Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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120mm Chieftain HESH Round Transit Tube

It is perhaps unlikely that I will ever have the funds or space to be able to add a tank to my collection (plus I imagine my wife would have a few choice words to say if I did). Small items of militaria related to armour are available though and tonight we are looking at the plastic transit case for a Chieftain 120mm HESH shell:imageThe Chieftain was Britain’s main battle tank throughout much of the Cold War and had a 120mm rifled main gun. Britain used a variety of shells with this gun including HESH, which stands for High Explosive, Squash Head.

HESH rounds are thin metal shells filled with plastic explosive and a delayed-action base fuze. The plastic explosive is “squashed” against the surface of the target on impact and spreads out to form a disc or “pat” of explosive. The base fuze detonates the explosive milliseconds later, creating a shock wave that, owing to its large surface area and direct contact with the target, is transmitted through the material. In the case of the metal armour of a tank, the compression shock wave is conducted through the armour to the point where it reaches the metal/air interface (the hollow crew compartment), where some of the energy is reflected as a tension wave. At the point where the compression and tension waves intersect, a high-stress zone is created in the metal, causing pieces of steel to be projected off the interior wall at high velocity. This fragmentation by blast wave is known as spalling, with the fragments themselves known as spall. The spall travels through the interior of the vehicle at high velocity, killing or injuring the crew, damaging equipment, and/or igniting ammunition and fuel. Unlike high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds, which are shaped charge ammunition, HESH shells are not specifically designed to perforate the armour of main battle tanks. HESH shells rely instead on the transmission of the shock wave through the solid steel armour.lc-120-HESH-L31A2HESH ammunition has good general purpose use, being effective against most targets, though the round is generally used at relatively low velocities because high velocity excessively disperses the pat of explosive. While only effective against tanks without spaced armour or spall liners, the round is still highly favoured for combat demolition purposes. The flattened high-velocity explosive pat is capable of destroying concrete constructions much faster than a HEAT round (which is designed for armour penetration), and without the dangerous fragmentation of a traditional high-explosive (HE) fragmentation round.CR3_thumb_png_1bffb6a288cd7b02814b48cbb0570342These rounds were delivered in individual plastic transit tubes, and two of these were packed inside a metal ammunition box. The plastic container has a screw on lid with a rubber seal to prevent any moisture from entering inside. A wire loop handle is fitted to the top to make them easier to carry:imageSmall holes are fitted around the outside of the lid and main tube to allow a piece of wire to be fitted as a tamper prevention measure:imageThe front of the tube has a pair of labels attached, firstly we have a diamond shaped MOD explosives label, sadly now starting to peel off:imageAnd a large contents label that shows the tube contained a 120mm HESH round, L31A7. The round was manufactured in January 1969, whilst the fuze was produced in December 1968:imageThe tube itself has the date of manufacture moulded into the base, here for 1967:imageThese tubes do appear from time to time, but as they were reused a number of times it is quite nice to get one with labels for as early as 1969, this example was clearly only ever used once and never refilled.Chieftain_Tank_(9628802829)

Jet Engine Starter Cartridge

Early jet engines needed a way to turn the motor over to start the engine going. Many propeller driven aircraft had relied on a man swinging the propeller to turn the engine to kick it into life. This was obviously not an option with a jet engine so a large blank starter cartridge was used. Made of brass, this cartridge looks very much like an artillery shell:imageIt was in effect a large blank cartridge and the gasses from this cartridge expanded and turned the engine over allowing it to start. The top of the case has bent over lips and originally when it was full these would have held a large disc made of a material that would have been consumed by the explosion, such as cardboard:imageThe base of the cartridge is marked up and we can tell this is an Electric Starter Cartridge No9 Mk I and was manufactured in 1952. The ‘K’ indicates it was produced by Kynoch:imageThese cartridges were used on a number of early RAF jets including the Canberra and the Hunter. One American technician who worked on the Canberra bomber recalls using these cartridges:

Tech question: yes, the starter cartridge in the older marks of Canberra was just a huge shotgun shell, albeit without the shot. There was an explosive release of gases which was channelled to the turbine to wind the thing up. The earliest marks B2, T4, TT18 had only 1 fitted per engine, so, after a failed start, it would take several minutes for the area to cool enough for the cartridge to be replaced, often resulting in a delay of 20 minutes or more. 6

The latter (early) marks, PR7, E15, T17, T22 had 3 per engine, 2 as spares. The last mark, PR9, used a really nasty explosive fuel called AVPIN, which was volatile in the extreme. One of our jeeps carrying the stuff through a small town, fortunately in an unpopulated area, caught fire spontaneously, the driver bailed, and the resultant conflagration melted the concrete of the sidewalk. You can imagine the effect this had on the local populous – we were thereafter banned from transporting it through residential areas.

The explosion from the starter cartridge was impressive: 4-foot flames would leap from 3 vents in the engine casing, the whole area would be wreathed in pungent cordite smoke, and pilot and supervising technician would watch the engine and each other nervously in case of engine fire. In 3 years, I only had to evacuate once because of a suspected fire, which turned out to be a false alarm. However, you can imagine that when the plane was fully fuelled, we were out of there in a flash and up and running! untitled
The gas release should take the engine up to about 2000 RPM, which was enough to energize the igniters and allow the engine to work with the start inertia to get it up to normal idling RPM (I forget the figure). The main thing you were watching at this stage was either for an internal fire, in which case the EGT gages would leap off the scale, or compressor surge, usually accompanied by a lot of popping and banging. In both cases, the actions would be the same: throttle closed, HP cock closed, LP pump off; for a fire of course, additional actions would be fire extinguisher shot through the engine (only 1 available) and evacuate (run for the hills!).

Victorian Print of Gordon and Wolseley

The Boy’s Own Paper was a weekly magazine published in the United Kingdom from 1879 to 1967. During the late Victorian period it was one of the most popular boy’s papers and had a distinctly patriotic slant to its content. It published adventure stories, notes on nature, sports and games, puzzles and it included prints of famous men of the day that were frequently stuck to boy’s bedroom walls in the same manner posters are today. In the late Victorian period the heroes for many boys were the generals and admirals of the British Empire involved in daring do on the frontiers of Empire and tonight we have one of those illustrations from the Boy’s Own Paper depicting two Victorian heroes: Major General Charles Gordon and General Lord Wolseley:SKM_C45817022813520Major General Gordon

SKM_C45817022813520 - CopyMajor-General Charles George Gordon CB (28 January 1833 – 26 January 1885), also known as Chinese Gordon, Gordon Pasha, and Gordon of Khartoum, was a British Army officer and administrator. He saw action in the Crimean War as an officer in the British Army. However, he made his military reputation in China, where he was placed in command of the “Ever Victorious Army,” a force of Chinese soldiers led by European officers. In the early 1860s, Gordon and his men were instrumental in putting down the Taiping Rebellion, regularly defeating much larger forces. For these accomplishments, he was given the nickname “Chinese Gordon” and honours from both the Emperor of China and the British.

He entered the service of the Khedive of Egypt in 1873 (with British government approval) and later became the Governor-General of the Sudan, where he did much to suppress revolts and the local slave trade. Exhausted, he resigned and returned to Europe in 1880.

A serious revolt then broke out in the Sudan, led by a Muslim religious leader and self-proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad. In early 1884 Gordon had been sent to Khartoum with instructions to secure the evacuation of loyal soldiers and civilians and to depart with them. In defiance of those instructions, after evacuating about 2,500 British civilians he retained a smaller group of soldiers and non-military men. In the buildup to battle, the two leaders corresponded, each attempting to convert the other to his faith, but neither would accede.

Besieged by the Mahdi’s forces, Gordon organised a citywide defence lasting almost a year that gained him the admiration of the British public, but not of the government, which had wished him not to become entrenched. Only when public pressure to act had become irresistible did the government, with reluctance, send a relief force. It arrived two days after the city had fallen and Gordon had been killed.

General Wolseley

SKM_C45817022813520 - Copy (2)Field Marshal Garnet Joseph Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley (4 June 1833 – 25 March 1913), was an Anglo-Irish officer in the British Army. He became one of the most influential and admired British generals after a series of successes in Canada, West Africa, and Egypt, followed by a central role in modernizing the British Army in promoting efficiency. He served in Burma, the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, China, Canada and widely throughout Africa—including his Ashanti campaign (1873–1874) and the Nile Expedition against Mahdist Sudan in 1884–85. Wolseley served as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces from 1895 to 1900. His reputation for efficiency led to the late 19th century English phrase “everything’s all Sir Garnet”, meaning, “All is in order.”

With both of these men being involved in the Sudan campaigns, I suspect that this print dates to around 1885; showing the martyred hero of Khartoum and the commanding officer of the British forces sent to suppress the rebellion.

Release from Coal Mining National Service Letter

Tonight we have a fascinating carbon copy of a typed letter sent to a man regarding his service in a reserved occupation at the end of the war:SKM_C284e18022710530This gentleman, Mr Lawrence McHugh, was working in the coalmining industry and this was seen as both a reserved occupation, but also something of such national importance that men were not allowed to leave their employer without express permission from the Ministry of Labour. This ruling came about in 1941 when there was a crisis of manpower in the coal industry- the workforce had dropped from 784,000 at the start of the war to 690,000 by Spring 1941. To counter this the government passed The Essential Work (Coal Mining) Order on 15th March 1941. This ruling prevented miners form being dismissed by or from leaving their employment- in effect making it a form of National Service. A further 48,000 men were conscripted into the coal mining industry as well.

Following the end of the war this ruling was dropped and this letter indicates the recipient has reached the block number for release from this act and can now take alternative employment if he wishes:SKM_C284e18022710530 - CopyThere were still restrictions on what employment was available to the miner after a certain period of time:SKM_C284e18022710530 - Copy (2)The letter ends by explaining what unemployment benefits the ex-miner might be entitled to:SKM_C284e18022710530 - Copy (3)Many men did not leave coal mining as it was a steady job, however we have met Mr McHugh before here, where he was brought before the local magistrate’s court for leaving his employer without permission. This would therefore imply that he for one would have been very happy to receive this letter!

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.