Category Archives: Uncategorized

Royal Engineers H2O Troop Herrick IV T-Shirt

Regular readers will know that I love embroidered unit and operation specific t-shirts. These are usually produced in tiny numbers, privately purchased and only issued to those actually involved with a tour or particular role. They are greatly underappreciated and due to the nature of their acquisition there is virtually no published material on them. Tonight we have a lovely example from Operation Telic IV in 2004:imageThe badge on this t-shirt is for ‘3 H2O Troop’:imageThis design features as anthropomorphised water droplet, holding a Zulu shield with the roman numeral ‘V’ and a Union flag with the letter ‘RE’ for Royal Engineers.

My thanks go to the knowledgeable folks of the Facebook site ‘British Military Uniform & Camouflage Collectors Page’ who helped identify this unit as 3 Troop, 5 Field Squadron, 22 Engineer Regiment which was part of the 1st Mechanised Brigade based in Basra. The design of the badge and the reference to ‘H20’ suggests that 3 Troop were responsible for maintaining a clean water supply and a British government website form 2010 highlighted that amongst the many different aid schemes introduced for the people of Iraq one was:

Access to safe drinking water dropped by one third under the previous regime. Twenty potable water treatment facilities have been built or rehabilitated, and nine centralized sewage treatment facilities have been rehabilitated. More than one million people in southern Iraq have improved access to water.

Whilst in Basra itself:

  • In 2003, only 23% of Basrawis had access to piped water, by far the worst figures for any of Iraq’s 18 provinces. Only 9% of Basrawis were connected to a reliable sewage system.
  • Since then, improvements to water supplies, including pumps for isolated villages, have benefited over 1.25 million people (70% of Basrawis).
  • 200km of modern piping have been laid and over 5,000 leaks repaired.
  • $160 million invested in modernising and extending sewage system.
  • 40km of sewers and 7,000 septic tanks have been cleaned.
  • A water training centre in Basra has been constructed to train and increase the skills of Iraqi engineers in water treatment and leakage repair.
  • A reverse osmosis unit has been refurbished to supply potable water to about 500,000 people.
  • Improved water supply to 60,000 people in Al Amtahiyah (Basra Province).


  • DfID power and water projects will employ around 450 people, generate almost 100,000 workdays and secure around 17,000 workdays per year for operation and maintenance.

Canvas Bucket Mk. 5

Over the years a number of canvas buckets, of various periods, have come up on the blog. One thing they have all had in common however is that they have been from World War Two or earlier. Up until recently I had always assumed that the design was dropped immediately after the Second World War and replaced with plastic or something similar. However tonight’s object shows that I was wrong, and the canvas bucket was still going strong into the 1970s. This bucket looks very similar to examples we have already seen, being made of a heavy duty jute type hessian cloth:imageThe top handle is made of a piece of rope:imageWhat is interesting, however, is that it has an NSN number and a date of 1976 marked on the base in black ink:imageThese markings are very clear and well stencilled, in contrast to the inspector’s ownership stamp of ‘/|\013’ that is far fainter:imageThe canvas bucket remained a useful bit of kit:

On both the ARRV & WR Repair it was used as a washing bowl. Folded up to nought, didn’t split like a plastic washbowl so was a useful bit of kit. Had to be a relatively new one though, couldn’t use the one from the ARRV/ARV davit as that held the winch & chains & was full of oil & grease.

Looking up the NSN number I find that the official designation for this is ‘buckets, water, canvas, Mk.5’ and that it is still listed in stores catalogues so there must still be a need for the venerable old canvas bucket in today’s army!

88 Pattern Webbing Overview

I am very pleased to say that tonight marks the start of a new mini-series of posts covering the last variation of the Australian 1988 Pattern webbing set. I have covered two pieces on the blog before, the early pattern of water bottle carrier and the later version of the Minimi ammunition pouch, but I have recently managed to add a homogenous 2010 dated set of webbing to my collection and we are going to look in detail at the various components on a Wednesday for the next couple of months.

The 1988 Pattern set was the first complete indigenously designed and produced webbing set used by Australia, previously the sets of accoutrements had been based off of foreign designs, the British 37 Pattern and the later US M56 sets being copied and modified to suit Australian needs, but neither design originating in the country.

The end of the Vietnam War saw major changes to the military uniforms and equipment in Australian service. Auscam was introduced as the first Australian camouflage pattern and a new webbing set was produced to match this, entering service at the very end of the 1980s:imageThe design was based around a belt and H-Yoke, with a large padded section to protect the wearer’s hips. Originally a haversack was worn centrally on the back of the belt, but this was quickly dropped in favour of an extra Minimi pouch and an extra water bottle. The original designs used metal clips and had press button buckles, by 2010 all the fittings were in plastic and fixed Fastex buckles were used. There are numerous set ups of the webbing to be seen in photographs, mine is a typical example and has the following components:88 Pattern WebbingHere we see a bunch of Australian Cadets practicing with the F88 Austeyr battle rifle, all wearing various configurations of the 88 pattern webbing set:37dbb28f494bb63a7ed70f13c6e93919On operations the choice of pouches would depend on the load and weapons a man was carrying, one soldier explains:

I simply wore standard Australian army issue. I wore the normal webbing belt, a “double” belt comforter and 5x Minimi pouches, 2x water bottles and a bayonet. This was all held together with “fastex” plastic clips and DPCU tape

An Australian Cadet handbook explains about the system:

Webbing is designed to be versatile and interchangeable. Individuals will set up webbing to personal preference. Typical webbing will consist of the following pieces of equipment:

  1. Harness, There are many designs with different tether points. The harness should be comfortable to wear as it will help carry the load.
  2. Belt; Most of the pouches will connect to the belt. The belt should sit on the hips to help spread the weight of the load.
  3. Water Bottle & Pouches; Pouches designed specifically to carry water bottles. Common designs have an external pouch for carrying addition items.
  4. Pouches, Steyr or Minimi; Modern DPCU webbing pouches come in two sizes, Steyr or Minimi. As the name suggests, the pouches are designed for either the F-88 Austeyr or the F-89 Minimi. The Steyr pouch is designed to carry 3 Steyr Magazines whereas the Minimi pouch is designed to carry 200 rounds of linked ammunition. In the AAFC, both pouches are used to carry equipment with the Minimi pouch being favored due to its larger size.
  5. Bum Bag. Not as prevalent as they once were, the bum bag is a larger pouch that can expand to carry a significant amount of equipment. These days however, many people use Minimi Pouches instead.
  6. Comforter: Foam mat used to cushion the belt and help prevent chaffing.

We will continue with further in depth posts about the components in the coming weeks.

Military Uniforms of the British Empire Overseas Cigarette Cards (Part1)

Tonight the blog starts the first of a five part series covering the Player’s Cigarette Card set ‘Military Uniforms of the British Empire Overseas’:SKM_C284e18091908162This set was issued in the late 1930s and covers a wide range of the different combat and ceremonial uniforms of the militaries of the Empire. Each week we are going to look at ten of the cards, with the captions drawn from the back of the cards themselves:

Cape Town Highlanders

 137. Cape Town HighlandersUnder the Defence Acts of the Union of South Africa, every citizen between seventeen and sixty years of age is liable for military service in any part of South Africa, whether within or outside the boundaries of the Union. There is also a liability to compulsory service for all citizens between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-five. The Permanent Force is recruited on a voluntary basis, service being for a period of three years; re-engagement for periods of two years is permitted up to the age of forty-five for privates and fifty for non-commissioned officers. We show a Regimental Sergeant Major of the Cape Town Highlanders; the Town Hall, Cape town, appears in the background.

Kimberley Regiment

 138. Kimberley RegimentPrior to the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, the four self-governing Colonies of Cape Colony, Natal, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State each maintained volunteers and militia. Under the present Defence Acts of the Union, every citizen between the ages of seventeen and sixty is liable for military service in any part of South Africa. During the Great War, the union nobly played its part in defence of the Empire, and over 221,000 men served in the various theatres of war. Our illustration shows a sergeant of the Kimberley Regiment, with Kimberley Town Hall in the background.

Witwatersrand Rifles

 139. Witwatersrand RiflesThe Union of South Africa Defence Force is divided into (a) the Permanent Force, which is recruited on a voluntary basis; (b) the Coast Garrison Force, supplementing those portions of the Permanent Force detailed for this purpose; (c) the Active Citizen Force, which corresponds to the Territorial Army in Great Britain; (d) the Commandos, formed form members of the Defence Rifle Associations; and (e) the Reserves. Enrolment into the Active Citizen Force is for a period of four years and re-engagement for periods of one year is permitted. Our picture shows a Regimental Sergeant-Major of the Witwatersrand Rifles: a view of Johannesburg appears in the background. The Witwatersrand, of which Johannesburg is the centre, is a region rich in gold-fields.

Regiment Louw Wepener

 140. Regiment Louw WepnerThe Orange Free State, to which this regiment belongs, was one of the four self-governing Colonies which maintained Volunteers and Militia before the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. Military re-organization was then carried out by the Government in which General Louis Botha was Prime Minister and General Smuts the Minister of Defence. At the present time, the Defence Force of the Union is divided into five categories…We show a Sergeant of the Regiment Louw Wepener; in the background may be seen the Provincial Legislative Chamber (formerly the Raadzaal), Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State.

The Rhodesia Regiment

 145. Rhodesia RegimentThe Southern Rhodesia Defence Force originated with the early Pioneers and 1892 developed into a Volunteer force which served in the Matabele War and Rhodesia Rebellion. In 1899 it became the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers, with units in the principal centres and Rifle Companies in outlying districts. Volunteers therefrom served in the Boer War and the Great War. In 1926 the Defence Act was promulgated, instituting compulsory peace training, and the Rhodesia Regiment- of two Battalions- was formed from members of the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers and other citizens in the larger towns. We show a Sergeant of the Rhodesia Regiment in Drill Order, standing in front of the Drill Hall at Salisbury, S. Rhodesia.

The British South African Police

 146. British South African PoliceThe police force of the Colony of Southern Rhodesia was originally recruited to accompany the Pioneers in the Occupation of Mashonaland in 1890, and later saw service in the Matabele War of 1893, the Matabele and Mashona Rebellions of 1896 and the Boer War. The Force was then known as the B.S.A. Company’s Police, after the Charter Company which was responsible for the government of the territory. The B.S.A. Police saw service in German East Africa (1915-18), and was also responsible for the capture of Schuckmansberg in German South-West Africa in 1914. We show a trooper (full-dress) in front of the Regimental Institute, B.S.A.P. Depot, Salisbury, S Rhodesia.

The British South Africa Police: Native Askari

 147. British South African Police Native AskariThe Native Police of Southern Rhodesia are recruited from the Matabele and Mashona tribes of the Colony, and from the adjoining territories of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. Although forty years ago their ancestors were uncivilised, the present day recruits reach a high standard of discipline and efficiency. They work in co-operation with European members in all branches of the Force, while a special platoon of Askari performs guard duties at Government House. The H.Q. and Training School are at Salisbury. During the Great War numbers of them saw service in German East Africa. The background shows the Municipal Offices, Salisbury, S. Rhodesia.

Australian Light Horse

 148. Australian Light Horse

Members of all the Australian Light Horse Regiments served in the South African War and sixteen Regiments carry battle honours for the Great War. The members of the Light Horse Regiments, which are mostly drawn from the country areas, are volunteers who provide their own mounts. The regiments are numbered a far as possible with those of the Australian Imperial Force, but they also retain their old titles, “Royal New South Wales Lancers,” “Victorian Mounted Rifles,” etc., by which they were known before the Commonwealth took over control of defence matters in 1901. We show a trooper of the Australian Light horse; the City Hall, Brisbane, appears in the background.

Royal Australian Artillery

 149. Royal Australian ArtilleryIt is interesting to recall that “two pieces of ordnance” were erected in Sydney in 1789 at the time when the garrison in New South Wales was composed of British troops. From this small beginning has grown the Royal Australian Artillery, which includes Field, medium, Heavy, Anti-Aircraft and Survey Units. Like the other arms of the Commonwealth Military Forces, the Artillery is mainly composed of Militia enlisted on a voluntary basis. The uniform shown is worn by the Militia Field and Medium Batteries. Prior to the Great War, Australian Batteries saw service in Suakin, 1885, and in South Africa. The background shows the Residence of the State Governor, Sydney, N.S.W.

Australian Infantry

 150 Australian InfantryThe Battalions of Australian Infantry, which are composed of voluntarily enlisted Citizen Forces, are numbered to correspond with those of the Australian Imperial Force, and every effort is made to maintain the traditions established in the Great War. Battalion areas are allotted on a territorial basis throughout Australia. In addition to their numbers, the Regiments have territorial titles e.g. the 1st Battalion is The East Sydney regiment and the 6th is The Royal Melbourne Regiment. The uniform depicted us typical, but some battalions wear uniforms similar to those of British Regiments. All battalions carry battle honours for the Great War. The Town Hall, Melbourne, appears in the background.

BCB Firedragon Portable Stove

In May of 2018 the Ministry of Defence signed a contract with BCB for a new portable stove for troops to replace the old hexamine cookers that had been in service for over forty years. When it burns hexamine gives off a number of chemicals including formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide. The new stoves use a form of Solid ethanol as a fuel which is far safer and unlike hexamine it can be stored alongside food without tainting it. The stove itself is made of metal and folds into a small and lightweight package:imageOpening the two leaves shows that it holds three of the ‘Firedragon’ fuel tablets and a separate piece of metal:imageThis stamped piece of metal is used as a windbreak and is stamped ‘out’ on one tab:imageThis is to make sure that it is attached to the rest of the stove in the correct orientation, the two ends can then be folded inwards to provide a shelter for the burning fuel:imageThe fuel consists of solid ethanol inside plastic packages, these are opened and a tablet placed into the central tray of the stove. The manufacturers also say that in a push the blocks can be used as a hand sanitiser! Each stove has three of them inside:imageOne online journal reported its introduction:

Cardiff-based survival equipment manufacturer, BCB International developed a solid bio-ethanol fuel called FireDragon, made from sugar beets, to replace the traditional hexamine fuel tablets soldiers use to heat food and drinks out in the field.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) awarded a four-year contract to BCB International for the supply of a new operational ration cooker and fuel to replace hexamine tablets.

“Warm food raises a soldier’s morale, energy and concentration levels,” says BCB International’s managing director, Andrew Howell. “Unfortunately, for far too long soldiers were also unknowingly inhaling toxic fumes each time they used hexamine fuel tablets to cook their food in the field. 

“FireDragon is a safer and cleaner alternative.  The FireDragon fuel boasts many features.  It is made from sustainable natural ingredients, it is non-toxic, burns cleanly, can be ignited even when wet and if necessary can be used as a hand cleanser.”

Many armies worldwide are still issuing their soldiers with hexamine fuel tablets. But as Howell explains, the British Army’s decision to make the switch to ‘FireDragon’ has encouraged other armies to rethink their military rations heating fuel.

“There is a growing body of evidence about the health risks associated with hexamine-based fire-lighting fuels,” says Howell. “This combined with the UK MoD’s decision to use a superior alternative, has led to those in charge of combat feeding programmes in other armies to reconsider hexamine’s suitability as a fuel for the future.

Howell says BCB is in discussions with several armies that are interested in integrating FireDragon into their operational ration packs. The fuel is supplied with a small lightweight cooker, which can be packed with three FireDragon fuel blocks. firedragon-for-webAnother report says:

BCB International will supply the British armed forces with new operational ration cookers and fuel under a four-year contract with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 23 November.

The fuel to be supplied by BCB International is called ‘FireDragon’, an innovative solid fuel made from ethanol. It marks the MoD’s move away from Hexamine, the fuel provided to troops for more than forty years for cooking in the field.

A new folding cooker will also be supplied under the contract. Together, the cooker and fuel pack weighs less than 300g, and the FireDragon fuel will boil 500ml of water in under 8 minutes.

Andrew Howell, managing director, BCB, said: ‘The MoD were looking for a solution that amongst other things was lightweight, could boil 500ml of water in under 11 minutes, was easy to light and extinguish, burned cleanly and is easily transportable.   

‘The ‘FireDragon’ fuel is good news for our troops. It will enable soldiers to cook their ready to eat meals with a safer and cleaner fuel.  Our fuel is non-toxic, non-drip and made from 100% natural ingredients, including sustainably sourced ethanol.’

According to the company FireDragon burns cleanly and leaves very little residue; allowing soldiers to spend less time on cleaning their cooking equipment and more time on their vital operational roles.  

Howell added: ‘Wherever they operate, whether in driving rain, the freezing arctic or searing heat, the fuel will enable soldiers to heat their rations whenever required.’

Indian Made Canvas Bucket

A couple of canvas buckets have been covered on the blog over the years, tonight however we have an Indian made example with a rather unusual feature. Just to recap, canvas buckets were used extensively in the British Empire for carrying water etc. as they were light, could be stowed flat and were virtually unbreakable. Once soaked the fibres in the canvas swelled making the bucket pretty water tight. They were made all over the Empire for civilian and military use, and this example comes from India:imageWe can tell that it is Indian because it is marked ‘Ca’ for the  Government Harness and Saddlery Works at Cawnpore:imageIt is also dated 1929. What makes this bucket particularly interesting however is that the carrying handle is clearly a repurposed piece of Lee Enfield rifle sling:imageThis has been stitched on neatly and there is no sign of an earlier rope handle having been fitted:imageThis leads me to suspect that it was made like this from new, the factory using up sling material it had on hand. This could either have been offcuts from the main rifle sling manufacture, or slings where the metal buckles had become worn out, the main body of the sling however recycled into bucket handles. Either way it is a fascinating example of military repurposing and this bucket is a lovely addition to my Indian collection.

1867 Envelope to a Captain in India

On this blog we occasionally step back before the First World War, however items do not come along as frequently as more modern objects and are frequently out of my budget. Tonight though we have a delightful little envelope from 150 years ago that came off eBay for just 99p. It still astonishes me that something so old and interesting can go for so little money, however I am not going to complain and it is of course great to have something like this in the collection and available to share with you.

This envelope is addressed to Captain George Conaught (I think) of the 35th Native Infantry at Saugor:imageThe 35th Native Infantry, I believe, refers to the 35th Bengal Native infantry, who had been reformed after being disbanded during the Indian Mutiny. Saugor is today called Sagar and is in Madhyar Pradesh in Central India. Saugor was a military cantonment at this period and had both British and Indian regiments stationed at it. Captain Conaught would have been one of the English officers in the employ of the Indian Army. Interestingly a receipt of some sort has been written on one end of the envelope:imageQuite what this was for is unclear, especially as I struggle with Victorian handwriting, but the sum of 79/9/6 whether in rupees or pounds, was not an insignificant one at this period!

The envelope has a stamp affixed to one corner indicating it was sent from Calcutta in April 1867 and the postage paid was 2 annas:imageThere were internal postal systems within Indian states and longer distance mail was under the control of the British Raj. Delivering the post in India was not without its hazards:

With the exception of such parts as may be infested by tigers, the post seldom or never fails of arriving within an hour of its appointed time, except, as has been observed, when the waters are out. In this case, many circuitous roads must be followed, whereby the way is considerably lengthened. Taking the average, a hundred miles per day may be run over by the dawk, or post, in fair weather. Each mail-bag is conveyed by an hurkaru (or runner) who is attended by one or two doogy-wallahs, or drummers, who keep up a kind of long-roll, as they pass any suspicious place