Tuesday Finds

Only a couple of bits from today’s second hand market. Its a bit quiet at the moment due to stall holders being away on holiday. However they are nice additions to the collection:

Royal Engineers Coloured Field Service Cap

When the new battledress uniform was introduced in 1937, the old service dress cap was replaced by an even older design of cap, the Field Service Cap or FS Cap. The FS cap had been used in the Victorian era and later by the Royal Flying Corps and had the advantage of being able to be folded flat and put in a pocket which was impossible to do with the stiff SD cap.

Whilst officially the cap was only produced in khaki, very quickly regiments started allowing their soldiers to purchase coloured versions to wear when off duty to add a bit of colour to the drab uniform. These were usually available in a cheaper rough wool for other ranks and a finer quality melton fabric for officers.

This is an example of an other ranks cap from the Royal Engineers. It is made of a dark blue wool, with yellow piping on the crown:imageThe front of the cap has two brass buttons with the Royal Cipher on:imageThe cap badge for the Royal Engineers is attached to one side and has the initials of George VI, this example is from between 1947 and 1952 as the bi-metal badge was only introduced in 1947:imageInside it is secured with a cotter pin:imageThe material inside is virtually unworn, with very little of the staining from sweat and Brylcream which is common on hats of this type:image

Active Service Airmail Envelopes

The army placed great importance on mail for soldiers in both world wars. The army post office was a large and sophisticated system that quickly got letters an parcels to troops in the field and back from them to their loved ones. General Montgomery even went as far as to say that his soldiers could march for three or four days without food on the strength of a letter from home.

One change from the First to the Second World War was the move to airmail for long distance letters. This was much faster than carrying mail by ship, however letters had to be as light as possible to make it easier to transport them. Special lightweight paper and envelopes were supplied to troops and these contained warnings on the outside that the letters were subject to examination and censorship:imageCensorship was done primarily to prevent anything of a sensitive military nature being revealed to people back home, but also prevented soldiers from writing home with complaints that might be prejudicial to good order.

These three envelopes are all addressed to a Mrs V.P Baldwin of Belverdere, Kent and were sent from Gibraltar, a major garrison throughout the war. The stamps show it cost 6d to send the letters home:imageThe tape on one end of two of them is an indication of where the censor has opened the mail to read it and then resealed it:imageThe other envelope has a ‘Passed by Censor’ stamp on the rear instead:imageThese envelopes were part of a big batch of other envelopes and postcards that cost 50p, so they probably only cost me a penny or two each, but are an interesting reminder of the importance letters played in a soldier’s life in the days before email and mobile phones.

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