Tonight we are looking at the contents of the 08 pattern haversack. As can be seen the haversack is considerably smaller than the 37 pattern small pack or the 44 pattern haversack we have looked at previously. Consequently what can be carried within it is limited, as are detailed accounts of what a soldier actually carried. I have a representative sample of items in mine, I emphasise these are neither definitive nor complete, but hopefully give a flavour of the sorts of personal kit used in the Great War by the average British Tommy. Since taking this photograph I have received a pair of WW1 pattern socks and added them to the kit as well.
- 08 Pattern Haversack. The haversack is a webbing bag 9”x11”x2” that attaches to the 08 webbing either on the back via two angled webbing chapes on the rear or worn on the end of the cross straps on the Tommy’s side using the 2” Twigg buckles. The original fitting instructions indicated that the haversack was only to carry food and eating implements in, everything else going in the large pack. This seems unlikely in the field as the large pack is big and bulky and if nothing else a soldier would want his wash kit and some basics like a pair of socks to change into with him wherever he went.
- Washroll The washroll is almost identical to the WW2 example we saw with the 37 pattern webbing, this example though is in a distinctly brown shade of fabric. This indicates it is a WW1 issue example, as far as I’m aware only the Canadians used this shade in WW2 and this washroll has British /|\ marks rather than Canadian. As can be seen the contents of the roll are slightly different, with banjo backed cutlery and cut throat razors for the earlier period.
- Housewife Again the WW1 housewife is virtually identical to the WW2 example, just with brass buttons to suit the Service Dress uniforms worn at the period. This example is stamped to a soldier in the Devonshire Regiment.
- Brushes These WW1 dated brushes are for use on shoes. Further photographs of the squarer brush can be seen here.
- Sugar and Tea Tin This little tin has a compartment at each end for loose tea and sugar, allowing the Tommy to brew up in the field. These were very common at the period and kept the contents dry and untainted. It is hard to underestimate the importance of hot sweet tea to the British soldier, offering warmth and energy to perk him up in even the harshest conditions.
- OXO Tin. Oxo is a beef extract produced in small compressed cubes. It is added to boiling water to make a strong beefy drink. Oxo advertised its products as being ideally suited to the soldier in the trench:
- Tobacco Tin- This little tin is for Coral Flake tobacco. Smoking was endemic across all levels of British society, with pipe smoking slowly being replaced by cigarettes during this period. The rear of this tin has a corrugated striker on it for lighting a ‘lucifer’ style match.
- New Testament Bible- This little New Testament was issued by the Army Scripture Readers’ Society. These little bibles seem to have been distributed in large numbers, however the good condition of many suggests they may have been sent home rather than used!
- Balaclava– This knitted comforts balaclava has been covered in more detail here.
Tonight we have a small leaflet from the late 1940s advertising the RNVR club in London. The RNVR club was founded in 1943 as the RNVR Officer’s Association and moved to the premises advertised in the leaflet in 1946, it merged with the RNVR Auxiliary Officer’s Club (Founded 1919) in 1949. The leaflet is approximately 5”x7 ½” when folded and has the naval crown on its cover:Opening the leaflet we get a photograph of the clubhouse, 38 Hill Street Mayfair, a brief potted history of the club and some information about the amenities on offer to potential members:The rest of the leaflet explains how members can join and gives a list of its patrons and council:The leaflet records the patron as being HM The King which therefore dates it to between 1949 and 1952. It is interesting to note that an RNVR club was formed separate from other more long established officers’ clubs. The RNVR during WW2 was made up of people with very different backgrounds to the regular Royal Navy and its members also had a very different war to most of the regular officers of the RN. They tended to be assigned to small coastal ships, convoy duties and combined operations rather than the battleships and cruisers of the fleet. It is therefore unsurprising that they felt the desire to set up their own club and mix with fellow officers with the same sort of war experience.
The club is still in existence, in the same building, but is now known as the Naval Club and membership is no longer restricted to RNVR Officers, anyone with an interest in the sea can join. The rooms have been updated slightly since the photographs in this leaflet were taken, but the building and its interior remains an elegant eighteenth century town house. Very little has changed since the leaflet was written, rooms are still available, dinners and functions are still catered for, however the price of membership has risen from £2 2s to £515.00 per year! Modern day photographs of the club can be seen here.
Tonight we are looking at a leather holster most commonly associated with the 1903 pattern leather equipment set. Strictly speaking the 1903 pattern equipment was a bandolier based infantry set and a holster was never issued as part of the set, however a non patterned leather holster was frequently worn with parts of the 1903 set and has become associated with it. This pattern of holster was introduced in March 1915 when the design of the existing 4” long holster was modified to hold revolvers with 6” barrels. The basic design of the holster had been in service since 1877, with different types of fittings to the rear to fit a variety of equipment sets, it is seems that it is the variety of fittings that have encouraged collectors to associate the design of holster with different equipment sets. This holster is designed for a large .455 revolver and is made of brown leather:As can be see from the darker patch and large hole on the face of the holster, it should come with a top strap that folds over the butt of the revolver and secures over a brass stud on the front. Sadly this has been lost at some point in the lifetime of this particular holster. Turning the holster over we can see a loop for attaching it to the belt and a sleeve for holding a cleaning rod for the revolver:
You will notice that these have been stitched to the holster with heavy duty thread through punched holes. There are some markings on the top of the rear of the holster:As can be seen there are the letter ‘WDC’ a ‘12’ and the ‘/|\’ mark in the top right hand corner. I have tried to determine what the WDC stands for but so far I have drawn a blank (answers on a postcard please!). The number 12 is most likely an inspectors identifying number.
Most commonly we see these holsters being worn by Other Ranks who need to carry a revolver, officers normally used either the Sam Browne of Mills Officer sets with holster. The ‘03’ pattern holsters were frequently worn with a 1903 pattern belt, ammunition pouch and cross belt by Military Police well into the Second World War:
Tonight we are looking at a little waxed card aide memoire for tank crews from the early part of the Second World War. Aide memoires were small printed cards with important information in them that could be carried in a soldier’s pocket to remind him of crucial information, without the need for large training manuals. This example covers visual signalling in tanks:As can be seen, most of the card is devoted to flag and arm signals that were used to communicate basic instructions between a squad of tanks in the days before each was fitted with a radio. All tanks carried flags in tubes on the turret allowing easy access by the tank commander, and these combined with the use of his arms or a separate semaphore indicator allowed a limited combination of messages to be communicated. Visual signalling had the advantage that it was simple, could not be intercepted by anyone out of visual range and would not break down at a crucial moment (unlike many early radio sets). Unfortunately it did mean that the range of tactical manoeuvres that could be communicated was limited and the tank commander was horribly exposed as he signalled. It must also be remembered that battlefields are smoky places and often visibility was poor. What worked well on exercise on Salisbury Plain would not necessarily translate into best practice in the field!
Once war broke out it was apparent very quickly that what was needed were tanks big enough to carry a viable two way radio set and as these became available the use of flags for signalling declines, being only used for secure communications or in an emergency when wireless sets were broken. Flags continued in use for identification purposes and as convoy markers, but their role as tactical communications was over for the most part.
One of the iconic images of the British Empire is the pith helmets worn almost universally by British military and civilians in the hotter climes. These helmets have come to be seen as almost a comedic anachronism now, but at the time were seen as a vital piece of safety equipment for those unused to the harsh sun and high temperatures, indeed woe betide the Indian civil servant who was caught outside his office without his pith helmet. Tonight we are looking at an example of the British Army standard other ranks Wolseley helmet:This design of pith helmet was introduced in 1899 and was described in the 1900 dress regulations as ‘The Wolseley Pattern cork helmet’, however it is unclear what if any influence Sir Garnet Wolseley had in its design. The helmet is made of cork rather than the earlier pith, but the name had stuck by this point and is covered in khaki drab cotton, with a cotton pugaree wrapped around:On the top of the helmet is a tin vent, again covered with KD cloth that allows some air to flow over the top of the head:The helmet sports a leather chin strap with a simple stamped metal buckle:Turning to the underside we can see a green felt lining. Green was felt to offer better protection from the sun, and a thin foil lining to the crown of the helmet:The foil is of the very thin type used in period cigarette packets. Turning up the leather head band of the helmet we can see the W /|\ D acceptance mark:The pith helmet was not designed to protect the wearer from heat stroke, but rather from sun stroke, it was not yet recognised that it was the heat rather than the sun that caused serious injury and indeed such obsolete ideas as spine pads continued in use up until the outbreak of WW2. The Wolseley helmet was worn with a variety of regimental distinctions, cap badges were affixed to the front, regimental flashes affixed to the side over the pugaree and hackles attached as required:By the 1930s the Wolseley helmet was starting to lose favour, especially amongst officers, in favour of the Cawnpore Helmet or the Solar Topee, which though bulkier were lighter and more comfortable to wear, however it was by no means completely superseded. The use of all types of Pith helmet was officially abandoned by the British Army in 1948, but it is still used in a limited ceremonial role by certain British Overseas Territories and the Royal Marines.