Despite using 9mm parabellum ammunition in its Sten and Lanchester sub machine guns, the British did not introduce a specialist drill round for training until 1951. Up until this point various commercial manufacturer’s in America and Canada had produced drill rounds for use by the British, but these rounds were very similar in appearance to standard rounds, with just small holes drilled in the case to indicate they were drill rounds. Obviously a safer form of ammunition was needed and the ‘Cartridge S.A. Drill 9mm D2 Mark 2’ was approved in 1951:These rounds allowed troops to safely practice filling magazines such as that for the Sterling:Other uses for the cartridge were to cycle rounds manually through a firearm to demonstrate its operation or to indicate it was working correctly. The cases were made of white metal, or chromed brass with three red painted flutes around the edges to allow them to be identified in the dark by touch alone:The cap chamber on the base is empty and painted red:The round has a normal brass bullet resting on a wooden spacer. The base of the cartridge has the usual head stamps indicating date and place of manufacture. In this instance two of the three rounds in my collection are heavily worn for use, but one is nice and clear:From this we can see that the round is a 9mm D2 round manufactured by Radway Green in 1976. In 1978 the round was changed to a plain silver casing without the red painted flutes and cap chamber. In 1986 production switched to Hirtenberger in Austria, probably as a money saving exercise.
I have a small selection of different bombs for my 2″ mortar, however the ones I have most of are these weighted drill rounds, of which I have four:These bombs were used to practice firing the mortar as they have the same weight as a real HE round, allowing operators to practice firing a realistic round with no risk of an explosion when it landed. The bombs have a filling of sand which is dense, but safe. The bombs have a space for a Ballistite cartridge in the tail, a small metal cover screwing over the top to protect the cartridge:These fins are not actually wartime examples, they are in fact post war Belgian tail fins; the British having sold surplus mortars and rounds after the war to European governments who then refurbished them to get further years of service. The original fins were made of a diecast alloy that was prone to metal fatigue, the Belgians upgraded the fins to steel, the fins being marked “Atelor” and dating to 1950. The bodies of these rounds are actually British as can be seen by the /|\ mark stamped into the shoulder of the bombs:This bomb also has a small ’42’ marked on the shoulder:Two different sets of markings can be seen on my bomb bodies, three of them are marked ‘NSCo’ with a mid war date on the main body:These have a flat, slotted nose cap marked “1941 F&W No 1 IS”:One however is marked “2”MOR I.D.E.I.L. 5/43″:The nose cap on this one is similar to the other examples but has a threaded central hole:The markings on this bomb read “CA/C 1944 77 No1 IS”. Note also the traces of blue paint in the slot.
As with so much of my 2″ mortar collection, my thanks have to go to Darren Pyper for his help with these items.
In the 1980s the British Army replaced the longstanding 2 inch mortar with a new 51mm version. Like its predecessor, this came with a dedicated cleaning kit, but it was a little more sophisticated and included more items than the fairly basic kit provided with the 2 inch version. The cleaning kit comes in a green nylon pouch, with an adjustable shoulder strap attached:A belt loop is also provided to give an alternative method of carriage if required:The top flap is secured with ‘lift the dot’ metal fastener. Lifting the top flap reveals two small pockets, the left hand one holds a spare firing pin and small cleaning brush, the right hand one a combination tool:The kit then opens further to reveal a large pocket for the cleaning brush head (sadly missing from this kit), a large pocket for the cleaning brush handle pieces and a smaller pocket for an oil bottle:Laid out the contents of the cleaning kit are as follows (sans brush head):Note: The plastic rings in the above diagram are actually obdurating rings for the base of the mortar to achieve a gas seal.
The combination tool is a steel bar with two studs on one side:And two pins on the other:This is stamped and dates from 1984 when it was produced by the Royal Ordnance Factory:Here we see a soldier firing the 51mm mortar, the cleaning kit can clearly be seen slung across his body:The UK was unusual in retaining use of a light mortar long after many other nations had dropped it, its effectiveness can be seen by this account from the recent war in Afghanistan:
My mortar man, Private Barke, used his 51mm to pretty good effect, getting his bombs on target every first or second shot. We also used it to mark the enemy for CAS (Close Air Support), firing a few smoke rounds on enemy positions.
As time goes on I have started picking up the more obscure accessories for some of my weapons sets, one of these is the spare parts tin carried in the 2” mortar transit case. I don’t have the transit case yet, but it’s a start! This spare parts tin was used for a number of different weapons, including the 25 pounder field gun and there are a number of variants and versions out there. Mine is made of pressed metal, with nicely rounded corners:The top of the tin has been stamped ‘No 1 Mark 1. Spare Springs, Keep Pins Etc. 1942’:Note also the ‘MB12’ stamp indicating the manufacturer of the tin was the ‘Metal Box Company’. A small catch is fitted to the front:And the lid is hinged at the back, opening up to allow access to the box’s interior:Originally the tin would have contained the following spares for the 2” mortar:
Barrel, Breech, Spring, Catch, Hammer x1
Barrel, Breech, Spring, Main x1
Catch, Plunger x1
Catch, Spring x1
Sight, No1, Plunger x1
Sight, No1, Spring x1
If anyone has a lead on a spare transit case let me know…
Like most other firearms, the STEN gun was issued with a webbing sling to allow it to be slung over the shoulder. The sling was specially made for the firearm and was a unique design for the time using loops and hooks on the sling to attach it rather than passing through sling loops on the gun:The sling is made from a ¾” wide thin cotton webbing strap, with an adjustable buckle in the centre:This indicates that the sling is a Mk II variant (stores catalogue number BE8604), the earlier Mk I (stores catalogue number BE8574) was a non-adjustable strap 36” long. A brass loop is fitted to one end:This is fitted around the stock of the Sten gun, with the loose end of the strap passing through to make a tightening loop that holds it secure:The opposite end of the sling has a wire loop:This hooks through the holes on the barrel shroud at the muzzle end of the Sten gun:Interestingly Indian produced slings just use a blunted nail, bent around, for this hook! This example has a manufacturer’s stamp on the sling, that is unfortunately badly stamped, but it can be seen that the sling dates from 1944:A large number of manufacturers can be found for these slings, including Canadian made examples. When I picked my sling up they were incredibly common and could be found for a few pounds, today they seem to have increased in price and a good example can fetch £10-£15.
With the possible exception of the AK47, most firearms do not function well when they are covered in dirt and grit. Unfortunately the internal parts of a gun need to be oiled for them to function properly, and this oil in turn attracts dust and seizes up the action. This problem becomes more acute in arid conditions such as the North West Frontier or the deserts of Northern Africa. Whilst there is no substitute for regular cleaning of weapons by soldiers, physical covers over the working parts of a weapon can help reduce the level of dirt significantly and therefore breech covers were produced for the Lee Enfield rifles. Most of these covers were produced in the UK or Canada and use press studs to secure them, as described in this list of changes from 1915:
“The Breech cover is fully described in LoC 17368, 24 June 1915.
“the Cover is made of Double texture waterproof drill, and is fitted with 3 press studs on the left side of the rifle. Two eyelets are fitted in the cover for a lace which is knotted on the inside to retain it in position:
The cover is attached to rifle by means of the lace as follows-
Rifles Short MLE– To the guard sling swivel, or through the swivel screw hole in the lugs on the trigger guard.”
Tonight however we have an Indian produced example that uses a staples and a cloth strip to secure it:My thanks go to Andrew Dearlove for helping me add this one to the collection. As can be seen the cover fits tightly over the bolt and action of the rifle, the opposite side to the fastener has a double thickness area around the bolt handle to prevent this area from wearing too quickly:The cover is wrapped around the action, the staples are pushed through holes in the breech cover on the opposite side, and the whole assembly secured with the long cotton tab:This allows the cover to be easily removed by quickly pulling on the tab and this allows the assembly to fall away. A pair of leather ties are fitted:These secure to a ring in front of the magazine on the rifle to prevent loss of the cover:The cover is made of the same rough cotton drill as Indian made gas mask bags, inside are a couple of stamps: one has a date of 1943 and a number ‘2’:The second stamp is a faint purple marking with the letters ‘F.S.A’:Quite what this stands for is unknown now. We end with a nice illustration of a breech cover being used in the trenches of World War One to keep mud out of the action of a ‘jock’s’ SMLE:
When the 1958 pattern webbing set was introduced originally there was no provision for a holster. The British Army were in the process of replacing their revolvers with Browning Hi-Power automatics and as a stop gap Canadian 51 pattern holsters were issued to troops (see here). This was clearly far from being an ideal solution so by 1965 a new holster had been developed for the 58 pattern set. This was closely based on the wartime Canadian Browning holster and had a pair of overlapping flaps to protect the pistol:These flaps were secured with a quick release tab:And when opened allowed easy access to the Browning:Inside the holster a small pocket was provided for a spare magazine:That was secured with another quick release tab:A small channel was provided for a cleaning rod:Sadly I do not have a Browning Hi-Power in my collection, but this Model 1922, although smaller, illustrates how a pistol was carried:Stamped onto the underside of the top flap was the manufacturer’s details, date and NSN number:This example was made in 1978 by MECo. Turning the holster over we can see a number of attachment methods were offered:These were a single channel for a belt loop and ‘C’ hooks to allow it to be fastened to the belt of the 58 pattern set:The fitting instructions gave alternatives for the carriage of the holster:
The holster may either be clipped to the belt by two ‘C’ hooks, or it may be attached to a leg strap by means of a webbing loop sewn between the ‘C’ hooks. A link similar to that on the ammunition pouches provides anchorages for the front yoke straps. A ‘D’ ring at the bottom enables the holster to be anchored, if required, to the cape carrier or to the main pack, to prevent the holster from swinging and chafing the legs. MECo were not the only manufacturer of 58 pattern webbing, and this illustration comes from the webbing catalogue of M Wright & Co:Not only was the holster produced in the standard green seen here, but white examples for military police and blue grey RAF examples were produced, albeit in much smaller quantities.