Category Archives: WW2

2″ Mortar Transit Case

Weapons, when not in use need to be carefully stored. As most weapons are awkward shapes a sturdy purpose built wooden box is ideal. It protects the weapon, can hold any accessories, is easy to transport and by its boxy shape is easy to stack up in a warehouse or store. The 2” mortar is no different and thanks to Gary Hancock I have now been able to add the transit case to my little mortar set up. The transit box is a sturdy wooden box, painted in gloss green paint:imageA pair of sturdy rope carry handles are fitted to each end to allow it to be easily moved around:imageA pair of heavy duty metal clasps is fitted to secure the lid, and as the box contains a weapon each of these is fitted with a loop to allow a padlock to be fitted to secure the contents:imageInside the box wooden cut outs are fitted:imageThese, together with the webbing strap, hold the mortar snuggly and prevent it from moving around in transit:imageA pair of wedges on the underside of the lid press down from above:imageThe ends of the box and the edges are lined with felt to help protect the contents and make a tight seal where the lid meets the box:imageNote the chain to prevent the lid from falling too far back. A contents label is pasted to the underside of the lid to indicate what should be carried inside the transit case:imageThere appears to be at least a couple of different patterns of transit cases for the 2” mortar. As well as this design there is an earlier case for the early pattern of 2” mortar which had a different type of base plate and so needed different chocks inside the box to secure it. These boxes also seem to have specific places to put the sight, cleaning kit and spares tin. Mine does not, but they fit around the mortar easily enough and I managed to get them all in with no difficulties.

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British Army Shaving Brush

I last covered the British Army shaving brush right back when the blog began as part of the wash roll covered here. That shaving brush was made of Bakelite and of reasonably high quality. Tonight though we are looking at a much cruder and presumably cheaper shaving brush that was again issued to British troops:imageThis example is made from wood and clearly started off by being having the handle turned on a lathe, the point where the spindle was pressed into the wood still being visible on the base of the brush:imageThe top of the handle was divided into four, with a central area to accept the bristles:imageAfter this was secured, string was tightly wound around the top of the handle to draw the four quarters together and secure the bristles into the handle:imageNote the recess lathed into the handle for the string to sit in. The handle is stamped in ink indicating it was made in London in 1945:imageThe /|\ arrow clearly indicates it was made for the military. This is definitely the budget end of shaving brushes and I suspect many troops would have quickly ditched this brush in favour of a better quality civilian example, not only is the handle crude, but the bristles are coarse and unlikely to make a good lather easily.

One problem which troops in World War Two managed to avoid however was catching facial anthrax from their shaving brushes. In World War 1 it became difficult to acquire enough badger hair to make the brushes, badger hair being the best material as it held water better than other animal hair. Substitute hair, including horse hair was used instead. Unfortunately herbivores such as horses are susceptible to anthrax and some suppliers of this hair did not thoroughly clean and disinfect it before it was made into brushes. This led to an outbreak of subcutaneous anthrax amongst soldiers using the low cost bristles. It was found that brushes with lighter bristles were more likely to give off anthrax. This was because manufacturers were less inclined to disinfect this colour hair as it reduced its resemblance to badger hair. Darker bristles were more likely to be disinfected as they could not be disguised as badger hair and so were less likely to carry anthrax.

25 Pattern Holster

Every so often I come across a piece in my collection that I feel I surely must have covered on the blog before now, but on closer inspection find out that for some reason I have overlooked it. Tonight we have one of those pieces, the 25 pattern holster. We did look at this holster back in the early days of the blog when I compared it with the 37 pattern RAF holster here, however it has never had a post of its own and I feel that as one of the few remaining pieces of 25 pattern I haven’t covered this oversight needed amending. The holster itself is the second type of 25 pattern holster and is made of the standard blue-grey webbing used by the RAF for all its 25 pattern pieces:imageThe earlier design of holster had featured a wooden plug in the end, much like the naval 1919 pattern holsters and was cut very differently to accommodate a Colt .455 automatic. At some point the design changed to one more suitable for revolvers which were the standard sidearm of the British Empire and this is the version I have in my collection. The lid of the holster is a simple flap secured with a brass press stud:imageA metal grommet is fitted into the base to allow any water to drain away:imageThe rear of the holster has a pair of metal C-hooks to attach it to the belt with and a webbing channel to carry a cleaning rod:imageThis exterior channel and the lack of a horizontal C-hook is the easiest way to identify these holsters as being 25 pattern rather than 37 pattern, the patterns being virtually identical otherwise.

The inside of the holster is stamped up with an Air ministry crown, a stores code and a date of 1941:imageThese holsters were issued as part of the 25 pattern web set to RAF personnel who needed to carry sidearms. Up until the middle of the war, any airman or officer transiting from one base to another was supposed to be issued with a revolver (I doubt this was universal practice) and the accompanying webbing set. Even after this order was rescinded, webbing and sidearms were routinely carried by RAF police and men working in enemy territory such as at forward air bases. As such these 25 pattern holsters saw service right through to the 1960s when Browning Hi-Powers became the normal side arm.

Osprey Mk IV Full Collar

This week we have another short post on the Osprey system as we look at the full size collars for the Osprey Mk IV:imageWe have covered most of the details for these collars on the posts on the DDPM version of the collars here and the half collars for the MTP version and filler here. Details then will be familiar with the same Velcro and press stud arrangement for attaching the collar to the vest:imageAlong with a loop on the rear to secure this section:imageA Velcro tab is provided to secure the front of the collar when worn, which can be tucked away on itself when not needed:imageThe inside of the collar has two labels, one for each part:imageIn close up we can see that the collar dates from 2012:imageAgain, I am lacking fillers for this collar, but they do turn up from time to time so I will keep my eyes out for some and it’s another osprey component I can tick off the list.

The National Anthems of the Allies Sheet Music

For a large part of the Second World War Great Britain paid host to the governments in exile of many of the occupied nations of Europe, along with the remnants of their armed forces. Free French, Polish, Czechoslovakian and Norwegian troops were just some of those stationed and training in Great Britain before the invasion of Europe in 1944 when they joined the fight to liberate their home countries. Their British hosts did what they could to make these European guests feel welcome and between training many of these men mixed with locals, attended dances or were invited to other social events. To honour their guests, it was not uncommon to play both the British national anthem and the national anthem of the nation these European troops came from. Whilst most pianists of the 1940s could reasonably be expected to know the music for God Save the King, it was highly unlikely that they would know how to play the anthem for Poland or Czechoslovakia for instance. Sheet music companies were quick to recognise this need and tonight we have an example of a piece of sheet music with the anthems of Britain’s European allies:SKM_C284e18053008220The cover depicts some of the flags of these allies and we can see that the music covers Greece, France, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium with the music of God Save the King included for completeness. This type of publication was not new, similar sheet music had been published in the first World War as can be seen here.

Inside the sheet music are both the tune and the words for each of the anthems, such as this one for Greece:SKM_C284e18053008221Note how the words of the anthem have been translated into English to allow the people of Great Britain to join in the singing of the words- international co-operation and friendship only went so far apparently and it was not felt that the British would be able to sing in another language! Interestingly the playing of the allies national anthems was not limited to Great Britain. In the 1942-1943 season the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra ran a series of weekly concerts paying tribute to a different allied nation. Each concert was started off by the playing of that country’s national anthem and it seems the season of concerts was highly successful.

Naval Action Ration Tin

When sailors were at action stations they were expected to remain at their posts for extended periods of time, snatching sleep when they could but ready to man their positions at a moment’s notice. This was known as being ‘closed up’ and could last for several days, especially if entering contested seas such as the Mediterranean where there was a constant threat of enemy attacks. Keeping men fed and watered in this situation was not easy and simple food such as stews or sandwiches was provided along with cold tea, lime juice or oatmeal water to prevent dehydration. It was found though that men tended to lose their appetite when in these situations and what was needed was concentrated nutrition that did not take much eating but provided energy to men for short periods of time. In spring of 1943 a supplementary ration known as a Naval Action ration was introduced, housed in a small 3 ¼”x1 ¾”x5/8” airtight tin:imageThis tin was made of metal and had ‘NAVAL ACTION RATION’ printed on the lid in grey:imageThe lid was hinged at the rear:imageInside the tin contained six Horlick’s tablets, four barley sugar tablets and a pack of chewing gum. These were very tightly packed into the tin as can be seen here:3b22639197553ee2bcd65422c3a69c6216504d7dEach tin was considered sufficient supplement for a single day, with ships carrying supplies for the whole crew for three full days. This was very much designed to sit alongside conventional rations rather than to replace them and helped keep men’s energy levels up. The tins themselves were made by the Metal box company and in tiny letters on the rear of the tin, above the hinge can be seen one of their factory codes 6MB:imageThe rations were carried on battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, landing craft and any ships escorting convoys for long distances. These tins are easily found today, although normally with their contents long gone.

ARP First Aid Outfit No 4

In the run up to World War Two British companies were quick to take advantage of the growing worry about air raids and produced a wide variety of goods that householders could buy to help protect themselves, their loved ones and their property in the event of bombing. This page from the Daily Mail in early 1939 shows some of the products advertised to the general public as being needed if the bombers came:FetchMany of these products would be of limited use when bombs finally came, but first aid kits were a sensible purchase and although advertised as for ‘ARP’ use, they were also functional for more general accidents round the home. One such first aid kit was the ‘First Aid outfit number 4, which came in a stout cardboard box:imageA large label was pasted to the front with details of the boxes title, manufacturer etc.:imageInside was a variety of first aid supplies:imageAnd the underside of the lid had some basic first aid instructions. These have been tailored slightly for ARP use by including advise on treating gas casualties:imageI am unsure if all the contents of this box are original, or how complete it is, but I suspect it is at least representative of what the outfit originally contained. Amongst other items, the box contains cotton wool, crepe and triangular bandages, a box of Elastoplast brand adhesive plasters, pins, a tin of Vaseline, an eye bath and a thermometer:imageThere is also a small vial of insect repellent which I suspect is not original to the box, but is period so was probably added by the original purchaser.

A wide variety of first aid kits were sold to households in this period, at varying prices and with different contents. Some were far smaller than this set, with just a few bandages and slings, others were far more comprehensive and contained many more items. They were usually sold based on the size of household they were purportedly designed for, but often the retail price was a more pressing factor and a poor family with many children, if they could afford a first aid kit, would have purchased the cheaper sets regardless of the fact that they were marketed as being for a smaller number of people.