We have looked at various examples of the CS95 DPM shirt on the blog over the last couple of years and I must confess I am only picking up new examples for my collection if they have interesting patches and markings on them. Tonight we have a nicely badged example that saw service with a member of the Air Cadets:The ‘Air Cadets’ is an umbrella term for young people who are members of either Combined Cadet Forces (RAF) which are run in over 200 schools across the UK and those who are members of Air Training Corps groups which are small local detachments of cadets dotted across the country. Both organisations are volunteer services that give teenagers the chance to learn more about the RAF, volunteer and take part in various aviation related activities. The Air Cadets are of course closely aligned with the RAF and wear very similar uniforms- indeed much of their equipment and uniform is either military surplus or produced under the same contracts but in smaller sizes to the regular uniform. This shirt for instance has the same NATO sizing and details as any shirt issued to the military, it is often just the smaller sizes that are indicative of cadet use:Above the breast pocket of the shirt is a large ‘Air Cadets’ patch sewn on to clearly identify the organisation:A large and detailed tactical recognition flash is sewn onto one shoulder:The Air Cadets are given the following guidance on wearing the DPM uniform as combat clothing:The DPM uniform is now being superseded by more modern MTP uniforms within the cadet force- permission being given to wear them in 2014. This guidance on insignia placement from the Cadet’s website therefore applies to the newer uniform, but is indicative of what has been sewn onto the CS95 shirt above:
A few weeks back I looked at a Second World War blank 6 pounder shell casing. Tonight I have another 6 pounder casing used as a blank, but this one is much earlier, and although I cannot provide an exact date, my gut is suggesting it dates to before the Great War:The first thing to notice about this casing is how short it is. It was typical to cut down spent full size cartridges into shorter version to use for a blank round- the lower power needed less propellant so a shorter case would suffice. The rough edge is typical of these cut down blank rounds, the modifications being done at a unit level. The base of the casing has a profusion of markings:My thanks go to Jeremy Churchill for his help in interpreting the markings:I suspect that this cartridge was originally for a 6 pounder quick fire naval gun such as this one:These guns were obsolete by the end of World War One, but continued in use as saluting guns, for which a cut down blank cartridge such as mine would have been ideal.
One of the great improvements the Canadian 82 pattern webbing set brought over its predecessor, the 64 pattern set, was that it finally reintroduced a dedicated ammunition pouch: that the 64 pattern did not have one is still frankly baffling. The new set was heavily influenced by the US ALICE system and in the end two distinct variants of the pouch were produced, an original plain ammunition pouch and a later development with a pair of grenade pouches fitted to either side:The pouches held two magazines for the service rifle, with a pair of lifting tabs to help pull them out of the pouch:The user’s manual illustrated how to use them:A top cover was provided to keep the elements off the magazines, secured with the standard plastic and webbing tape quick release buckle:The back of the pouch has the usual plastic tabs to engage with the eyelets on the 82 pattern belt:Velcro then passes over them to help secure it further:Drainage holes are fitted to the base of the pouch to allow water to drain off:The second pattern pouches have two grenade pockets on either side of the main pouch body. I do not have a Canadian grenade available, but this British training grenade illustrates the principle:Variants of this pouch can be found to fit FN C1 magazines and C7 magazines, with slightly larger examples available to house FN C2 magazines. The pouches were generally well liked, the most serious complaint being that the stitching sometimes broke and became loose, the go to repair being to patch them up with heavy duty tape.
At the end of last year we looked at a 1960s parachute illuminating mortar bomb here. Tonight we are looking at a second example of the parachute flare mortar bomb, this time however it is a wartime example and is far more complete than the previous one:Unlike later bombs, this example is painted black, with yellow lettering stencilled on the outside:The thin metal cap that covers the end is still extant on this bomb, and is stamped with a date of 1940:The end cap is also wartime dated, here it is 1942:The FD stands for Fry’s Die Castings Ltd, of London, who manufactured the component. The distinctive holes for a parachute illuminating bomb can be seen directly above the tail of the mortar bomb:These had closing discs over them originally which burnt away when the bomb was fired. Inside the bomb originally would have been a parachute, flare canister and small bursting charge:Unusually this bomb still has the parachute:And the burnt out remains of the flare:The 1959 mortar manual describes its operation:
The flash from the cartridge, when fired, penetrates the closing discs and ignites a delay charge; this in turn ignites a bursting charge of gunpowder which ignites and ejects the flare; a small parachute, packed in the nose of the bomb, is attached to the flare and is ejected at the same time, opening at once and suspending the flare below it.
The pamphlet also gives some guidance on the use of these bombs:
- These bombs contain a flare attached to a parachute. When the bomb is fired at an angle of 80 degrees the parachute is ejected at a height of about 600 feet. At this height the flare gives its best performance. It will burn for about 30 seconds, descending slowly and drifting with the wind as it does so.
- In still air or light winds the mortar should be fired at an angle of 80 degrees. This will allow the flare to be ejected at a distance of about 100 to 150 yards from the mortar position. If light is required at a greater distance the angle must be lessened as when firing smoke bombs. At its reduced height the flare will not light up so big an area.
- Whenever possible place the flare behind the enemy, as this will silhouette him against the light. To avoid our own troops being silhouetted against the light, care must be taken, especially in head winds, to ensure that flares do not drift behind our forward positions. Do not, if it can be avoided, place the flare between the enemy and our own troops as its effect will be to dazzle the defenders thus placing them at a disadvantage.
- When the wind is strong the firer will have to judge its effect and alter the angle of the mortar according to where the light is required. The principle is to fire the bomb up wind, allowing the flare to drift over the area where light is required.
- Although the flare is efficient and will light up the battlefield a good distance in front of the platoon position, its uncontrolled use may also show up the activities of our own troops. Orders will be given when flares at platoon level are not to be fired.
This week’s postcard takes us back to the period between the wars and depicts a sailor and marines relaxing ashore in tropical climes, most likely somewhere in the Mediterranean:The rating is wearing the tropical white uniform, with pith helmet and two long service and good conduct stripes on his sleeve:His companions appear to be Royal Marines, presumably from the same ship. They wear KD service dress uniforms with large white pith helmets, bearing a metal badge to the front:On at least one of the helmets you can just make out the brass ball worn on the top:In front of this group sits a small table, laden down with bottles of beer:The interwar period was the era of the Royal Navy cruises, flying the flag. These hugely popular cruises involved taking the fleet around either the Mediterranean, or once famously around the world, and calling it at various overseas ports to show off the might of the Royal Navy and hopefully score a few trade deals as well. For the crews of these ships there were ample opportunities to ‘run ashore’ with relaxation frequently consisting of imbibing the local beer. The Empire cruise was renowned for this, with sailors remarking of Port Swettenham “here the men can obtain beer and refreshments also cigarettes, free of charge”. Whilst for one sailor, Frederick Bushell he wrote of Australia “I think most of the ship’s company are feeling the effects of the late nights and “bonza” times we’ve been having”
The British Army’s two main conflicts of the twenty-first century so far have been fought in hot and dusty conditions. This has led to very rapid improvements in the military’s hot weather gear and the introduction of new equipment specifically designed for this environment. Tonight we are looking at one such piece of personal kit, a pair of dust goggles:As with much equipment brought in to deal with an urgent operational need, there are numerous variants and manufacturers of dust goggles that can be seen in phtotographs- some officially supplied by the MoD and other bought by soldiers themselves when they either found the issue equipment wanting or wished to increase their ‘allyness’. This pair of goggles are some of the most basic and were manufactured by ‘Scott’ in the USA and are based off sports goggles. The goggles themselves are made of rubber and plastic, with a foam backing cushion:Note the manufacturer’s name embossed into the foam padding. Cut outs around the frame allow air to enter through the foam and keep the wearer cool:An adjustable elasticated strap is provided that helps hold them securely to the head or a helmet, note the plasticised strips on this to help with grip so it doesn’t slide up or down:The military markings on these goggles are very hard to read, being raised lettering inside the mask at the top, here we see their designation ‘Classic Downhill Type’:The name reflects the goggles origins as a civilian sporting design. Even harder to read is the NSN number:These goggles were used at the start of the conflicts before being replaced with smaller, lighter and more comfortable designs. Here a soldier (probably a support troop) wears this style of goggle:Like so much of this kit from the War on Terror, these goggles are readily available for very low prices, this pair for instance costing £2.
My thanks go to Andy Dixon for sorting me out with tonight’s object, a South African made steel helmet. During the Second World War the Transvaal Steel Pressing Syndicate in South Africa produced nearly 1.5 million steel helmets and these were used extensively in Africa, Asia and Italy throughout the war, they also went on to see service in Greece post war. These helmets are fairly common as a large stash of shells came out of Greece a few years back, they were without liners however so like this example replacements need to be fitted. At first glance the helmet looks very similar to other steel Mk II helmets:Note the rough finish on the helmet to reduce shine and the sand colour ideal for the deserts of North Africa (I think this one has been repainted though). The easiest way of determining that the helmet is South African is the set of three holes punched across the back:Originally these were designed to allow a neck curtain to be fitted but no evidence has been found of these being ever issued. The shape of the helmet is also more circular in plan than other Commonwealth Mk IIs, being much more similar to WW1 helmets:Originally the liner fitted had a large oval felt pad in the crown, again similar to WW1 designs, this liner however is a replacement so does not have this feature. The chin strap is a typical World War Two British sprung type:This attaches to the shell with a pair of riveted square lugs:The manufacture of helmets was quite involved. Firstly steel was cut into square blanks:A hydraulic press stamps the shell out of the square of steel:A stainless steel rim is then cinched and welded into place:Before the whole thing is painted prior to fitting the liner:The painter’s protection from paint particles consists of a rudimentary mask and bandages over his hair! After this the helmets are heated in a kiln to cure the paint. British factories in 1939 were turning out 50,000 helmets a week.