Monthly Archives: February 2016

DPM Jungle Trousers

Earlier this year we looked at the 1970s jungle DPM shirt here. Tonight it is the turn of the matching trousers to be considered. The trousers are made from the same lightweight DPM fabric as the shirt:imageDPM, or disruptive pattern material, had been designed in the 1960s, very much inspired by the patterns used on Denison smocks in World War Two. The pattern uses four basic colours, typically seen in western Europe- black, dark brown, mid brown and dark sand. These colours were modified slightly for tropical uniforms with more vibrant hues used that rapidly faded to pastel shades.

These trousers have large buttoned pockets on each thigh:imageA further pocket is provided on the seat:imageButtoned belt loops are provided to help support the trousers:imageAs is a drawstring through the waist that can help adjust the size:imageNote also the button fly using a row of small green buttons. The bottom of each trouser leg has holes to pass drawstrings through, allowing the bottoms to be tied off and bloused over boots if required:imageThe label for the trousers is on the inside of the waist belt, sadly in this case the label has been washed clean, and a hand inked size of ‘8’ has been written on in its place:imageA size 8 pair of trousers equates to a waist of 32-33 inches and a seat of 38-39 inches:App3264LargeThese trousers were used throughout the 1970s and 1980s until the introduction of the CS95 clothing in the late 1990s. These uniforms were worn extensively during jungle training in Brunei at the Jungle Warfare School there. The country is still used today for training, with a large British Army presence. The British Army in Brunei comprises an Infantry Battalion and a Bell 212 Helicopter Flight of the Army Air Corps. The climate of Brunei is well suited to jungle operations and the Training Team Brunei run jungle warfare courses for all members of the British Army ranging from Jungle Warfare Instructor Courses to long range patrolling and tracking. The Infantry Battalion is supported by the small British Garrison, which provides all logistic and administrative support.

War Gratuity Document

When service personnel left the armed forces after the end of the Second World War they were paid a cash lump sum based on their time in service to the crown. This was made up of two parts, a ‘Post War Credit’ and a ‘War Gratuity’ and the sums involved could be quite substantial. This document came as part of a wider grouping of paperwork to a private in the Royal Army Service Corps and details what he is entitled to receive:SKMBT_C36416021708131_0001 - CopyFrom this document we can see he has received £32 of War Gratuity and £41 1s of post war credit giving him a total of £71 1s on demob. The Times on February 7th 1945 had explained what War Gratuities a soldier could expect:

War Gratuity on the scale set out below will be granted to officers and men who have had at least six months’ approved war service and who are released or honourably discharged from the forces. The gratuity will be assessed on the total period or periods of war service in the forces, on full service pay, from September 3, 1939, up to the date of release form a dispersal centre (or from a unit, &c., for those who do not pass through dispersal centres.

Periods of unmobilised service in the reserves and other periods without service pay, and service which has been forfeited and not restored, will not count.

The basic rate of gratuity for ratings and other ranks will be 10s., and for the lowest rank of officer 25s., for each complete month of service as above. Officers and men who have held paid rank above the lowest will qualify for higher rates of gratuity, based upon the substantive or war substantive rank held at the day of release, or, if more favourable, upon the highest paid rank held during the war for a period or periods amounting to not less than six months in all. Where service has been given both in the ranks and as an officer, the gratuity will be calculated separately for each period of service.

The Post War Credit was slightly different as The Times on February 11th 1942 reported:

Sixpence a day is to be set aside as a post-war credit and the sum due under this arrangement will be paid over when the person concerned leaves the service without prejudice to any war gratuity which may be granted when hostilities end.

The back of the form explained how a soldier would receive this money and who to inform if he moved address:SKMBT_C36416021708140_0001Tony King was one of many who received a substantial sum of money on leaving the forces:

Then followed lots of form filling, a medical (still A1!), a kit inspection and I was bundled off back to Catterick Camp, arriving a few days before Christmas and prepared to go AWOL if my demob. was not cleared in time for Christmas at home. It was – just, and after collecting my demob. outfit from a depot in York I left the Army with 4 weeks’ leave pay and a demob. gratuity of around £100, which I shortly blew on an Army surplus Royal Enfield 350cc DR’s motorbike and a well-tailored bespoke suit.

The spending habits of this man are typical, many were to regret later in life not buying a house with the sum of money as many could easily have afforded one, but as my Grandfather told us ‘men like us didn’t own houses in those days’ so it never crossed his mind.

Canadian Summer Uniform Trousers

In 1933 the Canadian Army introduced a new summer uniform of khaki drill in a distinctive pale green colour. To save money this uniform was only issued to permanent troops and not reservists and had a relatively short life span, being largely dropped on the outbreak of the Second World War. As late as 1938 the Department of National Defence refused to issue the uniform to non-permanent force members on the grounds of cost. As can be expected from such a short service life, this makes the uniform a little rarer than most so I was very pleased to be able to purchase a pair of trousers from it this week. Sadly they are in a size 1 which means they are far too small for me, but they will do in my collection until I come across a large pair. The trousers themselves are made of a thick cotton drill in that distinctive shade:imageThe fly is fastened with pressed metal buttons:imageThe same buttons are used on the inside of the waistband to attach braces:imageThe soldier also has the option of wearing a belt as loops are provided:imageThese would have been used with a Canadian Army issue brown leather belt. The trousers have simple internal pockets on each hip, with a ‘slash’ opening on the seam:imageThe size, ‘1’, is stamped onto the waistband:imageThe trousers are clearly marked with a /|\ inside a ‘C’ indicating their Canadian origin:imageAnd a couple of stamps for the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, as the ‘Royal’ designation was only adopted in 1936 these trousers must have been issued after that date:imageimageThese stamps also indicate that these trousers were issued in Aurora, Ontario. Sadly a combination of these trousers being too small and a lack of a suitable jacket prevent me from presenting my own reconstruction of this uniform; I am therefore grateful to Michael Skriletz for permission to use his excellent reconstruction of a private from the Royal Canadian Regiment in 1939:1486824_717201918290391_1164219650_nFor more fantastic British and Empire uniform reconstructions please look at the ‘British Empire Uniforms 1939-1943’ page on Facebook.

Post War Blue Beret

Following the end of the Second World War, a number of changes were made to British Army uniforms to improve their smartness for post war operations, both as an aid to recruitment but also because now that austerity had been eased regimental pride could take a more prominent role. The unloved GS Cap, see here, was quickly dropped and in 1950 a midnight blue beret was adopted by most units in the British Army:imageThis 6 7/8 example was made by Supak and is dated 1953:imageSupak were a major supplier of berets to the British Army throughout the Second World War and clearly continued for many years after. Supak Manufacturing Co were based at the Aintree Road Works, Perivale in Middlesex and in 1947 they described themselves as ‘Manufacturers of Berets for Men, Women and Children. Speciality of Basque Berets. Officers berets and Army Berets.’

This beret has a leather sweatband adjusted by a cord at the rear:imageTwo vents are provided, reinforced by metal grommets:imageUnlike the GS cap where a hole was simple poked through the material for a cap badge, this beret has a pre-sewn channel to pass the slider of a cap badge into:imageAlan Crosskill joined the 17/21st lancers in the early 1950s and remembers:

On each shorn head was a seemingly huge navy blue beret; whilst in time we would learn how to shrink and shape this headgear, for some weeks these monstrosities would look like oversize cowpats.

Another evocative description of wearing berets in the early 1950s is quoted in “National Service, Elvis and Me” by David Fowler:

We all got berets. They were black shapeless things when issued. But the beret also quickly established its own particular personality. It too has to be broken in. When newly issued, the Army beret is fluffy and pansy. It perches on top of the head with its weight equally on either side. It announces ‘new recruit’ as clearly as the army number. When properly broken in, the beret denotes ‘manhood’ more than any other single piece of equipment. The shiny headband shoots horizontally across the forehead exactly one and a half inches above the eye. The main body of the beret is moulded to the shape of the soldier’s head. It is no surprise to anyone who has ever worn a beret in anger that the heroism of whole regiments is described by reference to this little garment. When Paras are referred to as ‘Red Berets’ there is legendary symbolism in the name. It takes an average of fifteen hours of steaming, ironing and cursing to get the shape of a beret right. Then, at last, with a bit of luck, the little black bugger will begin to look manly, sloping gently rightwards away from a gleaming cap badge. No-one can perform heroics with a thing on their head that looks like a cow-pat.

The use of the midnight blue beret has gradually declined over the years as more and more regiments gained permission for their own distinctive headgear, however it is still in widespread use in some regiments and with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines who have not completed commando training; modern berets however normally have a plastic inner to the crown and are of a slightly different shape to this one.

Officer’s Shirt Collar

Up until the end of the Second World War, officers were the only members of the army officially allowed to wear a shirt, collar and tie. At this time both civilian and military collared shirts had removable collars, secured to the rest of the shirt with collar studs. This allowed a clean collar to be worn every day to look smart, without needing to go to the effort of laundering the rest of the shirt. This example is in khaki cloth, with a fold down design and would have been worn by an officer:imageA short stud passes through the rear of the collar and shirt, hence the small button hole here:imageA longer stud is used at the front, passing through the two sides of the shirt and both ends of the collar:imageThe collar is in what tailors refer to as a ‘cutaway’ design, designed to be used as a soft rather than a starched collar and worn with a tie:imageThe 1931 Indian Army Dress Regulations provided the following guidance on officers collars:

Collars.- The pattern is left to the discretion of commanding officers but all officers of a unit must be dressed alike.

Drab flannel or khaki collars will be worn with service dress and khaki drill jackets at all times. A plain gold safety pin may be worn under the tie to keep the soft collar in place.

The regulations went on further to give guidance for officers wearing a shirt without a jacket in ‘shirt sleeve order’:

The collar of the shirt may be worn open without a tie.

This collar is faintly marked with the /|\ inside a ‘U’ acceptance mark of the South African Army:imageIn this fine portrait of Lieutenant General John Darcy shows off the officer’s collar nicely, worn with the regulation shirt, tie and service dress jacket:JohnD'ArcyAn officer would normally have at least half a dozen of these collars and they would be carried in his baggage, however by the Second World War they were very much worn away from the front lines, soldiers battledress being a far more sensible option in battle.

Leave Pass

Leave from the armed forces was always something that men and women looked forward to, normally it might only be for a weekend, but occasionally longer spells were granted and passes issued to allow troops to return home to their loved ones. This combined leave pass and railway ticket dates from just after the end of the Second World War and was issued to a member of the RASC who was part of the Allied Expeditionary Force:SKMBT_C36416021611050_0001The large purple stamp dates this pass to August 1945:SKMBT_C36416021611050_0001 - CopyThe ticket is for third class travel on the train and runs from the port the soldier landed in, Dover to his home in Hatton, London:SKMBT_C36416021611050_0001 - Copy (2)It was not always easy for soldiers trying to get home on leave in wartime, with trains running at odd times and often heavily delayed. Marine Arthur hill had difficulties getting back to London for his wedding:

That is when I took the opportunity to remind the officer in charge that I was off to be married in the morning, and had been granted leave to go a day early.

“Good luck” he said, “you’ll have to find your own way back, you’ll find your leave pass and ticket in the company office”.

So there I was again, on my own, doing a mad dash. Tickets, best uniform out of a kitbag, local station to Exeter. Now, there are two mainline stations, and as I’d never been this way before, I picked the nearest, St. David’s. Big mistake! Not a direct line; change at Bristol, and having got there, found that there was no train due for another two hours. And that was stopping at all stations.

So that is my excuse for not turning up for my wedding until 10:00 a.m. on the day, looking scruffy. But I did make the Kensington Registry Office on time.

Distances travelled for leave grew as the war ended, even troops as far away as Egypt were given the chance to return to the UK for leave, as was the case for Clifford Renshaw:

Well, I was stationed in Egypt, and there for two years, and we didn’t get any leave, you see. So; after a…nearly two years they decided to give us a leave, a month’s leave to come home from Egypt. So I got me pass, and eventually, I got to Piccadilly Station in Manchester. I got the all night bus to where I lived in Sale. And I’m walking at 3 o’clock in the morning as I got off the bus; and I’m walking up the road with my kitbag and all me kit, and a policeman jumps out of a doorway, and asks me where I was going. I said, “I’m going home on leave.” He said, “Where’ve you come from?” I said, “Egypt. “But he didn’t believe me, you see. He said, “Trying to kid me, they don’t send you on leave from Egypt” I said, “Well here’s proof.” So I give him my pass, my leave pass. “I’m sorry, son!” he said, “How far have you got to go?” I said, “Well I’ve got a mile or so to walk to my mother’s. “Put your kitbag on my handlebars”, he said, “Son, and I’ll help you home with it.” And he walks all the way home with me, with me kitbag on the handlebars.article-1056396-02AB4F9800000578-148_468x549


No7 Bayonet

My thanks go to Andrew Dearlove for helping me with tonight’s bayonet; which is possibly my favourite bladed weapon in the collection: The No7 bayonet. The No7 was designed in 1944 for use with both the No4 rifle and the Sten MkV. Up until this point the No4 had been issued with a spike bayonet, which no one liked, and a way was sought to combine the socket attachment used to attach the bayonet to the No4 with the bowie style blade used on the jungle carbine bayonet, which was universally liked. The resulting bayonet was a complicated, but very elegant blade:imageThe pommel of the handle was designed to swivel through 180 degrees to allow the bayonet to be affixed to a weapon or used as a fighting knife, a sprung bar holds the swivelling portion firmly in place:imagePulling it back and twisting the base reveals the socket connector:imageWhich then attaches to the No4 rifle in a conventional style:imageA large muzzle ring is designed to allow rounds to pass safely through:imageThese were made to the same design as that on the Jungle Carbine, not to fit that weapon, but because the part was available and it ensured that even with worn out barrels and poor ammunition, the round would clear the bayonet. This was to prove the bayonets’ downfall as it was discovered if the socket was not fully engaged, the bayonet would still fit to the rifle, but the .303 round could still hit the muzzle ring on firing. Once this was discovered the bayonet was rapidly issued only for use with the MkV Sten and for ceremonial duties by the Guards in London where it was visually far better suited than a spike bayonet.

The grips of the bayonet are made of Paxolin, a resin impregnated cloth, with four deep finger grooves to allow the bayonet to be used as a fighting knife:imageThe bayonet is marked ‘No 7 Mk 1/L’ on the ricasso:image176,000 of these bayonets were produced from 1944 onwards until production ceased in 1948

Birmingham Small Arms Ltd. – 25,000; Elkington & Co. Ltd. Birmingham – 20,000; Royal Ordinance Factory, Poole – 30,000; Royal Ordinance Factory, Newport – 100,000.

As can be imagined with relatively low numbers, this is a comparatively rare bayonet when compared with the wartime spike bayonet. The bayonet was issued with the standard scabbard also used on the No5 and No9 bayonets:imageDespite being a flawed design, I really like this bayonet for the engineering involved and the general aesthetics which make it a particularly nice blade and a welcome addition to my collection.