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:The lid of the tin has instructions on how to brew up the tea:TEA RATION 5oz
(Containing Tea, Sugar and Soluble Milk Powder)
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:As 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.
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:All 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:The grenade is designed to be as realistic as possible and has a striker mechanism and ring to remove the pin:The 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:Unscrewing the striker reveals there is no internal mechanism:The 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.
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:The muzzle has a removable cap that allows the weapon to be stripped down for cleaning and maintenance:The safety is on this side of the frame, engaging in two cut outs on the top slide:A second safety is in the form of a grip safety, that has to be depressed before the weapon will fire:A 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:This weapon is in 7.65mm (.32 ACP):The 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:Turning the weapon over reveals the ejection port:The calibre of the weapon is stamped here on the barrel:This 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:The 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’: The 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.