Monthly Archives: December 2014

RAF Changi Christmas Menu

Tonight we have the first of three festive objects for over the Christmas period. Christmas has always been important for those in the armed forces. Although the work never stops, those in the military try and find time to sit down together, exchange gifts and enjoy a large Christmas dinner with each other. Tonight’s object are a pair of menus from RAF Changi from the mid 1950s:

CA7BB849-6FED-480A-B9A2-7EE5B9B164D9The Menus date from 1956 and 1957 and the consecutive years suggest that the original owner, who saved these as a souvenir was based here for at least a couple of years. RAF Changi was originally built in Singapore in 1940 as an artillery base. After the fall of the colony it became used initially as a POW camp by the Japanese, before they built two airstrips and turned it into an airbase. After the Japanese surrender, the RAF took over the base and it became RAF Station Changi. The base is pictured below in a photo taken in the early 1960s:

Satellite_image_of_RAF_Changi,_Singapore_(Corona,_KH-4,_mission_9053)_-_19630401When the British pulled out of Singapore in 1971 the base was handed over to the SADC, the forerunner of the Singapore Air force.

The inside of the menus set out the food for the day, with breakfast, a light lunch and a large Christmas dinner:

CA713C73-D020-4B46-926B-5C6BC65766B0Interestingly to modern eyes, one of the menus lists kidneys for breakfast, and cigarettes after tea.

 As is common in these menus, a space on the rear is left for autographs form ones mess mates to be added. Only one of these has been completed and sadly many of the signatures are illegible:

63B6AF9E-8C60-48CD-A8C3-01494B0E75CE

 The base is still held in high regard by those who served there, and a web search found an excellent RAF Changi Association website: http://www.rafchangi.com/

Other Services Water Bottle Carrier

Whilst most troops are issued with some form of webbing, there are always some who do not need a full set of equipment and today’s object is part of the webbing used by those personnel. The webbing Water Bottle Carrier, Other Services was introduced in 1943 and replaced an equivelant leather example. The carrier was used by services such as the ATS and drivers who would not need a set of 37 pattern webbing.

The carrier consists of a webbing cradle for the bottle with an adjustable shoulder strap:

669F95B2-1895-433A-A8B3-D0B5DE980420 The strap is adjusted by a buckle that allows it to be shortened or lengthened:

43724634-FEDA-440D-A847-60C1A078CF6C This example is stamped inside with a date of 1953:

C7987E6D-132E-4A65-A56E-591C5C16B609 As can be seen there is also a /|\ mark and a stores code. These water bottle carriers  seem to have come on the market in large quantities in the last few months. This example was a buy it now from eBay and the seller had loads more available for under a tenner. They had rather limited use, but at that price are a nice pick up for the collection.

 

 

Post War RAC Helmet

Whilst the British Army in the Cold War used standard infantry helmets for its infantry, certain specialist troops used their own designs. A rimless helmet was introduced, with different chin straps depending on whether they were for airborne or armoured use. The shape of the old ‘soup bowl’ Mk II helmet was unsuited for wear in a tank due to the limited space and chance of catching it on things, a more compact rimless helmet helped alleviate this problem, whilst still giving the tank crews some protection to their heads. Armoured troops continued using the rimless helmet shell introduced during the Second World War, modifying it to bring it into line with the requirements of warfare in the 1980s. Tonight’s object is an Armoured Corps Mk II Steel Helmet first introduced in April 1945, however this example dates from the early 1980s:759D6EDF-4698-49E4-87A7-1B8B850ADB60The helmet consists of a manganese steel shell, with a rubber liner inside:C5497FEC-F2FD-417B-8D96-2DEE94871F4FAs can be seen the top pad is missing and has been replaced by gaffer tape. The helmet is covered in typical scrim of the period:A845A77E-7E57-4BF0-8057-A4FF34BD0F74The base layer is hessian sand bagging material, overlaid with a camouflage net and finally with plastic ‘foliage’ on top of that. The sandbagging prevents any shine appearing from the helmet shell under the rest of the scrim.

The plastic scrim is very characteristic of the cold war as it was dropped soon after as it had the unfortunate habit of melting or catching fire! The chin strap for the helmet is the MkIII version, with a quick release fastener consisting of a tongue and staple:3A840C0A-F553-433A-960F-54690E4AC6F7The helmet strap also has a NATO stores code, manufacturer and date of 1983 printed on it:29FC402A-CD99-4DD9-B762-7BE4DA372944Use of this design of helmet was not restricted to land based troops, the helmet was also issued to Royal Navy ships for wear by sailors, though obviously these helmets don’t have the scrim! Many of these helmets have been bought by re-enactors to convert into WW2 Parachutist helmets (apparently its not easy to drill through the steel to add the alternative chin straps though), but I particularly like mine for the straight out of service look it has.

Royal Navy Signal Card

Since man has used ships in fleets for war, effective communications between those ships has been essential. Communications allow the fleet to move in unison, avoid crashing into each other and perform battle manoeuvres. Even after the advent of wireless communication at the end of the nineteenth century, visual communications continued to play an important part in shipboard life.

During the Second World War the roles of Signals (Visual) and Wireless Telegrapher were separate branches, with Visual Signallers specialising in the use of flags, semaphore and Aldis lamp signalling. Visual Signallers trained at HMS Impregnable in Plymouth, one trainee there, James Stokes explained:

The V classes were for Visual Signals, which were conveyed by Morse Light, by Semaphore, and by Flag-Code in which each flag hoisted denoted a letter or sign. To a receiver who could read Morse but not Semaphore it was possible to transmit by Morse Flag, – a large double-handed flag – using quick and slow sideways movements, but Semaphore was much faster. Visual Signals were necessary because although wireless telegraphy had reached an advanced state, radio signals could be received by the enemy, and understood if in plain language. Furthermore, even coded radio-transmission was best kept to a minimum, because the more examples of one’s code the enemy could receive, the more scope he had for breaking into the code… Thus we had to learn the Morse Code, the Semaphore Code, the Royal Navy Code of Flags, and the International Code of Flags. We had been selected for Visual Signals because tests showed that we had the intelligence and the good eyesight, particularly colour vision and night-vision, required. (For the full interview please see here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/23/a4558223.shtml)

Tonight’s object is a small hardback book giving details of these signals:

BED76D8C-D7E2-456C-A4CF-C228EDC68681This Signal Card was first introduced in 1935, but the printer’s information inside dates this example to 1941. Inside the cover, the first pages cover the standard flags used by ships for communication at sea:

70324880-657F-432E-8D89-38624ADA29C8The original owner’s name and number, Signaller W Craven D/JX344511, is inked along the side of the page:

ABB5A002-9BD1-47BB-B6D7-0794D78A9F13The next pages show more specialist naval flags, substitutes and messages:0C09D1D3-7BD6-4D2E-BE0E-14479D568679Whilst the final pages in this little card show Morse, both letters and code words, and semaphore:

E676AF9A-0708-4C10-BBE1-FCE8667EA652What I like about this little book is that it has clearly been used as items are crossed out or pencilled in as signals became updated. These days most Royal naval signalling is done electronically, but ships still have Aldis lamps and flag lockers for emergency use.

Parachute Flare

Battlefields at night are dark and confusing places and often some form of artificial illumination is needed. Tonight’s item is a 38mm L5A4 parachute flare from the early 1980s.

The rocket is a one shot device made in the form of a plastic tube with screw on caps at either end. It is fired at an angle of between 45˚ and 90˚ depending on the wind conditions and the flare produces a light equivalent to 80,000 candles that burns for 30 seconds at a height of approximately 300m. Details on how to use the flare are printed on the outside of the tube, with pictures to aid easy use:CB064AAE-9E9F-4BB8-A4E9-767CB6EB219DTo operate the flare the user removes the end caps from the top and bottom, revealing a safety pin and trigger at the base:D13128A4-D1AD-4456-B3DE-F8177F9A3FE1To fire the operator removes the pin and presses the trigger upwards, setting off the flare instantaneously. This example is dated April 1983 and was made by A Schermuly of Salisbury, Wiltshire:7AEB14C5-FA35-4B58-84FE-06E878CD0AE3Once fired the user would discard the empty tube. This kind of one shot device replaced the traditional flare pistol for signalling and illumination and is still in use today. It is cheap and disposable and once fire the user is not having to carry round a heavy flare gun.

Cavalry Mess Tins

We have looked at some of the different designs of mess tins used by British and Empire forces before, but tonight we are looking at another distinctive design. From the very start of organised warfare it was obvious that mounted troops needed very different equipment than that provided to infantrymen. Horses move at much higher speed and with a violent motion that would cause anything not securely fastened to the rider or the horse to fly off in short order. To this end, equipment designed for cavalry has to ensure it can be strapped down securely and this can be seen in tonight’s Cavalry pattern mess tins.

The tins themselves are circular rather than the ‘D’ shaped or rectangular shape adopted by the rest of the regular army:

30AA460A-6BEA-4319-953F-8A41025593F2The design was adopted long before the formal recording of items in stores codes and lists of changes in the 1870s and was to continue in production into the Second World War. There is a wire handle to help hold the tin which folds over to fit snuggly inside the tin:

AE4C4049-1545-44DB-A6A4-CD4E764DA3B5The remians of the tinning which covered the inside of the tin can still be faintly seen. The handle is riveted to the mess tin with four rivets and is marked /|\ and dated 1941:

0982BCBC-B49E-4BBE-B14A-A0D6F58ACDEAOn the sides are two metal loops for a leather strap to pass through to secure the lid securely to the main tin:

111D43F0-DADB-43AB-9EFF-11D6F5465DC0Sadly the lid is missing from the mess tin. Stamped in the base is the original soldiers number, 238673?:

556FD925-00FF-48E5-B218-778E14DE0956The number indicates that the tin was issued to someone who’s number was in the block allocated to the Royal Signals. Although designed for cavalry it appears these tins were issued to other non-infantry units, with examples seen in use by the artillery, engineers etc. The RAF also made extensive use of this pattern of mess tin. Even after the end of the widespread use of cavalry, much of their equipment continued in use with the ‘service’ branches who were always a lower priority for reequipping with the latest kit.

Indian .303 Rounds

.303 ammunition was used by the British and Empire armies for over 60 years and was manufactured by myriad companies across the globe. Tonight we have a packet of ten rounds of .303 from India.

 .303 was issued in a variety of forms; as loose rounds, in bandoliers of 10 5 round chargers, as belts of 250 for Vickers Machine Guns and in packs of ten loose rounds wrapped in paper and string:

C6D0D7B0-E4F9-4E2B-9BEA-55EBB1FA9C73This pack is made of stiff paper, with lettering printed in green. The wording on the outside reveals the contents are ‘Cartridges S.A. Ball .303 Inch Mark VII’ This indicates that the cartridges are Small Arms Mk VII ball, i.e. not tracer or for the use in machine guns etc, but standard rifle cartridges. The MkVII round was introduced in 1910 and had a more pointed ‘spitzer’ head compared to its forebears. The new ballistics this offered took advantage of the introduction of smokeless cordite and was to remain the standard cartridge design for the next 50 years.

 Underneath the details of the cartridge type is the date of packing, 11th November 1940. Beneath that are the initials ‘K.F.’ which indicate the rounds weremade at the Kirkee Arsenal. Kirkee Arsenal is in Poona and manufactured .303 rounds form 1895 to 1960. Kirkee was a major army base, with training facilities and hospitals as well as the armoury.

After the letter code is the IA and /|\ above an ‘I’ mark of the Indian Army: E6A0B041-E767-450F-893D-333F0E8C125F

The rear of the packet has an Indian Army code of ‘I.A. 238’ presumably a reference code for the printer and stores for the packet itself rather than its contents:7DAC4575-453B-4485-AD33-AD9559B225A1This packet has been opened and the rounds deactivated before being carefully reassembled and was given to me by a fellow collector a few years ago. As ever the generosity of all those involved in this hobby is overwhelming and the best advice I can give a new collector is to make friends with fellow enthusiasts and to be as generous to others as they are to you.