Monthly Archives: April 2015

Jungle First Aid Kit

Jungles are hazardous places to conduct a war, with a constant danger of disease, insect and leach bites and an atmosphere that can quickly turn a small scratch into a festering sore. Added to all this, any injuries suffered through combat provide an easy access point for infection. Therefore it is essential that troops have adequate medical kits to help deal with the worst the jungle has to throw at them. This was recognised by the British when they were designing the 1944 pattern jungle equipment and its associated accoutrements. This little medical kit was the answer:imageIt is small enough to slip into a pocket, but has a wide range of medication for use in the tropics. It would have been carried by a section leader, in this case a Sergeant Pearson:imageThe case is made of green waterproofed cloth and has a large maker’s mark and /|\ stamp on the outside:imageSadly the printing is too indistinct to identify the manufacturer or date. Inside is a printed instruction label, telling the user what each of the items is to be used for:imageThe opposite side of the case has a series of loops for the small aluminium containers containing the various tablets:imageThe cylinders are all marked with a /|\ and three of the four have the names of the drugs they contain stamped on them:imageOpening the tubes there is a small wad of cotton wool holding the tablets in securely so they don’t rattle around:imageThere is also a larger rectangular box:imageThis has a razor blade and antiseptic pens for dealing with cuts and leaches:imageThe final loop is filled with a morphine syrette:imageThis is a remarkably rare survivor (it is however empty!), and still has the plastic protector that went over it to prevent it being squeezed in use:imageFinally there is a small pocket behind the instruction label that has a 1944 dated packet of self adhesive plasters:imageThese little first aid kits are rare, and the completeness of this one is remarkable. As is so often the way this was a case of being at the right place at the right time and I have yet to see another one come on the market, although a less complete example is illustrated in ‘Khaki Drill and Jungle Green’.

Invasion Currency

When the allies invaded Europe they faced a problem, paying their troops. If soldiers were paid in Sterling or US Dollars, this hard currency would destabilise the local economy and lead to high inflation; however with the dislocation of the local and regional administration following liberation prevented them from just using the local currency which was temporarily without the support of a central bank. The solution then was to issue their own ‘invasion currency’ in the local currency. These notes were paid to soldiers who could use them to purchase things from local businesses; with the businesses safe in the knowledge that their value was underwritten by the allied forces and backed by the respective governments in exile. These notes were issued for most countries in Europe, this example in my collection is for France:SKMBT_C36415042013240_0001The note shows it is issued by the Allies in France, is worth 10 Francs and was issued in 1944. The reverse side of the note has a large French flag:SKMBT_C36415042013250_0001Also note the highly appropriate French motto of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The notes had been printed under tight security by the Forbes Lithograph Manufacturing Company in Boston Massachusetts and transported to the UK. Nineteen lorries were needed to carry the 3 billion Francs worth of notes. Soldiers were paid in Francs in the few days immediately before D-Day, one Canadian soldier who withdrew £1 10/- on 29th June was given 200 Francs. The notes came in a variety of denominations, however despite being backed by the allies, many local shopkeepers were very reluctant to accept them and often soldiers had to resort to barter to get what they wanted, swapping items such as cigarettes or chocolate (The Americans clearly had an advantage here). Perhaps General De Gaulle describing them as ‘false money’ hadn’t helped. The notes were available in 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 Franc denominations. This example is one of 80,000,000 ten Franc notes produced!

Tuesday Finds

A few nice items on the second hand market this morning, including some nice home front items from WW2. As well as the items below, I picked up a saw cover which we will look at in detail later. In the meantime enjoy the following little items:

 Civilian Duty Gas Mask Instruction Leaflet

This large leaflet was produced to accompany the civilian duty gas mask (see here). It is probably from before the war as these were often the first items to be deleted in production. The cover has a nice picture of a man wearing the gas mask:SKMBT_C36415042808210_0001Whilst inside are the instructions for wear:SKMBT_C36415042808220_0001And the rear has a list of Siebe, Gorman & Co Ltd’s products:

SKMBT_C36415042808211_0001Suet Box

Packaging for food during the war was drastically changed, with smaller simpler labels and poorer quality paper and card in use. This unused box for Orlux Suet Pudding is an example of a box made form a recycled card with just a simple one colour printing:SKMBT_C36415042815140_0001Ration Book Holder

This card cover for ration books was given away as an advertising promotion by Tate and Lyle Sugar. Ration books were only made of paper and got tatty very quickly as they were in constant use, so any form of protection for them would have been appreciated. On the front of the holder is a cartoon sugar cube:SKMBT_C36415042815150_0001Who reappears on the rear:SKMBT_C36415042815151_0001Inside is a message about the products and fighting against the nationalisation of the sugar industry:SKMBT_C36415042815152_0001It must have been successful as sugar remained in private hands throughout the war.

Royal Navy Brass Plate

This little spun brass dish is probably a little souvenir made up by an apprentice in the Royal Navy. It is approximately six inches across and has a King’s Crown Royal Navy badge in the centre:image

Royal Navy Concert Party Programme

A large part of military life is boredom, there are long periods when men are not fighting and are behind the lines. Whilst much of this is taken up in training and daily life, there can still be long periods of downtime. These inevitably lead to a drop in morale and efficiency and it was recognised that organised entertainment helped alleviate this. Tonight we have a programme for a concert party put on for soldiers and sailors on board the TSMV (HMS) Menestheus:SKMBT_C36415042010300_0001 - CopyMenestheus was a liner requisitioned form the Blue Funnel Line. She had been built in 1929 and displaced 7494 tons:largeShe was initially converted into an auxiliary minelayer before being converted into an amenities ship in 1943. Amongst the changes was a second dummy funnel, apparently used as a recreation room! She was then attached to the British Pacific Fleet and her facilities included a concert hall, cafeteria, library, reading and writing rooms, tailors and shops. In 1944 she was sent to Canada for further conversion and emerged in 1946 with a cinema and a brewery for producing beer. ‘Davey Jones Brewery’ had an output of 1,800 gallons of ‘English’ beer a day:

Distilled sea water was to be used for brewing purposes, and malt extract and hop concentrate would be shipped from the U.K. to bases in the Far East where the vessels would call. A 55-barrel capacity brewing copper was to be installed in the forward hold of the ships and heated by steam coils from the ships’ boilers. Six glass-lined fermenting vessels were also installed, and the capacity was an estimated 250 barrels per week. Only one beer was to be produced, a chilled and carbonate 1037 Mild Ale. Besides being sold in the ships’ bars, this was also be made available in 5 gallon stainless steel kegs

Over half a million pints of beer were sold to British sailors during her war service. The beer would no doubt have been very welcome to those visiting the ship for rest and recuperation, as would the concert parties arranged onboard. The programme shows the usual mix of songs, comedy, sketches and acts that are typical to the British concert party:SKMBT_C36415042010301_0001SKMBT_C36415042010300_0001In the field these sort of parties were often put on by the men themselves, on board Menestheus it was probably an ENSA revue company providing the entertainment. Her captain was Lt Commander George Brown, who had been a professional master brewer from Stoke on Trent before the war. The Menestheus was soon returned to the Blue Funnel line, but provided a break from the war for many thousands of men during her brief service in the Far East.

Indian Made SMLE Bayonet

As has been discussed before, India produced clothing and webbing in large quantities for Empire forces. They also had a growing armaments industry producing amongst other things the Short Magazine Lee Enfield and its bayonet. Broadly speaking the rifle was the same as that produced in the UK, but the bayonet was eventually modified to better suit production and use in the Far East. I have been looking for one of these distinctive bayonets for a while, so it was very gratifying to pick one up last Tuesday for a very reasonable price. The bayonet is a sword bayonet, similar to that made in Britain but a few inches shorter:imageAs can be seen the blade is not fullered and has a black phosphated finish to reduce rusting in the tropics. The shorter length makes it easier to manoeuvre in the close jungle environment of Burma. By removing the fuller the manufacturing process is greatly simplified and speeded up, with a resulting saving in costs. Only the tip of the blade is sharpened, but it is ground on both sides:imageThe shape allows the blade to pass between a man’s ribs without getting stuck. The hand grips are made of wood and the design of the grips, pommel, and fastenings are the same as those made in the UK:imageThe ricasso of the blade is stamped with a date of 1942 and the manufacturer’s initials:imageThe letters M.I.L. stand for Metal Industries, Lahore one of about ten factories in India producing bayonets. After partition this factory ended up in Pakistan and produced arms for them for a short period until the new country had properly organised its own state arsenals and factories. Sadly this bayonet is missing its scabbard, but this does not seem to be unusual for Indian Bayonets. These bayonets were overlooked and ignored by collectors for many years, but like a lot of Indian made equipment they have undergone a renaissance in the last few years and are starting to attract similar or slightly higher prices than their UK counterparts. The photograph below, although posed, shows what it was like to be on the receiving end of an Indian soldier and his bayonet, this is Naik Gulub Nhan in full charge:Indians-Italy-595x712

Anzac Day

Today marks 100 years since the allied landings in Gallipoli. Since 1920 the 25th April has been Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand; a day to remember the sacrifices of service personnel in both nations in The Great War and wars since. The Gallipoli campaign, perhaps more than any other campaign in WW1, helped define the new Australian nation and its independence from the old world. In total General Bridwood, commander of the ANZAC Corps, had 30,638 men when they landed at ANZAC bay and after a brief assault the allied forces hit strong resistance and the campaign descended into a precarious stalemate. By the time allied forces withdrew 56,707 men had been killed, including 8,709 Australians and 2,721 New Zealanders.Call_from_The_Dardenelles_Australian_World_War_One_Enlistment_Poster_WWI_ITonight’s object is a small collar badge from an Australian Uniform:imageThis little badge, repeated as a larger cap badge, consists of a King’s crown with a scroll below reading ‘Australian Commonwealth Military Forces’ and backed by a semicircle of bayonet blades. The badge is commonly known as the ‘Rising Sun’; apparently the nickname was coined before World War One by soldiers in Melbourne whose barracks were near to the Hoadley’s Jam Factory. The factory produced a brand of jam, supplied to the Australian Army, called ‘Rising Sun’ with a similar logo to the badge. Variations on this design of badge have been used by Australia up to the present day, the design having a particularly emotional attachment to all who have served in Australia’s armed forces.

Robert Fleming described the Australian experience of WW1 as defining the Australian character ever since:

The AIF ‘Digger’ came to define what it meant to be an Australian: egalitarian, meritocratic, hard-working, leisure-loving, giving others a ‘fair go’, and – above all else- never letting his mates down.”

Needless to say Anzac Day commemorations this year will have an added poignancy to them; regardless of whether you are an Australian or New Zealander please take a moment to remember as well.616px-Periscope_rifle_Gallipoli_1915

WW1 Signalling Course Postcard

The Royal Corps of Signals was only established in the British Army in 1920. Therefore throughout the First World War signals and communications were the responsibility of the Royal Engineers Signal Service and individual battalions. Most signalling at the start of WW1 was done using visual aids, however wire based telephone communications were being introduced and were to play an increasingly important part in the upcoming trench warfare. From the 1907 Army Field Service Manual it can be deuced that in the field a company would have four signallers attached, a Lance Corporal and three privates. A further three signallers, sergeant and corporal would be at battalion headquarters. A 1911 encyclopaedia article wrote of army signalling:

Army Signalling.-Communication by visual signals between portions of an army is a comparatively recent development of military service… Thenceforward, in ever-increasing perfection, the work of signallers has been a feature of almost every campaign of the British army. To the original flags have been added the heliograph (for long-distance work), the semaphore flag system of the Royal Navy (for very rapid signalling at short distances), and the lamps of various kinds for working by night.

This postcard shows a group of men who have been undergoing signalling training at some point in the Great War:SKMBT_C36415042008590_0001The cap badges show that the men are from a variety of regiments:SKMBT_C36415042008590_0001 - Copy (6)In the background one of the huts of the training camp can be seen:SKMBT_C36415042008590_0001 - Copy (5)On the ground at the front of the picture can be seen an early field telephone:SKMBT_C36415042008590_0001 - CopyWhilst on tripods are a pair of heliographs:SKMBT_C36415042008590_0001 - Copy (2)These instruments used the sun to transmit messages in morse code across long distances. The heliograph used a small key to move the mirror into and out of alignment, creating the flash. The message could be transmitted distances of many miles n strong sunlight and was relatively secure as apparently being as little as 50 yards off the direct line of sight was enough to prevent the message being seen. This instrument worked well in areas of strong sunlight, but was less effective in Europe, so an alternative apparatus using a lamp was employed:SKMBT_C36415042008590_0001 - Copy (3)This is a sophisticated model for the period, using a battery pack, other examples used oil or lime to create the light. It again used morse code, but was only suitable for short range in the trenches and its use tended to attract rifle fire. Also to be seen are a pair of large signal flags:SKMBT_C36415042008590_0001 - Copy (4)These had a 3’x3’ flag attached to a 5’6’ pole and a man could send messages using semaphore. This method of signalling, though very effective at sea, was less useful on land. By the end of the Great War visual signalling had become less useful and it was the increasing sophistication of wired and wireless technologies that encouraged the setting up of a dedicated Signal Corps, this would prove to be a prescient move as wireless was to assume an ever more important role on the battlefield in WW2.