The standard rifle used by the British Army during the Cold War was the ‘Self Loading Rifle’ or SLR, a variation of the FN FAL rifle used by many NATO countries of the period. Like all weapons systems it needed to be kept clean to work correctly. The move to automatic and semi-automatic weapons made this even more crucial as deposits of carbon and unburnt propellant soon clogged up gas parts that re-cocked the weapon. To help keep their weapons clean sodliers were issued with a small cleaning kit in a litle plastic box:The plastic box has a hinged lid, in this case it has been painted yellow and someone has written ‘SLR’ on the top:The inside of the lid has the NATO stores number and the date of manufacture, 1975:Inside the box are the individual elements that make up the cleaning kit:1. Nylon Brush- for cleaning loose particles off the action of the rifle
2. Chamber Brush- for cleaning stubborn dirt in the chamber of the rifle. This can be screwed onto the combi-tool for ease of use.
3. Combi-Tool- This too is designed to allow the rifle to be serviced, taken apart and cleaned and is used to set the sights on an SLR.
4. Oil Bottle- this little bottle would have held gun oil to help lubricate the weapon.
5. 4”x2” cleaning cloth
6. Mk 7 Pullthrough with scraper type metal weight.
This set makes a nice addition to my 58 pattern webbing- I just need an SLR to go with it now…
If anything captures the essence of the final decades of Empire it is the Wolseley Helmet; this iconic headdress being worn by soldiers, sailors and airmen of the British Empire in tropical outposts throughout the first half of the twentieth century. At first glance these helmets are much of a muchness, but closer inspection reveals a myriad of different variations in the hats themselves and even more variety in the pugarees and badges worn on them. As with so much of British Imperial history, the Wolseley Helmet slipped into obscurity for decades, this book is the first published work on the subject and is likely to remain the ‘bible’ for collectors for many years to come.Stuart Bates and Peter Suciu’s book, The Wolseley Helmet in Pictures: From Omdurman to El Alamein’, is a lavishly produced book on this most obscure of subjects. It combines a mixture of period photographs with detailed images of surviving examples from private and museum collections:The photograph reproduction is superb and one photograph in particular, a mule dressed in boots, Wolseley Helmet and 08 webbing, is almost worth buying the book for on its own! The original photographs are a nice mixture of on campaign photographs that show the helmets in use and studio photographs that allow them to be seen in greater detail:Whilst the photographs are superb and make up the majority of the book they do not stand in isolation, a well researched text accompanies them setting out the evolution of the headdress, variations in manufacture, obscure experimental types and the helmet in Australian, Canadian and foreign use. It is however the sheer breadth of examples that makes this book so special, with numerous regimental variations, officers and other ranks and even photographs of the only two known survivors of WW1 economy Wolseley Helemets made from straw.
The focus of the book is the army, the RAF and Royal Navy only have a single example for each service, however as the helmets used by them were basically only of a single type, this is not a problem. Alongside pictures of the helmet, other illustrations show some of the range of side flashes and badges:This book is a nice companion piece for the authors’ other work on Military Sun Helmets of the World, this book covers the British Woslely Helmet, the other takes a broader worldwide look at all military sun helmets in a myriad of designs and is more generalist. Sadly this book, published n 2009, seems to be hard to get hold of now; I tracked my copy down to the Gloucester Regiment Museum’s online shop which seems to be the only stockist this side of the Atlantic. As with many high quality militaria books this is not a pocket money purchase but I felt £29.99 was a good price for a limited run book that covers such an interesting and obscure area of collecting. If you have an interest in the uniforms and headdress of the British Army I cannot recommend this book highly enough, but I would imagine stock is now very limited so it would not be wise to hang around!
The book is available here.
Medically some of the injuries that are most susceptible to infection are burns and scalds. The exposed inner layers can easily become breeding grounds for gangrene and other nasties. The burn flesh is also extremely delicate and of course painful to the patient. Burns are very common in wartime, with explosions, fire and chemical burns all easy to come across on the battlefield. To help medical officers treat injured troops the British Army issued specialist dressings containing picric acid:As can be seen this dressing is not in the best of conditions, but the instructions are still easily readable on the front:The dressing is a lint dressing impregnated with dried picric acid, water is applied to dissolve the acid and make it wet, the bandage then being applied. This is wrapped in a waxed cloth wrapper, which has become very fragile on this example, and the label is then pasted to the front. The Memoranda for the ‘Guidance of Medical Officers and Other Personnel at First Aid Posts’ published in 1939 advised on the treatment of burns:
No attempt should be made at cleaning these (i.e. burns). They should simply be covered with a suitable dressing. The burn dressing (picric acid) should be moistened before application. Picric acid does not interfere with the efficiency of tannic acid dressing applied later. Morphia will probably be required.
This bandage is marked with the /|\ mark showing it is War Department property and a date of 1943:These bandages are not as common as shell dressings and first field dressings so I was pleased to pick this one up, however I feel it is in too poor a condition to be put in my shell dressing bag as this would probably destroy what is left of the label. Instead it will be carefully displayed flat to keep it in as good a condition as possible.