Category Archives: WW2

1941 Diary-Calendar

Tonight’s object is a small diary-calendar from 1941. This little book is just 1”x 1.5” in size and features a photograph and quote from Antony Eden on the front about Dunkirk:imageThe back cover reveals that it was sold to raise money for a charity, the St John’s Guild for the Blind:imageThis charity had been formed in 1919 to help blind people in a Christian context and like most charities would have found itself being called upon to help more and more during wartime. Charities always struggled for cash, however in wartime with resources tighter and demands higher, this problem would have become more acute. Various fund raising schemes were popular in the 1940s including selling small tokens such as badges, flags or in this case a little diary. The cover is filled with a suitably stirring quote for the period and the flags of the services and the price of 2d made it easy for people of all walks of life to afford to purchase one.

The front page of the book indicates its purpose as a Diary Calendar for 1941:imageEach month has a double page spread, with a line for each day:imageThe centre of the book has excerpts from speeches from the King, Prime Minister:imageAnd other politicians of the day such as Hore-Belisha:imageThe back page includes a handy reminder of the holidays and saints’ days for the year ahead:imageThe small size of the book would have allowed it to be easily slipped into a wallet or purse, and with a small pencil stub gave the owner access to somewhere to jot down appointments whilst out and about without taking up much room. These little items of ephemera are not worth much today, but are actually quite scarce as most would have been thrown away after the year was up. This little book is a nice survivor and has been in my collection for many years now, I cannot recall where I got it or how much I paid but I suspect it won’t have cost me more than 50p.


Inglis Diamond, The Canadian Hi-Power Pistol Book Review

The Browning Hi Power is one of the most successful post-war 9mm military pistols of all time. Although the vast majority of these automatics were manufactured by the FN company in Belgium, during World War Two production was started in Canada at the Inglis factory with plans reconstructed from memory by FN employees who had escaped the Nazi occupation of Belgium. Production at Inglis was relatively short lived, but numerous variations within the basic design of the pistol abound and the pistol was to have a profound influence on post-war commonwealth militaries in finally persuading them to drop revolvers in favour of automatics.

The story of the Inglis manufactured Browning therefore is a fascinating one and tonight we are looking at a wonderfully detailed book on the subject “Inglis Diamond: The Canadian Hi-Power Pistol” by Clive Law, released in 2001 by specialist weapons publishing company Collector’s Grade.K1391A_a9bb7e78-000e-4340-b0c3-1e4a0e7d334cFor such a specialist topic this book is quite lengthy, coming in at 312 pages and starts with a brief overview of the pistol’s design and how Canada came to be manufacturing it. The book is profusely illustrated and covers all the contracts for pistols produced at the factory, alongside variations in design, sights and markings. Detailed photographs are provided of many different pistols as well as close ups of markings and slight mechanical changes to the design. The book also covers experimental models, prototype lightened pistols, presentation fire arms and even mentions illegally manufactured pistols created by Inglis staff who pilfered components from the assembly line! Added to this is a detailed study of the pistol’s accessories so different holsters and magazine pouches are covered which for someone who is fascinated by Canadian webbing as I am was very interesting! It is not just the Inglis made Hi-power’s career with the Canadian military that is covered, but also its service overseas with everyone from the Chinese to the Dutch. It is particularly interesting to see the weapon in its global context.image

imageimageThe book is very well written and packed full of original source documents to illustrate the political wrangling surrounding the pistol’s adoption and continued production; indeed the quantity of information in this book is astounding and if you are a collector of Hi-Power pistols then you will definitely want to get a copy; the more casual enthusiast might find the level of detail a little overwhelming however. Do not let that put you off however as it is an eminently readable book and although it has been out of print for a long time, copies are still available: Jeremy Tenniswood Militaria have copies available for £44.95 here.

M104 Ammunition Box

It has been a while since we looked at any ammunition boxes on the blog. Tonight we have the first wartime box I ever picked up. When I first acquired this box it was painted black and had clearly been used for a tool box at some time. Since then I have stripped it back and repainted it in ‘service brown’ and applied some markings. These are based off an original example of the box and although a little crude (I am not that good at cutting out stencils with a Stanley knife) they really help the box look the part:imageThis box is stamped into the top with its designations ‘M104’:imageThis type of box was used for carrying fuzes for artillery shells, either the 117 fuze for 25 pounders or the No213 fuze. This fuze was used for high explosive and bursting smoke rounds for the 25 pounder, 5.5 and 7.2 inch guns and was both timer delayed and percussion fired. For an excellent information sheet on this fuze, please look here. The other use it saw was to carry the ammunition shell for ‘U’ type 3” rockets. Originally the box would have had cardboard inserts to protect the contents and hold them securely for transit.

This particular box is dated 1941:imageAnd has a manufacturer’s code of AMC:imageThis is probably the mark of the Austin Motor Company who made ammunition boxes and jerry cans during the war. The box is made of steel and has a hinged lid with two wire spring fasteners to secure the lid:imageNote the small lop above the fastener- this was to pass a piece of wire through to allow the fastenings to be wired shut so it was clear the box had not been tampered with. With its early date, this box still has the rubber grips on the handles:imageThese were later deleted to save valuable rubber supplies after the Japanese invasions in the far east. The main details of the contents of the box are stencilled on the front in yellow, again this is a direct copy of an original marked example:imageI went through a phase of buying a lot of ammunition boxes a few years back, and I do really like them. Unfortunately they take up a lot of room and although useful for storage there has to be limits so I now restrict myself to only picking up nicely marked examples (and preferably the smaller boxes!)

RAF Music Group Photographs

This week we have a pair of group shots of airmen during the Second World War:SKM_C284e18021611150

SKM_C284e18021611150 - CopyBoth these photographs seem to have been taken at the same time and judging by the central man holding a small ukulele it is possible that they were a small amateur music group that entertained their fellow airmen. Both photographs have some basic captions on the back and from these we can put a first name to each of the men. We have Alec:SKM_C284e18021611150 - Copy (2)Mac:SKM_C284e18021611150 - Copy (3)Digger:SKM_C284e18021611150 - Copy (4)‘Me’ (sadly we do not have this chap’s name as he was the one who wrote the caption):SKM_C284e18021611150 - Copy (5)Les:SKM_C284e18021611150 - Copy (6)And John:SKM_C284e18021611150 - Copy (7)The back of the photographs also tells us that this was taken in June 1943 at Downing College. Downing College was, and indeed still is, a university college in Cambridge but its buildings were taken over by the RAF at the start of the Second World War for the training of officers. This did not seem to last too long and the college lost its lodgers before the war ended. These cadets can easily be identified by the white flashes on their field service caps:SKM_C284e18021611150 - Copy - CopyFor more information on the RAF officer cadet FS caps please look here.

Throughout the time Downing College was used by the RAF, it remained open as a university with the two jostling for space. Mike Archer went up to Cambridge as an undergraduate in 1942:

In 1942 I gained a State Scholarship to read maths at Downing College, Cambridge. This was an eventful year: the tragedy of Pearl Harbour followed by the wonderful achievements of Montgomery at El Alamein. Needless to say the spirits of the students rose and fell in tune with the events. The college had three story blocks with four double rooms on each floor served by one bathroom, so each bedroom had its pair of chamber pots. The morning after Montgomery’s success had become known we arose to see the whole length of the roof of one wing adorned with a line of chamber pots and a large board reading ‘THE NIGHT WE LICKED THE JERRIES’.

Mule Pack Saddle Breeching Strap

My thanks go to Rob Barnes tonight for his help in identifying tonight’s object- it is far easier to write about something when I know what it is!

I have (very) slowly been collecting up items of mule pack saddlery over the last year, as with so many of my projects this is very much a back burner thread to my collection with items being picked up as they appear but with no real plan to quickly complete a set. It was therefore very nice to come across a strap for a couple of pounds a few weeks back:imageThis is a ‘breeching’ strap and was part of the tack of a pack saddle used to prevent the saddle from slipping forward when the animal was going downhill. The strap itself is made of heavy duty leather, 1 ½” wide by 2 ½ feet long/ At one end a small becket is attached:imageThe opposite end is cut into a tongue:imageThere is a faint War Department /|\ mark stamped into the leather:imageIn this diagram from the 1937 Manual of Equitation, the straps can be seen at Number 4:CaptureThe manual also gives some advice on leading mules up and down hills and what steps should be taken with the breaching:

The driver should always give the animal a long rein when moving over rough or hill country; this is quickly effected by letting go of the rein with the right hand, seizing the T-piece from the outside of the ring of the bit and pulling the rein through. In difficult ground additional assistance can be given by steadying the loads and helping the animals along. It may even be necessary to unload the animals and carry the loads over an obstacle by hand.

For ascents the driver must tighten the breastpiece and loosen the breeching, doing the converse for descents. This can be quickly done without halting by means of the chain attachments of the breastpiece and breeching.

This was clearly a skilled operation however as the manual goes on to recommend:

Until the drivers gain experience, a short halt should be ordered to tighten breast pieces for ascents, and breeching and cruppers for descents.

Empire Day Certificate

Tonight we have a rather magnificent Empire Day Certificate from 1940:SKM_C284e18013015240 - Copy (4)Empire day was 25th May, Queen Victoria’s birthday, and was celebrated across the Empire as a way of bringing the different countries together and to remind children that they formed part of the British Empire, and that they might think with others in lands across the sea, what it meant to be sons and daughters of such a glorious Empire.”, and that “The strength of the Empire depended upon them, and they must never forget it.”

This theme is reflected in the certificate with small shields to represent each of the major commonwealths and dominions: SKM_C284e18013015240 - Copy (2)

SKM_C284e18013015240 - CopyNote that each shield depicts the flag of the era and is surmounted by an animal associated with that country.

The certificate was given to children who helped provide comforts to servicemen during the Second World War by the Overseas League: SKM_C284e18013015240 - Copy (3)Similar certificates had been produced in the Great War. Empire Day took on special significance in wartime and the King addressed his people across the globe:

It is not mere territorial conquest the enemy is seeking. It is the overthrow, complete and final, of the Empire and of everything for which it stands, and after that the conquest of the world

Empire Day was very much focussed around the young and was celebrated in schools as far away as Canada and New Zealand. George McFarlane recalls in his book ‘Behind the Rehetoric’:

Another highlight of the school year was Empire Day, 24th May, improbable as it may seem today. The tradition was for a couple of students to speak on a patriotic topic as a lead up to addresses by the Headmaster and the President of the Parents and Citizens Association. Empire Day 1939 is fixed in my mind as is my short speech, “Patriotic Literature of the British Empire”. Not only did I benefit from the experience of speaking from the stage but also from the discipline of doing some library research about such works as Spencer’s “The Fairie Queen”.

Another child of the war remembers:

On the last day at school before Empire day we had a parade, children dressed in the national costumes of the empire, well as close to them as it could be got, and proudly marched around the school hall in front of our parents, lots of flag waving and the national anthem sung with great gusto. 1440408759768Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day in the 1950s and the date has moved around a few times over the last seventy years. In 2018 Commonwealth Day is 12th March, sadly it is largely forgotten by most and it seems unlikely that many schools will celebrate it with the gusto of their forebears.

ATC Metal Lapel Badge

Last year we looked at an example of the plastic Air Training Corps lapel badge here. Tonight I am pleased to be able to bring you the more common metal version of the badge:imageThe design is identical to that of the plastic badge, but thinner and more refined as the materials it is made from are stronger. The back has a standard lapel fitting:imageThe Air training Corps was very popular amongst boys during the Second World War and the Daily Mail reported on 4th February 1941:

Hundreds of school boys between 16 and 18 who have joined the Air Training Corps will have their first training this week.

Each boy has to give up four hours a week to ATC work and, as many are working, classes and drills are to be held at weekends and in the evenings.

Some London boroughs including St Marylebone, began training last Saturday, the day the corps came officially into existence.

Rifle Practice

Squadron Leader A.H. Waite, head of the St Marylebone A.T.C. told me: “We met on Saturday and there were enough boys already enrolled to form four flights.

“The boys took drill and classes in electricity, the internal combustion engine, and map reading. On Wednesday evening we are going to a local rifle range for practice.

Air Commodore J.A. Chamler, commandant of the A.T.C. is visiting Manchester today to meet the Lancashire Committee organising the A.T.C. He will go on to Leeds to meet the Yorkshire Organisers…

Here we see an air cadet, Fred Matthews, wearing the lapel badge on his suit:helstonatcfredmatthews