Monthly Archives: August 2014

1979 Pattern Body Armour

British Body Armour

The British Army was, arguably, rather slow to adopt the widespread use of body armour for troops. One of the earliest theatres where body armour was used on a regular basis was the streets of Northern Ireland during the troubles. The earliest body armour was made in America, however the British Army soon adopted its own covers, adapted for use on the streets of Belfast.imageMy example is typical of that used in the 1980s, being a ‘1979 Pattern Vest Fragmentation’. This was a revised cover for the US M1952A armour that covered the same ballistic core of the earlier body armour. It features rubber pads on each shoulder to prevent a rifle from slipping when brought up into the aim position and pockets on the lower abdomen for easy access to a personal radio system. The addition of pads on both soldiers is not to accommodate left handed firers (left hand firing not being officially permitted in the British Army) but rather to allow a soldier to fire from the cover of a wall to his left or rightimageThe sides of the armour are secured with cords (or in this case a shoelace) which allow the armour to be adjusted; they also allow the armour to be removed quickly if a soldier was injured by cutting the cords with a knife.imageThe use of so many practical design features- the cords, rubber pads and radio pockets indicates the ongoing evolution of armour throughout the period based on operational experience. These changes suggest an input in the design process from those who had to use body armour on a daily basis. Inside is a label detailing the care instructions for the cover:imageThese particular vests are still fairly easy to find and range between £25 and £50 depending on the condition and dealer, however they do seem to be creeping up in price and are becoming increasingly collectible as militaria collectors start looking beyond the two world wars to more recent conflicts.

RAF 1925 Pattern Webbing

25 Pattern RAF Webbing

All collectors have in their collections particular items that they are particularly proud of. These might be rare pieces, particularly impressive or beautiful pieces or objects with sentimental value. One of my favourite items is a set of RAF 1925 pattern RAF webbing. This particular set represents some of the things I like best about collecting militaria- fellow collectors helping one another to get a set, hard work hunting down pieces and finding a bargain and a sense of triumph when all that hard work pays off.

Briefly, 25 pattern webbing was designed by the Mills Equipment Company in an attempt to recapture the success it had had with the 08 pattern webbing set that became the standard during WW1. The new 1925 pattern was a development and supposed improvement on the earlier design, boasting a more flexible pack, larger haversack and other minor changes which it manufacturers hoped would persuade the British Army to adopt the new webbing. However in the 1920s the British Army was short of cash and had huge stocks of 08 webbing left over from WW1 so Mills was forced to sell its new set to the Canadians and the newly formed RAF. Whilst the Canadian army bought its 25 pattern webbing in traditional khaki, the RAF had theirs dyed blue-grey.imageLike all their sets, Mills designed their 25 pattern webbing to be modular so it could be constructed in a number of ways with different parts to suit different uses. My webbing is set up as a pistol set, with holster and ammunition pouch, however other users could replace these with rifle ammunition pouches. These pouches are virtually unobtainable now, hence why I went with the pistol set up. For more details on the individual components of 25 pattern webbing, please check out the excellent section on Karkee Web:

http://www.karkeeweb.com/1925main.html

It took about six months to track down all the components for my set, with a good friend supplying me with both the repaired rucksack components and the belt.imageThe haversack was a lucky find as its one of the hardest parts to track down. This one is dated 1935 and has the crown and ‘AM’ marking for the Air Ministry:imageSimilarly I got lucky with the holster, cross straps and waterbottle holder. These are virtually identical to the later and very common 1937 pattern webbing, and thus were sold very cheaply. However as the dates are all 1941 or earlier, we can say with confidence that they were manufactured for the 1925 pattern set as the RAF only starting manufacturing 37 pattern webbing later on in the Second World War.imageThis set of webbing has been a labour of love to pull together and as a set is worth more than the sum of its parts. I am just looking for a single blue grey brace attachment to complete the set (an army 37 pattern is standing in for now), but its one of my favourite pieces and one that gets some interested looks from those in the know at WW2 events.

Tuesday Finds

 

Tuesday Finds

As usual I’ve had a hunt round the second and market and come back with a few more bits for my collection. A couple of bargains today, but some restoration work needed on them…

German WW1 Bayonet

This one definitely falls into the category of a fixer upper! This bayonet is for a German Gewehr 98, Mauser rifle. It was introduced in 1898 and was a modification of the earlier 1884 bayonet. The muzzle ring was removed and a new pommel fitted to allow it to fit to the new rifle. It was used throughout WW1 and presumably it was during this conflict it was picked up as a souvenir and brought to England.imageThis example is missing the spring catch in the pommel and the wooden handgrips, as well as being very well rusted. I plan to soak it in treacle (it works to remove rust, but don’t ask me how!) and clean it up and see if I can find some replacement grips. Its not my usual area of collecting as I normally stick to British kit, however for £4 even in this state I was happy to pick it up.image

25 Pounder Ammunition Box

Yes I have a problem! As regular readers will be aware I seem to come back with ammunition boxes with alarming regularity. This particular example is the cheapest I have bought so far, and set me back the princely sum of £4. It is a C206 box from 1942 and would originally have held 8 brass cartridges for the 25 pound field gun. I have one of these cartridges already, but will need another 7 to fill out the box.imageAgain this one needs restoration, but that is typical after 70 years, as these boxes have survived by being used as tool boxes in sheds, outhouses and farms. Looking at other examples and the surviving paint, this box looks like it should be green rather than service brown. From what I can work out items that were considered part of a vehicles equipment such as Jerry Cans and artillery boxes would have been in green, whilst all other ammunition boxes were brown. As I don’t have any green paint, I need to decide whether to quickly get this one restored in inaccurate brown paint, or hang on and put an order in for the correct green paint. As I also have a Jerry Can that has needed a repaint for the last 5 years, I might do the latter.image

RAMC Wedding Photo

Another rather elegant studio photograph, this one of a wedding party. The groom is clearly in Royal Army Medical Corps uniform and has a red cross armband sewn to his left sleeve. Looking at the style of the wedding dresses and the use of collar dogs on the uniform, I believe this photo is probably from the early 1920s rather than WW1. The outer paper sleeve is rather battered, but does reveal the photograph was taken by a photographer with studios in Dundee and Montrose, so we can say the Private is most likely to have been Scottish. Again like most of these photographs there is no name or identifying features.SKMBT_C36414080513320_0001Sadly these photographs are virtually worthless these days, indeed this one only cost £1.50, however they clearly meant a lot to the people in them, who posed so proudly all those years ago. This picture at least will not get thrown into the bin along with so much of this sort of ephemera.

Kit Bag Ring

This brass loop is designed to secure a kit bag. Most kit bags have a series of reinforced eyelets around the ‘mouth’. The idea was that the ring was opened and the long end pushed through the loops. The ring would then be closed and a padlock would secure it. This served a dual purpose of securing the soldier’s belongings safely within the bag, and of giving him a handy carrying handle with which to hold the bag safely on his shoulder whilst transiting.image

One Hundred Years On

As you will probably know, today marks one hundred years since Britain went to war. Today all of us should take a few moments to remember those behind the objects we collect so passionately.

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I am not going to quote one of the famous war poets, but rather a piece of doggerel verse sung by the Tommies themselves that still resonates down the years:

I don’t want to be a soldier,
I don’t want to go to war.
I’d rather stay at home
Around the streets to roam,
And live on the earnings of a well-paid whore.
I don’t want a bayonet up my arse-hole,
I don’t want my bollocks shot away.
I’d rather stay in England,
In merry, merry England,
And fuck my bloody life away

Not eloquent, but heartfelt! Despite these feelings, it must be remembered though that most went willingly to war and believed in the cause, even if the war itself wore them down. Their’s was a sacrifice that should never be forgotten.

 

 

 

Displaying the Collection

Virtually all collectors want to display their collections so they and others can enjoy them. The biggest issue that all collectors face fairly quickly is space! There is never enough room for all your collectables to be out on show so you have to pick your favourites for display. I tend to swap my collections round periodically so I get something new to look at and enjoy.

There are many different ways to display your militaria collection. Some like to take a minimalist approach with just a few choice pieces in a display case. I take the opposite approach and build a jam packed display full of items. My aim is to get an overall balanced look that shows off my pieces, is interesting to look at, and has lots of things to spot.

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Obviously i cant display all my collection, so on the opposite side of the loft I have a space full of poly boxes with some more of my uniforms in them. I must confess it doesn’t look the best and at some point the aim is to add some curtains to hide these:

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Small flat objects like documents and photos can be very hard to display. One display I have simply uses a picture frame and some felt that let’s me display a few of these:

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Many of these small items can be stored in the little drawers stationers sell for offices to use for paper storage. I have a set my employer was throwing out and they hold hundreds of small items like badges, buttons and documents:

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