Anti Aircraft Fuze Cover

Artillery shell fuzes are fairly delicate, with finely tolerance clockwork parts within them to ensure that they work correctly. These fuzes need protection when being transported and in the Second World War a simple brad cone was provided that slipped over the fuze to prevent it from being knocked. These cones were designed for specific fuzes and marked as such and tonight we are looking at one cover that was originally issued for use with a No207 fuze:imageIt is a simple pressed metal cover, with a thicker lip soldered on around the base to protect a vulnerable area:imageThe cover is stencilled around the bottom half of the cone, this indicates that this was produced in 1942:imageAnd is for a No 207 fuze:imageThis fuze was a clockwork fuze, highly conical in shape, and used with the 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun:783879_-_photo_1_1442403291_bigThe 3.7 Inch AA gun was Britain’s major anti-aircraft gun of the Second World War and remained in service until 1957 and underwent development throughout the war with better fuzes, settings and predictors to enable it to keep up with improvements in German aircraft.800px-The_British_Army_in_the_United_Kingdom_1939-45_H40431Tom Overs was a small boy during the war and remembers:

I was nine when war broke out and growing up in the village of Cranham, near Gloucester.

As a young boy I was fascinated by all things military, and enjoyed the excitement of the arrival of men from an artillery battalion to set up their headquarters at Cranham Corner. Their job was to man the anti-aircraft batteries high on the Cotswold escarpment at Brotheridge and a smaller one close to what is now the Hatton Court Hotel.

The four guns at Brotheridge were 3.7 anti-aircraft guns, these were later supplemented by four Lewis guns which were capable of attacking the ‘lone raiders’ which used to fly low up the valleys. When fire was aimed south over the village it resulted in a hail of shrapnel falling on the common. Following such an attack this shrapnel was collected by the village children and a playground pastime was the swapping of pieces.

The main reason for the location of the batteries was to fire on enemy aircraft going on up to the Midlands, but they also protected the Gloster Aircraft Company factory at Brockworth. There were many barrage balloons surrounding the site, and when attacks were anticipated as added protection smokescreens would also be lit. I remember the thick black smoke from these, which used to stretch out over the factory. Some of these drums, I remember, were also placed ready to be lit at the side of the A46 and the Cross Hands roundabout.

Large Military Marked Padlock

A few weeks ago I picked up a very large military padlock. Seen here in the palm of my hand you can see that this impressive lock is about six inches from top to bottom and being made from steel it is suitably heavy:imageThe padlock itself is zinc coated to prevent rust with a brass plate around the key hole:imageA sliding brass cover is loosely fitted which is designed to slip down under gravity to seal the keyhole from debris:imageThe front face of the padlock has a /|\ mark and a date of 1962:imageAs with many other padlocks, this example was produced by the Walsall Locks and Cart Gear Ltd. The padlock is also marked with the last two parts of the NSN stores code:imageI suspect that this padlock would have been used on a storage bunker, magazine or main gate on a military facility and whilst it is visually very impressive, I am informed that it is by no means the largest padlock used by the British military- I will look out for a larger one with interest!

WW2 British Army Underpants

The most common underwear worn by British soldiers during the Second World War were simple off-white woollen drawers. These were warm and relatively comfortable and came in both short and long length versions. We looked at an example of the Australian made long legged version on the blog here. Tonight we have another example, this time made in the UK and with shorter length:imageThese drawers are simple in construction and like most wartime underwear they do not have an elasticated waist. Instead loops are sewn into the waistband the trousers’ braces slip through these loops before they are buttoned to the inside waist of the battledress:imageThe fly is secured with three plastic buttons:imageThe bottom of each leg has a reduction woven cuff that helps draw it in to the leg:imageThe size, manufacturer and date are stamped in the inside in black ink:imageJB Lewis were a specialist hosiery manufacturer that seems to have been in business for the 1890s until the 1970s. Their main factory was in Nottingham and an article in 1898 described the factory:

The Nottingham warehouse, recently enlarged by taking in the adjoining premises, lately occupied by Messrs. Coombs and Co., Limited, has a total frontage of about 120 feet to Stanford Street and consists of a block of building of six floors, of which the following is the disposition:—On the basement are the rooms for packing and dispatching goods, and the boiler and engine houses for the heating apparatus, by which the whole of the establishment is warmed, and machinery driven. The ground floor is occupied by the receiving rooms for goods brought from the factory, and large stock rooms in which may be inspected in convenient form samples of the firm’s manufactures, to which we shall take occasion to make further reference at a later stage of our notice. The counting-house and general and private offices are situated on the first floor, and above these are additional store rooms and warehouse accommodation for stocks held in reserve.

As the outcome of the rapidly-increasing development of their trade, Messrs. J. B. Lewis and Sons, Ltd., were compelled to find a more commodious site for their manufacturing operations, and thirteen years ago removed their extensive works to Ilkeston, which were erected from special designs to meet the requirements of the business, and were again extended in 1890. By the courtesy of the management, our representative was permitted an opportunity of inspecting this fine establishment, and we are thus enabled to present a description of the more prominent features of organisation and equipment of a thoroughly modern and up-to-date hosiery factory. Passing through the entrance gates from the road, we find a block of two-storey building containing the offices, over which are the press shops and embroidery room, and within a short distance arrive at the main structure, a handsome block of four storeys, with a frontage of upwards of 100 feet, and 43 feet wide, and a side wing 92 feet by 43 feet. The basement of the building is used as yarn cellars, extending the greater portion of the length of the premises, in which are stored raw materials in the various qualities required in the manufacture of hosiery, and adjoining is another cellar where waste is kept, and also two spacious and well-arranged mess rooms, furnished with seats, tables, and every convenience for the hands, next to which is a room equipped with all necessary utensils, heated by steam, for preparing meals, etc. On this level also is the engine-room, containing a fine engine of 70 h.p., and boiler-house in which steam is generated for heating as well as motive force and manufacturing purposes. A lift communicating from the basement to the top of the building conveys us first to the ground floor, where we are introduced to the webbing room, furnished with circular machines; and next to a large apartment 100 feet by 43 feet width, well lighted and lofty, in which is installed a complete plant of Cotton’s patent hosiery machines for pants, vests, hose and half hose. The winding-room, 93 feet by 43 feet, is fitted with a large number of engines for winding yarn on the most improved principles, the machinery in this department being capable of winding 12,000 lbs. of yarn per week. On another floor is a room 93 feet by 43 feet, devoted to the manufacture of seamless hose and half-hose by automatic machines; the patent and rib machine room, and a room in which is placed a plant of Paget’s patent principle, for the production of underwear. The next apartment is arranged with long tables, at which the cutting and stitching of men’s underwear is conducted; and in order following are the circular, web, and rolling machines, with finishing rooms for Cotton’s patent goods, which, in common with all other departments, are provided with counters for giving out and receiving the work, where it is carefully examined and checked by experienced overlookers to detect any fault, ten of these officials being engaged in various parts 

Anti-Gas Ointment Jar

Whilst soldiers were issued anti-gas in small tubes that were carried in metal tins stored in their respirator haversacks, this method of supply was not suitable for the civilian population and so from 1939 onwards anti gas ointment, used to treat the skin when exposed to blister gases, was supplied in earthenware seven pint jars. This allowed it to be shared out in the aftermath of an attack as part of the civil defence procedures. These jars continued to be produced and issued in the immediate post war period and tonight’s example dates from 1956. It is a 10″ high white glazed jar, with a sealed lid and carry handle:imageThe earlier examples were half brown and half white, but by the post war period were completely white. The front of the jar has ‘Ointment Anti-Gas’ stamped on under the glazing:imageThe lid has a rubber seal, now perished, and is secured with a twisting metal clip, unfortunately rather rusted on this example:imageThe carry handle is a simple ‘U’ shaped piece of flat steel, secured to the neck of the jar with wire:imageThis jar was made by Doulton and Company of Lambeth in London in November 1956:imageA number of different types of anti gas ointment were produced during the war, and the official history of gas warfare explains their development:

The first ointment introduced was Ointment, Anti-Gas, No 1. It was effective against liquid mustard gas only; it was an irritant after repeated applications, and corrosive to metal portions of weapons if left on for too long. Being irritant it could not be used prophylactically to protect the skin against gas vapour. It was issued in a two-ounce lever tin. In 1939 it became obsolescent and was superseded by Ointment, Anti-gas, No 2. This was an ointment in a vanishing cream base which was effective against both mustard gas and lewisite. It was far less irritant than No 1, but not by any means non-irritant. It was possible to. Use it prophylactically against vapour, but it was an irritant to those parts of the body where the skin is more delicate…

A series of ointments- No 3, 3A, 5 and 6- were introduced successively. These ointments contained antiverm, the chemical used for anti-gas impregnation of clothing. Nos. 3 and 3A (the tropical form of No3) were incorporated in a fatty base; and Nos. 5 and 6 were of the vanishing cream type. They were all superior to No. 2 in that they were non-irritant and less corrosive.

War Damage Repair Leaflet

It is hard to under emphasise how many different aspects of civilian life were influenced by government legislation during the Second World War. What you could buy was limited by rationing, what you could sell items for was limited by price controls, even where you were allowed to live was subject to government control. In 1941 new regulations came into place to control civilian building. Supplies for repairs and new building were under pressure to meet both military requirements and repair bomb damage and labour was short. Large numbers of workers from neutral Ireland helped mitigate the labour shortage to some degree, but prices were rising and some builders were taking advantage to make large profits by charging extortionate prices for work.

The government recognised that controls needed to be brought in, and companies directed to ‘triage’ the construction needs. It was better to repair twenty lightly damaged buildings to get them back into use, than repair one badly damaged building that took up more time and materials to fix. In early 1942 Defence Regulation 56A came into effect and this leaflet was sent to builders to explain the new rules:SKM_C30819021912050 - CopyRuth Dunstan worked for an architect’s firm during the war:

My own real war work was to come at the end of 1940 when I joined Mr C Russell Corfield FRIBA, a very distinguished local architect, many of whose local houses have been listed for their fine quality. My own qualifications were only secretarial but with the young men of the practice away on war service the work devolved on Mr Corfield and me. I had to learn the elements of traditional building in a hurry for the firm was empanelled to serve with the Borough Surveyors of Falmouth and Penryn, Mr Harry Tresidder and Mr Harris respectively.

As stated, there had been a good deal of war damage (and sadly some fatalities) in Falmouth and Penryn from enemy aircraft.

National legislation required all property owners to take out war damage insurance for all necessary war damaged repairs of a permanent nature. However, First Aid repairs were dealt with wholesale as promptly as possible, after careful recording. Because of the pressure, and because I had then absorbed some working knowledge, I too was required to produce straightforward specifications on my own initiative. It kept us busy.

Local air raids damaged Falmouth’s Wesley Church, Lister Street and the Boscawen Hotel (by then the headquarters of the local Women’s Royal Navy). In fact Lister Street included several complete houses, including one which only came on the market as a clear site in 2002 which the estate agency sold for the owners in that year. 

Penryn, with its fine period houses, suffered badly. We found many interesting items at risk. I remember a circular head carved door from the 17th century and a vertical passage, which could have been a remnant of either Reformation or smuggling days both in Bohill; the use of canvas or “poldavy” (a type of sailcloth — a former Falmouth Packet Captain had a poldavy mill at Tremoughdale) used to line buildings instead of plaster and early house deeds from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Mr Corfield refused to condemn badly damaged properties, as someone less sensitive might have done, with the result that Penryn’s essential character was preserved for later effective restoration. It is a pity that progressive modern development has taken place here and there since then.

The actual First Aid Repairs were carried out under our direction by teams of those builders and others in the trade who were still available, being over age for war service. These were signed on from a wider area, notably Staverton Builders of Devon (founded by the Elmhirsts of Dartington; in Falmouth Messrs Eva & Bone, E H Moss, E Thomas, Angove & Son, Curtis & Son (Penryn) and Morris (plumbers). 

Obviously this insurance and repair arrangement applied all over the United Kingdom.

L4 Magazines

As has been discussed in the blog before, the L4 light machine gun was an updated version of the Bren gun for the NATO 7.62mm round. The shape of this round was quite different from the older .303 as it was a rimless rather than a rimmed round. This required a brand new magazine and the familiar banana shaped Bren magazine, where the rims necessitated a sharply curved shape, was replaced with a much straighter design for the new cartridge:imageEach magazine holds thirty rounds of 7.62 and is made of pressed steel. One important feature of the magazines insisted upon from the earliest development of the L4 was that they were to be interchangeable with those of the SLR. Side by side the L4 magazine is clearly larger:imageBut the attachment points and feed lip geometry remain the same between the two designs with identical feed lips and follower design:imagePrimarily this was designed to allow troops to put SLR mags in the LMG, but this worked equally well in reverse and an L4 magazine will fit in an SLR:imageUnfortunately as the L4 is designed to feed downwards, assisted by gravity, the spring inside it struggles to feed rounds upwards and into an SLR although it was not unknown for troops to modify the springs by stretching them to better work with the SLR. The magazine when sited on the L4 sits vertically above the main receiver:imageThe L4 magazine has a locking tab on the front:imageAnd a corresponding hook for the magazine catch on the rear:imageThe base of the magazine has a button that can be depressed with a cartridge tip to allow it to be disassembled for cleaning:imageAt least two variations of the L4 magazine can be found. Early examples are seamlessly welded, whilst later production examples have a faint seam down the rear where the two stampings have been welded together:imageThe magazines are each marked on their bodies with their designation, date of manufacture and the combined ‘E’ and ‘D’ logo of Enfield:imageThe L4 magazine lacks the iconic status of its forebear, however it is a hard to find magazine now and commands high prices on the collector’s market. Filling a full 12 magazine box with L4 magazines therefore presents a much harder challenge than it does for the earlier Bren box.

Farewell to Lord Birdwood, India, 1930 Postcard

In 1930 Sir William Birdwood stepped down as commander of the Indian Army. As part of his farewell he visited a number of garrisons in India to review his troops before returning to Great Britain. Tonight’s postcard depicts part of this tour, with the Royal Scots Fusiliers parading at Dagshai on 8th October 1930:SKM_C30819032614410Dagshai might be familiar to readers as we looked at another couple of postcards from this base on the blog last year. Here the Royal Scots Fusiliers are lined up on the parade ground, wearing cut away khaki drill tunics over woollen trews. Each wears a Wolseley helmet on his head:SKM_C30819032614410 - CopyOne can’t imagine it was very comfortable wearing woollen trousers in the heat of the Indian sun!

Two officer watch on in the foreground:SKM_C30819032614410 - Copy (2)Whilst a small crowd of the civilian population of the garrison watch on from above the parade ground:SKM_C30819032614410 - Copy (3)It is hard to tell, but some at least appear to be natives and might be part of the regiment’s entourage of hangers on.

One small detail I particularly like is the heavy roller for flattening the parade ground, which is parked up on the edge of the field:SKM_C30819032614410 - Copy (4)The markings on the parade ground itself suggest that it also doubled up as a sports field for the men of the garrison.

On his return to England a dinner was held in honour of Field Marshall Sir William Birdwood and as part of the after dinner speeches he reflected in the soldiery serving in the subcontinent. The Times reported that he had said that:

The British soldier serving in India was today just the loyal, fine and magnificent fellow he had always been. During his 45 years’ service there had been an enormous number of changes in administration and organisation; but he thanked God that there was one factor that had not changed, and that was the British soldier (cheers), and he hoped he would never change. It seemed to him essential to maintain the existing strength of the British force in India. The Indian soldier was a magnificent, true, brave and loyal fellow. If, as was sometimes said, the Indian soldiers were children, he would say that the British officer should (and often did) treat them as his own children, and not as somebody else’s. The sepoy was as devoted as ever to his British officer.