Monthly Archives: April 2016

S6 Respirator Haversack Mk 1

The S6 respirator we looked at here, came with at least three separate patterns of haversack during its service life; the earliest of which, the Mk1, is the subject of tonight’s blog post. This haversack is made of a dark green cotton in a distinctive ‘wedge shape’:imageThis cotton material was to prove difficult to decontaminate following an NBC incident so was later replaced with nylon based materials that were easier to clean. The haversack is attached to the body by a cross strap, that is adjustable with buckles:imageAnd press studs:imageIt was imagined that the mask could be worn slung by the side when not needed and on the chest for immediate action, much like the wartime service respirator. The haversack is prevented from ‘bouncing’ around by the use of a piece of string as a steadying strap, that is passed around the body and wrapped around a metal disc to hold it tight:imageIn reality this was rarely ever done, as explained by one old squaddie:

In theory the strap goes around the neck and there should be a cord stashed in a pocket on the R.H side that passes around the body and fastens onto the round “catch” on the left. The case is then resting on the chest…In practice if you wore it as per the book the first time you dived for cover you got a VERY sore chest…. So it usually got hung off the 58 pattern belt – on the left if I recall.

The flap of the haversack is secured by two press studs and a quick release fastener of the same design as that used on 58 pattern webbing:imageUnder the flap are two loops to hold securely NBC sundries:imageNote the original owner’s name and number marked in pen inside the haversack:imageAnd the manufacturer’s stamp indicating it was made in 1971:imageInside the haversack is a loop at the base for an anti-dimming kit and a pocket for a spare filter:imageThis haversack is one of three different S6 haversacks in my collection, the other patterns will be considered in due course. It is interesting to note that this is the smallest of all the haversacks and it is very difficult to get all the required pieces of equipment in- later cases were far better designed, presumably based on the experience with the Mk 1.

British Army Tea Ration Tin

The need to have a restoring drink in the field has led to many national idiosyncrasies in essential equipment provided to soldiers- the French and Italians had military issue coffee grinders, the US Army ensured its GIs could always have a Coca Cola and of course the British Army did its best to ensure there was always facilities for its soldiers to have a hot cup of tea. Out of the front line this was fairly easy with tea urns and NAAFI vans providing Tommy with a hot wet- in the front lines getting a hot cup of tea was more problematic and an instant tea was issued with milk and sugar already included in the mix so a soldier just had to add water. This was issued in the standard sized tin used for emergency rations, cigarettes etc:imageThe lid of the tin has instructions on how to brew up the tea:imageTEA RATION 5oz

(Containing Tea, Sugar and Soluble Milk Powder)

DIRECTIONS

Use dry spoon and sprinkle powder on the heated water and bring to the boil, stirring until the milk powder is completely dissolved. The contents of the tin are sufficient for 6 pints of tea. For small quantities, 1 oz (3 heaped teaspoonfuls) are to be added to each pint of water.

The tea contained in this tin was not, by all accounts, particularly good and the closest modern equivalent is something like QT. Despite this, a hot drink would have been very welcome and there are many stories of British troops stopping during a lull in the fighting to brew up. This tin has a maker’s stamp impressed in the base:imageAs can be seen this tin is not in the best condition, however inside the tin is a small note saying it was found in a farm near Bernay on the Normandy battlefield. This makes it a bit special as it was actually a piece of equipment that went over to France and has not just sat unissued in stores. My thanks go to Andy Dixon for this item.

L28A1 Drill Grenade

On the face of it grenades are very easy to use- you pull the pin out and throw them at the enemy. However it was discovered in the First World War that there was rather more to the matter than this and men needed to practice with dummy grenades of the same shape and weight as a real grenade to enable them to judge the distance and force needed to throw these bombs accurately. The throwing of dummy grenades is also essential in helping new recruits overcome an obvious fear of the weapon and build up their confidence before they try something with real explosives inside.

Up until the cold war soldiers tended to be issued white painted Mills bombs that had been rejected for manufacturing faults on the production line for practicing with. As the outer shell of a Mills bomb was made of cast iron these rejects had a realistic weight and were a cheap solution to the problem. When the British Army replaced the Mills bomb they turned to a US grenade the M26 which was adopted as the L2 grenade. This grenade didn’t have the cast body of the Mills bomb so a weighted drill version was needed and this was made from a solid piece of aluminium, painted blue:imageAll drill ordnance in the British Army is painted blue to make it easily identifiable. This drill grenade is designated an L28A1 and this is stencilled on the grenade body:imageThe grenade is designed to be as realistic as possible and has a striker mechanism and ring to remove the pin:imageThe fuse assembly has the designation L30A2. The top of the striker is also clearly marked as being for drill purposes only, and there is a date of 1977:imageUnscrewing the striker reveals there is no internal mechanism:imageThe British Army’s website has a blog from a soldier under training who explains about grenade training:

Another good lesson this week was grenade throwing. After learning about them and how to look after, handle and throw we completed our grenade weapon handling test. The best bit was once you were competent and has passed the test we got to throw a grenade with a fuze. Our other study this week was mainly C-IED revision for the test; fingers crossed we all passed ok.

The L2 grenade has now been superseded as has this drill grenade, but examples come up for sale on the collector’s market fairly regularly and make a nice addition to a Cold War collection.

Flare Pistol Holster

It has been a long time since we looked at my flare pistol here, since then I have managed to add a flare cartridge tin to my collection here and now I have found a nice wartime dated flare pistol holster to go with the set. The holster is a large heavy duty affair made of brown leather:imageAs can be seen it is much larger even than a World War One Webley holster, with a very wide section where the mussle of the flare pistol sits to accommodate the flared ends of some models. On the rear is a broad belt loop allowing it to be attached to a webbing belt:imageThis holster originally had a shoulder strap, to help support the weight of the flare pistol, but this has long since been removed. The holster has clearly seen some hard times as all the stitching has been replaced at some point, the original stitching clearly not having survived. The flap of the holster is secured with a brass stud and a leather strap:imageUnder the flap of the holster is stamped the date ‘1944’, a maker’s stamp of HK & Son and an acceptance mark with a /|\ mark:imageThis holster has ‘No 3’ painted on the main body:imageThis suggests it was from a pool of flare pistols kept for some use in a central location and loaned out as needed. My flare pistol fits nicely into the holster:imageAs can be seen there is still plenty of room with this little pistol:imageThis suggests the holster was designed to be able to take a variety of different flare pistols of different shapes and sizes. The use of holsters does not actually seem to have been that common in front line infantry units, in this famous picture of Fusilier Tom Payne, it can be seen he is carrying a flare pistol:Fusilier_Tom_Payne_from_11_Platoon,_'B'_Company,_6th_Battalion,_Royal_Welsh_Fusiliers,_Normandy,_12_August_1944__B9005However it is tucked behind his ammunition pouch rather than being in a purpose made holster:Fusilier_Tom_Payne_from_11_Platoon,_'B'_Company,_6th_Battalion,_Royal_Welsh_Fusiliers,_Normandy,_12_August_1944__B9005 - Copy

1980s/90s GS Ration Pack

Over the weekend I was lucky enough to receive a massive collection of 1980s British Army kit from a good friend of mine, Andy Dixon, who is downsizing his collection. Needless to say we will be looking at some of these items over the coming months, starting tonight with a General Service Ration Pack as used from the mid 1970s, this example dates from around 1991 and is the sort used in the First Gulf War.

This ration pack was designed to sustain a man for 24 hours, and a man was issued one or two and carried the contents in the kidney pouches of his 58 pattern webbing. There was a limited choice of menus, four different options being produced and generally was well liked by troops, if a bit monotonous. The box is made of stiff cardboard and has the following contents (as ever click on the image for a clearer version and the key):1980s Ration Pack 1The plastic packet of drinks and sundries has the following contents:1980s Ration Pack 2A paper leaflet is included that gives details of the different menus available:imageAnd how to prepare the contents of the ration pack:imageFor more details on ration packs in the 1980s Forces 80s has an excellent page covering the subject in much more detail here.

Browning 1922 Pistol

Following last Monday’s post on the Type 56-1, I apologise for another non-British and Empire post in short succession, but I hope you will forgive me as we consider another interesting weapon, the Browning 1922 automatic pistol. The 1922 Browning was developed at the request of the Yugoslavian government from the highly successful 1910 Browning by lengthening the barrel and increasing the magazine capacity. The pistol was not sold on the civilian market particularly, but was popular amongst the armed forces, police and gendarmerie of Europe. The pistol is of a conventional design, with a long narrow look that makes it particularly attractive:imageThe muzzle has a removable cap that allows the weapon to be stripped down for cleaning and maintenance:imageThe safety is on this side of the frame, engaging in two cut outs on the top slide:imageA second safety is in the form of a grip safety, that has to be depressed before the weapon will fire:imageA final safety feature is that the gun will not fire without the magazine in place, the magazine release is on the bottom of the grip:imageThis weapon is in 7.65mm (.32 ACP):imageThe magazine holds 9 rounds, the weapon was also available in 9x17mm Browning short calibre, the two calibres being accommodated by different barrels and magazines. This magazine is a simple box magazine with a sprung platform to feed the rounds:imageTurning the weapon over reveals the ejection port:imageThe calibre of the weapon is stamped here on the barrel:imageThis automatic is of course deactivated and makes a nice companion piece to my 1900 model, the later weapon being clearly more sophisticated and a more elegant firearm:imageThe Browning 1922 was famously produced during the occupation for the Wehrmacht, and these examples will have Nazi markings, Dutch examples are marked with a crowned ‘W’. This example has no markings beyond the manufacturer’s name on the side of the slide ‘FABRIQUE NATIONALE D’ARMES DE GUERRE HERSTAL’: imageThe following description from Cruffler.com explains how the pistol works:

The M1922 is a blowback operated pistol; there is no mechanical lock between the slide and barrel. Instead, the breech is held closed by a combination of the mass of the slide and a stout recoil spring. Operation of the pistol is as follows: A loaded magazine is inserted into the butt, and the slide drawn to the rear. When the slide is released, it moves forward under pressure of the recoil spring and strips a round from the magazine into the chamber, retaining the cartridge’s rim under the externally mounted extractor. When the slide is drawn to the rear, the striker is also pulled to the rear, compressing the striker spring. When the slide is drawn to the rearmost position, the striker’s nose rides over, and is retained by the sear.

When the trigger is pressed, the trigger bar presses against the sear, rotating it back and down. This frees the striker to move forward and fire the chambered round. Upon firing, the case moves sharply rearward, imparting rearward motion to the slide. The case is pulled from the chamber by the extractor. As the slide moves to the rear, the striker’s tip is pushed out through the firing pin hole and serves as an ejector. The M1922 is equipped with a triple safety system. There is a grip safety which, unless depressed, prevents the sear from rotating and releasing the striker. There is a thumb safety which, when engaged, prevents the grip safety from being depressed. The thumb safety cannot be engaged unless the grip safety is released. There is also a magazine safety that prevents the sear from rotating unless a magazine is fully seated in the grip. Finally, the trigger bar incorporates a disconnector that prevents the sear from being tripped unless the slide is fully forward and into battery.

Fusilier’s Hackle

There are many distinctive items of uniform in the British Army, with regiments jealously guarding their historic symbols as a sign of their identity and comradeship. One of the most distinctive of these is the white and red hackle of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers:imageThe hackle is a plume of clipped feathers in a distinctive colour, worn on the headdress of particular regiments and most have a long history and commemorate a battle or campaign from the past. The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers inherited its distinctive hackle form one of its antecedents, the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. In 1778 the 5th Fusiliers had successfully thwarted a French attempt on St Lucia and took the white plumes form the enemy and wore them in their caps as a special distinction for the next 51 years. Then, with white plumes long having been authorised for grenadier companies, they were given permission to wear a white plume tipped in red to perpetuate their hard won privilege.

The plume is bound at the bottom and has a wire loop:imageThis allows it to be secured to the rear of the cap badge:imageThe plume then sticks up from behind the badge above the beret:imageThis hackle is worn on all possible occasions and was commonly seen during tours of Northern Ireland being worn by members of the regiment:imageIn this reconstruction a fusilier from the regiment can be seen on patrol in Ulster in the 1970s, he wears the distinctive hackle above the staybrite cap badge of his regiment. He wears a 1968 pattern smock and wears a protective vest with rubber shoulder pads to help him aim his weapon securely; a sterling submachine gun. In line with the guidelines at the time for patrols in built up areas he does not wear any webbing equipment and is forced to carry the ammunition for his weapon in the pockets of his uniform:FullSizeRender