Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tuesday Finds

Some more nice little finds on the second hand market this morning, including a little collection of papers from WW1 we will be returning to in more detail in the coming weeks.

Anti-Dim Cloth Tin

This tiny little tin, now sadly empty, was part of the ancillary equipment used with gas masks and goggles. The tin is a two part square tin with rounded corners, painted gold and with black lettering on the outside:imageThe cloth would have been used to clean the inside of the lenses, adding a coating that prevented them from fogging up due to the condensation from the wearer’s breath.

Duke of Wellington’s Regiment Wedding Photo

This large photograph depicts a wedding party, from the ladies’ clothing I would guess it dates to the 1930s. The groom and his best man are both wearing officer’s uniform:SKMBT_C36415032409500_0001Unusually for officers they are wearing field service caps rather than service dress caps:SKMBT_C36415032409500_0001 - CopyaThey both have the elephant collar dogs that indicate they are from the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment:SKMBT_C36415032409500_0001 - CopybBoth have Sam Brown belts on and carry swords:SKMBT_C36415032409500_0001 - CopycI can’t be sure but judging by their age and the single raised bump on their epaulettes I am guessing they are second lieutenants. I do find a lot of material for the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, however as they are the local regiment recruiting in Halifax and Huddersfield, this is hardly surprising a most dealers will do house clearances in the immediate area. Material relating to officers is more unusual though just due to the fact that there were proportionately fewer of them compared to other ranks.

World War One Era Paperwork

This fascinating selection of paperwork came up today for £7, which seems very little for a selection of such interesting material. It all relates to a gentleman called Ernest Burton Whittle, from Sissett near Huddersfield and ranges from about 1910 to 1920. There are civilian papers in it such as his school report and letters on his birthday, but also papers relating to his attempts to join the Manchester University Officer Training Corps (he was too young) and indications that he ended up as a Seaman on board minesweepers in the North Sea:imageA brief search online shows that Ernest was born in Clayton West, Huddersfiled on 10th February 1899 and after the war he married Dorothy Shaw in All Hallows Church, Almondbury on 14th July 1924. We will look at some of these documents in more detail in future weeks, but it always amazes me that papers like these, a hundred years old, are still coming out of the woodwork and costing very little for what is a snapshot into history.

RAF Common Prayer Book

This little blue book is a Common Prayer book issued to RAF personnel. It is embossed on the front with the crest of the RAF:imageInterestingly the crest has the King’s crown, despite the book being dated to 1956 inside:imageThis suggests that updated dies for embossing the crest onto the cover of the book had not yet been supplied, even four years after the ascension of Queen Elizabeth to the throne.

WW1 Postcards

These two postcards both date to WW1 and were made by Bamforth & Co of Holmfirth, just up the road from Huddersfield:SKMBT_C36415032413400_0001The postcard on the left is mildly humorous (very mildly to be honest) whilst that on the right is far more sentimental and clearly intended to be the sort of wistful postcard sent by a soldier to his sweetheart or his mother. The reverse of the postcards are blank, but have a wonderfully art-noveau style to the printed sections:SKMBT_C36415032413370_0001

1944 Pattern Jungle Hat

One of the most enduring designs introduced with the update to jungle uniforms and equipment at the end of WW2 was the floppy ‘boonie’ hat. Early versions of the boonie hat were used by British and Australian forces during the Second World War in the jungles of South East Asia, with the hat proving light, comfortable and good at keeping the sun off soldiers’ heads. Therefore when the 44 pattern jungle uniform was introduced the boonie hat was to be the standard form of headwear. The boonie is made of a dark green cotton twill with a bucket like crown and wide brim:imageThe brim of the hat is stiffened by rings of stitching and around the base of the crown are a series of fabric loops to allow foliage to be passed through for camouflage purposes:imageThere are a number of circular metal vents in the crown to help keep the head cool in the oppressive heat of the jungle:imageThis example was made by J Collett Ltd of London in 1945, and is an unusually large 7 7/8 size, the details being stamped into the interior of the hat:imageCollett Ltd was a ladies’ hat manufacturers, starting in 1917 at No. 42 Charterhouse Square London, the firm became known for its ‘Jacoll’ hats in the inter-war period. The war further boosted Colletts’ business, as they took contracts for manufacturing millions of uniform caps and headgear for the allied services. The boonie hat, or ‘giggle hat’ as the Austalians called it, became increasingly popular in the Malayan Emergency where it protected troops form the extreme heat and heavy downpours of the region:imageThe boonie hat is still in use today, with the Auscam versions used by the Australians and British MTP examples both being in production. The British example has a wider brim than its WW2 predecessor, but the basic idea of a lightweight hat that can be tucked in a pocket and dries quickly if it get wet remains. Boonie hats have long been the subject of modifications by troops, with local tailors and seamstresses being used to make changes, the most common being to reduce the size of the brim to make the owner look more ‘ally’, these changes leading inevitably to the usual edicts from officers banning such modifications.malayan-emergency

British Army Hussif

Tonight we are looking at a British Army ‘hussif’ or housewife to a soldier from the Devonshire Regiment. The hussif is a cotton bag designed to hold sewing and repair items so a soldier can maintain his uniform. The term ‘housewife’ or the contracted version ‘hussif’ to mean a sewing kit seems to date back to at least 1749 and they were still being issued to British soldiers into the 1960s. They are usually three inches by about six inches when folded out:FullSizeRender1As can be seen there is a pocket at one end to hold thread, buttons and wool for darning socks. At the opposite end is a piece of dark khaki cloth that can be used either for making minor repairs or more usually to put needles through so they don’t get lost. The housewife is folded and the straps are wrapped round and secured to prevent the contents falling out:FullSizeRenderThis example is stamped ‘DVN 5616458’:FullSizeRender2The DVN refers to the Devonshire Regiment, whilst the number is one of a block of numbers issued to this regiment when the army renumbered all its men in 1920, the Devonshire Regiment being allocated numbers in the range 5608001-5662000. These numbers were used up until 1943 when the army changed its numbering policy again from seven digit to eight digit numbers. The Devonshire Regiment had been raised as the 11th Regiment of Foot in 1685 and fought in virtually every campaign after that until it was merged with the Dorset Regiment in 1958 to form the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment.

I have a number of these hussifs including jungle and RN versions, but this one lives in my WW1 kit (despite dating to the Second World War) for no better reason than it looks suitably aged! When I bought the housewife it was devoid of contents so I have put in a few buttons and pack of needles that go with the WW1 uniform. Examples can certainly be found with Canadian and Indian acceptance stamps but sadly I have neither of these in my collection yet.

WW1 Charity Button Badge

Almost as soon as the Great War broke out people started fundraising for a wide variety of causes. Money was raised for the care of sick animals injured by war, comforts for troops and help for those soldiers blinded in the conflict. One of the most popular areas of fundraising though was raising money for the assistance of refugees of war. Following the German’s invasion of Belgium in line with the Shlieffen Plan, newspapers and magazine across Britain carried stories and pictures of the streams of refugees fleeing ‘German Barbarism’. It is estimated that between 225,000 and 265,000 Belgian refugees made their way to Britain and they were usually completely destitute in a strange country, where many could not be understood due to the language barrier. Many thousands more were left in France with little money, food or clothes. To raise money for these refugees concert parties were held, raffles organised and the great and the good dipped into their pockets for the latest, most fashionable of causes. As always though, for every wealthy benefactor there were many thousands of lesser contributions from poorer members of society who gave what they could, often in exchange for a small visible token. Whilst today the charity wristband is popular, in 1914 it was the metal button hole badge that was given in return for donations:imageAs can be seen, this badge was given away by the ‘National Committee for Relief of Belgium’ and the centre of the badge has a cockade in the Belgian national colours. The National Committee for Relief in Belgium was set up in London under the Chairmanship of the Mayor of London and worked hard trying to find warm clothing and boots for the refugees:AIMG-1023-2webA selection of other documents relating to  the work of the Committee can be found here. The reverse of the badge has a raised button that allows the badge to be passed through a lapel button hole to secure it firmly:image

Around the edge of the badge is the name of its manufacturer ‘The Ivorine Manufacturing Company Ltd, London’:imageThe company still existed in 1922 when it had a stall at the British Industries Fair of that year:319px-Im1922BIF-Ivorine

Indian Army Driving License

The end of the Great War acted as a catalyst to the expansion in motor vehicle use in Great Britain. Large numbers of men left the army having been taught how to drive and a large stock of army surplus lorries came on the market at knock down prices. It was therefore no surprise that there was a boom in the number of small haulage firms, charabanc operators and bus companies. The army also fully embraced this increasing mechanisation during the inter war years and unlike the German Army, by 1939 horse drawn transport had been virtually eliminated in favour of the internal combustion engine. The Second World War saw a huge expansion in the number of cars and lorries used by the British Army as their forces rapidly expanded. To drive these vehicles, once more the Army trained thousands of men as drivers and made use of those who already had experience of driving in civvy street such as Ron Quail:

 I knew that the army was crying out for drivers to go in the army and drive vehicles in the war, so I decided that I would volunteer to go in the army as a driver, because I could drive lorries or anything at that time. So I went to the recruiting office in Middlesbrough, Lipton Street they called it were it was, and I volunteered as a driver in the army. I was accepted as a driver straight away and the following day I had orders to report to Strensal Barracks just outside York, and I would be attached to the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry as a driver.

So I went there and I was kitted out with all my kit with a kit bag and a uniform and everything that was required for a soldier to have in the war in those days. And then I had to go to the transport officer and I had to be allocated a lorry, then I had to go out and have a driving test with this lorry with the transport sergeant, it was only a formality he just drove me round the barracks a bit and I reversed between two lorries, just to see what I was like, and he passed me out straight away.

 Once a driver had passed his military driving test, however rudimentary it might have been, he was issued a military driving license:imageThis example is unusual as it was issued in India to British and Native troops who completed the training. The title page gives information on the owner of the license:imageAs can be seen this license was issued on 12th March 1943 to a Corporal Grayson of the 7th Battalion, The Kings Royal Regiment in Lahore. The license was renewed in August 1944. Interestingly the license also acts as an aide memoire of important aspects of driving such as hand signals:imageAs can be seen the diagrams date to a much earlier period, the style of the car looks more 1920s than 1940s. As this book was issued in India, the license has all the instructions in English on the left hand page and Urdu on the right:imageDan Roberts took his driving lessons in India:

 I arrived in India in 1942 AT Bombay on the troop ship Dominion Monarch and transferred to Deolali for acclimatization. After a couple of weeks I was posted to Rowalpindi which was an arsenal built around a Victorian fort. I transferred to the Indian Army Ordnance Corps. I was taught to drive and had lessons, the instructions were in English as well as Urdu we had to pass a verbal test in Urdu for which we received 100 rupees.

RAF Button Stick

When cotton webbing equipment was introduced, it was planned that it would be a combat system and would not be bulled and polished for the parade ground. The official guide to the webbing said:

The metal work should not be polished but allowed to get dull, so as to avoid catching the rays of the sun.

Alas no one seems to have told the officers and senior NCOs and it was soon a requirement that the brass fittings on webbing were to be polished to a bright shiny finish. Due to the nature of these fittings, directly attached to the cotton parts of the webbing, it was virtually impossible to do this without leaving dirty marks on the webbing. To get around this a special button stick, with cut-outs for the various brass ends was patented in 1917 by a Lance Corporal Thomas Cooke and Joseph Parker of ‘Bodill Parker’:IMG_2348This design grew in popularity in the inter war years, however it was designed for use with the 1908 pattern webbing system and so was designed for 3” belts and 2” shoulder braces. The RAF introduced the 1925 pattern webbing system in the late 1920s and this used a 2.25” belt so clearly an updated button stick was needed with cut-outs to match. The RAF introduced such a button stick, made of brass like the army, but with the 2” and 3” cut-outs deleted and replaced by a 2.25” cut-out. In 1952 the button stick began to be made of bakelite rather than brass:imageThe button stick was given the stores reference CC1456 Brasses, Cleaning, Plastic (Pattern No. 11500). The design has a central slot for polishing buttons, the stick being slit behind them to protect the uniform. The two holes corresponds with the male and female parts of a standard press stud, and the scalloped cut-outs match the brass tips to webbing and belts. This example was made in 1952 in the first year of manufacture and has the Air Ministry crown mark and date in a circle stamped on one side:imageThe button stick was to have a short lifespan as the RAF made it obsolete in 1955. This example has the airman’s number scribed on the side, 4163030:imageSadly I have not been able to identify who this number was allocated to. With the introduction of 1958 pattern webbing and staybrite cap badges and buttons, the need for polishing brass finally fell by the wayside, except curiously in the Royal Navy which is the only service to still only use brass cap badges requiring polishing rather than Staybrite examples.

GHQ Middle East Land Forces Formation Badge

Following the Second World War, the British Army very rapidly reorganised to reflect the new peacetime era, many of its overseas commands were renamed and restructured. Middle East Command had been established in Egypt at the outbreak of WW2 and would be responsible for running the British Army throughout the North African Campaign. It had responsibility for the Western Desert, East Africa, Greece and the Middle East. It was based in Cairo and played host to a bevy of famous and high ranking commanders including Archibald Wavell and Claude Auchinleck. Following the end of the war Middle East Command was reorganised to become ‘Middle East Land Forces’. In 1947 Middle East Land Forces General Headquarters adopted a variation on the wartime formation badge of a gold camel on a black background. The camel was retained, but the background changed to a shield evenly divided between the army colours of red at the top and blue below:imageTurning the badge over shows its construction:imageThe two colours are separate pieces of felt that have been sewn together with the seams pressed flat. The camel is machine embroidered in dark yellow, with black highlighting to pick out the details. The camel was replaced at some point after 1953 with a lion rampant wearing a Queen’s crown. Much to many servicemen’s regret the GHQ moved from Cairo to a bleak camp at Fayid following the end of WW2:GHQ_Fayid-newspaperMiddle East Land Forces commanded the forces in Libya, and troops in the Suez Canal zone until 1959 when it was split into two commands, one either side of the canal; before finally disappearing in 1966 when command moved to Headquarters, British Forces Gulf based in Bahrain. During its twenty year period of operation Middle East land Forces had a number of commanding officers:

  • General Sir Miles Dempsey 1946–1947
  • General Sir John Crocker 1947–1950
  • General Sir Brian Robertson 1950–1953
  • General Sir Cameron Nicholson 1953
  • General Sir Charles Keightley 1953–1957
  • General Sir Geoffrey Bourne 1957–1958
  • Lieutenant-General Sir Roger Bower 1958–1960
  • General Sir Richard Anderson 1960–1963
  • General Sir Charles Harington 1963–1966