Category Archives: WW2

Wartime Orlox Suet packet

Back when this blog first started I wrote a regular series of posts called Tuesday Finds, showcasing anything I had found that week. These were very brief posts with usually only a single photograph of the object and very little background information. I have decided to revisit some of the objects featured in those early posts and give them a post of their own with more photographs and a more in depth write up. These items will be dotted around during the coming months and we start tonight with a wartime Orlox Suet packet:imageThis packet is unused, but was designed to hold suet to make puddings with. It is made of recycled cardboard, with simple red ink printing, described on the box as a ‘wartime jacket’:imagePaper like other materials was in short supply during the world war and as well as salvaging and recycling as much as possible, manufacturers were encouraged to reuse material and cut down in other areas such as the inks, hence the very simplistic nature of this box compared to the eye catching designs of the 1920s and 30s. The box itself is made from die cut cardboard that can be folded up and secured with tabs on either end:imageApart from the product details on three sides, the only other information is the recipe as to how to use this item:imageSuet puddings were a popular part of British diet at this period, being both cheap and very filling. Suet is processed beef fat and when mixed with flour and water can be made into a pastry, dumplings or a thick stodgy pudding such as spotted dick.

Fats such as suet were rationed during wartime, with each adult allowed typically 5oz a week. Suet puddings however were an excellent way to make this go as far as possible and a meat pudding could be made packed with root vegetables to pad out the meat that would feed the whole family, if it was cooked with a hay box type cooker it would also be economical with fuel.

South African Made 37 Pattern Holster

Tonight my thanks go to Wojciech Musial who has very kindly sent me pictures of a South African made 37 pattern webbing holster. This example was made in the Union of South Africa during World War Two and is identical in form to the British made examples:181119154740_25657A-south-african-union-defence-force-pattern-37-webbing-gun-holster (1)The official 37 pattern manual describes the holster as:

Pistol Case- This consists of a woven article finished to accommodate the 0.380 revolver. It is lined with smooth webbing and the flap is closed by a snap fastener. Two double hooks are provided of the back for attachment to the waist belt and a similar hook is fitted horizontally at the top for connecting to the ammunition pouch when the article is to be carried over the pistol case.181119154711_25657A-south-african-union-defence-force-pattern-37-webbing-gun-holster (4)Of interest is the particularly crude stitching around the end of the muzzle part of the holster. This is completed with a blanket stitch, although it is unclear if this was the way the holster was manufactured or if it is a later repair. The C-Hooks are made of a base metal rather than brass and this was most likely an economy measure to save a strategic metal for other more important purposes. The holster was made by Daniel Isaac Fram and the maker’s stamp is on the underside of the holster flap:181119154725_25657A-south-african-union-defence-force-pattern-37-webbing-gun-holster (6)South African webbing is always hard to find and pieces rarely come on the market so it has been great to be able to share Wojciech’s item on the blog.

Stirrup Pump

Although very simple, the stirrup pump was a key piece of equipment in fighting incendiary bombs during World War II. The stirrup pump was a little hand operated water pump that could be used with buckets of water to fight fires. It consisted of a tube that was placed in the water, a foot rest to hold the pump steady and a handle that was worked up and down to draw the water up:imageThe base of the pump is fitted with a pierced metal filter that prevents grit and debris being drawn into the pump and fouling it:imageA large handle is fitted to the top of the pump:imageThis can be pulled upwards, creating a vacuum that draws water into the pump:imagePushing this down forces the water back out through this nozzle:imageOriginally a thirty foot rubber tube was attached here that could be used to fight fires. To keep the pump steady, a foot rest is fitted to the side of the pump, this part was on the outside of the bucket of water and the user held it steady with their foot:imageThe main tube that was in the bucket of water is protected by a sleeve of a hard rubber that prevents the inner tube from getting crushed:imageThe stirrup pump was recommended to Fire Guards in their handbook as an ideal way to fight small fires caused by incendiary bombs:imageIt could be used by teams of one, two, or ideally three persons:imageimageThe handbook also gave some instructions on how to care for the pump and actively encouraged owners to use them in civilian life for purposes such as washing windows in order to ensure they were familiar with its operation:imageimageimageHere we see the pumps being manufactured:D 3597And used on an ARP training exercise:image

YA1532 Field Telephone Strap

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:imageThis 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:imageWhilst 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:imageTo secure the strap the end is passed through the sling loop, doubled back on itself and secured with a Twigg buckle:imageThis strap dates from 1942 and was made by the Mill’s Equipment Company:imageNote 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!!

Jersey Liberation Penny

The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by Germany during the Second World War. As such the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945 had perhaps even more significance in these islands than it did in the rest of the U.K. as it also meant liberation. In 1949 the island of Jersey commemorated its liberation by minting a special coin. This was based on the standard copper 1d coin in use at the time, known in Jersey as ‘one twelfth of a shilling’, but with an additional legend of ‘ISLAND OF JERSEY LIBERATED 1945’:imageThe reverse of the coon has the crowned head of King George VI and as it was struck after 1948, the words IND IMP (India Imperator- Emperor of India) have been deleted:imageDespite the date of 1945, the coins were actually struck in 1949, 1950 and 1952 with a total production of 1.2 million coins. The commemorative coin owes its existence to Mr. J. Wilfrid du Pre of the Societe Jersiaise who lobbied for its production.

Reg Langlois was only a child during the war, living on Jersey, but he remembers the excitement of liberation:

I will never forget the day the adults started acting strangely, dancing and calling out to each other. I was playing in the back yard when my father called me indoors to listen to the wireless. “What’s a wireless?” I asked. He was indoors by then so I hurried in to join the family. In all the excitement I remember there was a lot of laughing and crying and everyone was hugging each other. My father stood over by the fire place with a strange piece of equipment in his hand that I had 

never seen before. It was attached to a dark coloured box-shaped thing on the floor and had wires attached to something I recognized as a battery. Sounds and voices came from it and my father told everyone to be quiet because 

Winston Churchill was going to speak. You could have heard a pin drop as Dad said softly “we have waited a long time for this moment “. We heard the British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, say ” our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today.” There was silence in the room. It was hard to 

believe that the long war and the occupation of our islands were over. When I asked my father where the wireless had come from he explained that it 

had been in the sitting room all the time, in a cupboard under the floor next to the fireplace. He went on to tell me that, when the Germans arrived in Jersey at the beginning of the occupation, they requisitioned his brand new Studebaker car but, before they took it away, he had very carefully removed the radio so 

that it did not look as if there had ever been one. If they had caught him with a radio he would have been punished or, worse still, sent to Germany. Many detainees were sent to Germany from Jersey and never returned. They died

over there. My father’s car was never returned to him but I have a memento – that radio is in my loft.

NFS No 5 Fire Force Area Map

In August 1941 the National Fire Service was formed by amalgamating nearly 1600 local fire services and the Auxiliary Fire Service into a single entity covering the whole country. This new nationwide service was administratively split into around forty regional fire forces and the force covering much of the West Riding of Yorkshire was the No 5 Fire Force. Tonight we have a period map of the region with the different fire forces labelled:imageNo 5 Fire Force Area is the focus of the map and its borders are clearly marked with a deeper and darker outline than the adjoining forces:imageA small key indicates what the map depicts and includes the badge of the National Fire Service:imageNo 5 Fire Force Area’s Chief Clerk, AB Trundell, writing in late 1941 described the elements that made up the new regional force:

For the purposes of administration the No 5 Fire Force Area is within the No 2 Region under the Chief Regional Fire Officer, who is responsible to the Regional Commissioner. The Fire Force Area covers approximately 900 square miles and extends from Sedbergh in the north to Holmfirth in the south, and from Wharfdale on the east to Bowland at its boundary with Lancashire on the west. There are within the Fire Force Area at present time some 33 local government authorities as follows:-

County Boroughs- 3

Boroughs-3

Urban Districts- 21

Rural Districts-6

The area as a whole has again been divided into Divisions covering 84 stations now established. The total administrative strength is 226.

J Downs, the commander of the area reflected on nationalisation:

In August 1941 the territory now known as No 5 Fire  Force Area consisted of 33 local authorities, each possessing fire brigades and AFS organisations of varying sizes and types. These were spread over some 900 square miles and contained the major portion of the woollen and worsted industry, with a population of approximately one million. A very important part of this country and a vital one from an industrial point of view.

The regulations provided for this to be taken over in so far as fire cover was concerned, “lock, stock and barrel” both operationally and administratively.

Operationally it meant the organisation of large numbers of pumps, special appliances and personnel into a unified Fire Force in divisions, and the establishing of an effective system of control with a definite chain of command. This involved new headquarters and control rooms, a complete new lay out of telephone communications, new stations and improvements to existing ones. It involved the up of schools for both men and women where instruction could be given on a nationally adopted standard and where women could be taught to take over duties previously carried out by firemen and thereby release the latter for active fire-fighting duties. It involved the construction of static water tanks with a total capacity of millions of gallons, the laying of 12 1/2 miles of steel piping and the building up of a predetermined water relay system for the purpose of delivering water to the fire ground and replenishment of supplies.

Inside this Island Fortress, WVS Book Review

Jon Mill’s series on Home Front Insignia was originally planned to run to at least eight volumes, sadly it seems only the first four titles ever made it to publication. Of these I have already reviewed a couple of them and just before Christmas I managed to track down the first book in the series covering the Women’s Voluntary Service. This service was set up just before World War II to provide voluntary support to the ARP services, but as the war progressed found its remit extending into any role the government or local authorities needed it to fulfil. This included running canteens, organising rest centres and co-ordinating salvage drives. There are a number of excellent titles covering the work the WVS set out to do and this book is looking specifically at the insignia and ephemera of the service.skm_c30819011707540As such it is packed with both colour photographs of surviving items and black and white period shots of the badges and uniforms being worn. The WVS did not supply uniform to its members; they had to purchase it for themselves, but a small number of retailers were designated official suppliers and those who could afford uniform had something that matched their colleagues. Printed cloth brassards and badges were far more prevalent and worn with volunteers own civilian clothing. Mill’s covers a great many of these, both official and locally produced variations.skm_c30819011707550As with all Mill’s books the text is succinct, but highly readable and covers many of the items a collector is likely to encounter in detail. Jon Mill’s seems to have cornered the market in these sort of specialist publications on home front insignia, this however is not a bad thing as he is both hugely knowledgeable and a very readable author. This latter point is in some ways as important as the knowledge he is imparting. Many otherwise excellent reference books are let down by the author being unable to communicate his information in a clear way that is pleasurable to read- these books then become a chore to read. Happily with a Mill’s book you know that this will not be the case and even what could be a dry subject such as badge variations remains readable and accessible to the layman.

Unlike some of the other titles in this series, Mill’s covers the WVS in other countries as well. The organisation was copied in Canada and perhaps most significantly in India and he covers this organisation and its insignia in some detail which is a nice addition.skm_c30819011707551Copies of the book are available through the author, please email via the address on the ‘About’ page and I will be happy to put you in contact with him.. If you have an interest in the uniformed women’s services or the home front then this title is highly recommended.