Leather Document Wallet

Tonight’s object is another of those rather oddball items I am struggling to identify correctly. This leather document wallet certainly looks right to be British and military but I can find no information whatsoever about it or its origins:imageIt is made of a soft brown leather, with two metal Newey studs to hold down the lid:imageEach stud is marked as being British made, suggesting that the wallet was manufactured in the UK. Opening the studs reveals a large, flat central pouch:imageThe wallet is stencilled with “Instruction Sheets and Diagrams” on the front:imageMy best guess is that this wallet was for carrying important paperwork in a vehicle or with an artillery piece, but I will be honest I have drawn a complete blank with the research. It definitely ‘feels’ British and military and I would guess it dates to the Second World War. If you do recognise it, please get in touch.


.303 Blank Ammunition Packaging

Like most other armies, Britain has long used black ammunition in training to provide realistic battle noise without risk of live rounds. In 1955 the British introduced a new blank round for the .303 rifle and machine guns still in service. This new round was externally identical to previous ammunition but now used nitrocellulose rather than cordite as a propellant. This excellent British Small Arms Ammunition site explains:

It is something of a mystery why the L Mark 9z blank was approved, since it is in all intents and purposes simply the nitrocellulose version of the Blank L Mark 5, the L Mark 5z which had been approved in 1928.

“Cartridge S.A. Blank .303 inch L Mark 9z” was approved to design DD/L/14006 in March 1955 and shown in LoC Paragraph C.7827 dated January 1957.

The case was Berdan primed and had the neck closed with a rosette crimp. cases were newly made and usually included the code “L9Z” but considerable numbers were issued with no headstamp.

The charge was 14 grains of ballistite or nitrocellulose covered with a single wad.

Tonight however we are not looking at the blank itself, but the box it was issued in:imageBlanks came packaged in brown cardboard boxes which held twenty rounds- enough for four chargers. Twenty rounds also meant that two boxes would fill three Bren magazines. A green paper label is pasted around the outside detailing the contents and a date has been stamped on indicating that the original contents were packaged by Radway Green on 17th October 1956:imageThe information is repeated on the ends of the box as well so that even if stood up in an ammunition box it is still easy to identify exactly what sort of ammunition the cardboard packet contains:imageThese boxes were essentially disposable and most were simply thrown away. This means these humble cardboard boxes have become increasingly collectible. Post war examples such as this are still fairly overlooked but wartime boxes are becoming scarcer and commanding good money for what essentially is just a piece of discarded packaging!

Short Cold Weather Mittens

A long time ago on the blog I looked at a pair of cold weather mittens here. That pair were quite long, with the body of the glove coming half way up the forearm. Tonight we have a second pair of snow gloves, but these are much shorter, just covering the hand itself:imageThese gloves are made form a closely woven but lightweight cotton, as such they would afford no warmth to the wearer. They would have been worn over a pair of woollen gloves or mittens, the woollen layer offering warmth and the cotton outer glove providing camouflage and some degree of waterproofing. The layer of air trapped between the inner and outer glove would also add to the insulation and help keep the wearer’s hands warm.

The wrists of the gloves are secured with a piece of elastic:imageEach glove is /|\ marked and dated 1942:imageThey are marked as having been manufactured by J B & Co Ltd- unfortunately I have been unable to link this with a specific manufacturer.

I am not sure how widespread the use of these mittens actually was- photographs of troops wearing cold weather kit are unusual in the first place and all those I have seen just show men wearing just the woollen gloves and mittens, without the white outer mitten. Certainly this pair are in mint condition and don’t seem to have ever been issued.

Sergeants’ Mess Invitation

Sergeants and warrant officers in the British Army have their own mess, with its own strict rules about who can and can’t be invited to mess functions. Tonight we have a simple card invitation issued by the sergeants’ mess of the 9th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment:SKM_C45817100908140This card is printed on yellow card and has never been written out. The only 9th Battalion of the Regiment I can find served in the First World War so I believe this would date from that era.

The following rules on guests in a Sergeants’ mess come from the King’s Regiment but would be representative of most regiments:


  1. Members may invite qualified male guests to the Mess. They are entirely responsible for the conduct of their guests. Guests are not to be brought into the mess after 22:00
  2. On no account is any male person in the armed forces below the rank of Sergeant or equivalent to be introduced into the Mess as a guest.
  3. No civilian guests are to be permitted to enter the Mess without the consent of the Regimental Sergeant Major, or in his absence the Mess President
  4. The Regimental Sergeant Major and President only are permitted to authorise Mess Guests drinks.        


57. Ladies are at no time to be permitted to enter the bar or living accommodation but may be invited into the Mess at the following times: 

(a) Daily from 1830 hrs until the Mess closes.

(b) Sunday’s from 1200 hrs until 1400 hrs.

(c) On special occasions.


  1. Children are only permitted in the Mess on Sunday’s between the hours of 1200 hrs and 1400 hrs. They are not permitted in the bar, dining room and living accommodation.

All messes hold a variety of social occasions throughout the year, hosting the officers or the corporals at differing mess dinners. For these a formal invitation would be sent, the mess using its stock of invitations, such as this one, to make that request.

DPM Ripstop Field Jacket

Way back in April we looked at a rip stop field jacket in desert DPM fabric here. Tonight we follow it up with a look at the same jacket in the temperate DPM fabric:imageMy thanks go to Michael Fletcher for helping me add this one to the collection. In design this jacket is virtually identical to the DDPM version, with two sloping breast pockets:imageAnd two large pockets below the waist:imageThe ubiquitous central rank slide is sewn between two small zipped pockets on the chest:imageVelcro is sewn to each cuff to allow them to be drawn shut:imageInside the jacket is a drawstring that allows some waist adjustment:imageNote the small label of a soldier and the company name ‘DCTA’. This is the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency, this groups was founded in 1994 and was responsible for the procurement of the CS95 sets of clothing, placing contracts with manufacturers such as Remploy.The following parliamentary question and answer shows the scale of military clothing procurement at this time:

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the gross value of textile and knitwear contracts placed with Remploy was in (a) 1993-94 and (b) 1997-98. [36820]

Mr. Spellar: The bulk of the MOD contracts placed with Remploy for procurement of textile and knitted products are carried out through the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency and I have therefore asked the Chief Executive to write to the hon. Member. In addition there may be some local purchase of items from Remploy for which we do not hold records centrally and which could be identified only at disproportionate cost.

Letter from Mr. J. Deas to Mr. Andrew George, dated 24 April 1998:

In the unavoidable absence of my Chief Executive I am replying to your Question to the Secretary of State for Defence about the gross value of textile and knitwear contracts placed with Remploy in 1993-94 and 1997-98, as this matter falls within the area of responsibility of the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency (DCTA).

Our records show contracts to the value of £18.8M in 1993-94 and £3.0M in 1997-98, VAT inclusive, placed with Remploy by the DCTA. These figures include all items procured by the DCTA, as the tri-Service Agency responsible for the majority of the clothing and textile items purchased by the MOD. However, we are not responsible for certain clothing and textile items, such as Aircrew clothing, for which we are informed that contracts were placed with Remploy to a value of £51,865 in 1993-94 and £439,105 in 1997-98.

There is also a standard British Army clothing label sewn into the jacket:image As mentioned in the last post, these jackets were actually quite popular as they were comfortable, fairly robust and because they were made of cotton the wearer did not run the risk of the fabric melting in a fire.

Civil Defence Armband

In 1941 the various aspects of Britain’s air raid precautions, rescue and civil support services dealing with the aftermath of air raids were brought together into a single entity known as ‘Civil Defence’. This umbrella organisation introduced new unified insignia including a simple arm band that could be worn over civilian clothes by those without an official uniform:imageThis arm band is made of blue cotton with the organisation’s logo printed in yellow:imageAmong those who were issued the arm bands were messenger boys such as Roy Jamieson:

In those days we had no equipment other than our Civil Defence armbands. There were two steel helmets at the Report Centre which we had to share. A messenger was not allowed to go out unless he was wearing a “tin hat”; consequently if a message had to be taken out the Messenger had to wait until another Messenger came in before he could go out to deliver the message.

In this view of the King and Queen talking to Civil Defence personnel, you can see one of these armbands being worn by the warden immediately behind the queen:SKM_C45817100408340

Military Hospital Postcard

During World War One there was a great need for more hospital beds to treat wounded soldiers, many schools and public buildings were requisitioned and turned into hospitals. Tonight’s postcard is of one of those buildings, the Langworthy Road Military Hospital in Salford, Manchester:SKM_C45817092908111The school was one of five in the area that were offered up for conversion into hospitals. At the time it had about 1100 pupils of all ages and these were moved to Sunday Schools in the area, having half days of teaching throughout the week to free up the building. Looking at our postcard we can see that a large sign has been added over one entrance listing it as a military hospital:SKM_C45817092908111 - CopyWhilst a flag pole in the grounds flies both the Union Flag and the Red Cross Flag indicating it is a hospital:SKM_C45817092908111 - Copy (2)The hospital had 154 beds for other ranks patients. One interesting story with a link to the Langworthy Road Military Hospital was related in the Salfordonline newsite as part of their 100th anniversary coverage of World War One:

It was January 1916 when Mr Thomas Howard, or Jackson as he often called himself, appeared at Salford Magistrates Court charged with larcency and acting under ‘false pretences’.

Howard was serving as a private in the 3rd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers when he took it upon himself to use his acting skills and conmanship to prey on the vulnerable in his home town.

In the first case against him, the court heard from Richard Bowker, a tramguard by Salford Corporation. Howard approached the tram with his arm in a sling and his head tightly bandaged in white cotton: he was limping and telling anyone within earshot that he was a wounded soldier home on leave.

He asked the tramguard the best way to get to Bolton, it being late at night.

Mr Bowker, a sensitive chap by all accounts, took pity on the poor unfortunate and allowed Jackson to stay the night at his home, where he was fed and allowed to sleep on a couch downstairs.

The following morning Mr Bowker’s wife went downstairs to wake the war hero and Jackson was missing along with a shirt which had been hanging up in the kitchen.

The court then heard testimony from an unnamed barmaid from the Priory Hotel on West High Street in Pendleton.

She told how Howard had limped into the pub swathed in bandages, telling her that he was being treated at the nearby military hospital on Langworthy Road.

Her sympathy was aroused by the soldier telling her of his “great pain” in recovering from injuries suffered in France at the Battle of Loos.

She dutifully supplied him with free food and drinks in the pub, as they might for any other local lad who had laid down his life for his country. Howard then took from her a loan of four shillings – no doubt to treat his dear old mum – but was never seen again.

The final case against this shirker was the most serious of the lot.

A widow named Maude Perrill who lived at Gibson Street, Pendleton, fell for Howard’s somewhat dubious charms when he appeared to faint when passing her house, again swathed in bandages and crying out in ‘pain’.

Maude’s own teenage son had been killed at the Battle of Loos – the same that Howard pretended to have been injured in.

She let him into the house and gave him a tot or two of brandy which appeared to revive him.

Incredibly enough, Ms Perrill allowed the ‘wounded hero’ to stay at her house for nine weeks! He would leave her home every morning to allegedly have his bandages changed at the military hospital.

One morning, presumably when Howard had had his fill, she noticed that her son’s watch and gold chain were missing from the nightstand.

She called in the local police, including Detective Inspector Clarke, who would later support her in court.

His team found that Howard wasn’t receiving treatment at the military hospital on Langworthy Road – nor at the temporary hospital at Worsley Hall, as he had claimed.

Further enquiries revealed that he had also visited several shops in Pendleton ‘collecting’ bandages for the apparently short-stocked hospitals overrun with casualties.

It was never discovered whether he was using all of these donated gifts to dress his ‘injuries’ daily, or whether he simply sold them on the street – his record could indicate either, as it turned out.

Howard was eventually arrested in Salford wearing a dummy sling for his arm and soiled bandages.

At the time it was revealed that he was a deserter from his regiment and had a shocking miltary record for theft, among other petty and more serious crimes.

The army asked the court to deal with him on the larcency charges and they would deal with him for desertion.

The Magistrate ordered Howard to be remanded in custody for a week and agreed with the army’s wishes.

Sadly, there appears to be no record of what punishment this rascal received, but you can guarantee that he would receive a warm reception when he arrived back at the barracks of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers!