Category Archives: Royal Air Force

RAF Olive Green Foul Weather Trousers

It is not perhaps surprising that, considering how exposed many airfields can be, the RAF had some of the best waterproof clothing of the Cold War. Tonight we are looking at a pair of RAF issue foul weather trousers in olive green:imageThey are made from a double layered nylon with an elasticated waist. The fly has no buttons that could fall off and cause a problem if they were to be sucked up by an aircraft engine, instead a press stud and Velcro are supplied:imageTwo openings are provided to allow access to the pockets underneath the trousers:imageThese garments were introduced in the 1970s and were originally issued in four of the numbered non-metric sizes (0-3). By the time my pair were manufactured modern metric sizing had been introduced, as seen on the label:imageIn time these trousers were also adopted by the army and the description on the label changed to ‘Trousers, Foul Weather, OG’.

A Velcro tab is provided at the bottom of each trouser leg to allow it to be sealed against the elements:imageThese trousers were very good for their era- comfortable to wear and actually waterproof! They were sought after at the time, especially by those not technically due to be issued them! Today they are definitely a little harder to find than other items of army waterproof clothing. These were a lucky £1 find last week. My thanks go to Stephen Madden for his encyclopaedic knowledge of Cold War uniforms which was a great help in the preparing of this post.

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Ballast Round

Although I always try and bring you as much information as I can in these blog posts, sometimes I draw a blank and have an object I really struggle to provide much information for. Tonight we have an ammunition round that I have not been able to find any concrete information on, so much of this post is based around common sense and a little speculation. As ever if you can provide anything concrete please get in touch and I will update and credit accordingly.

Tonight we have a 30mm Aden ballast round:imageThis round is made from a solid piece of aluminium with an integral head, painted orange:imageThe base of the round has a ring, but is otherwise completely plain:imageThe only markings are an impressed panel with a ’56’ for a date of 1956 and the word ‘ballast’:imageI must thank my good friend Andy Dixon for his help in adding this round to the collection. After discussion I believe the round was designed as a completely safe facsimile of a real Aden round- the same size and weight. It would have been used to help simulate real ammunition in an aircraft when balancing it or during unarmed flights where it acted as ballast to simulate the characteristics of a fully armed and loaded aircraft. It might also possibly have been used to allow ground crew to train with realistic ammunition, safe in the knowledge that there was absolutely no chance of live rounds. If you know more please let me know…

Beadon Flight Suit Survival Backpack

The Beadon suit was a lightweight blue-grey gabardine flight suit introduced by the RAF at the very end of the Second World War. It was designed for use in tropical areas and had numerous pockets for the carrying of survival equipment. As well as the survival equipment carried in the suit itself, pilots wearing this flight-suit were also equipped with a small bag that could be worn as a back pack to carry further survival kit in. These backpacks are actually pretty rare, so I was very lucky to be given this example at The Yorkshire Wartime Experience:imageMy thanks go to Gary Hancock for his expertise in identifying it! Sadly this example has had the straps to allow it to be used as a backpack cut off, there would originally have been two light woven cotton straps attached to the top of the bag. A series of small pockets are fitted along the bottom edge of the backpack for carrying survival equipment:imageThese are secured with metal press studs:imageA black metal zip giving access to another pocket is provided further up the front of the bag:imageThe rear of the bag, which would normally be against the wearer’s back, is far plainer:imageTwo loops are provided however, again secured with press studs:imageThese would have been used to secure the bottom of the bag to the waist belt of the Beadon suit to prevent the bag from bouncing around when being used.

A simple white cotton label is sewn into the backpack with a stores code and /|\ marking:imageThe flight suit and this associated backpack saw service right at the end of the Second World War, in the Far East. It continued in service throughout the late 1940s into the early fifties seeing service in the early years of the Malayan Emergency until replaced with the 1951 pattern suit.

Aircrew NBC Suit Coverall Inner

I love rummaging through ‘£1’ boxes and sheets at living history shows. Most of the time it is a load of old junk, but these piles can yield a nice selection of very cheap items of militaria if you are prepared to root through and find the diamonds in the rough. The Yorkshire Wartime Experience at the beginning of July yielded a nice selection of these cheap finds and one of those is the subject of tonight’s post, an aircrew NBC liner coverall:imageI actually picked up two of these garments, the one above I have removed from the packet and a second one I have left sealed up:imageThis coverall is actually quite a clever design. Unlike most NBC gear which is worn over other clothing and is heavy and overheats the wearer, this garment is designed to be worn underneath a flight suit and is impregnated with charcoal to offer protection in NBC environments. It sacrifices durability for lightness and comfort, but as it is under a flight suit in an aircraft this is less of an issue than for a garment worn in combat on the ground. These garments date from 1991, as can be seen by the paper label inside the packaging:imageThe coverall has a centrally mounted zip, protected with a piece of foam so it does not damage the thin material when it is vacuum sealed, a simple round neck is provided without any form of collar:imageThis allows greater comfort when it is worn under another article of clothing. Note the black lining where the fabric is charcoal impregnated. Elastic loops are sewn into the bottom of the legs to pass under the wearer’s feet to prevent the legs from riding up:imageA large label is fixed in the back of the overall indicating it was made by Remploy:imageThese garments are easily available, presumably large quantities were made and never used and have now passed their expiration date so they have been surplussed off. Quite what I am going to do with them, I don’t know, but at £1 each I wasn’t going to leave them there!

RAF Opthalmascope

Good eyesight is a requirement for pilots today as it was during the Second World War. Therefore all prospective recruits to the RAF during the war were subjected to eye tests to ensure that pilots had 20/20 vision. These were performed by RAF doctors, using eyesight charts. If they needed to take a closer look at a patients eyes however they could use an opthalmascope, a small instrument to look into the back of a person’s eyes to see if there are any defects. A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to come across one of these instruments, in an elegant leatherette covered box:19250547_10154637772618045_2002613271174023683_oAs can be seen this has an embossed crown and AM indicating Air Ministry ownership. Opening the case we can see it is fully lined and holds the opthalmascope in a purpose made fitting:imageA maker’s mark is printed on the silk on the underside of the lid:imageThe contents themselves are the body of the opthalmascope, the head, and three spare bulbs:imageThe body would hold several large cell batteries, the head attaches to the body, with a small screw to hold it tight:imageThe head consists of two overlapping discs, one of which can be rotated to change the size of an aperture used to look through into the patient’s eye:imageOn the rear can be seen where the small bulb fits, giving illumination straight into the retina to check for damage:imageThis is clearly a high quality medical instrument and was almost certainly bought off the shelf by the RAF, as the only ownership markings are on the case. For instruments such as this it was not worth the Air Ministry putting in their own specialist contracts considering that comparatively few were required, therefore only the case is marked as this was easily done by the manufacturer.

As might be expected some men were desperate to fly and a way around an eyesight test could be found, Martin Lunn describes how his father Sergeant Denis Lunn managed to get through:

My father, in his early twenties, was desperate to join the RAF, but was very much afraid that he would fail the eye test as he was considerably short-sighted. He therefore asked someone to copy out the eye chart for him so that he could learn it off by heart. He passed the eye test and went on to be awarded the Defence Flying Medal for rescuing nine Allied airmen in the Messina Straits in the first air-sea rescue operation from Sicily since the day of the invasion.

RAF Aircraft Cigarette Cards Part 5

Tonight we come to the fifth and final post covering the RAF Aircraft cigarette cards published by Players in the late 1930s. I hope you have enjoyed these posts as much as I have, many of these aircraft are virtually forgotten now and I must confess to having a soft spot for the lumbering biplanes of the interwar period!

Card 41- Airspeed Unnamed Radio-Controlled Target Aircraft.

Designed for the Navy and Army Anti-Aircraft Batteries, this aeroplane made its first public appearance at the Royal Air Force Display at Hendon in June 1937. Although still officially unnamed, it is usually referred to as the “Queen Wasp”. The engine is an Armstrong Siddeley “Cheetah” air-cooled 7 clylinder radial. Performance details of this aircraft are still secret. Arrangements are made for the fitting of floats in place of the usual land undercarriage, enabling the aircraft to be used either as a landplane or seaplane.SKM_C45817061407561 - Copy

Card 42- D.H. “Queen Bee” Radio-Controlled Target Aircraft

The “Queen Bee” is virtually a standard D.H. “Tiger Moth” equipped as a radio-controlled pilotless aircraft for use as a gunnery target. Apart from the radio-control equipment, the “Queen Bee” is also fitted with catapulting points and slinging gear, and may be used either as a landplane or seaplane. The engine is a “Gipsy-Major” 4-cylinder inverted air-cooled motor of 130 h.p. Performance details are not available for publication. H.M. The king witnessed a demonstration of “Queen Bee” flying when he visited the Fleet in June, 1938.SKM_C45817061407561 - Copy (2)

Card 43- Airspeed “Oxford” Advanced Training Aircraft

This aircraft, which is designed for training, is a graceful low-wing monoplane, built by Airspeed Ltd., and fitted with two Armstrong Siddeley “Cheetah X” engines of 350 h.p. each. The equipment provides for training in navigation, bomb aiming and wireless operation. The “Oxford” has a wing span of 53 feet 3 inches and a top speed of 187 m.p.h. Its flight endurance is 5 hours. It is finished in bright yellow, the distinguishing colour of trainer aircraft.SKM_C45817061407561 - Copy (3)

Card 44- Avro “Prefect” Navigational Training Aircraft

An adaptation of the well-known Avro “Tutor” specially equipped for navigational training in the Royal Air Force. Full cloud-flying equipment, blind-flying hood, etc., are provided. Except for this specialised equipment the “Prefect” is identical to the “Tutor”. An Armstrong-Siddeley “Lynx” engine of 215 h.p. is fitted. The aircraft has a wing span of 34 feet, a length of 26 feet 6 inches and a height of 9 feet 7 inches.SKM_C45817061407561 - Copy (4)

Card 45- Avro “Tutor” Training Aircraft

A two-seater equal span single-bay training aircraft, used for elementary training. Complete dual control is fitted, and a 215 h.p. Armstrong Siddeley “Lynx” 7-cylinder radial air cooled engine provides a maximum speed of 122 m.p.h. A seaplane version of this aircraft, known as the “Seatutor” is also built, and is almost identical to the landplane apart from having a slightly lower performance. The “Tutor” has a wing span of 34 feet, a length of 26 feet 6 inches and a height of 9 feet 7 inches.SKM_C45817061407561

Card 46- D.H. “Tiger Moth” Training Aircraft

This aeroplane was designed as an efficient elementrary and intermediate training biplane, but in addition it is used in the Service for communication duties. Complete dual control is fitted and, if desired, floats may be employed in lieu of wheels, rendering the aircraft suitable for seaplane training. A D.H. “Gipsy Major” 4-cylinder-in-line inverted air cooled engine is installed, and in the case of the landplane produces a maximum speed of about 109 m.p.h. The “Tiger Moth” has a wing span of 29 feet 4 inches, a length of 23 feet 11 inches and a height of 8 feet 9 ½ inches.SKM_C45817061507530 - Copy

Card 47- Miles “Magister” Training Aircraft

A low wing trainer monoplane built by Phillips & Powis, the Miles “Magister” is fitted with a de Havilland “Gipsy Major” engine of 130 h.p. Its lines are noticeably graceful. The wing span is 33 feet 10 inches and the length 25 feet 3 inches. The cockpits are open and are set tandem fashion. There are full controls and instruments including blind-flying equipment. Like other trainers, the “Magister” is finished in a bright shade of yellow. Trainer aircraft are specially designed and fitted for the highly important functions which they perform.SKM_C45817061507530 - Copy (2)

Card 48- Miles Unnamed Training Aircraft

This low-wing cantilever monoplane is a high speed trainer built by Phillips & Powis. It mounts a Rolls Royce “Kestrel XVI” engine of a maximum output of 745 h.p. The two seats are placed tandem and there are dual controls. The undercarriage is retractable, while a feature of the design is the unusually thick wing. The machine has a top speed of 295 m.p.h. Modern high-speed flying demands a special technique which this aircraft is designed to teach, but it can also be employed as a general purpose type suitable for fighting, light bombing or reconnaissance.SKM_C45817061507530 - Copy (3)

Card 49- Vickers “Virginia” Parachute Training Aircraft

Originally designed as a bomber, this aeroplane is now used for parachute training. An unusual feature of the design is the double set of landing wheels. The aircraft is fitted with two Napier “Lion” 12 cylinder “W” type liquid-cooled engines mounted between the wing stuts. The dimensions of the “Virginia” are imposing- wing span 87 feet 8 inches, length 62 feet 3 inches, heigh 17 feet 9 inches. A comparison of the “Virginia” with more recent types of bomber (e.g. “Battle” and “Wellesley”) shows the rapid advance made in general design.SKM_C45817061507530 - Copy (4)

Card 50- Vickers “Valentia” Troop Carrier

This type is a development of the “Victoria” V and VI bomber transport aeroplanes, and is fitted with two Bristol “Pegasus” II L.3 engines. Provision is made for carrying a spare engine on the bottom inner port plane. The aircraft is 59 feet long, and has a wingspan of 87 feet 7 inches. When used for transport the “Valentia” carries 21 troops besides a crew of 2, including the pilot. It has a range of about 650 miles and has been largely used for moving troops expeditiously over rough country. Most of this type are stationed abroad.SKM_C45817061507530

RAF Aircraft Cigarette Cards Part 4

Tonight we have the penultimate part of our series covering the RAF Aircraft cigarette cards set.

Card 31- Short “Sunderland” Flying Boat

The latest type of general purpose flying boat to go into service with the Royal Air Force. It is a military development of the now well-known Short “Empire” class which is widely used by Imperial Airways. Four Bristol “Pegasus” engines are fitted and although it is not permissible to divulge details of performance, it may be stated that it has a much superior performance to any similar type in service use. The “Sunderland” has a wing span of 113 feet 9 inches and a length of 85 feet 4 inches. There is a crew of 6.SKM_C45817060207581SKM_C45817060207581 - Copy

Card 32- Supermarine “Scapa” Flying Boat

This is a reconnaissance flying boat, developed from the “Southampton” and is built by Supermarine Aviation (Vickers) Ltd. It is powered with two Rolls-Royce “Kestrel” engines of 525 h.p. each, and has a wing span of 75 feet and length of 52 feet 6 inches. To fit it for its main function of searching the seas, it has a wide range- 1,025 miles, and a moderate speed of 143 m.p.h. It carries a crew of 5, including the pilot. The “Scapa” plays an important part in coastal defence. Because of the “Scapa’s” long range, special attention has been paid to its equipment with a view to the comfort of the crew.SKM_C45817060207581SKM_C45817060207581 - Copy (2)

Card 33- Supermarine “Stranraer” Reconnaissance Flying Boat

A twin engine long range general purpose flying boat constructed by a company with wide experience of this type. It is an unequal-span biplane powered by two Bristol “Pegasus X” 9-cylindar radial air-cooled engines of over 900 h.p. The maximum speed is 165 m.p.h and the normal range 1,000 miles, although this may be increased by the fitting of auxiliary tanks under the lower wings. Provision is made for the carriage of a spare engine. Sleeping quarters for the crew, food and water storage, and facilities for cooking are arranged for. The “Stranraer” has a wing span of 85 feet and a length of 54 feet 10 inches.SKM_C45817060207581SKM_C45817060207581 - Copy (3)

Card 34- Supermarine “Walrus” Amphibian

This type of ‘plane is normally carried on capital ships and cruisers, from which it can be catapulted. It is the largest and heaviest R.A.F. aircraft which can be launched by this means. The “Walrus” is built by Supermarine Aviation (Vickers) Ltd., and fitted with a Bristol “Pegasus” 580/600 h.p. engine. The wing span is 45.8 feet, but the wings fold to a span of a little over 17 feet for storage on board ship. The speed of the “Walrus” is reckoned in knots, the top speed being 122, about 140 m.p.h. Landing wheels, which retract into the wing, enable the aircraft to land on the ground when required.SKM_C45817061407560 - Copy

Card 35- Vickers “Vincent” General Purpose Aircraft

This general purpose biplane is similar in design to the “Vildebeest”, except for a reduction in the toal weight. Like the “Vildebeest” it is built by Vickers and is fitted with a Bristol “Pegasus” engine. It has a higher top speed and wider range- 142 m.p.h. and 620 miles respectively- than the “Vildebeest”. The “Vincent” is employed almost wholly on overseas service, for which it is found to be especially suitable. It has taken part in many long distance inter-Command flights in the Middle East. The “Vincent” carries a crew of 2.SKM_C45817061407560 - Copy (2)

Card 36- Vickers “Wellesley” General Purpose Aircraft.

This low-wing monoplane is the first aircraft constructed on the “Geodetic” principle to have been put into quantity production for the Royal Air Force. It is a Vickers Aviation product and is fitted with an air cooled 9-cylinder Bristol “Pegasus” engine developing 950 h.p. The fuselage is of oval-section metal structure and the wing span is 74 ½ feet. The “Wellesley” attains a top-speed of 228 m.p.h. and has a range of over 1,300 miles at normal cruising speed. There are enclosed cockpits for pilot and observer, with intercommunication. The aircraft mounts 2 machine-guns.SKM_C45817061407560 - Copy (3)

Card 37- Westland “Wapiti” General Purpose Aircraft

An aeroplane designed for general purpose and Army co-operation work. It is fitted with a Bristol “Jupiter VIII. F” engine developing 460 h.p. at 4,000 feet. A crew of 2 is carried. The “Wapiti’s” maximum speed is 128.5 m.p.h. and its range 305 miles. This type has been extensively used overseas, and was at one time the standard type in the Australian and South African Air Forces. The dimensions are: wing span 46 feet 5 inches, length 32 feet 6 inches and height 11 feet 10 inches.SKM_C45817061407560 - Copy (4)

Card 38- Avro “Anson” General Reconnaissance Aircraft

This is a military development of the Avro 652 commercial monoplane, and is designed for coastal reconnaissance duties. A low-wing monoplane with mechanically operated retractable undercarriage, the “Anson” carries a crew of 4, has a bomb compartment in the nose, compartments for the navigator and wireless operator, and a gun turret in the top decking of the fuselage. The constructors are A. V. Roe & Co. Ltd., and the two Armstrong Siddley “Cheetah IX” engines produce a top speed of 188.5 m.p.h. The “Anson” has a wing span of 56 feet 6 inches and a length of 42 feet 3 inches.SKM_C45817061407560 - Copy (5)

Card 39- Fairey “Swordfish” Torpedo Spotter Reconnaissance Aircraft

The type allocated to the Fleet Air Arm. It is fitted with a Bristol “Pegasus” air cooled engine developing 690 h.p. The armament consists of 2 machine guns. A load of bombs is carried or, alternatively,an 18-inch torpedo. The “Swordfish” has a maximum speed of 154 m.p.h. and a duration of flight of 5.7 hours. The wing span is 45 feet 6 inches but the wings fold to 17 feet 3 inches for storage aboard ship. Owing to its adaptability, this type is of great use in naval warfare.SKM_C45817061407560 - Copy (6)

Card 40-Hawker “Osprey” IV Torpedo Spotter Reconnaissance Aircraft

This is a two seater Fleet spotter reconnaissance aircraft built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd., and is fitted with a Rolls-Royce “Kestrel V” water-cooled engine of 640 h.p. The construction is mainly stainless steel and the fuselage fabric-covered. The wing span is 37 feet but the wings fold for carriage on board ship. The aircraft can be employed either as a landplane or seaplane, the land undercarriage being interchangeable with twin single-step floats. A top speed of 175.5 m.p.h is attained by the “Osprey” and its endurance at cruising speed at 10,000 feet is about 2 ½ hours.SKM_C45817061407561 - Copy