The sling issued for use with the Self Loading Rifle was an update of the design that had been in service with the British Army since before World War One. Although the basic design did not change, instead of pre-shrunken cotton webbing, the new sling used heavy duty woven nylon that was dyed a dark green:This material had a distinctive shine to it, making it easy to distinguish from the earlier patterns which had a Matt finish. The brass fittings at either end of the sling remained unchanged except they were now blackened rather than being left as plain brass, they were however still attached with a pair of brass rivets:Like most rifles, the SLR had a pair of sling swivels. One securely attached to the butt which could only move back and forth:And a second one towards the front of the rifle, just in front of the gas block, which was on a swivel so could rotate around the axis of the barrel:In Northern Ireland it became common to attach the sling to just the rear sling swivel of the SLR, the free end being strapped around the soldier’s wrist to prevent someone from snatching the rifle and trying to run off with it. Alistair Mackenzie was a soldier in Northern Ireland in the mid-1970s with the Parachute Regiment and in his book ‘Pilgrim Days’ he remembers:
The primary weapon was the 7.62 SLR, and one end of the sling was attached to the butt of the rifle, with the other end attached to the holder’s wrist. This was to stop the weapon being snatched away in a melee.
This sling has the faintest indications of a black ink maker’s stamp on it, but it is too faint to read and doesn’t provide enough contrast for the camera to pick up.
The L4, like the Bren before it, had a dedicated spare parts wallet containing items that were used to clean the LMG and make simple field repairs to keep the weapon in action. The wallet was very similar to its predecessor, but with different pockets and contents to reflect the different needs of the L4. The wallet was made of webbing, pre-dyed green:The wallet rolls up and is secured with two staples and tabs:A number of pockets are inside the wallet to hold the various contents:Inside the wallet are a number of different accessories:Like the earlier Bren wallet, there is a pocket for the oil bottle:An un-flapped one for the pull-through:One pocket for the takedown tool:And one for the spare parts tin:The spare parts tin is now made of plastic rather than metal. The big change from the earlier design however, is that there is a pocket to carry the multi-piece cleaning rod:The L4 had a chromed barrel so no spare was carried and the spare barrel bag often ditched in favour of just the spares wallet, hence the need for a multi piece cleaning rod in the spares wallet to allow it to be maintained with just the smaller wallet.
The 1978 army pamphlet on the L4 lists the contents as:
Spare parts wallet
Top left – Combination tool
Centre – Oil can containing rifle oil
Top right – Pull through, flannelette and tube of graphite grease (if carried)
Bottom – Spare parts tin
Inside flap – Cleaning rod in two sections for cleaning the barrel and chamber.
Spare parts tin. This contains the following items:
Extractor, extractor stay and extractor spring.
Firing pin spring
In addition the following SLR spare parts may also be carried in the spare parts tin:
Extractor, extractor spring and extractor plunger
Linemen were used to maintain and repair telephone lines used by the British Army. Much of this time was therefore spent up telegraph poles using tools such as pliers. Obviously if these were to be dropped, it would be a long way back down to retrieve them. We have previously looked at a pair of pliers with a lanyard loop and this was one way of securing the tools, more common however was a specialist webbing frog that allowed a pair of pliers to be securely fastened to the users belt, seen here in a photograph from World War Two:The webbing frog can be clearly seen and this design was to remain in production and use for many years after the end of the Second World War. Tonight we are looking at a webbing pliers frog that, although dating to 1977, is of the same design as that used in wartime. In appearance it is a simple webbing frog similar to that used for a bayonet:Unlike a bayonet frog though, there is of course no hole from a scabbard stud. The pliers are placed in nose down and the design of the tool ensures that they naturally stay in the frog securely:The frog was designed for 9″ pliers, but could be easily modified with a couple of stitches to carry 5″ or 7″ pliers as well. A loop is sewn into the frog to allow a belt to be passed through:The rear of the frog is stamped with the makers initial, MWS, a date of 1977, an NSN number and the /|\ mark indicating military ownership:Ironically, although these frogs saw far more and far longer service as part of lineman equipment, they were originally introduced in the 1930s as part of the now almost forgotten and exceptionally rare Royal Artillery pattern of webbing. The main webbing set was quickly replaced by 37 pattern equipment in World War Two, but the plier’s frog proved so useful it continued in service and manufacture for decades more.
One of the most commonly misidentified straps out there for the webbing collector is the subject of tonight’s post. Whilst most collectors can recognise that this strap is for communications gear it is repeatedly identified as being for the WS38 wireless set:This identification allows sellers to charge a premium for these straps, but the reality is rather different. The Fuller telephone system used the soil itself as a means to send telephone signals and Fuller telephones needed a large metal spike to push into the soil to act as a return for the signal. To carry these spikes, the carrying straps for the telephones were equipped with a pair of loops and a securing buckle:Whilst designed for Fuller telephones, the reality was that the straps were used on many different, more conventional, field telephones and here it can be seen attached to my L type set:To secure the strap the end is passed through the sling loop, doubled back on itself and secured with a Twigg buckle:This strap dates from 1942 and was made by the Mill’s Equipment Company:Note the store’s code of YA1532, the YA code clearly indicating that this was for use with field telephones.
Odd methods were sometimes called for to keep field telephones working, as recalled by Kenneth West:
Contact was by field telephone which was barely audible (strength 2-3 of 5). After about 3 days the line went dead about 9 o’clock in the evening, and as duty linesman it was my job to re-establish communications. I was allocated an escort of a young lad of about 18 years who had just joined the Coy , and subsequently his first excursion into the wild unknown. With the experience of my 22 years, I impressed upon him the necessity to have ‘one up the spout’, and to take the single signal wire in one hand and let it run through his hand as he walked about 10 yards to my rear. The only way to trace a line in the dark was to follow it by hand as it was looped along the hedgerow and fences by the side of the country road. On reaching the break, usually done by shell or mortar fire, the second man held the line as the linesman searched for the other end.
We were just over halfway to the section when the line came to an abrupt end. No blackened shell hole, just a single set of footprints in the knee deep snow leading from the German lines and across the road and fields to the outskirts of Zetten. With the youngster in a covering firing position, I reported the break to Coy HQ which was strength 5. Tying the single wire around his wrist, I went in search of the other end to contact the section. They were still very faint so I said I would make the joint and come to them and change their handset, checking the line as we went.
The handset was duly swapped, but there was no improvement. Army telephones were then earth return, so I checked the earth pin and everything seemed OK By now we had been exposed to the elements for about 1½ hours and the bladder was calling for relief, This I did in the proximity of the earth pin before returning to the cellar. The Corporal was all smiles and asked what magic I had performed as the signals were now almost full strength. When I told him of my simple remedy he scarcely believed me but showed his thanks with a tot of rum and a mug of hot char. We left them with the instructions that if they wanted to keep perfect contact, just give the line a tinkle from time to time.
On return to “A” Coy HQ I suggested that the forward section be kept adequately supplied with T.S.M. for their brew-ups, though I didn’t envy the bloke who would eventually remove the earth pin!!