Monthly Archives: July 2015

Pocket Guide to Malaya

During the second half of World War Two the British Army started issuing pocket sized guidebooks for overseas countries where troops might be deployed. These simple printed books had information about the country, the ethnic makeup of its people, their temperament and a brief history. They also included a handy list of phrases printed in the back. The countries covered included France, Italy and in tonight’s examples; Malaya:imageAs can be seen, the cover is printed in brown, black and white. The printing codes on the rear date this guide to May 1945:imageThe opening page sets out something of the country and why Britain was fighting to liberate it from the Japanese:imageThe simple black and white illustrations are dotted throughout the book, some example pages being:image

imageimageThe centre of the book has a map of the Malay peninsular:imageAnd the back contains some useful Malay phrases:

 imageWhilst some of the text appears a little simplistic or even patronising to modern eyes, one must remember that most British soldiers of the Second World War had very little contact with other cultures and in a pre-globalised world these cultures would themselves have been more insular and strange to foreign eyes. These books were an attempt to smooth any potential cultural clashes that might have arisen from ignorance and are themselves a sign of the birth of our modern, more globalised, world.

RASC Condensed Milk Crate

While many items of military equipment survive, it is those items that were most common, but disposable, that are often hardest to find- tooth brushes and period (clean) toilet paper, ration packs etc. are all scarce. Added to that are the simple wooden crates used to transport supplies. Ammunition boxes survive in large numbers because they were useful in workshops as tool boxes, wooden crates are much less common, with most being burnt for heat at the time. Tonight we are looking at one of these rarer survivors, a crate originally used by the army for condensed milk:imageThis crate is profusely marked; in 1947 RASC published a book with instructions for contractors in how to store tinned food being supplied to the military, Janet McDonald explains in her book From Boiled Beef to Chicken Tikka: 500 Years of Feeding the British Army:

The case was also to be marked with the description and the nett weight of the contents, the initials of the contractor, the month and year of packing, the month and year of the expiry of the warranty period, all this to be in one-inch-high characters in good oil paint or stencil ink, in the middle of one side. They were also to be marked in 1 ¼-in characters in light royal blue ‘RASC SUPS’ (Royal Army Service Corps- Supplies) horizontally and centrally about one inch from the upper edge on both the top and bottom and on each end. There should be no other markings except, if desired, identity marks such as batch or case numbers, these to be smaller characters.

As instructed then, this crate has the main description on the front:imageFrom this we can see that the crate contained 48x 16oz cans of unsweetened condensed milk; manufactured by L.M. & L Ltd. The box is faintly dated June 1948. ‘RASC SUPS’ is marked on the ends:imageAnd bottom:imageFurther markings inside the crate probably refer to the manufacturer of the box rather than the contents:imageSadly this box is missing its lid, but nonetheless is an interesting survivor- when I acquired it there was a piece of linoleum in the bottom and evidence that it had been used to hold pot-plants in a greenhouse.

Australian 1956 Pattern Water Bottle and Carrier

My thanks to Cal Fischer for correctly identifying this  accoutrement and providing information to let me rewrite this post to accurately reflect the item.

As the age of Empire drew to a close the militaries of the colonies increasingly went their own ways, leaving behind Britain and drawing their influences form their regional neighbours. This was increasingly the case for the Australian Military who turned to the United States to supply much of their 1956 pattern webbing. Tonight we are looking at the water bottle and carrier form the 1956 pattern equipment. The set consists of a green plastic bottle with a webbing carrier:imageAs can be seen the carrier is closely modelled on the US 1910 pattern carrier, but made in nylon. The shade is rather lighter than that used by the US Army, and on the rear is a wire hook to fasten it to a belt:imageAnd a pair of metal clips like the US ALICE system is also sewn to the rear:imageBeneath this can just be made out a white stamp with a NATO stores code and the /|\ mark, sadly the date is badly worn, but I believe it says 1968:imageThe stores NSN code has the -50- indicating the carrier was made in the US for a foreign contract. The inside of the carrier is lined with felt that helps insulate it so the water in the bottle stays cool; this also adds a degree of protection to the bottle itself:image

The oficial instructions on the cover read:

The cotton duck canteen cover has a felt lining and is attached to the pistol belt by means of two attaching clips located on the back of the cover.

The canteen cover accomodates the canteen. Keeping the felt material on the inside of the canteen cover wet during hot weather will help to keep the water in the canteen cool. The cover must be kept dry during cold weather, however, as the felt material will give limited protection in preventing the water in the canteen from freezing.

The bottle is made of green moulded plastic:imageThis type of water bottle was introduced by the Canadians and copied by the US Army who introduced them in 1963 to its own troops and the bottle helpfully reminds squadies not to use it over a direct flame- the plastic would melt! The canteen was a vast improvement on the old enamelled WW2 pattern examples, but was limited in capacity so Aussies often carried two on their belt rather than the prescribed single bottle.

The 1956 pattern webbing was frequently mixed with bits of modified 37 pattern and 44 pattern webbing to make up a mixed set that suited Australian soldiers’ needs. In this view the waterbottle carrier can be seen on the belt, along with a modified 37 pattern pouch:untitled

Tuesday Finds

We haven’t had a ‘Tuesday Finds’ post in a long time, mainly as the items I have been picking up have warranted a detailed post in their own right. Today’s market did however bring up a few of those little items that I like to find so much. There was one larger and more impressive item we will return to later, but today’s three little objects were only £1 each- again proving this hobby is open to all regardless of budget.

The Kitchen Front Cook Book

One of the most popular wireless programmes in WW2 was ‘The Kitchen Front’ a five minute radio short every morning that offered simple, healthy and frugal recipes to help housewives on the home front make the most of their rations. The shows had a warm chatty style and the recipes were very popular- this little book collects some 122 of them:imageThe book dates from 1942 and I will be giving some of the recipes a go- others such as the Roast Calves Head will remain in the pages of history!

Royal Artillery Officer’s Cap Badge         

This little bronzed badge is typical of the smaller ‘flaming bomb’ cap badges used by the Royal Artillery as an alternative to the large field gun shaped cap badge:imageThis example is finished in bronze indicating it was used by an officer. The fittings on the back of the badge have been removed and replaced by a pin to turn it into a brooch:imageAirborne Division Glass

This rather nice glass tankard with a chromed handle has an etched Pegasus of the Airborne division and the inscription “Royal Engineers. 1st Airborne Division’:imageAlthough I don’t think it is wartime, it definitely has some age to it and is very heavy, sadly the chrome plating on the handle is starting to wear but it remains a nice piece.

British Forces in France Pass

It is often the luck of the draw which items of military ephemera survive and which are consigned to the bin, tonight we are looking at an interesting little security pass that survived as it was tucked in the back of the owner’s AB64 pass book. This little pass is an identification card for British soldiers serving in France:imageAs can be seen it is made of an orange card, with black printing. The instructions on the front suggest the pass should have been withdrawn and destroyed when the soldier left the command- happily for us he forgot to return it! The inside of the pass has space for personal information and unit stamps:imageFrom this we can see the pass was issued to Private Kenneth Marshall who was serving with No 5 Independent Station Maintenance Section, Royal Army Service Corps. He was stationed in Paris at 38, Rue Dailly, St Cloud which was presumably the headquarters for his unit. A large stamp on this pass indicates it was issued in 1947. The address is now a Volkswagen dealership in one of life’s great ironies!

The rear of the pass has a space for any changes, extensions to use etc. from the commanding officer to be entered, however there are none of these on this example:imageIt is easy to forget that even after the liberation of France, the British Army remained in the country for a number of years helping stabilise it and assisting in the repair of infrastructure and formation of the new French Armed Forces, helping repair a country ravaged by five years of war.

Officer’s Field Service Cap

Whilst the Field Service cap became the standard item of headwear for other ranks in 1937, most officers continued to use the Service Dress Cap for many occasions. They were however allowed the option of purchasing their own FS caps and some did choose to purchase these for wear in the field and in less formal situations. This example is one of these officer’s FS caps:imageAs can be seen it follows the design of the Other Ranks’ FS cap very closely, only the fabric is better quality with a fine barathea being used. The buttons on the front of the cap are bronzed rather than plain brass:imageHere the cap badge is a (rather worn) Royal Army Catering Corps bronzed officer’s example:imageThe inside of the cap is lined with a type of rayon artificial fabric and has a maker’s label for Simpson of Piccadilly:imageSimpson of Piccadilly was opened in April 1936 as the largest menswear store in the world at the time:GB-1837-DES-EMB-2-7-1During the Second World War the company was one of the largest suppliers of officers’ uniforms and the company produced over seven million items of clothing and opened the top floor of their London store as a club for servicemen where they could bathe, sleep and telephone their loved ones.

Officers had a lot of leeway in their choice of uniform and they varied in details form regiment to regiment and tailor to tailor. Senior officers frequently tried to standardise what was worn at a regimental level, but one feels they knew they were fighting a losing battle!

WW1 Hospital Postcard (Part 2)

Tonight we look at the second of the two WW1 hospital postcards I picked up on Tuesday. This picture is taken outside and is a very unusual mixture of patients, nurses and monks:SKMBT_C36415071409080_0001 - CopyAs in yesterday’s image, most of the patients are dressed in hospital blues:SKMBT_C36415071409080_0001 - Copy - CopyOne of the soldiers has his rank stripes sewn on the sleeve and a flower in his lapel:SKMBT_C36415071409080_0001 - Copy - Copy (2)A variety of headwear can be seen, from standard service dress caps:SKMBT_C36415071409080_0001 - Copy - Copy (3)

Glengarrys:SKMBT_C36415071409080_0001 - Copy - Copy (4)And slouch hats:SKMBT_C36415071409080_0001 - Copy - Copy (5)These suggest hat at least some of the patients were Australian; even a bowler hat puts in an appearance:SKMBT_C36415071409080_0001 - Copy - Copy (6)One man is in a rather fetching dressing gown:SKMBT_C36415071409080_0001 - Copy - Copy (7)Most interestingly there are a number of monks in the picture:SKMBT_C36415071409080_0001 - Copy - Copy (8)Including one in what looks like a bath chair with a stick:SKMBT_C36415071409080_0001 - Copy - Copy (9)Most unusually this gentleman is black- presumably a very uncommon occurrence at the time. There were a number of monasteries in the UK in World War One that were converted into a military hospital; sadly there is not a way of identifying the exact hospital in this postcard. Alongside the monks are a good number of nurses to care for the injured men:SKMBT_C36415071409080_0001 - Copy - Copy (10)Interestingly a couple of the nurses do not look English, being possibly Indian:SKMBT_C36415071409080_0001 - Copy - Copy (11)Again this is a fascinating and intriguing image and if anyone can provide more information I would be very interested to hear from them.