Toggle Rope

I must make a confession about tonight’s object. I was sold this toggle rope as an original, but I am not convinced- several others have looked at it and opinions are divided. Regardless of whether this is a modern copy or not, the toggle rope is an interesting object and worthy of further discussion.

Toggle ropes are pieces of rope, issued one per soldier, about six feet long:imageA loop is provided on one end:imageAnd a wooden toggle on the other:imageThis allows the ropes to be joined together by linking the toggle of one rope through the loop of the next:imageExtremely long ropes can then be quickly put together by combining each man’s ropes:imageThis simple tool could be invaluable and why it came to river crossings ropes were linked  together and a strong swimmer took the end across to the far shore. Here it was secured and those who were weaker swimmers, or indeed non swimmers, could drag themselves across the river. Quite complex structures such as rope bridges could be assembled from these ropes: imageDenis Roby trained as a Commando and recalls using toggle ropes in training:

The ‘death slide’ was a rope again, but this time sloping down at an alarming angle. A toggle rope, which was about 4 foot in length, a wooden handle one end and a loop at the other, it was used as a climbing aid among other good uses. Joined with others it could be used for scaling cliffs, but on this occasion we passed it over the single rope, one hand passed through the loop and the other on the handle then slid down the rope at an alarming speed, stopping by bracing your feet against the tree at the end, or fall in the river.

The toggle rope was also used to build a bridge over the river, very difficult to use because it swung to and fro with a mind of its own. This caused a lot of laughter, but two chaps slipped and fell through the ropes into the river and were swept away and later found quite some distance away. After that a grapple net was suspended as a safety measure.

Ropes were carried in a number of ways- they could be wrapped around the waist or the shoulders:imageAlternatively they could be coiled up and tucked into a piece of webbing:imageMy apologies for the atrocious rope coiling here (you wouldn’t think I was a sailor by how bad I am with rope!).


Soiled Laundry Bag

In the modern British military, it is quite common for men and women to have to launder their own uniforms and clothing on a regular basis and large capacity washing machines are provided on each floor of a modern barrack block for that purpose. These are large industrial washing machines with a far greater capacity than a standard domestic machine and it is typical for several troop’s washing to be done at the same time, in the same machine. Obviously this creates certain problems as everyone is wearing essentially identical clothing and the only differentiation is the name written on the label. To sort through three people’s washing would be a time consuming and tedious task. To solve this problem, soiled laundry bags are issued. The dirty clothes are placed into a net bag:imageThis is then secured with the drawstring at the neck:imageThe whole bag is then thrown in the washing machine and it is then far easier for a soldier to pick out his or her set of clothing at the end of a wash. These net bags have been issued for a number of years, and a simple white label is sewn into the neck:imageThis is about as simple an object as you get, and these bags don’t cost the MoD very much at all so chances are if you served in the military in the last couple of decades you have one or two knocking around still. Having used them myself, they are pretty effective as long as they are not stuffed too full, as the washing inside still needs to be able to move around in the bag to be able to be cleaned properly.


Type L Field Telephone

In the past we have looked at an example of the heavy Bakelite field telephone, the ‘F’ type here. This was not the only field telephone in service with the British Army during World War two though, and tonight we are looking at another model that saw widespread use, the ‘L’:imageThis telephone is smaller and (marginally) lighter than the ‘F’ and whilst the Bakelite ‘F’ was ideally suited for use in field headquarters and offices, the ‘L’ was more portable and could be used in the field. The whole telephone is housed in a sturdy metal box:imageThe top lid is hinged and secured with a sprung metal hook:imageNote the metal plate fixed above the latch that indicates the telephone type. On each end are fixed metal loops to attach a shoulder strap to:imageThe winding handle is fixed on this end and is hinged. In the photograph above it is in the travel position, but it could be folded down when needed:imageRapidly turning this handle sent a charge down the line which rang the internal bell in the corresponding telephone letting that operator know he had a call. Slotted louvres are fitted into the box of the telephone to allow the sound of the bell to escape:imageLarge screw terminals are used to attach the telephone wire to, the wire is merely wrapped around the terminal and the top piece screwed down to make a secure electrical connection:imageThis telephone wire was issued on large drums and signallers ran these lines form one telephone to another:5e19b660c6f1c0c6ff228299e44c0e68--italian-campaign-winston-churchillA large and heavy Bakelite handset is used, typical of telephones of the era:imageThe operator pressed down the central bar in order to speak. This connects to the main telephone unit with a very chunky four pin plug:imageA metal plunger marked ‘CB’ for ‘central battery’ is fitted to the central section, just in front of the battery box:imageThis allows the power source of the telephone to be switched across to an external source such as a switchboard rather than the small internal cell batteries. The telephone used two large 1.5v batteries, housed in the centre under a metal lid. A printed plate on the underside of the lid reminds the operator how to wire them up:imageA second diagram is fitted as a transfer to the underside of the main telephone lid:imageThis gives a full wiring diagram for the telephone and would allow an experienced signalman to trace and fix any faults with the handset.

This telephone is in reasonable condition and at some point I need to get some batteries and wire and try linking up my ‘L’ and ‘F’ sets and see if they actually work!

Arctic Mittens Mk III

With the temperature dropping in the UK, now seems a good time to take a look at another piece of British Army extreme cold weather gear. The extremities of the body are the most vulnerable to extremely cold temperatures and it is essential the fingers are suitably protected. Mittens are one of the best ways of keeping warm as each finger helps to heat the others next to it, gloves insulate one finger from the other and it is much harder to keep them all warm this way. Unfortunate mittens are very clumsy and manual dexterity is virtually non-existent with them; not very helpful to the soldier who needs to fire a weapon. To solve this dilemma the British Army issued the Arctic Mitten MK III:imageThis is made in DPM fabric and has a heavy duty padded hand and thumb section:imageThey are fitted with an artificial fur liner:imageElastic at the wrist helps keep the heat in:imageSmall ‘bumps’ to aid grip are fitted to the palms to help the wearer hold the pistol grip of his rifle:imageWhere these mitten are special though is that they have a separate opening for the trigger finger:imageThis part of the mitten is not padded with fur at all and leaves the finger free to pull the trigger of a rifle easily. Most of the time all the fingers can be kept inside the mitten for warmth, but when the need arises it is the work of seconds to move the index finger into this special finger section to fire the weapon.

As ever a label is sewn inside the mittens with stores details:imageThis label is quite far into the body of the mitten, so it was not easy to get a photograph for you! This mark of glove has now been superseded by a more advanced design, but they are certainly warm and I can imagine they would be very much appreciated in extremely low temperatures. The gloves themselves are not actually waterproof, cold water would rapidly remove their effectiveness so they would be worn with the waterproof outer we looked at here.

British Army Angle-Headed Torch Filter Box

Tonight we have an interesting little accessory for the angle headed torch we looked at here. This torch was very good, but for a combat torch was a little basic- most other models have green, white and red filters for map reading etc. in the dark. The angle headed torch could be used with filters, that fitted over the main lens of the torch. The problem was there was nowhere to store them. To solve this problem the army issued an alternative base plug that could be screwed on instead of the usual base:imageThis filter carrier is wider and longer than the normal base plug and alters the look of the end of the torch quite dramatically, here is the regular end:imageAnd here is the torch with the filter box attached:imageThe case has a little compartment that unscrews and holds a red, white and a green plastic filter:imageThe filter container has the filter container’s details and an NSN number of the base, along with the manufacturer’s logo:imageThe utility of these filters is questionable, as explained by one ex-squaddy:

Some consider red light to be dimmer, but it is actually more visible from further away. The only advantage of red light is that it does not make as much of a pigs ear of your night vision. BUT you can’t map read with it

As indicated, the coloured filters prevent you from seeing certain colours:

Red light, no map contours.

Green light, no wood features.

Blue light, no water features.

This could sometimes be quite perilous:

When I was a young cadet on Dartmoor, I had a muppet of a navigator. He almost lead a section into a ravine because he was reading under red light.

Royal Artillery Territorial Army Officer in Camp Postcard

This week’s postcard is a delightful image from before the First world war depicting an officer with a party of ladies at a summer camp:SKM_C284e17110814270The officer is wearing the 1902 pattern Officer’s Service Dress with a high rise and fall collar, with the flaming bomb collar dogs of the Royal Artillery:SKM_C284e17110814270 - Copy (2)The cap badge is again that of the Royal Artillery and he has the pips on his cuffs for a lieutenant.

Behind him can be seen a number of white canvas bell-tents:SKM_C284e17110814270 - Copy (4)The officer is surrounded by a large number of ladies and young girls, presumably his mother, sisters and aunts. They are wearing typical dresses for the Edwardian era and are clearly fairly wealthy by the high quality and fashionable nature of their clothing:SKM_C284e17110814270 - Copy (5)It was quite common for pre-World War One summer camps to have an open afternoon when the friends and families of the soldiers and officers would visit and be shown what the men were doing. This tradition continued after the war, as reported by the Daily Mail in 1928:

Friends Day in Camp

It was “Friends Day” at the big Territorial Army training camps yesterday, and in most cases fine weather succeeded Saturday’s downpour.

Thousands of wives and mothers inspected with interest the cooking arrangements made for their menfolk, while sons and brothers watched the sports and examined the weapons of the various arms of the Service.

It is interesting that the paper assumes the women were only interested in the cooking facilities and the men in the sports and weapons!

Falklands War Commemorative Teaspoons

The great age of souvenirs based around a conflict was during the Great War, and we have covered many of these on the blog over the years. The fashion was in decline by the Second World War, and although examples can be found they are far less common than the earlier pieces. Fast forward to modern times and there is far more sensitivity about glorifying war so relatively little is produced in terms of souvenirs for post-1945 conflicts.

There are of course exceptions to this rule, and tonight we are looking at a pair of commemorative teaspoons celebrating the British victory in the Falklands War:imageThe main body of each spoon is inscribed “Falklands Victory, 14th June 1982”:imageAt the top of each spoon is a miniature representation of a piece of British military hardware, here it is HMS Invincible:imageWhilst the second has a Wessex helicopter, with folded wings:imageThese spoons were produced by WAPW, the Welsh Association of Pewter Workers, and are part of a six-spoon set that was offered in a special display box. The other four spoons depicted HMS Hermes, a Type 42 destroyer, a Harrier and a Royal Marine Commando.

I can find very little information on these spoons, but I suspect they date to shortly after the end of the conflict and were probably sold through mail order. They are a nice little pair and actually not too tacky for this sort of thing!