This Sunday’s photograph is of a relaxed shot of a group of soldiers outside a tent in camp:The sign in the foreground indicates the tent belongs to the ‘Keystone Mess Orderlies’:Presumably these are the men in the photograph. They are stood outside a large bell tent, the entrance to which can be seen to the right of shot:Further tents lie behind this one:In the centre of the group of men is a Royal Artillery Corporal, with at least one medal ribbon on his chest. As the senior man here, and his central position in the photograph it is fair to assume he was in command of the others:The men around him have stripped to shirt sleeves, and in some cases are wearing cardigans. Note the wide range of issue and civilian shirts worn:Most of the men wear ‘service dress’ peaked caps:But a couple in the back row have the ‘field service’ side cap:Interestingly there is a small boy in the front row, bare footed, but otherwise well dressed:Quite what he is doing in the photograph is unclear but he may be a camp follower or a local boy running errands for the troops. Sadly I have been unable to find anything further about this image, with both date and location eluding me. I am guessing the photograph was taken around the time of the Great War due to their uniforms but that is as much as I have been able to determine.
Tonight’s object turned up for a couple of pounds at the Yorkshire Wartime Experience show in a box of modern kit. As is often the case, World War Two shows are great places to buy modern kit cheap as the dealers normally get them in larger lots and sell them very cheap, assuming people there are not interested in something so modern, great for those like myself with wide-ranging tastes and interests.
The Minimi light machine gun is a Belgian 5.56mm light machine gun developed by Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Herstal by Ernest Vervier. First introduced in 1974, it is now in service in more than 75 countries. The weapon is currently manufactured at the FN facility in Herstal and their US subsidiary FN Manufacturing LLC. The Minimi is a machine gun firing from an open bolt. It is an air-cooled weapon, capable of fully automatic fire only. It can be belt fed or fired from a magazine. The Minimi is configured in several variants: the Standard model as a platoon or squad support weapon, the Para version for paratroopers and the Vehicle model as secondary armament for fighting vehicles. The UK Uses standard and Para variants, designated L108A1 and the L110A2 respectively. The Army equips each four-man fireteam with the Para variant. The LMG is usually fitted with the 4x SUSAT standard issue rifle sight. The belt for the magazine can be held in a fabric magazine that sits under the weapon:This belt pouch is made of DPM fabric with a plastic top piece that attaches to the Minimi’s magazine housing:The pouch holds 100 rounds and prevents them from getting dirty or snagging on the undergrowth. Across the base of the pouch is a zip that allows the pouch to be refilled with belt ammunition:The end of the zip has a press stud that attaches to the main pouch to prevent the zip accidently opening in use:The top of the pouch has a hard plastic top, with a hole through which the rounds pass, a raised picture of a round indicates which way round ammunition should be fitted:The Minimi was to prove very popular in the war in Afghanistan, replacing the less than effective SA80 LSW which lacked the firepower to effectively suppress the Taliban.
Amongst the items of personal kit issued to British Soldiers and carried in the small pack was a white towel used as part of a man’s wash kit:This towel is not made of a traditional terry towelling material, but rather an interwoven cotton fabric that is far coarser and much worse at absorbing water, very similar to that which cheap tea towels are made from. Folding it out reveals it is a small hand sized towel rather than a full bath towel- this is despite it being used for all purposes including drying oneself after a full ablution:The towel has a simple cotton loop sewn into one side to allow it to be hung up to dry:This particular example dates from 1952 and is stamped with a /|\ mark:Sergeant Walter Richardson had an unfortunate incident involving his towel whilst serving in Italy, his son relates the tale:
Taking his towel and shaving tackle, he found a spot by a tree in a hedgerow. He hung his mirror from a branch of the tree, and laid his towel on the hedge. After finishing his shave, he turned to pick up his towel- nothing there! Puzzled, he looked around- he was quite alone. A noise on the other side of the hedge caught his attention, and, looking over, to his dismay, he discovered a goat calmly chewing on the remains of his towel (army issue, wiping the face, for the use of)
At kit inspection, the deficit of a towel was noted by the Officer inspecting, and Dad was asked to provide an explanation. Dad always believed in telling the truth, but on this occasion, it was met with ridicule and even disbelief. He was put on a charge for his dereliction of the Kings Regulations in regard to Towels.
Frequently these towels were used to carry a bar of soap, wrapped inside them in lieu of a soap dish whilst a 1952 set of joining instruction for the Black Watch TA unit’s summer camp indicated that two towels were to be issued to each man at this time for the period of the training. Interestingly I have an identical towel with a ‘GR’ marking in the centre which I am led to believe was issued in prisons for the use of the inmates!
Update: Roy Gallimore’s granddaughter has contacted the blog and kindly supplied us with some more information on Roy’s life which I have added below. The paybook has now been returned to Roy’s family where it belongs.
The standard Army Book 64, or AB64, continued in use long after World War Two and tonight we have an example issued to a National Serviceman, Roy Gallimore. These books were issued to all servicemen and recorded both their personal details and their training history. A cut out section also provided the soldier with a basic form of will to leave his possessions and pay to a loved one in the event of the worst happening. The cover of the book is the same brown leatherette as examples from the Second World War:The opening pages give a lot of details about the soldier, including that he was born on 16th December 1930, was a joiner by trade and joined up in Owestry. He was 5’6” tall, with brown hair and eyes and is described as having a ‘fresh’ complexion:Going further into the book we discover his next of kin is his mother, Edith, who lived at high Pittington in County Durham:He clearly accomplished his training as he is recorded as having passed his PE tests and his annual rifle classification in 1952:Much of the book is blank, however tucked into the back are a leave pass for Gunner Gallimore from Fayid:Fayid was an RAF base in Egypt, used throughout the Second World War and handed back to Egypt in 1956. From the pass we can see that Gunner Gallimore was posted to 71 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery. Also included in the AB64 is a certificate of service issued to Gunner Gallimore when his national service was completed:The inside of this form confirms that he served 3 years and 173 years in the army:There are also a pair of negatives (which I have scanned, reversed and tried to enhance), but whether these depict Gunner Gallimore or his friends, I couldn’t say:Roy’s granddaughter tells us more of his life:
In terms of my Grandads life, he went on to marry my Grandma Joan Wilkes on the 4th August 1962. They remained in the home of 14 Norman terrace, which is the home my Grandad lived in all of his life.They had two children Anne Edith and Carol Louisa. They had 3 grandchildren, Charlotte, Rebecca Claire and Gemma Louise (myself).
My Grandfather, after leaving the army, continued his work as a joiner. He also enjoyed playing the organ and played in the local chapel and also around care homes. He also loved gardening and grew all of his own vegetables and fruit.
He enjoyed travelling with my Grandmother, and they thoroughly enjoyed Scotland. He lived for his family, especially us grandchildren spending his last years telling us stories of his life and teaching us everything he knew. He often talked about his time in the army, and how he lived on corned beef and mars bars when he got the chance. He commented on the conditions of Egypt and how the boiling hot sun was often unbearable for the soldiers. He often sent pictures and messages to his mother Edith to update her on how he was and to let her know that he was safe. In 2009 he was diagnosed with cancer, and he fought a hard battle which he won. However in 2012 my grandmother passed away after her 3rd battle with cancer, which broke my grandfather’s heart. They had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. He was never really the same, and spent the remainder of his days in their home, where he felt close to her.
Continuing our in depth study of the 1925 pattern RAF webbing set, tonight we come to the shoulder braces. These braces, made in blue grey webbing, are identical in design to both 1919 pattern shoulder braces and early 1937 pattern examples. The straps are made of a single piece of reduction woven webbing, expanding from one inch wide at the ends to approximately 2” wide in the centre part where it passes over the shoulder:Each end has riveted brass tips to prevent fraying:One of the two straps has a crossover loop sewn onto it to allow the other brace to pass through to prevent them from separating and ‘riding up’ when worn:It must be explained now that the RAF adopted blue grey 37 pattern webbing and at first glance it can be hard to tell the two sets apart. The biggest indicator is the construction method of the shoulder brace- the 1925 pattern is always a single piece of reduction woven webbing rather than different widths sewn together. The second big clue is the date stamp on the shoulder brace itself; the RAF did not adopt blue grey 37 pattern webbing until 1943 so anything dated earlier must be 25 pattern. This shoulder brace has the Air Ministry Crown mark and a date of 1941 proving it must be 1925 pattern:This subtle difference then shows the value of rooting through boxes of otherwise unexceptional webbing as these rarer pieces of webbing are often misidentified and can turn up for a few pounds- a diamond in the rough to the collector.
The British Army had been issuing waterproof jackets to troops from the early 1970s. By 1984 they were on their third design of jacket, and that is the subject of tonight’s post. The waterproofs issued in the 1970s had been made of nylon and rustled excessively; the new design was of PVC that was supposedly quieter, the fabric was printed in Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM):The front of the jacket was secured with a full length zip, covered by a weather-proof fly secured with Velcro:This replaced poppers on the earlier designs and is the easiest way of determining which version you have at a glance. The jacket has two chest pockets, each with a velcroed flap:
Velcro is again used to secure the cuffs:A hood is provided, with a drawstring to tighten it to help keep the elements out:This jacket is double layered, with a black rubberised liner bonded to the exterior fabric:As ever with military equipment there is a label inside identifying it, the size, NSN stores code and manufacturer:This jacket was manufactured by Weatherguard Leisurewear Ltd, a trading name for Jeltek Weatherguard from Dumfermline, a large company of between 250-300 employees who as well as military contracts produced coats and rain macs for big high street companies such as Marks and Spencers.
Despite the change in material, these jackets rustle at every movement of the wearer and along with their predecessors are informally known as ‘Suit Crisp packet’, as ever this wonderfully evocative description of the waterproof comes from ARRSEpedia:
Due to the amazingly loud rustling noises generated by these garments, it was well nigh impossible (at least for some people) to keep in step while marching. As such, a platoon wearing these could reduce any drill instructor to tears within minutes.
Happily for troops everywhere, these jackets were replaced by Gore-Tex and today the only groups who still have them are some cadet units who still use keep a stock of them for inclement weather.
With the introduction of the No4 Rifle, a new bayonet was also issued to troops. For the first time in many years the British Army moved away from a bladed bayonet and opted for a simple spike, secured to the rifle with a sprung socket that fitted over the whole of the barrel end:The most common of these bayonets in use during the Second World War was the Mk II, its simplicity allowing the government to place contracts with many small firms un-associated with bayonet production before. Despite its rudimentary appearance, the bayonet had been subject to years of development in the late 1930s, including one test that involved dressing dead sheep in British Army uniforms and throwing them on the bayonets to check if the spikes broke or not!
The No. 4 Mk. II was a simplified version, eliminating the milling cuts required to create the cruciform blade flutes. The No. 4 Mk. II was otherwise identical to the Mk. I, with the bayonet and socket one solid forging. Three firms produced the No. 4 Mk. II: Singer in Scotland, the Savage Stevens Co. in the USA, and Long Branch in Canada. The No. 4 Mk. II was, by far, the most numerous variant, with over 3.3 million units produced. The mark of bayonet is stamped on the socket, and the combined ‘LB’ stamp on this example indicated it was made by Long Branch in Canada:The catch on this bayonet, a Type 3B, was made by a subcontractor, j Stevens, as indicated by the ‘S’ stamped on the component:The tip of the blade is ground to a screwdriver point:These bayonets were ever popular and although well suited to wartime use, the army disposed of them quickly after the war, experimenting with the No7 bayonet (here) before settling on the No9 bayonet (here). With so many spike bayonets made the most common variants are not rare, the cruder Mk III is harder to find but less desirable whilst the Mk I, with its cruciform blade, is much rarer and normally attracts a premium- indeed it has been copied so caveat empor.