Monthly Archives: June 2014

Soldier’s Pass Book and Skill at Arms Book

One of the most informative documents on an individual soldier is his AB64 book. This little russet brown book recorded the soldier’s personal details, the courses he had been on and his medical and leave history. As you might expect, with this sort of information you can start to build up a picture of an individual’s military career. Tonight we are looking at a set of three documents all relating to a single soldier; Charles Chesters.

AB64imageOn opening the book there are instructions to the soldier about security and their responsibilities as regards to their ownership of the book:imageTurning the page we discover that Charles Chesters was born on 27th October 1927 and was an apprentice tool maker before he enlisted. He was a member of the Oddfellows Friendly Society and was enlisted as a national serviceman in Carlisle on 3rd January 1946 for 6 years. We also have a description of the soldier, he was 5’8 1/4″ high, with blue eyes and brown hair:imageNext we have details of the basic training all troops undertook, rifle course, sten gun course and personal endurance tests:imageOver the page we discover he finished primary training on 13th February 1946, equating to 6 weeks. After this we can see details of his specialist training as a Royal Army Service Corps Air Dispatcher:imageFurther on we have the details of the man’s leave, following his training and before he went overseas:imageNext we have his medical history and vaccinations:imageThen there is his next of kin information, his father Charles Cyril Chesters:imageTucked in the book is a certificate issued to Driver Chesters for Yellow Fever vaccination from the British Military Hospital, Gaza:imageSkill at Arms Book

This little brown book details Dvr Chester’s firearms training.imageInside the back cover he is recorded as being average at drill, weapon drill and marching:imageServices Guide to Cairo

In the same batch of documents was this guide to Cairo, presumably bought by Dvr Chesters whilst he was deployed overseas:imageIt lists useful information for troops like services welfare clubs, times of sightseeing tours, trams and out of bounds areas. In the back is a fold out map of the city:imageAs can be seen a picture of Dvr Chesters and his military career can be picked up from these documents and is a good springboard for further research.

Tuesday Finds

Civilian Duty Respirator

This gas mask was produced for civilians who needed better protection from gas than the ordinary civilian mask could provide. It was worn by civilian services such as ARP, ambulance and hospital workers and others who might be expected to have to work in gas filled areas for a length of time.

The mask is rubber, with a filter on the front, two metal eyepieces and a flutter valve on the front:imageAt the side is a rubber protrusion for the attaching of a microphone piece. It would have been pierced and the microphone assembled inside the mask for works such as switch board operators and radio users:imageThe mask is manufactured by Liebe Gorman and Co and was produced in 1942:imageChristmas Card

This christmas card is an example of the many thousands sent out by municipal councils, churches and other public bodies at the start of the Great War.

The envelope is addressed to a ‘Private H.H. Wright- 2985, “F” Company, 6th West Yorks Regt’:imageInside the card has a suitable patriotic picture and a message from The Lord Mayor of Bradford:imageInvitation to Old Comrades

This card was sent by the Warrant Officers and Sergeants of the 6th Battallion West Yorkshire Regiments to invite Old Comrades to Dinner and Tea at the battalion’s annual camp in Scarborough in 1935:imageAs it came from the same source as the Christmas card one can assume that it was sent to the same HH Wright.

Supplementary clothing Book

Throughout much of WW2 clothing was rationed, the same as many other scarce products. In order to buy new items of clothing you had to have a ration book which the shop keeper clipped coupons out of. This example is again from the same source as the above two items and is made out to a Hilda Wright, of Binnie Street, Bradford:image

Daily Mail World War Atlas

This little atlas was produced by the Daily Mail and sold to the public during WW2. It shows the occupied countries of Europe and the allied and axis powers with their spheres of influence and once can imagine the armchair generals pouring over it to follow the ebb and flow of the conflict.image

Active Service Devotions Book

Religion was in important part of life for many in the armed forces throughout both world wars. To cater for their spiritual needs, many different religious organisations produced free bibles and religious pamphlets for troops. This little pamphlet has ‘On Active Service’ prominently displayed on the cover:imageInside it explains that is is specifically for women on active service:image

Royal Army Ordnance Corps Beret

This rather sorry looking beret has a post war embroidered bullion badge for the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.imageProbably originally purchased by an officer, you can tell post 1952 items by the style of crown on the badge. The larger and fuller Queen’s crown contrasts with the more compact King’s Crown used from 1901-1952.image

Ceres Postcards

As seen from an earlier blog post, I keep an eye out for anything to do with the various incarnations of HMS Ceres. One of the easiest things to find is postcards, and these examples show the variety of cards available on the subject of a single ship.

Views of the ShipimageThe most conventional postcards are the standard three-quarters view of the ship taken bow on. These seem to have been produced for just about every ship in the fleet and were collected by many in the inter-war period, apparently they were especially popular with young boys!

Souvenirs of a voyage

imageimageThese two postcards commemorate the ship’s cruise of the eastern Mediterranean in 1932, highlighting the ports the ship called at throughout the trip.imageThis postcard is an example of the ones produced for crew members when they called into major ports. It would have been sent home to show jealous relatives the exotic ports their loved ones were visiting.

Sports postcards

imageSports played a massive part in a ship’s life, being seen as a good way for men to burn off excess energy and a way of encouraging ship spirit. Unsurprisingly, teams that were successful found themselves appearing on postcards, as did their trophies.imageThis brief selection shows the variety of postcards to be collected just from one ship and if anyone has anymore images of HMS Ceres please let me know.


Indian Made Gas Mask Bag

Following the horror of World War One, it is unsurprising that throughout the interwar period there was a widespread belief that gas would be widely used on the battlefield. Although as dangerous to the operator as to the enemy, and of dubious tactical use, gas was a terrifying weapon, and to those brought up on stories of soldiers drowning in their own bodily fluids on the battlefield, it is easy to see why there was widespread fear.

To counter this all the armies in the conflict issued gas masks to their troops and these of course needed bags or canisters to carry them in. Tonight we are looking at an Indian made gas mask bag. It appears that India did not manufacture its own masks (if anyone knows different please let me know), importing them from Britain, however it did make the bags for them. With a massive cotton and weaving industry India was well geared up for producing equipment like this.imageThe bag itself is clearly based on the British version, but with several key changes. Firstly the press studs normally used have been replaced with brass studs that engage with holes in the lid flap:imageThe studs themselves are secured by a complex ‘star’ of stitching:imageOn the base the three round grills to allow air in to the respirator canister have been replaced with eight reinforced holes:imageGenerally the fabric is a little coarser than its British equivelant, but the quality is much closer to the mother country than say Indian produced webbing. This particular bag is only marked 1G, but this May be due to 70 years of grubbiness obscuring other faint markings:image


Tuesday Finds

A few little bits today, one of them not strictly appropriate for a blog on British kit, but I hope you will indulge me.

First Field Dressing

Once a soldier has been wounded in battle there is a very small window in which treatment is most effective. To help take advantage of this, all troops were (and still are) issued with a First Field Dressing:

imageThe outer covering is in tan cotton with instructions printed on for its use. Inside are two small dressings and two safety pins to secure them:image

This example has an outer bag dated July 1941 and the inner bandages dated February 1943, suggesting that they were still using a batch of earlier wrappers when these were packaged.

Cap Badges

A very popular area of collecting is that of cap badges. Inevitably this popularity has led to fakes or restrikes, either for legitimate reenactors or to be passed off as real by unscrupulous dealers. Of these two I am sure the Drake Division one is a restrike and I have my doubts about the authenticity of the Machine Gun Corps one:image

 With these badges a few minutes searching on the web showed that the Drake cap badge was a fake as there should be a gap between ‘Auxilio’ and ‘Divino’ and there are insufficient lines of longitude. As these were only a couple of pounds each, I don’t mind they are repros and will do in my collection until I can find real ones at a price I want to pay.

East German Camouflage Jacket

I don’t normally collect militaria from other nations outside the empire, but I do have a secret love of different camouflage patterns from around the world. This jacket, though very faded, is an example of East German Strichtarn or raindrop/needle pattern camouflage:imageThe camouflage uses a grey/brown cloth overprinted with small brown stripes, copied from Polish raindrop camo. This particular design of camouflage was introduced in May 1965 and is a typical Eastern Block Cold War pattern.image

Flare Pistol

Tonight we have a British flare pistol. Flare pistols were invented by the American Edward Very at the end of the nineteenth century and were in widespread use by the First World War for both signalling distress and for basic communications on the battlefield. This example however dates from the Second World War and is a simple, reliable and utilitarian piece of equipment.

imageThis particular pistol does not have a makers mark, but it’s believed this particular example is probably manufactured by Berridge Ltd and is a Mollins No1 MkV. It does have other markings all over the barrel:imageFiring an inch calibre cartridge, this gun would have been able to discharge red, green and white star flares. The pistol is a single action, having to be cocked before each flare is discharged. There is a ring on the butt to allow a lanyard to be attached, although holsters were available, most seem to have been carried by tucking them into a soldier’s webbing.imageThe stud on the barrel is to allow an extension to be fitted to allow line throwing:imageThis particular pistol has been deactivated by having the pin removed and a bar welded across the inside of the barrel:image

Artillery Binoculars

Military optics need to be as good as possible, whilst also being cheap enough to mass produce and robust enough to survive the battlefield. Throughout the twentieth century, the Germans had a well deserved reputation for producing the best lenses, binoculars, sights and telescopes. Despite this, British binoculars were perfectly respectable and came to be seen as a sign of an officer, alongside the revolver and Sam Browne belt.


This pair of Binoculars were manufactured in 1944 for the British military and are larger than the typical x4 magnification binoculars routinely issued to all officers. They are marked O.S. 656 MA- this means they meet Optical Store drawing number 656 and were issued without a case.



The prominent red screws were to allow dry air to be forced into the binoculars to reduce condensation and fungus. The binoculars are marked NIL for Nottingham Instruments Ltd, a shadow company set up by the Ministry of Supply, run from a former Players factory and controlled by the major optics firm of Ross.


The optics on this pair of binoculars are still as good as the day they were made and despite their age they are still an excellent set of binoculars.