Monthly Archives: June 2016

RAF Spares Box for “Arrester Lightning”

Tonight’s object is another in the list of weird and wonderful items picked up for next to nothing on the Huddersfield Second hand Market. As could be expected, the RAF held massive quantities of spares to help maintain their aircraft and equipment. These spares came packaged in stout cardboard boxes, clearly marked with both details of contents and the Air Ministry logo. This box measures 6”x3”x3”, with a fold up lid on the top:imageThe box is held together with large metal staples and the cardboard has been waxed to help protect the contents:imageThe lid is marked with a stores code and indicates the box originally held parts for an ‘Arrester Lightning’. Note the Air Ministry crown and AM logo at the bottom:imageThe underside of the lid lists the exact spares contained within the box:imageA lightning arrestor is a device to prevent electrical circuits being overloaded and burning out when they are stuck by a bolt of lightning. I must confess this all goes over my head, but according to Wikipedia:

In telegraphy and telephony, a lightning arrestor is placed where wires enter a structure, preventing damage to electronic instruments within and ensuring the safety of individuals near them. Smaller versions of lightning arresters, also called surge protectors, are devices that are connected between each electrical conductor in power and communications systems and the Earth. These prevent the flow of the normal power or signal currents to ground, but provide a path over which high-voltage lightning current flows, bypassing the connected equipment. Their purpose is to limit the rise in voltage when a communications or power line is struck by lightning or is near to a lightning strike.

My thanks to Ernest Donders for supplying me with a photograph of the Type C lightning arrestor, manufactured by Pyrex:image

1939 Pattern Utility Strap

My small collection of 39 pattern leather equipment doubled last week when I picked up a utility strap for the set. As was mentioned when we looked at the bayonet frog for this set, it is essentially a copy of the 37 pattern webbing set, but made of leather. The utility strap’s design actually dates back even further to the 1908 pattern webbing set when it had first been introduced in webbing. The whole 1939 pattern set was designed in a weekend, approved and an order placed for a million sets- the speed of turnaround being quite remarkable to modern ears. This example however is made from brown leather:image

One end of the strap has a brass 1” buckle, this is secured by a pair of metal hose rivets:imageThese are secured through both layers of leather on the rear:imageOriginally this strap would have been 36” long, but somewhere in the last seventy years the end of the strap has been shortened and holes punched in it and it now measures only 2 feet long:imageTwo utility straps were fastened to the rear of a large pack to allow a helmet to be secured to the outside when not required- interestingly the webbing large and small packs of the 37 pattern set continued in use with the leather 39 pattern equipment- presumably because it was impracticable to make a pack of that size in leather. Ultimately 1939 pattern webbing was to be used for training purposes and to equip second line units such as the Pioneer Corps- sets were also issued to the allied armies in exile such as the Poles and Czechs. Photos of the sets in use are rare:standing_big

PLCE Bayonet Frog

Continuing our occasional series on the PLCE webbing set, tonight we are considering the PLCE bayonet frog. This frog is made of DPM double layered 1000 Denier rubberised cordura nylon, with a plastic stiffener to the main body of the frog:imageThe top of the frog has a Nexus clip fastener that attaches to the scabbard of the SA80 bayonet when it is carried in the frog:imageThe rear of the frog has two different positions to attach it to the rest of the PLCE webbing set:imageThe fitting instructions noted ‘taller soldiers may find the Bayonet Frog more comfortable to wear if the upper fitting are used’. Under each flap is a pair of plastic T-Bar prongs that engage with the belt of the PLCE set, and the flap is then secured over with Velcro and press studs:imageA label on the bottom rear of the frog gives information about the item’s stores code, that it is infra-red resistant and that it was manufactured in 1992 by Remploy:imageAlthough the frog is designed to be attached to the belt, it was frequently adapted to sit in other locations to free up more space for pouches. Locations include attaching it to the side of a utility pouch or wearing it in the small of the back, the method of attachment is described by one soldier:

I have mine attached horizontally to the bottom of my yoke above the pouches. Use one set of press studded straps around each yoke strap, secured with tape if required. It sits nicely in the small of my back, out of the way of any snag hazards. The handle is easily accessible, even with a daysack or bergen on.

Early versions of the frog were made in plain olive green and since the introduction of MTP, versions have been produced commercially in this fabric as well.

3rd Carabiniers Postcard

My thanks go to Toby Brayley for his assistance in identifying tonight’s postcard as being of a member of the 3rd Carabiniers. This magnificent portrait shows a soldier in his dress uniform at a ceremonial occasion:1 - Copy (8)The regiment was formed in 1922 as part of a reduction in the army’s cavalry by the amalgamation of the 3rd Dragoon Guards (Prince of Wales’s) and The Carabiniers (6th Dragoon Guards), to form the 3rd/6th Dragoon Guards. Both regiments were based in India at the time of their amalgamation; the newly formed regiment departed in 1925 for Britain. It regained its carabinier association in 1928 when it was renamed the 3rd Carabiniers (Prince of Wales’s Dragoon Guards). The regiment can be identified by the combination of the large ‘3’ on the helmet:1 - Copy (2)And the collar dogs that are a Prince of Wales feathers with a pair of carbines behind:1 - CopyThe combination of insignia allows us to accurately identify his as being a carabinier and dates the picture to between 1922 and 1971 when the regiment was in existence- I suspect the photograph was taken before the Second World War, but ceremonial uniforms did not change much so it is hard to be precise. Having seen colour photographs, the plume on his helmet would be red, as would his tunic, secured with highly polished brass buttons:1 - Copy (6)He wears a white leather belt with a snake type buckle, very similar to the example we looked at here:1 - Copy (3)He has large white leather gloves:1 - Copy (4)And his hand rests on the hilt of his cavalry sword:1 - Copy (5)On 2 July 1971, the regiment amalgamated with the Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons), forming the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys).

KG3 Pickerings Webbing Renovator

In 1954 the Army introduced a new series of web renovators to replace the old powdered blanco. These came in four shades; 61, 97, 103 and KG3:imageThis KG3 web renovator is a dark green colour and as can be seen comes in a small round 2 ¼ ounce tin. The tin has instructions on the outside for applying the compound. Inside the tin the web renovator can be seen, a dark green boot polish like consistency that when applied to webbing gives it a slightly shiny dark green colour:imageThe tins were sold in the NAAFI, and the contents manufactured by Joseph Pickering & Sons Ltd of Sheffield. The tins themselves have the combined ‘MB’ logo of the Metal Box Company who manufactured so many metal containers for the military. imageThe renovator itself included wax for the first time which not only gave it the shine, but for the first time made the covering on webbing actually waterproof. Indeed one National Serviceman noted that you could take a newly treated haversack, turn it inside out and use it to carry water in!

The KG3 shade of blanco was introduced in about August 1943, and stood for ‘Khaki-Green shade No3’- it was the darkest shade of green blanco made and was the most commonly used in the latter half of the Second World War and into the 1950s. Finding original colour images is hard, but this example taken on 1st January 1945 shows a soldier wearing webbing in the KG3 Shade:wartime-colourkhaki

WS38 Set Headphones

Back in January we considered the WS38 set here, at the time I mentioned that finding the accessories for it was very much a long term project. Happily I have now been able to add my first extra to the set thanks to an old friend, Bill Pozniak, who has hooked me up with the headphones for this set:imageThese headphones are virtually fresh out of the box and are typical of headphone design from the 1940s. The earpieces are made of heavy Bakelite, with a circular opening on the inner faces for the speakers to project sound into the operator’s ears:imageThe reverse of the headphone piece has the units designation ‘DLR No5’ and has the wiring loom where the phones connect to the connecting wire:imageThe wires are again typical of the period, being covered in fabric and twisted together:imageThe end of the wire has a single pin plug that connects to a junction box that in turn connects to both the microphone and the main receiver of the wireless set. Again this is made of Bakelite and to modern eyes has a very chunky appearance:imageThe two headphones are joined together by a wire loop, that passes round the back of the head:imageAn adjustable canvas strap is also provided that passes over the top of the head, note the /|\ mark and the YA stores code for radio accessories:imageThe canvas top strap allows the headset to be worn comfortably under a helmet for long periods of time, as witnessed by this Polish soldier who has the headset under a Mk II helmet:w-ws38-01

RAF Socks

Original socks are always hard to find, therefore I was pleased to recently add this pair of RAF socks to my collection, despite them not being in the best of condition:imageThe socks are made of machine knitted dark blue wool, but these socks have clearly seen some hard use, and the heels are heavily darned:imageEach sock has two labels sewn into the tops, one is a manufacturer’s label indicating they date from 1951 and were made by D B and Co Ltd, note also the /|\ mark:imageAbove this label can be seen a laundry label with the original owner’s number sewn in so he could identify them in a communal wash. A Second World War scale of issue for an airmen indicates that each airman was to have four pairs of issue socks- no doubt an enterprising airman would make sure he had a few spare pairs as well though. I am slowly collecting up personal kit for a World War Two airman to try and fill out by 1925 pattern rucksack correctly, however it feels like there is still a long way to go!