strap is fitted to the top, with a press stud, to secure the PRR into the pouch so it does not risk bouncing out when the soldier runs:A pair of adjustable straps with Fastex fasteners are fitted to one side of the pouch:In service these are passed around the back of the pouch, around the shoulder strap of the soldier’s webbing and back to the front to fasten and secure the radio pouch:The label on this pouch is very small and has no more information than an NSN number and the pouch’s use:These radios are part of the troubled ‘Bowman’ system and the MOD ordered 45,000 of them in the late 1990s/ early 2000s. The British Army website gives the official position:
The Personal Role Radio (PRR) is a small transmitter-receiver that allows infantry soldiers to communicate over short distances.
Effective even through thick cover or the walls of buildings, PRR enables section commanders to react quickly and efficiently to rapidly changing situations, including contact with the enemy, greatly increasing the effectiveness of infantry fire teams.
PRR is issued to every member of an eight-strong infantry section.
The system is easy to use through its simple man-machine interface, is unobtrusive and comfortable to wear yet is rugged enough to sustain the harshest environments.
The use of PRR has significantly enhanced combat effectiveness by providing all informed communications to front line soldiers, replacing traditional methods based on shouting and hand signals.
There were many variations of the humble Morse code key in use by the British during the Second World War; some sources identify up to a hundred different variations. Tonight though we are looking at just one of these, a little Bakelite example:These little keys were used by signallers to tap out messages in Morse code and were normally wired up to a wireless set, which then sent out the dots and dashes as a wireless signal. Alternatively the key could be wired to a signal lamp, more on that in a few days! Examples could be made of brass, Bakelite, silver alloy or sometimes a combination of materials. This example is made of very robust brown Bakelite. It consists of a base and a spring loaded rocker arm with a large Bakelite knob at one end:The base of the key has a stores code marked on it:In this case it is marked ZA16929, and according to the Imperial War Museum’s online database this indicates the key was used with the Wireless Set Number 19. A second marking at the end of the key reads ‘Key WT 8 Amp No2 MK III’:The key works by completing or breaking a circuit every time the knob is pressed down. Normally the connectors nearest the knob are broken and the ones furthest away are connected, pressing down on the knob reverses that position:This gives a great deal of flexibility allowing the key to be used regardless of how a wireless transmitter is wired- just attach the wires from the transmitter to the relevant connectors on the key.
Rod Balkham describes how he learnt Morse:
Over a period of what must have been several months I was turned into an OWL B3 – that is, Operator Wireless and Line (B3 being rated higher than B2, I seem to recall). This transmogrification was achieved mainly by the challenge of competition, plus – in my case in particular – my instinctive reaction to the sensitive understanding of the corporal who was our teacher. Unlike many another army corporal, he commanded respect in a firm but kindly manner, and he knew his job. As with the Bren gun, I became proficient with the Morse key without having to try very hard. To help us learn the Morse Code, the corporal offered us a few mnemonics, based on the rhythm of the dots and dashes. One was ‘Here comes the Bride’ – you can think of the bride as the Queen, he told us – thus arriving at dah dah dit dah for the letter ‘Q’. Another one, which I have good cause never to forget, was ‘Did-it ‘urt cher?’: Dit dit dah dit for the letter ‘F’, followed, inevitably, by ‘Like ‘ell it did’ for ‘L’.
As regular readers will know I have been picking up bits of kit for my WS38 set radio slowly over the last couple of years. This week I was very pleased to pick up a wartime signals satchel to go with the set:I have previously looked at an example of a signals satchel here, but that example was a post war version in green canvas with white metal fittings. This example is the correct one for wartime use and will go nicely with the radio. This is officially a ‘Signals Satchel No 1’, had a stores code of ZA 6292 and was introduced on 27th May 1938. The main body of the satchel is made from pre-shrunk woven cotton webbing, with a box lid:The lid is secured with a single strap and brass buckle to secure it:The inside of the satchel is lined with cotton-drill fabric to help protect the contents:Two variations of the signals satchel can be found, one with the shoulder strap sewn to the satchel itself, and the more common variety such as this one that has a standard 37-pattern shoulder brace secured with brass buckles:The top of the satchel is printed with ‘SATCHEL SIGNALS’:The inside of the top lid is clearly marked with the date 1942 and the manufacturer ‘MECo’:The strap is also stamped:According to the instruction card the signals satchel should hold:
– 2 mics and 2 phones (one for the officer)
– 1 batteries, (spare)
– 1 hooks, brace (spare)
– The instruction card
The actual batteries and junction box should have been stored in a separate pack on the back, but by all accounts only the satchel was used for much of the time so the wireless operator actually had somewhere to carry his own personal kit!
As far as I am aware this satchel was made in both Britain and Canada. I have not seen Australian, Indian or South African examples but that does not mean there was not production in these countries.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the British Army introduced a new radio system called (retrospectively) the ‘Larkspur’. Unlike wartime sets Larkspur used VHF frequencies so was more reliable and the cases were hermetically sealed to allow them to be used in a variety of atmospheric conditions. The radios came into widespread use in the late 1950s and early 1960s and remained in use until replaced by ‘Clansman’ in the 1970s, the old Larkspur system remained in use into the 1980s however. I have now started to put together a Larkspur set, and like my WS38 and WS88 sets this will be a back burner project, picking up items as and when I find them at a price low enough for a tight Yorkshireman!
My first piece is the subject of tonight’s post, the aerial bag for the radio:The bag is made from cotton webbing, with leather straps and buckles to secure the main pouch for the aerials, which broke down into six sections. Two pockets are fitted to the front of the bag, secured with press studs. The larger one is at the end of the bag:Whilst a smaller one is provided near the top flap:These pockets held two metal reels of cord for use as guy ropes, one aerial earthing attachment and three guy rope ground spikes. On the rear is a belt loop and a pair of leather straps and buckles:The case has large stencilled lettering on the rear, reading ‘CASE AERIAL CAT’ catalogue numbers are also provided, an old style ZA stores code and a newer NSN number:This is a starting point for a new collecting area in post war radios, there seems to be an awful lot of components to these sets compared with the earlier radio sets. They are however far cheaper than wartime sets…