Monthly Archives: May 2016

Australian Hussif

Over the last couple of years we have looked at sewing kits from both Britain and India and looked at examples used in the Royal Navy and a sewing kit that was part of the 1944 pattern jungle equipment. Tonight we have a very different style of sewing kit, this time hailing from Australia, and my thanks got to Rene Roof for helping me with this one and posting it off to the Northern Hemisphere. These sewing kits seem to be pretty unusual in the UK, and certainly I have never seen another one here before. From the outside the hussif is of a fairly standard design, secured by two white tapes wrapped around:imageOpening it up however reveals it to be of a radically different design to other examples used in the Empire:imageThe most obvious thing to note are the two long open ended pockets to hold the thread used to repair buttons and uniforms:imageCertainly this is the first time I have seen this design feature and I suspect it may be unique to Australian manufacture or indeed to this one particular company producing the hussif. I am unsure if there were any particular benefits from making the hussif to this design, but equally it serves its purpose as well as any other design. A pocket at one end has room for a small greased paper packet:imageThis sewing kit is clearly unissued, but opening up the packet reveals spare buttons, a piece of grey flannelette and a selection of needles:imageAlso in the pocket is a small Bakelite thimble:imageThe sewing kit is stamped with manufacturer’s details and acceptance stamp:imageAlthough it is hard to make out on this example, I have seen other examples from the same source and can confirm that the manufacturer is ‘Parkers Products Pty Ltd’ and the sewing kit dates from 1942. Examples exist from this manufacturer in both cotton drill like this and made from leather.

SLR L1A3 Bayonet

When the Self Loading Rifle (SLR) was introduced the British Army naturally introduced a bayonet to go with their new rifle. They seem to have been very happy with the clipped bowie shaped blade they had used with the No5 Bayonet, No 7 Bayonet (see here) and the No 9 Bayonet (see here) and mated this to a new crosspiece and pommel to fit the SLR:imageThe bayonet is 305mm long, with a 203mm long blade and due to the blade shape continued to use the same scabbard introduced for the earlier bayonets. This example is an L1A3, introduced in the late-1950s, which made the protruding press stud used to release the bayonet flush with the rest of the pommel:imageA long deep fuller runs down each side of the blade, this allows a vacuum to be released when the blade has been stabbed into the torso of a man and thus allows the bayonet to be withdrawn more easily:imageThis particular bayonet also has the modifications introduced into production from the mid-1960s onwards when the length of the fuller was reduced and the ricasso lengthened due to a perceived weakness in the design at this point:imageOriginally the fuller ran almost the entire length of the blade, this feature was deleted on the L1A4 bayonet introduced in the 1970s which reverted to a full length fuller. The cross piece has a large ring, 14.9mm in diameter, to fit over the muzzle of the rifle:imageThe grips of the bayonet are made of a hard black plastic, secured with two rivets:imageThe combined ‘ED’ trademark of the Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield can just be made out stamped on the plastic grips. Like all British bayonets of the post war period, this blade is of very high quality and finish. The bayonet was to see extensive use in The Falklands War, as witnessed by this visceral account by Guards Lieutenant Robert Lawrence MC:

I stuck my bayonet into the back of his arm, dug it right in because I had run out of ammunition. He spun wildly on the ground and my bayonet snapped. And as he spun, he was trying to get a Colt 45 out of an Army holster on his waist. So I had to stab him to death. I stabbed him and I stabbed him, again and again, in the mouth, in the face, in the guts, with a snapped bayonet. It was absolutely horrific [retrospectively — at the time he recalls crying out ‘Isn’t this fun?’ not long after this incident]. Stabbing a man to death is not a clean way to kill somebody, and what made it doubly horrific was that at one point he started screaming ‘Please. . .‘ in English to me. But if I had left him he could have ended up shooting me in the back. I took his rifle, moved on, shot a sniper, picked up his and moved on again.

1944 Pattern Jungle Shirt

The speed of change in British Army jungle clothing in the last two years of the Second World War was impressive, with the jungle green battledress louse we looked at earlier in the week rapidly superseded by aertex bush jackets and eventually a new ‘1944’ pattern jungle shirt:imageThis uniform was based on lengthy discussions with users and tried to address the concerns raised over the inadequacies of the existing clothing provided. The fabric is a heavier cotton drill designed to hold up to the rigours of the jungle better than the aertex used previously- the Australian army estimated the average lifespan of a uniform in the jungle as being just two to three weeks. This was obviously heavier and warmer, but far more robust. Interestingly the army returned to aertex for its 52 pattern uniform so the material cannot have been an unqualified success! The design of the bush jacket is fairly conventional, but does have some unique features, the shoulders are reinforced:imageThis presumably helps protect the area where a pack’s straps would rub and wear away the fabric. Two sets of double loops are provided on the rear of the jacket:imageThese are to allow belt loops on the trousers to be passed through, securing the two halves of the uniform together and preventing the gap at the waist that was such a problem with the jungle green battledress. The rear of these loops are reinforced to help them take the strain:imageThe breast pockets are typical of the period, being pleated with green plastic buttons to secure them:imageThe lower skirt of the jacket is free from pockets allowing it to be worn tucked into the trousers if so desired. At the collar two buttons are provided to offer a choice of fastening arrangements- most photographs indicate however that these were left undone in the heat of the jungle:imageInside the shirt a single printed label dates the shirt to 1945 and indicates it was made by John Hammond and Co Ltd:imageThe interior of the shirt has a large buttonable flap inside it:imageWith a corresponding button on the opposite side:imageThis flap was a ‘gas flap’ and was designed to make the garment more resistant to vesicant gases that were absorbed through the skin- quite how many of these were expected to be encountered in the jungle is open to debate! These uniforms did not reach the far east until the very end of the war and are seen in the mopping up of the area after the end of the conflict. They also saw extensive use, alongside the updated 1947 pattern jungle uniform in Korea and at the start of the Malayan Emergency. Like all jungle uniforms, the 1944 pattern jacket is increasingly hard to find with collectors beginning to take an interest in what has until recently been an under recognised aspect of military history and thus prices are starting to rise.

Aluminium Mess Tins

The rectangular nesting mess tins in use with the British Army have seen service since 1944, making them one of the longest serving items of equipment in the British Army, 72 years and counting! The aluminium mess tin had been introduced before World War 2, but rapidly dropped in favour of tinned steel (as seen here) to allow the metal to be prioritised for more urgent war uses. A new aluminium mess tin was developed of a slightly different shape and this came in as part of the new jungle equipment brought in in the wake of the Lethbridge report.

The set consists of two aluminium pans, one slightly smaller than the other:imageThis allows the two tins to be placed together, taking up less room in a man’s bag and offering some protection to whatever food stuffs might be stored inside them:imageEach tin has an aluminium alloy handle, which folds out to make a safe grip for the tin- the metal is a poor conductor of heat so even if the main tin gets hot, the thin wire handle remains cool:imageThese are secured to the body of the mess tin by an aluminium plate and four rivets:imageThese plates are the usual place to find details of the year and manufacturer of the mess tin:imageIn this case the set were made in 1980 by a company using the initials ‘PK’, dating this set nicely to the Falklands War period:

‘Vince waved me over for a brew he was making. I was on the way over when I heard another barrage on the way and I dived in beside him. He started yelling at me: “Watch my mess tin- this is my last water. Don’t spill the bloody thing.”

‘Did I laugh? What else could you do? The bloody brew was more important to us than the artillery. We lay side by side with our hands over the mess tin to stop the dirt from the shell explosions landing in the water’

There are also accounts from the Falklands of the Parachute Regiment using mess tins, along with their bayonets to dig improvised shell scrapes around Goose Green.

In use it is common to fill the smaller pan with water, put ration bags into the water and then boil this over a personal stove, the larger pan sitting on top as a lid to encourage heat retention and speed up the cooking process. Once the water has boiled this is used for making a drink and the food bags opened and either the contents are eaten out of the bag or placed into the mess tin that then becomes a plate. These tins are very easily available, having been made continuously for over seventy years, and can be bought for a few pounds- the metal is far thicker and better quality than the cheap copies sold in camping shops so even if you are not a collector it is more sensible to invest in a second hand military set rather than a new civilian set as these are almost indestructible!

Indian Supply and Transport Corps Officer’s Cap Badge

Sometimes as a collector you take a punt on an object you are not sure about- sometimes it’s a waste of a few pounds and other times you have made a gem of a discovery. Tonight’s object definitely falls into the latter category. This cap badge turned up on Tuesday for £2 on the Huddersfield Second hand market:FullSizeRenderAlthough I didn’t have a clue which regiment it represented, it was clearly pre 1952 by the King’s crown and worth a shot at the price:FullSizeRender - CopyThe badge is of white metal in the form of an eight pointed star, in the centre of which is a laurel wreath surrounding the initials ‘T’, ‘S’ and ‘C’:FullSizeRender - Copy (2)The badge has a cotterpin fastener at the rear:FullSizeRender1And the bent over lugs indicate it is of two part construction:FullSizeRender1 - CopyAs ever when I am unsure about a badge I put the photograph up on the British Badge Forum and thanks to ‘Magpie’ and ‘Hoot’ I had a positive identification- the badge is an officer’s cap badge for the Indian Supply and Transport Corps and dates to between 1901 and 1911. The badge is of stamped construction, silvered and of high quality- all indicating it was produced in the UK for a British Officer serving with the corps- looking online other ranks had simpler stamped brass cap badges.

The origin of the corps go back to 1760 when a Commissariat used to exist in the administrative component of the armies three Presidencies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay. In 1878 the separate Commissariats were amalgamated into a single entity and then in 1901 it was renamed as the Supply and Transport Corps. During the First World War the corps became a permanent component of the British Indian Army and was renamed as the Indian Army Service Corps in 1923. In 1935 the corps was allowed to use the prefix ‘Royal’ and was known as Royal Indian Army Service Corps.

NBC Training Combi-Pens

Auto-injector combi-pens are used to administer drugs to soldiers in the field who may have been exposed to nerve agents. These pens contain a spring loaded needle that allows a man to administer the drugs to himself or his friend through heavy layers of clothing and soldiers are trained in their use as part of their chemical warfare instruction. Obviously real injectors and drugs cannot be used for training, these normally only get issued when troops go into a conflict zone, so training combi pens are used that lack the needle and the drug but allow troops to understand what they need to do if the worst should happen. These are plastic tubes, with a large yellow sticker around giving details of its use:imageSprung blunt plastic prongs are fitted to one end to simulate a needle:imageNote the different shapes to the ends of the two combi-pens, although both have instructions in English, one has a NATO country code of 17 suggesting it might be Dutch rather than British. The sides of the tube are clearly marked as having no drugs or needle:imageAs can be seen instructions for use are printed on the label:

  1. Pull out grey safety cap and retain
  2. Place black end on thigh and press hard until injector functions, count five slowly and withdraw
  3. Flick yellow cap off grey safety and swallow tablet inside.
  4. If nerve agent poisoning symptoms persist, repeat dose at 15 minute intervals. Maximum dose 3 injections. image

The grey cap is removable from the end of these combi-pens to simulate the real examples:imageDespite these training pens, accidents can happen and the MoD paid one Lance Corporal £10,000 after he was injected with a live combi pen instead of a training one during an NBC exercise in 2004. Real combi-pens were issued in the First Gulf War, as were tablets called NAPS that were taken to prevent nerve agent poisoning in the first place, as explained by one veteran:

I suppose like most vets I was just issued mine and told to keep them with me at all times. The NAPS were kept in my top pocket and the spares were kept in my day-sack on top of my 432. COMBI pens were again just kept in our respirator sack.

Indian Jungle Green Battledress Trousers

Following Saturday’s post on the jungle green battledress blouse, tonight we turn to the other half of this set, the jungle green battledress trousers:imageLike the blouse, these closely follow the design of the woollen battledress trousers; however instead of aertex fabric they are made of cotton drill fabric. The loose weave of aertex, whilst fine for shirts, would not have been robust enough for trousers where the constant snagging of jungle vegetation would soon have torn holes in the fabric. These trousers have a large map pocket on the thigh:imageAnd the standard expansion pleated pocket for a first field dressing:imageThese are secured by typically Indian pressed metal buttons. Note as well the slash pocket visible to the left of the field dressing pocket in the above photograph. The final pocket is sewn to the seat of the trousers:imageThe same pressed metal buttons are used to secure the fly of the trousers:imageNote the use of twin plastic buttons to secure the waist. Inside can be seen typical Indian markings, a large acceptance stamp dated October 1944:imageAnd a stamp for sizing, in this case the trousers are a size 16:imageWhilst the jungle green battledress blouse was rapidly replaced with a bush jacket, the trousers continued in use with the new top and are easily identifiable in period photographs by the large thigh pocket:10906137_1553468661597093_4135499458227270113_nAs can be imagined, these trousers suffered badly from wear and literally fell apart form use. Consequently they are one of the harder items of jungle kit to find form the Second World War and often attract very high prices, my thanks go to Andrew Dearlove for helping set me up with this set of jungle uniform and at some point in the future reconstructions using the uniform will appear on this site.