Tuesday Finds

Only a few bits today, but nice ones none the less…

Urdu Textbooks

Urdu was the Lingua Franca of British India, with so many races making up the country with so many dialects Urdu allowed a simple language for the military and civil administration to use when communicating with the indigenous population. So vital was an understanding of the language that all civil servants and Indian Army officers had to learn it and pass an examination or face being returned to the UK and unemployment.

To meet this demand for Urdu, specialist textbooks were produced (replacing the native mistresses that filled the position of language tutor in the late eighteenth century!) and a nationwide standard examination introduced. The first of the textbooks is dated 1941 and is a buff hardback book published in Delhi:


Rather than a book on language, this textbook covers the cultural differences between the different Indian Races in the form of conversations between a British Officer and an Indian Sepoy:


The contents pages highlights the different races covered from The Pathans to The Dogras and from the Ghurkhas to the Rajputs:


The second book is dated 1937 and has a red hardback cover. It has a cover title in Urdu and English:


Inside the book is entirely in Urdu:


As I don’t read Urdu, I checked with a work colleague and the book is identical in content with the buff book. Presumably the idea was to read the two together so you picked up the Urdu at the same time you learnt about the tribes. I am told that the standard of Urdu is very high and this implies that the officer learning Urdu would have had to do it with a tutor rather than self taught. It also shows the high standards the Indian administration expected of its recruits.


This little photograph, in a period frame, is of a lieutenant in the Royal Army Pay Corps. It looks to be taken in the latter stages of WW2 and the photographer’s details indicate it was taken in Barnsley. Beyond that I have no further details on who he was or where he was stationed:


Commando Rucksack

I will be honest, I am not sure about this one. The Commando Rucksack was introduced in the early part of the Second World War to give troops a large and comfortable bag to use on operations. It was originally produced in tan (I already have one of these) and later in green. The problem for collectors is that the basic design of bag was used for a very long time, there are numerous variations and it was copied by foreign armies and civilian manufacturers post war. Bearing all that in mind the best way to date these rucksacks is by the acceptance stamps inside them…however these are often damaged, faded or missing. I bought this example for £3 this morning. It is damaged and rather dirty but seems to be mainly complete:


In this case I am confident in saying the bag is post war- it has green vinyl waterproofing inside it:


And the zips are marked ‘Made in France’:


Beyond that I cannot say if it is British, Civilian or made for an overseas army. The heavy duty leather work suggests a military role, as does the addition of padding in the form of an old army towel and socks to the pressure points on the frame:


My plan at the moment is to clean up the bag and see if any more markings appear, and to post photographs online on the forums to see if anyone else can make a positive identification. For the price I paid I felt it worth a punt and I think it would benefit further investigation.

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