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:A loop is provided on one end:And a wooden toggle on the other:This allows the ropes to be joined together by linking the toggle of one rope through the loop of the next:Extremely long ropes can then be quickly put together by combining each man’s ropes:This 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: Denis 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:Alternatively they could be coiled up and tucked into a piece of webbing:My apologies for the atrocious rope coiling here (you wouldn’t think I was a sailor by how bad I am with rope!).
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:This is then secured with the drawstring at the neck:The 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:This 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.
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:This 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:And here is the torch with the filter box attached:The case has a little compartment that unscrews and holds a red, white and a green plastic filter:The filter container has the filter container’s details and an NSN number of the base, along with the manufacturer’s logo:The 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.
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:The 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: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: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: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!
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:The main body of each spoon is inscribed “Falklands Victory, 14th June 1982”:At the top of each spoon is a miniature representation of a piece of British military hardware, here it is HMS Invincible:Whilst the second has a Wessex helicopter, with folded wings:These 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!