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Military Marked Tongue Depressor

A tongue depressor is an instrument used by medical staff to press down a patient’s tongue to allow them to view the pack of the throat. They have been in use for centuries and although most commonly made of wood, Ivory and stainless steel have both also been used to make them from. Wooden throat depressors are usually only used once before being thrown away, the material not allowing them to be easily sterilised for reuse. By contrast stainless steel can be easily sterilised alongside other medical instruments and British medical staff have used both types over the years. Tonight we have a metal tongue depressor to look at:imageThis tongue depressor is a long piece of metal, gently curved to match the contours of the mouth. This example is undated, but does have a nice /|\ Mark indicating British military ownership:imageMedics captured by the Japanese in Hong Kong had few instruments to look after their patients and this included tongue depressors, which were in short supply even before war broke out, as recalled by a Canadian nurse Kay Christie:

They had four tongue depressors, four wooden tongue depressors and one metal one for a whole ward. All of our boys had a sort of flu, and this was before hostilities began. The Medical Officer was going round looking at their throats and then he’d put down the tongue depressor and I’d take it and break it. After I’d broken three, the orderly, the British Army orderly, said, “Sister, you don’t break those…we boil them and use them again. That’s a ward allotment.”

The tongue depressor was also used in the applications of ointment to the back of the throat, as described in the 1944 RAMC training pamphlet:

Painting the Throat- Requirements: a swab holder or Spencer Wells forceps; a tongue depressor; small cotton wool swabs; throat paint; a receiver; and, if necessary, a torch or other light.

If able to sit up, the patient should face the light; otherwise a torch should be used to illuminate the throat. Hold down the tongue gently with the tongue depressor. Using a swab firmly held in the swab-holder or forceps, paint the throat quickly but gently. If more than one application is needed use a fresh swab each time. Substances commonly used for painting are iodine paint 5 per cent; glycerin and tannic acid; carbolic lotion (1 in 60); Mandl’s paint.


1919 Souvenir Peace Plate

I am always looking out for new items of World War One commemorative china and this week I found a rather nice piece on Huddersfield secondhand market for £1:imageThis is a particularly large and deep saucer, sadly without any maker’s marks but this is not uncommon for what was a piece of cheap souvenir ware. It is amazing to think that something that is now 98 years old is so cheap, but these objects are frequently ignored and sold amongst a mass of crockery that is best described as tat! This saucer features an attractive transfer design incorporating the flags of Great Britain, Belgium, France and the USA and commemorates the end of the war:imageThe flags surround a central figure of Britannia with the words ‘peace’ above. The reasons for the conflict are in the scroll work beneath; liberty, justice, truth, honour. To modern eyes the dates seem a little odd: today we think of the Great War ending in 1918 but at the time this was seen merely as a ceasefire and it was always a worry that the conflict might restart. People therefore tended to see the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 as being the actual cessation of hostilities and this is often reflected in objects produced at the time such as this piece of china.

The Daily Mail of 12th November 1918 ran an editorial about the armistice:

The armistice which was signed yesterday marks the end of the war and the complete and overwhelming triumph of the cause of right, which is the cause of the Allies. It is not the final treaty of peace. That may not be signed for some weeks or months. It is the end of the slaughter and suffering.. ”The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small”. And to Him Who has so ordered events that as men look back this war seems like the culmination of all modern history and the final vindication of justice all will bow the head in praise. The Allies have triumphed, not because of their strength, though that was immense, but because they fought for a great an noble cause.

Indian Army Canteen Board Cutlery

In 1913 an Army Canteen Board was set up in India to provide, predominantly British, soldiers with food drink and sundry items at regulated prices. This followed similar practices back in Britain where concern over unscrupulous suppliers cheating soldiers out of their meagre wages had encouraged a centrally regulated canteen system. Like the British Army Canteen Committee fork we looked at here, the Indian Army Canteen Board had its own marked cutlery for its establishments and tonight we are looking at two rare examples of these: a fork and a fish knife:FullSizeRender1Compared to many examples of military cutlery they are quite decorative with the fork having an etched design to the head:FullSizeRender2The fish knife blade is equally well decorated:FullSizeRender3The nicest part of both items of cutlery though is the crest stamped into the handle:imageAn Indian style crown is used, along with an elephant, both symbolic of the sub-continent. The Latin motto ‘Res in bello et pace frumentaria’ roughly translates as ‘A source of corn in war and peace’- a fitting motto for a military canteen board. I suspect these were made to be used in a perm enact cafeteria at one of the many cantonments and bases across India. The Times correspondent to Peshawar in 1924 had reached Landi Kotal camp and recorded:

Lunch too, in the restaurant run by the Army Canteen Board is no bad thing at this juncture, for the air is keen and breakfast a long time ago.  

The Canteen Board outlasted its British equivalent, finally being liquidated in 1927 and being replaced with the Canteen Contractor’s Syndicate. The present day Indian Army Canteen Stores Department traces its history back to this original Indian Army Canteen Board of 1913.

Kit Bag Padlock

Over the years a number of kit bags have appeared on the blog. These were usually fitted with brass eyelets around the mouth so a brass D-ring can be passed through to secure the neck and allow the kit bag to be carried. In order to secure these D-rings a hole is fitted into them to allow a padlock to be secured:imageThis week I was lucky enough to pick up a military marked kitbag padlock:imageThis diminutive padlock is made of brass with a little dovetailed cover to cover the keyhole:imageMarked on this cover is the date of manufacture, 1925, and the manufacturer, Walsall Lock and Cart Gear Ltd:imageThis company was formed in 1873, by the 1920s it had three separate premises in Walsall and was a leading manufacturer of locks and padlocks. Clearly it was also bidding on and winning government contracts, as seen by this little padlock.

The War Department’s /|\ mark is stamped on the body of the padlock itself:imageAnd on the top arm:imageThese little padlocks would not stop a determined thief- they could just use a knife to cut through the kit bag canvas- but they would prevent petty pilfering and it would be easy to see if a kit bag had been interfered with by checking if the padlock had been forced. These little padlocks are far harder to find than the D-rings, even if as is so often the case they are missing keys. This was a great little find this week and I was very pleased to pick it up, even if it so unassuming!

Awarding the Evelyn Wood Cup, 1922

It is amazing how quickly the military can recover from major conflicts and return to the peacetime rounds of training, socialising and competitions. These are the life blood of regiments in peacetime and tonight we have a wonderful photograph that is helpfully captioned on the back! (A very rare occurrence believe me). This photograph depicts the awarding of the Evelyn Wood Cup in Aldershot on 12th August 1922:SKM_C45817082508260The Evelyn Wood Cup was a competition in which different regiments competed in a competition with marching and marksmanship at its core. As with so many of these military competitions I am struggling to find many details of when it was established, but it certainly seems to have been started before 1907 and was being contested as late as 1967. If anyone can furnish further information please get in touch. The Times of 9th August 1922 explained that the cup:

Includes a march of eight miles in fighting order, and is open to company teams of four platoons, each platoon containing two rifle and two Lewis gun sections. The competition will be carried out under a scheme which supposes a retiring and invisible enemy. It is severely practical and calls not only for shooting skill, but also calls for most of the skills necessary to succeed against the assumed enemy.

More details come from the report on 1923’s competition:

The conditions imposed a preliminary march of eight miles in battle order, by company teams of one officer, one sergeant, and two rifle and two light-gun sections of one leader and six men each.

Among the teams of thirty 480 rounds of ammunition were distributed, and these, together with the oppressive heat, the weight of shrapnel helmets, gas masks, packs and weapons, made tiring work of the march. For the march 2 ¼ hours were allowed, but while 50 points were deducted for every five minutes r part of five minutes over time, two points were credited when the march occupied less than the time allowed.

The march demonstrated the full benefits which athletic sport confer upon the marching men. Several teams lost men by the way, seven falling out of one team. The 2nd Cameron Highlanders, who last week won the athletic championship of the Command, finished thirty minutes inside the time limit with every member of the team.

In the centre of the photograph we can see the cup itself being handed over by an elderly and senior officer:SKM_C45817082508260 - CopyThis ceremony seems to be part of a larger set of competitions as a table behind him is positively groaning with trophies!SKM_C45817082508260 - Copy (2)I am not entirely sure, but I believe the officer receiving the cup might be from the Scots Guards, based in the dicing on his cap band:SKM_C45817082508260 - Copy (3)Other Guards officers can be seen in the background:SKM_C45817082508260 - Copy (4)Interestingly the photograph is embossed with the stamp of ‘Gale and Polden’ of Aldershot:SKM_C45817082508260 - Copy (5)This famous company is better known for its range of weapons pamphlets from the Second World War.

This photograph illustrates the benefits of a caption on the back as it has made research much easier than would have otherwise been the case.

Longmore Military Railway S160 Photograph

It is always nice to rediscover something in your collection you had forgotten you had. This was the case last week when I came across a photograph album I bought many years ago containing a large number of images from a man who had served on the Longmoor Military Railway from 1945 until the mid 1950s. As well as many great shots of the men themselves, there are also some fantastic photographs of the locomotives in service and over the coming few months I will be dipping into this album every so often to bring you some of the gems. We start tonight with a nice shot of a soldier in front of an S160 locomotive:SKM_C45817082109510 - Copy (4)The soldier wears shirt, beret and battledress trousers to give an informal work uniform suitable for working on locomotives:SKM_C45817082109510 - CopyThe engine itself is numbered 93257:SKM_C45817082109510 - Copy (2)This was an American produced S160 locomotive, built by ALCO in January of 1944, and named Major General Carl R Gray Jr:SKM_C45817082109510 - Copy (3)The S160 was a cheap mass produced locomotive produced in the USA for use on the railways of Europe following their liberation. The engine was designed by Major J W Marsh of the US Army Corps of Engineers and huge numbers were shipped to the United Kingdom before D-Day. Whilst many were stored in the open, a significant number were pressed into service in the UK, helping the vastly overworked engines of the big four railway companies. British railway men liked the self-cleaning grates of these new engines, but found the axle-boxes difficult to keep oiled and certain aspects of the design caused confusion due to the differing working practices on both sides of the Atlantic.

The S160 at Longmoor Military Railway seems to have been a lone example with the British Army, acquired in January 1945, and one former railwayman at the LMR noted that it was only used occasionally. It was still in existence as late as 1955, but I have had difficulty tracking down the full history of the locomotive in LMR service.

GSR Haversack

It has been quite some time since we looked at the current British Army GSR here. To accompany the respirator a new haversack was introduced in MTP fabric. This new haversack is in a distinctive ‘wedge’ shape and has a removable shoulder strap:imageThe main flap is secured with press studs and Velcro:imageThree different press studs are provided to low a number of different positions for the top flap depending on how full the pack is:imageTwo linked zips allow the size of the pack to be expanded to make ti easier to put in or take out the respirator. The rear of the pack has a pair of MOLLE straps allowing it to be connected to body armour or a belt:imageOne user explained:

Point to note though, this haversack should not be attached to webbing. Although it has the capability to be attached, it’s not how it’s meant to be worn or used. Shoulder slung or belt worn and sat on top or outside the webbing, but never fitted on it.

The underside of the top flap is printed with ‘Field Pack’ and an NSN number:imageTwo small pouches are attached to either side of the pack, these being removable:imageOne side would be used for DKPs, the other for other extras needed for the respirator. The same user we heard from earlier explains how the pack is used:

Once the GSR is in, there is no space to store anything else and nothing else should be stored in there anyway. Everything you need can be carried in the side pockets with gloves kept behind the retaining straps under the lid, apart from the DP, cloth piece and combipens which sit inside on the inner pocket. No more room for clunky or spank mags!
There are only four poppers inside for the former, the remaining two are the ones you can see outside that have the webbing straps on them. The elastic strap isn’t so much for the former as you’d only use that if the poppers fail. It’s more a place to store things like sealed gloves, etc, behind the mask.
The side pouches can be removed and replaced with bigger pouches should you deem it necessary, although these aren’t supplied, merely if you happen to have a larger pouch. This is for when things go bad and we’re looking at spending long periods in 4R and need the decon supplies to hand to see us through. It will, with some fiddling, take a utility pouch on each side.
It’s possibly one of the best designed bits of kit I’ve come across in ages and we find that it works very well, is robust and can take a solid beating.
The addition of the former is sheer genius too. No more squished masks that have compromised seals! Although thinking about it, behind the former with the strap is probably where you could stash your clunky and porn mags now. That’d work quite well and they’d be hidden too. No going into 4R and your copy of Razzle flops to the ground