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LMS Railway Service Badge

During both world wars the railway companies of Great Britain issued lapel badges to their workers to indicate to the public that they were on vital war work and could not join the armed forces. In the First World War these badges had an imperial crown of them, but the government’s policy had changed by World War Two and crowns were only to be used on badges for those directly employed on official business. Therefore the companies agreed on a common pattern of badge to be used by all the different companies. This badge was a bronze oval badge, with a steam locomotive on the  top half, and enamelled blue bar saying ‘Railway Service’ across the centre and the initials of the railway company beneath, in this case the London Midland Scottish:Originally these badges had a buttonhole fastener on the rear, sadly this is missing on this example. Each badge was uniquely numbered, here it is B76356:As with many Homefront lapel badges, this example was produced by Fattorini of Birmingham, their makers name being marked across the top of the rear.

The most common of these badges are for the big four railways companies, but other rarer examples exist for some of the more minor railway companies, these are far rarer due to the tiny numbers produced compared to the four main railway companies. The known variations of this badge are:

GWR- Great Western Railway

LMS- London Midland and Scottish

LNER- London and North Eastern Railway

SR- Southern Railway

REC- Railway Executive Committee

RCH- Railway Clearing House

EKR- East Kent Railway

K&ESR- Kent and East Sussex Light Railway

MR- Mersey Railway

SMR- Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Light Railway

Letter from the Falklands, 1982

Officers have often written accounts of their regiment’s deeds from the front lines in semi-personal letters that are designed to be shared around and to give a semi-formal account of what has happened. Whilst this was common in the Great War, it becomes harder to find post war accounts, tonight however we have an interesting letter from the second in command of the 1st Royal Hampshire Regiment, Major Timothy Glass, sent to his uncle the retired Royal Navy Commander Charles Glass. The letter indicates he is on active service at Shag Cove in the East Falklands:skmbt_c36416110110510_0001His uncle helpfully noted the details of his nephew on the rear of the envelope:skmbt_c36416110110520_0001Inside is a typed letter over two pages:skmbt_c36416110110521_0001skmbt_c36416110110522_0001This letter dates from after the formal cessation of the fighting and describes life garrisoning the Falklands in late 1982. The letter reads as follows:

I have never before written a circular letter but since we are so busy this seems a good time to start. The journey down here was not without its moments. It’s rare for the Services movement system to work to schedule and this was no exception although the fault was beyond our control. Nearly three hours out of Brize Norton and at 2am in the morning we were forced to turn back because of an air traffic strike at Dakar in French Senegal. We were due to refuel there but the locals had apparently just turned the runway lights out. The second attempt was a success and after a brief stop in Dakar, where we were not allowed into the airport lounge, we flew a further three hours to Ascension, got straight into waiting helicopters and were ferried off onto the North Sea Ferry St Edmund landing on an improvised pad erected above the “1st Class” accommodation. There were nearly 500 on board; somewhat crowded. The St Edmund set sail on the evening of our arrival and steamed gently South at 20 knots enjoying typically tropical weather for some days. Even those who had arrived earlier on the Ship had been unable to explore Ascension but it looked barren and forlorn like any large slag heap found near a Midlands coal mine. Some soldiers, inevitable, had started fishing off the ship at Ascension and were rewarded with a strange collection of tropical parrot fish, one of which, cut up for bait, attracted a small tunny on board.st-edmundWe were on board for 8 days in all during which time, confined as we were, much useful training was carried out. A circuit training area was set up on the lower car deck, weapons were unpacked and everyone was briefed and tested on special to theatre problems like distinguishing Argentinean aircraft. It must have not been unlike the Paras on the Canberra but on a smaller scale and less urgent! And there was ample time (for the) odd party and some bridge. After 4 or 5 days at sea the weather started to deteriorate. It became cold and rough; although winds never exceeded force 6 the Ferry coped more than adequately because like most modern vessels she has stabilisers on the hull- like underwater wings- which compensate for sea and reduce the rolling. A day before sighting land the sea birds, Petrels and the odd Albatross, kept the ship constant company. At dawn on 4 Dec we were in sight of land and once the mist cleared we found ourselves in Falklands Sound just south of Fanning Head and close to the entrance to Port San Carlos. We enters San Carlos water, the scene of many air attacks, and moved alongside a tanker to refuel. A few hundred yards away the Frigate HMS Liverpool (actually a type 42 destroyer) was at anchor and looked amazingly small compared even to ourselves. At intervals across the water were various yellow and orange buoys marking the sight of HMS Antelope and some unexploded bombs. By 9 o’clock the mist had cleared completely and the sun came out on what became a very bright, warm an- since then discovers- a very still day. In the clear morning sun the land appeared stark and barren- a mixture of Sailsbury Plain and Beachy Head. On one or two features the silhouette of the Rapier anti aircraft missiles sites were visible against the sky. In the sea around was a constant flurry of activity-penguins, seals, dolphins, geese, ducks, sooty albatrosses and an endless selection of gulls escorted us south as we moved on towards Fox Bay at a steady 5 knots or so. We had not seen one single house or sign of life on land. About 5 hours later we anchored a mile off Fox bay and saw across the water the two tiny clutches of houses on either side of the bay like miniature properties parked on a monopoly board. After lunch the Chinooks arrived, huge double rotor helicopters that can carry up to 80 soldiers inside. They landed on the tiny flight deck and that evening and the next day all the soldiers and the baggage was ferried off to the various bases on east and west Falkland.

I called for a recce helicopter and flew off north back up the sound to ‘Shag Cove’- my home for the next 5 months- mid way between Fox Bay and Fort Howard on the East side of West Falkland. Shag Cove is a single “crofters” cottage- the only building for 10 miles in any direction- nestling in the lee of a great mountain range on a cove- so named for the cormorant (Shag) colony which inhabits the rocky cliffs that overlook it. It’s a beautiful isolated spot- like, I imagine, the wilds of Scotland, rugged granite hills but instead of heather dull yellow tussock grass and peaty underfoot. 28 of us live at Shag Cove. Without helicopters we- an all the other bases would be lost. There are one or two small out houses but things are pretty cramped. All around the house and valley are upland geese, as tame as chickens, and small flocks of sheep, cattle and horses, all of which run free and unattended. The grazing is very poor (1 sheep- 10 acres) and so all those creatures who survive from it roam miles each day. Amidst all this rural solitude we are preparing and training against the possibility (one cannot assume entirely remote) of another attack. In a little tin shack sits a teleprinter that can bash out secure coded signals across the world. We have vehicles (for Chinook lifting and rigged with radios), weapons, ammunition all stockpiled for war. It seems incongruous. One serious problem is the loo & bath, we only have one of each! However yesterday a Chinook dropped a ‘Portaloo’- a 6 shower, 4 loo, 6 basin portakabin which we are about to plumb in to our local water supply. This will improve things- it also brought a video TV- we are the last base to get one. Thus it is not entirely primitive.

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British Army Towel

Amongst the items of personal kit issued to British Soldiers and carried in the small pack was a white towel used as part of a man’s wash kit:imageThis towel is not made of a traditional terry towelling material, but rather an interwoven cotton fabric that is far coarser and much worse at absorbing water, very similar to that which cheap tea towels are made from. Folding it out reveals it is a small hand sized towel rather than a full bath towel- this is despite it being used for all purposes including drying oneself after a full ablution:imageThe towel has a simple cotton loop sewn into one side to allow it to be hung up to dry:imageThis particular example dates from 1952 and is stamped with a /|\ mark:imageSergeant Walter Richardson had an unfortunate incident involving his towel whilst serving in Italy, his son relates the tale:

Taking his towel and shaving tackle, he found a spot by a tree in a hedgerow. He hung his mirror from a branch of the tree, and laid his towel on the hedge. After finishing his shave, he turned to pick up his towel- nothing there! Puzzled, he looked around- he was quite alone. A noise on the other side of the hedge caught his attention, and, looking over, to his dismay, he discovered a goat calmly chewing on the remains of his towel (army issue, wiping the face, for the use of)

At kit inspection, the deficit of a towel was noted by the Officer inspecting, and Dad was asked to provide an explanation. Dad always believed in telling the truth, but on this occasion, it was met with ridicule and even disbelief. He was put on a charge for his dereliction of the Kings Regulations in regard to Towels.

Frequently these towels were used to carry a bar of soap, wrapped inside them in lieu of a soap dish whilst a 1952 set of joining instruction for the Black Watch TA unit’s summer camp indicated that two towels were to be issued to each man at this time for the period of the training. Interestingly I have an identical towel with a ‘GR’ marking in the centre which I am led to believe was issued in prisons for the use of the inmates!

Cap, Cold Weather, DPM

Tonight we are looking at one of the more ridiculous items of headgear from the British Army, amongst a long list of ridiculous hats. The ‘Cap, Cold Weather, DPM’ is a particularly warm hat, designed for use in the Arctic , Norway and other sub-zero temperatures. It is fur lined with two ear flaps that fasten above the head and a synthetic fur inner to keep the wearer warm:imageThe whole of the inside of the cap is pile lined with a khaki green shade of fur, described by Arrsepedia as the “world’s most itchy substance (developed at Porton Down to be smuggled into Russian issue underwear factories, thus adding an interesting paragraph to the Russian equivalent of the chemical safety rule)”:imageA peak is attached to the front that can be worn either turned up or down, note the multiple rows of stitching to reinforce and stiffen the fabric:imageThe crown of the hat is made of a number of pieces, sewn together and meeting in the centre:imageThe disruptive pattern material used in the making of the cap is the temperate green colour with the shade being typical of that used in the late Cold War. The earflaps are secured either above or below the hat with Velcro:imageA label is sewn into the hat, giving size and contract numbers:imageThe hat has received a number of nicknames over the years including the ‘Dangerous Brian Hat’, ‘Deputy Dawg Hat’ and the ‘Fozzie Bear’ hat. Whilst the hat is very effective in cold climates, it is generally regarded as making the wearer look particularly ridiculous, therefore this photograph of a WRAC wearing one on arctic training in Norway is particularly rare in showing someone pulling off wearing the hat successfully:image

Trousers, Lightweight

Whilst it has been true since the early seventies that most of a soldier’s life is spent wearing camouflage, other forms of dress are available for a variety of purposes; ceremonial dress, jungle dress and for those involved in office work barrack dress. As well as this during the late twentieth century the poly cotton green ‘Trousers Lightweight’ were often worn for a variety of jobs being able to be used both as a smart pair of trousers and for general duties where the soldier might expect to get dirty:imageThese trousers were introduced in about 1971-72 and follow a conventional design with pockets on the hips, a large thigh pocket:imageAnd two on the seat:imageBelt loops are fitted at the waist:imageAs are two metal sliders to adjust the waist size:imageThe inside of the waistband has a large label identifying the type of clothing and providing sizing and care instructions:imageThe Nato sizing indicates this pair were made after about 1981. These trousers were issued in place of the green cotton overall trousers of the 1960s, which in turn were a replacement for the Second World War Denim suit. As such they were one of those items of clothing used for a number of different purposes. As well as the aforementioned uses the trousers were also used in Northern Ireland with a DPM smock: they were cheaper, more comfortable and fitted better without the braces needed in the early DPM trousers. Unfortunately the early lightweights had an alarming tendency to melt in high temperatures, such as in riots involving Molotov cocktails, and official orders tried to ban them in favour of the cotton DPM trousers which were more fire retardant. These orders were widely ignored:

Fact is, regardless of what might be decreed, in 15/19H, combat trousers were only ever worn for guard duty in camp. At all other times (including NI tours) we wore lightweights. My friend’s recent quote suggests to me that even after the issue of CS95, even now he’d rather wear lightweights than combats.

I have seen pictures from tours well into the 80s where they still wore lightweights. I was attached to 42 Royal Marine Commando as part of my NIRRT training in 1976. They too wore lightweights in preference to and disregard of any official diktat. I do remember on our UN tour of 1976 – 77 we were issued OG trousers to supplement our lightweights so that we could wear a clean pair every day even when our kit went into (and came back from) the dhobi twice a week.

I transferred out of the cavalry. I quickly learned that even though I was now officially a shiny-arrse, I could expect to be volunteered for a dirty duty at any time, even when I became a Sergeant in the Computer Centre. Stuff dress regulations: I always wore boots and lightweights rather than barrack dress and shoes, just in case I got rubber-dicked for a dirty task. Funnily enough, once I started dressing in lightweights, they stopped volunteering me. Rule number 1: whatever rules the Army makes on dress codes for uniformity, squaddy will do what he pleases to individualise his uniform, both at an individual and at a regimental level.tumblr_mhccxz6vwD1rcoy9ro1_1280

Anniversary of the USA Entry into WW1 Luncheon Menu

Even a hundred years on, it is hard to make a definitive judgement on the entry of the US into the Great War. In America, the involvement of the US has been largely pushed into the background, with the Second World War having a greater place in public consciousness. In Europe the shadow of the Great War falls much further and even today has a place in the public consciousness, however the US only endured the western front for one year, unlike the British, French, Belgians and indeed Central Powers who had four years of hell. In spite of all this, the crucial role of America was recognised by those in power at the time- the unlimited influx of American youth and materiel being the crucial turning point in the war following the failure of the Kaiserschlacht in Spring 1918. The key role of the US was recognised by a formal dinner at The Mansion House in London on April 6th 1918, as can be seen by this menu:SKMBT_C36415121608490_0001

The Times reported the upcoming luncheon on 6th April 1918:

It is a year since the United States entered the war. The anniversary will be celebrated to-day by a luncheon at the Mansion House given by the Lord Mayor, to many distinguished guests. It may be expected that it will be marked also, officially and unofficially, by the flying of flags and privately, by evidences of good will among individuals of the allied countries.

The Mansion House promises to be worthy of the occasion, both from its distinction and its representative character. The Prime Minister and Mr E A Baker, the United States Secretary for War, are to be present and the American Ambassador (Mr Page)will be guest of honour…The string band of the Grenadier Guards, under the direction of Captain Williams, will play a programme of music, including a selection of American airs.

The menu was a frugal affair, as might be expected with wartime shortages:SKMBT_C36415121608492_0001The rear of the menu has a list of the music played while guest ate:SKMBT_C36415121608491_0001The menu fold open to provide a seating plan with the seats of all the guest marked- including many of the leading members of British society and parliament of the time:imageClearly the luncheon was a great success as the Times gave an extensive report of the event and its speeches in its Monday morning edition:

A luncheon was given by the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House on Saturday to commemorate the first anniversary of the entry of the United States of America into the war, and was worthy of the traditions of the City. It will be remembered as being among the most remarkable events associated with the war to have taken place in London.

The chief guest was Mr Page, the American Ambassador. Many officers of the united States Navy and Army were present, and also the heads of departments in the immense and far-spreading organisation which America has brought into existence for the purposes of the war. The company invited numbered over 400. Leading members of the Government were present, and many other distinguished guests, including members of the Diplomatic Corps, representatives of the Dominions and of the banking and commercial interests of the City; men of letters, actors, scientists, artists, journalists, and members of Parliament.

As for the meal, it was in conformity with the demands of the Food Controller. It was probably the most frugal that has ever been served at the Mansion House on a public occasion. It consisted only of soup, fish, eggs, vegetables and fruit. In contrast to the simplicity of the meal was the magnificent gold and silver plate of the Mansion House, which was displayed on the table…