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Royal Leinster Regiment Old Comrades Association Badge

In 1922 partition occurred in Ireland and a number of regiments that had traditionally recruited from the south of the country were formally disbanded. Amongst these regiments was the Prince of Wale’s Leinster Regiment. This unit had been formed in 1881 by the combining of the 100th Regiment of Foot with the 109th Regiment of Foot and it had its home depot in Birr. The Regiment served gallantly during both the Boer and Great Wars. As with most regiments, in the aftermath of the Great War an Old Comrades Association was set up to foster the companionship soldiers had experienced in service into civilian life. Tonight we have a small lapel badge for the Old Comrades Association of the Leinster Regiment:imageThis is a small silver plate badge, with a green centre containing the cap badge, The Prince of Wale’s feathers, and the numbers ‘100’ and ‘109’ representing the numbers of the original regiments that amalgamated to form the Leinster Regiment. Around the outside of this light green centre is a blue ring with the lettering ‘OCA PoW Leinster Rgt’. The rear of the badge has a lapel fastening:imageThis badge appears to be silver plate and although I cannot read it on my copy, other examples are marked as having been manufactured by Phillips of Aldershot. The Leinster Regiment Old Comrades Association remained in existence for around seventy years until the early nineties. By that point, with few original members remaining alive, it was wound up and the remaining funds distributed to charity. Happily a new organisation has since been founded to keep alive the memory of this illustrious regiment. Their website indicates who is involved in the modern successor to the Old Comrades Association:

Membership was initially derived from ex-servicemen of the British and Irish armies as well as a few who had relatives serve with the regiment. Membership continues to grow with more members having family links with the Leinster Regiment, and as the Association continues its work we also encourage any person who has the interests of our Association at heart to join us. The Association is the sum of its members and together we will maintain the spiritus intus of the Prince Of Wales’s Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians).

The Association also describes some of the activities they have been involved with:

In October 2004 the association held a ceremony to rededicate the grave of Sgt John O’Neill VC MM, whose grave had become somewhat dilapidated over time. By September 2006 membership had exceeded 145, an excellent start for a new Association and the same year the Association was privileged to participate in the liberation commemoration ceremony held by the inhabitants of Guillemont and Ginchy in France. In March 2007 the Association held a parade in Ypres and members  marched to the Menin Gate for the ceremony of the Last Post. Each November members of the Association parade at Horse Guards for the Remembrance March in Whitehall.  The Association provides a presence at the annual Garden of Remembrance, held at Westminster Abbey in November, when all members are encouraged to support the planting of poppy crosses in the Leinster Regiment garden plot. Meetings are also held in London and Dublin.

As part of our objective of continuing the memory of the Regiment, the Association is working closely with the Council of Co. Offaly in Ireland, to develop a Leinster Regiment Collection to be housed in the County Library in the town of Birr. This collection currently houses copies of the WW1 War Diaries for the Regiment, as well as selected books, pamphlets and a photo collection on CD ROM. Our objective is to encourage descendents of Leinster soldiers to donate or loan memorabilia to the collection housed in Birr.


Merchant Navy Scarf

In September 1939 the King spoke to the merchant mariners of the united Kingdom:

In these anxious days I would like to express to all Officers and Men and in The British Merchant Navy and The British Fishing Fleets my confidence in their unfailing determination to play their vital part in defence. To each one I would say: Yours is a task no less essential to my people’s experience than that allotted to the Navy, Army and Air Force. Upon you the Nation depends for much of its foodstuffs and raw materials and for the transport of its troops overseas. You have a long and glorious history, and I am proud to bear the title “Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets”. I know that you will carry out your duties with resolution and with fortitude, and that high chivalrous traditions of your calling are safe in your hands. God keep you and prosper you in your great task.

These were prescient words indeed and the Merchant navy was to play a vital, dangerous and oft overlooked part in the Second World War. The Merchant navy were given their own badge in January 1940 with a naval crown above an oval with the letters MN inside. This was available as a silver lapel bin for wear on civilian clothing, but also appeared in various other places including on commemorative and souvenir items. Tonight we are looking at a rather elegant cream artificial silk scarf:imageThis has the merchant navy crest embroidered onto one end in coloured thread:imageEach end has a fringe of tasselled thread:imageThere are no maker’s marks of any sort on the scarf, but it is very well put together so I suspect it is a commercial product rather than being homemade. This was probably purchased and given to the wife or sweetheart of a merchant sailor as a token, the badge showing where her beau was serving during the war. These sort of embroidered keepsakes are quite common, but most are military rather than for the merchant marine. This item holds some personal significance to me as my Grandfather was a merchant stoker during the war, so it is nice to be able to add something from the merchant navy to my collection.

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.