Monthly Archives: August 2016

Sergeant’s Sash

One of the oldest items of uniform in the British Army is the scarlet sash worn over the shoulder by NCOs. Amongst a variety of origin stories one of the most common is that the sash was originally worn by pikemen, they would wipe their hands on it to remove the blood of horses they impaled on their pikes so they did not lose grip of their weapon and it became a blood red colour. The longer they served and the higher the rank, the more their sash became a deep red colour and it became a badge of honour and rank. How true this story was is hard to establish, but it is true that the sash has been in use for many centuries. These items are very hard to date, but I expect my example dates from the last few decades rather than being any older:imageThe sash is made of a heavily woven broad piece of scarlet fabric:imageThe following description of their use comes from the 1914 dress regulations:

Shoulder sashes are worn over the right shoulder by warrant officers and sergeants of infantry (rifle regiments excepted). In the Somerset Light Infantry they are worn over the left shoulder. Sashes are worn in review order and when walking out, but not over the great-coat.

Originally the sash was only worn with dress uniform, not the field uniform, but this was changed in the 1920s as khaki serge service dress was now the standard dress for parades. The 1936 Territorial Army Regulations confirms that NCOs were to be issued at a scale of one per man, to be funded by their County Organisations. The end of the sash has a pair of tassels and a decorative knot (sewn together):imageThe sash is still in use today, as explained in the relevant army publication:




22. Accoutrements. The following accoutrements are worn with No 2 Dress:

d. Sashes. Red sashes should be worn by duty personnel only in infantry regiments and those with infantry dress traditions. When worn the fringe of the sash is to be level with the bottom of the No 2 Dress jacket. For all others a pouch belt would be a suitable substitute. For most units this would consist of a white belt with black pouch, but with Rifles both items would be black:

(1) By WOs 1 of the Guards Division, Infantry regiments (not RGJ and Brigade of Gurkhas), SAS, SASC and APTC:

(a) Ceremonial – crimson, cotton, shoulder with tassels.

(b) Non-ceremonial – scarlet, polyester, worsted, webbing with tassels.

(2) By WOs 2, SSgts and Sgts of the Guards Division, Infantry regiments (not RGJ and Brigade of Gurkhas), SAS, SASC and APTC on ceremonial and nonceremonial occasions – sash, scarlet, polyester, worsted, webbing with tassels.

(3) By duty WOs/SNCOs – sash, scarlet, polyester, worsted, webbing with tassels, when appropriate.

The image below of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with the Irish Guards, where the NCOs can be clearly seen wearing the sashes:Bi8EyIFCQAAYC3-

2 Pounder No1 Shell Casings

Tonight we have a pair of small brass shell casings:imageThese casings are both from a naval 2 pounder ‘pom pom’ gun, the cases identity being easily determined by the head stamps on the bottom:imageFrom this we can see that they were manufactured in 1944 and are 2 Pounder No1 round. The manufacturer is ‘S&S’ which is believed to be Sidney Silversmiths of Sheffield.

The Royal Navy had identified the need for a rapid-firing, multi-barrelled close-range anti-aircraft weapon at an early stage. Design work for such a weapon began in 1923 based on the earlier Mark II, undoubtedly to utilise the enormous stocks of 2-pounder ammunition left over from the First World War. Lack of funding led to a convoluted and drawn-out design and trials history, and it was not until 1930 that these weapons began to enter service. Known as the QF 2-pounder Mark VIII, it is usually referred to as the multiple pom-pom. The initial mounting was the 11.8 to 17.35 ton, eight-barrelled mounting Mark V (later Mark VI), suitable for ships of cruiser and aircraft carrier size upward. From 1935, the quadruple mounting Mark VII, essentially half a Mark V or VI, entered service for ships of destroyer and cruiser size.HMAS_Nizam_AWM-009496These multiple gun mounts required four different guns and were nicknamed the “Chicago Piano”. The mount had two rows each of two or four guns. Guns were produced in both right- and left-hand and “inner” and “outer” so that the feed and ejector mechanisms matched. Single-barrelled mounts, the Mark VIII (manual) and Mark XVI (power operated), were also widely used, mainly in small escorts (such as the Flower-class corvettes) and coastal craft (especially early Fairmile ‘D’ motor gunboats). An interesting feature was the very large magazine, from 140 rounds per gun for the eight-barrelled mount, to 56 rounds for the single mounts. This large ammunition capacity gave the eight-barrelled mount the ability to fire continuously for 73 seconds without reloading. A high velocity (HV), 1.8 lb. (820 g), round was developed for the pom-pom, just prior to World War II, which raised the new gun muzzle velocity from 2,040 ft/s (622 m/s) to 2400 ft/s (732 m/s). Many older mountings were modified with conversions kits to fire HV ammunition, while most newly manufactured mounts were factory built to fire HV ammunition. A mount modified or designed for HV ammunition was given a ‘*’ designation; for example a Mk V mount modified for HV ammunition would be designated Mk V*.

The following photograph shows the complete rounds, notice how short the brass case is compared to the rest of the round.The_Royal_Navy_during_the_Second_World_War_A2263The flaring visible on the ends of each casing seems to be very common and was done to turn the casings into a small vase as a souvenir.

Gulf War DDPM Shirt

When the First Gulf War broke out in 1991, the British Army was woefully underprepared for a conflict in the dessert. Although a four colour Desert DPM camouflage pattern had been developed in the 1980s, as the MoD could not see an immediate use for it the design had been used to produce uniforms for the export market and sold to Iraq; it was also produced under license for Kuwait and Saudi Arabia amongst others. As the level of threat increased in the middle east it became clear that British forces might need to deploy to the region and having an identical pattern of camouflage to potential enemies would only cause confusion or worse. The eventual two tone desert camouflage was different enough to go into production and quantities were received by troops taking part in the First Gulf War. Due to the short turnaround times though, the DDPM uniforms were essentially the old tropical uniforms produced in the new fabric. Tonight we are considering one of these DDPM shirts, and it is interesting to contrast the design with that of the CS95 DDPM shirt we looked at here: imageThe shirt has two patch pockets, one on either breast, these are bellowed to allow expansion and secured with flap tops and a single button:imageThe buttons are the same design used on many British Army uniforms since the Second World War. The shirt also has a pen pocket on the upper sleeve:imageEach shoulder has a buttoned strap for the displaying of rank and to help secure webbing under if desired:imageThe shirt is secured with a zip, that is then covered by button fly:imageThe collar has the ability to be turned up and secured with a button, although I doubt this was ever done in practice:imageThe cuffs are also buttoned, with a tab and pair of buttons provided to give differing degrees of tightness:imageAs with all modern military equipment, the shirt has a white label inside giving details of sizing, washing instructions and manufacturer:imageIt is interesting to note that this shirt was made by a British manufacturer, J Compton Sons & Webb Ltd, most modern British Army uniforms being produced in China! We end on a wonderful photograph of a chap on active service in the Gulf War pairing the DDPM uniform with 58 pattern webbing and a Sterling SMG:image

Postcard of Little Girl in her Dad’s Uniform

This Sunday’s postcard is a particularly sweet example, depicting a young girl dressing up in her father’s cap and equipment:7 - Copy (5)As can be seen, the postcard has been hand tinted- a common way of adding colour to images before true colour photography was commonplace. The little girl wears her father’s peaked Service Dress cap:7 - CopyThis appears to have the badge of the Royal Artillery, which would match the 03 bandolier she has slung over one shoulder:7 - Copy (2)And the general Service Haversack she has over the other:7 - Copy (3)War could be very hard on children; this poem was written by Ethel Cole of Dudley:


I don’t know much of fighting,

And I’ve never seen a sword

But Daddy’s gone and left us

And they say he’ll get reward.

But, oh me the house is lonely,

And poor Mother’s awful sad

She’s one pleasure, now, one only

And it’s me now we’ve lost Dad.

Dad they tell me is a soldier.

And he ought to go and fight;

And our neighbours say he’s plucky

And I’m sure he’s going right.

But oh dear, we do so miss him

And poor Mother sits and sighs

And I know she’s very troubled

By the tears in her eyes

Lily Baron was another girl who felt the pain of her father leaving:

“He was the most important man in the world to me, I loved every inch of him, and we were the apples of his eye; I really do think he worshipped us. My brother and I were in school and when we came home we had such a shock – daddy was there. He held the pair of us in his arms, hugged us, and ruffled our hair. I think he was excited to see how much we’d grown.

“We didn’t want to know anything about the war, we just wanted to have him home forever, but of course, that wasn’t to be.”

Mk V Respirator

Over the past year we have looked at a pair of Mk IV respirators, the early example with a tan filter box here, and the slightly later example with a brick red canister here. Whilst these masks were very good for their time, there were a number of niggles with the design; the stockinette cover to the mask was more expensive than it needed to be and hard to decontaminate when covered in vesicant gasses, a separate design of mask face piece was needed for personnel using microphones to be heard whilst wearing them and it was found that the small and large masks were not really needed as most people could wear the standard size quite satisfactorily. Based on these points a slightly modified version of the mask was introduced in 1940, the Mk V:imageThe first thing to note is that the mask has been made of plain black rubber without the stockinette cover. This is also true of the hose, which is made in plain black rubber:imageThe initial MkV respirators still had the stockinette covered hoses, but this type of plain rubber hose began to see service from 1941 onwards A raised bump is provided on the side of the mask :imageThis is designed so it can be cut open if a ‘T’ microphone needed to be attached but was otherwise redundant and made no difference to the performance of the respirator; in a stroke this eliminated the need for two different face pieces. The face piece was also only made in normal size:imageIf someone had an abnormally large or small face then the relevant size of Mk IV respirator would be issued, the two patterns remaining in use alongside one another. This particular mask was made by Avon in 1943:imageAs on earlier masks, the face piece was secured to the head by a series of adjustable elasticated straps that met on a central semi-rigid back piece:imageA central screw on the speech diaphragm allows the cover to be removed for maintenance and cleaning:imageThis mask was to be the last in a line of ‘hose’ respirators dating back to the large box respirator of World War One; the new lightweight assault respirator that was to replace it being leaps ahead of this design with its ability to easily change canisters in the field.

Australian Military Pass

Quite how an Australian military ID card turned up in West Yorkshire is something of a mystery, but tonight’s object did. This pass is made of buff card and was issued sometime after April 1968 when this batch of cards was reprinted:SKMBT_C36416080415191_0001 - CopySadly the officer who filled this out has appalling handwriting, so beyond knowing it was issued to 1202801 Recruit Jackson it is hard to make out much detail. A stamp detailing out of bounds areas is visible at the top of the card. The inside of the card has space to record a soldier’s leave and the instructions printed on the left indicate that he served on a base in Wagga Australia:SKMBT_C36416080415190_0001There are two major bases in the area one RAAF and an Army base Blamey Barracks at the Kapooka Military Area. The site that was to become ARTC was established on a property on the southern slopes of the Pomingalarna Reserve in 1942 as a direct result of defence needs during World War II. As a part of the Royal Australian Engineers Centre thousands of engineers were trained in basic soldiering skills as well as engineering duties. In addition 47,000 regular soldiers also trained at the barracks from 1942 to 1945. The location was also the camp for members of the Australian Women’s Army Service who acted as orderlies, drivers and hospital staff during that period of time.

Following the Second World War the barracks became the 1st Recruit Training Battalion (1RTB) which was established in November 1951 with Lieutenant Colonel V.E. Dowdy appointed as the first Commanding Officer. During 1952 and 1953, 1RTB was joined by 2nd Recruit Training Battalion in temporary buildings on the ridge south of the main camp.

The RAAF also had a base in the area and the following histroy of RAAF Base Wagga comes from the Australian Air Force’s website:

RAAF Base Wagga has been an integral part of the local Wagga Wagga community since 1940. RAAF Wagga delivers technical and non-technical initial employment and postgraduate training that is fundamental to the delivery of military air and space power in support of national objectives.

RAAF Wagga supports two key headquarters of Wings from Air Force Training Group; RAAF College and Ground Training Wing; along with four major training units; No 1 Recruit Training Unit (1RTU), School of Postgraduate Studies (SPS), RAAF School of Technical Training (RAAFSTT), and the RAAF School of Administration and Logistics Training (RAAFSALT).

Combat Support Group units also provide support to the base. No 31 Squadron is responsible for the military coordination of RAAF Base Wagga and provides combat support to operations and training activities for Australian Defence Force units operating from RAAF Base Wagga. Wagga Health Centre along with No 1 Expeditionary Health Squadron detachment provide high quality health services to Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, as well as providing emergency response and first aid to the civil and defence community of the Riverina region if required. Their primary role is to support training and direct health support to the four major training units on RAAF Wagga.

The Royal Australian Air Force’s RAAF Base Wagga, in NSW’s Riverina region, is referred to as the ‘Home of the Airman’ due to the presence of Air Force recruit and trade training schools.

Returning to the leave card, we can see further space on the rear for more leave requests:SKMBT_C36416080415191_0001The soldier who was issued this card would have kept it on his person at all times in case he needed to present it to those in authority and it was used to allow him access to and from the military base.

The Buffs Collar Dogs

You may remember that last year I picked up a 1913 pattern home service tunic (here). It had seen post war use and as well as replacing the buttons with brass General Service buttons, I have been keeping an eye out for a pair of collar dogs to finish it off. As the jacket has buff facing, it was the ‘Buffs’ or Royal East Kent Regiment collar dogs I needed. I was therefore very pleased to find a matching pair that had apparently been found in a Birmingham factory as unissued ‘new old stock’ after it had closed down.imageThe collar dogs are a mirror pair of pressed brass dragons, with the regimental name on a scroll beneath:The design of these badges is the same as the regiment’s cap badges, but with a dragon facing the left as well as the right so that when worn on the collar they face each other. The dragon is believed to have been adopted in commemoration of Elizabeth 1st who was supposed to have founded the regiment in 1572- the dragon was one of the supporters of her coat of arms. The use of the buff facings and the name ‘The Buffs’ were standardised by a Royal Warrant of 1751. The buff colour and dragon badge had been dropped in the 1881 army reforms, but the colour of the facings was restored to the regiment in 1887 after the standard white infantry facings had proved unpopular; the dragon badge was readopted in 1894. The back of the badges have two loops on each, which pass through the material to be secured by a split pin on the rear:imageThe badges were worn on the 1913 pattern uniform on the collar, a half inch from the edge:imageI am very pleased to have found this last piece of the puzzle and my uniform is now looking far more complete than when I first bought it.