I love a nice piece of British communications gear, and tonight we are looking at a really interesting new addition to my collection. The ‘Telephone Loud Speaker Control Unit’ was issued to artillery batteries during the Second World War and allowed the battery commander to communicate with the four guns in the unit and provide immediate instruction on things such as range, shell type required and corrections. Altogether the set comprised the control unit (which we are looking at tonight), batteries and four speaker/transmitter units that went out to each of the guns. The control box was in effect a miniature switchboard for a five way field telephone. As with most British Army communications kit of World War Two, the control unit is housed in a stout wooden box, with the contents painted on the lid:The box weighs 22lbs when complete, so is a heavy piece of kit. There would have been a carrying strap which is now missing (although will not be difficult to replace). Opening the box up we can see it splits into two halves, with the main switchboard in the bottom of the box and storage for headphones and microphone in the lid:Four terminals are provided to connect each of the speaker/transmitter units to, a switch beneath allows each or multiple gun sites to be chosen to speak with, a bulb lighting up to show which ones are connected:A pair of terminals are provided on the main control panel, the larger being for the microphone (which I am sadly missing):The smaller terminal allows the headphones to be plugged in:The back part of the bottom half of the box has two coiled wires with terminals:These are to attach the system to a battery box, and standard Niphan plugs are attached to the ends of the cables:The lid of the control unit holds the accessories for the set, with a tinplate cover revealing a space for the microphone:The top of the cover has details on how to operate the set, note also that this set was manufactured by Truvox, other examples were produced by Tannoy:As with the microphone, a white outline indicates where the headphones are to be stowed:These are secured in place by a webbing strap with a turn buckle:A small tinplate cover reveals a space for spare bulbs for the control box:The headphones provided are very similar to those used on other British Army radio and communications sets, with a pair of Bakelite speaker units and a wire and web harness to attach them over the operator’s head:In this great photograph we can see Lieutenant LW Spurr directing the fire of the 25 pounder guns of the 4th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery near Antwerp with one of these control units:A typical order from a Gun Position Officer to the crews of the guns might be, “HE, 117, Charge 3, zero 346 degrees, angle of sight 2 degrees, right ranging 7700, fire”. This meant the guns were to fire a HE Shell, with a 117 direct action fuze, using a charge 3, at an angle of elevation of 346 degrees deviation from the guns zero line, at an angle of elevation of two degrees, only the two right most guns are to fire and the range is 7700 yards.
The WS19 set radio was a large vehicle based radio set used by the British and Empire throughout World War Two and beyond. Like all radio sets the operators were expected to maintain it in the field and a selection of spares and accessories were provided in various metal tins for protection. Although I haven’t got a WS19 set (yet), I came across one of these spares tins on the second hand market this week and this tin is the subject of tonight’s post:The tin is made of metal, approximately 8”x4” and has Z| ZA/29388 stencilled on the top:This marking appears to be post-war as the tin has been repainted and you can just make out the earlier markings ‘Case Spare Parts’, ‘19’ and ‘ZA29388’ under this layer of paint in the photograph above. The 19 sets remained in front line use until 1954 when they were replaced by Larkspur, but continued in use by Cadet units for training into the 1970s. The tin is secured by a brass tab that folds over the lid, this is slightly sprung to help keep the lid down, but slides off easily when needed:Opening the tin a pair of holes can be seen on the base that would have held the interior fittings when the box was used for its original purpose:Pasted to the underside of the lid is a printed piece of cloth outlining the contents of the tin:Having looked at some other more complete examples it seems that the spares themselves did not take up very much of the interior of the tin. Instead the majority of the spares case was taken up with a Morse code key that could be strapped to the user’s leg and plugged into the 19 set.
Continuing my on-going project to collect up all the accessories for my Malayan Emergency era WS88 set radio, I have recently managed to pick up the aluminium operators instruction card. This card is made of metal, with operating instructions etched into the front and the back, as the radio was designed to be used in tropical conditions aluminium was a good choice as it was more resilient than card and less prone to corrosion than steel or brass might have been. The front of the card offers some first principles:With illustrations of the general set up of the radio system:And how to wear it:The rear of the card gives operating instructions:Including diagrams of how to set up the radio for transmitting:And some detailed text on how to test, operate and maintain the radio:This card would have acted as an aide memoire to the designated radio operator and as a quick guide to anyone who was forced to use the radio in an emergency. The card itself slots into the back of the radio pouch and has a stores number of ZA32991.
Continuing the process of adding the accessories I need to my WS38 radio set, I was very pleased this week to be able to get a set of aerials and their case for a few pounds. The WS38 set uses a set of ‘F-Type’ metal rod aerials:The aerials are each four feet in length, either the thinnest aerial is used on its own, to give the radio a range of about half a mile:Or three sections are joined together to give a twelve foot aerial with a range of up to two miles. The official manual gave rather more generous maximum distances:
The aerial used consists of a single vertical rod comprising one or three Antennae rods “F” sections. The maximum range obtainable with one 4’ rod is approximately 2 miles over flat country, while up to 5 miles range may be expected with the full 12’ aerial.
This however would be in optimum conditions rather than in real life! The metal rods come in two variations, some that screw together and others that are a push fit like this set:The aerial cover is made of thin webbing, in this case by Bagcraft Ltd:Note also the faint ‘ZA’ code indicating that it is a radio accessory. The top of the case is secured by a flap with a quick release buckle:The base of the case has a double thickness of webbing to reinforce the end:Sadly the shoulder strap is missing from this case, but one of the metal loops to attach the strap remains, sewn with heavy duty stitching to the main case: The aerial case can be seen worn over the shoulder on the official WS38 operator’s card: As can be seen from the card, the case should contain two of the thinnest aerial rods, rather than the one I have but for the price I paid for the set I really can’t complain!
Back in January we considered the WS38 set here, at the time I mentioned that finding the accessories for it was very much a long term project. Happily I have now been able to add my first extra to the set thanks to an old friend, Bill Pozniak, who has hooked me up with the headphones for this set:These headphones are virtually fresh out of the box and are typical of headphone design from the 1940s. The earpieces are made of heavy Bakelite, with a circular opening on the inner faces for the speakers to project sound into the operator’s ears:The reverse of the headphone piece has the units designation ‘DLR No5’ and has the wiring loom where the phones connect to the connecting wire:The wires are again typical of the period, being covered in fabric and twisted together:The end of the wire has a single pin plug that connects to a junction box that in turn connects to both the microphone and the main receiver of the wireless set. Again this is made of Bakelite and to modern eyes has a very chunky appearance:The two headphones are joined together by a wire loop, that passes round the back of the head:An adjustable canvas strap is also provided that passes over the top of the head, note the /|\ mark and the YA stores code for radio accessories:The canvas top strap allows the headset to be worn comfortably under a helmet for long periods of time, as witnessed by this Polish soldier who has the headset under a Mk II helmet:
Regular readers might remember that I added a post War WS88 set radio to my collection at the start of the year (see here). As I explained then, finding accessories for both this and the WS38 set was a long term project and therefore I was very pleased to be able to add my first extra bit so quickly. This officer’s handset came up on a dealers site without any formal identification and I must confess I didn’t clock it as an WS88 accessory at first, it was only on closer inspection of the seller’s picture that I realised the significance and quickly snapped it up to go with my radio set. The WS88 set was fitted with two connectors on the top so that in addition to the operator’s head set, a separate telephone style hand set could be attached to allow an officer to use the radio as well without having to borrow the headset. The handset, officially known as Telephone, Hand, No.11 consists of a dark green hard rubber moulded telephone type receiver, attached to a long cable:The end of the cable has a three prong male connector:This attaches into the top of the WS88 set:The handset is reinforced with wire down the back of the handgrip :The speaking end of the handset contains a microphone and is left as the hard green rubber:The speaker end has a softer rubber pad fitted to increase the comfort in use:As can be seen from the markings within the pad this part is marked ‘MkII’, with a stores code of YA7225. This handset is the first part of what will continue to be an on-going project to find all the elements that go with the WS88 set. I have found a full list of the required elements:
- WS88 type A (ZA.32972) or type B (ZA.33621)
- Mic/Rec headgear No.15 (ZA.32998)
- Telephone, Hand, No.11 (YA.8079)
- Aerial, Vertical, 4-ft, No.3 (ZA.32934)
- Aerial, 4-ft 2-in, No.1 (ZA.32962)
- Working instructions No.2 (Metal) (ZA.32991)
- Pouch, Battery (ZA.33127)
- Pouch, Set (ZA.33126)
- Satchel, Signal No.1 (ZA.6292) or Haversack No.1 (8465-99-940-0047)
- Strap, Webb, 10-in x 3/4-in No.1 (ZA.33168)
When the British Army introduced the WS88 radio set we looked at yesterday, they issued it with an accompanying webbing pouch to allow it to be attached to the recently approved 44 pattern webbing set.This pouch was supposed to be worn on the left hand side of the webbing, with a similar pouch for the battery on the right. It is made of the same green lightweight cotton webbing as the rest of the 44 pattern tropical webbing:As can be seen the pouch is secured by a quick release fastener on the front, this example is sadly broken. Whilst sharing many characteristics with the contemporary 44 pattern set, this pouch is not strictly speaking part of that set, as it is not listed in the pamphlets of equipment, rather it is an associated piece of equipment designed to be compatible with the main webbing set. The rear of the pouch is virtually identical to the 44 pattern ammunition pouches, but is marginally wider to accommodate the larger radio set:A pair of metal loops are sewn to the pouch to attach it to the waist belt:The rear also has a radio stores’ code of ‘ZA33126’ and the letter ‘L’ indicating it is to be worn on the left:The base of the pouch has a small drainage hole:This combined with the waterproof casing of the WS88 set allowed the operator to wade through water and still use the radio at the end of it. The top flap of the pouch has a large opening allowing the user to operate the WS88 set:A small pocket runs down the side of the pouch to hold the aerial when not in use:This pouch was manufactured by MECo in 1948: