Monthly Archives: September 2016

WW1 British Army Spurs

Although the British Army had begun to experiment with mechanised transport, at the start of the Great War the horse remained the most common form of transport (other than soldiers’ own feet!). Large parts of the army were supplied with horses and as well as the cavalry the Army Service Corps and Royal Artillery especially made great use of horses. As might be expected these units issued their men with specific equipment to help care for and ride these animals. Amongst the various items were of course spurs and tonight we are considering a pair of other ranks spurs:imageI will make it clear from the start that these spurs are not /|\ marked, nor dated so they might well be civilian; however the design is consistent with many period photographs and attributable examples so I am happy they are in fact military issue. As can be seen from the photograph above, these are not a matched pair. The distinctive feature of these military spurs are the large leather pads on the top of each:imageThese were worn to prevent the laces of a man’s boot being worn down by the rubbing of the leather strap. The strap itself secures with a small buckle:imageA second leather strap is provided that would pass under the instep of the boot:imageAt the rear of the spur there is a short stubby protrusion, with a small cog wheel, known as a rowel:imageAs can be seen, compared with some foreign designs of spurs, the teeth on the rowel are very small and quite blunt. This is due to the fact that many of those using these spurs were very inexperienced horsemen and so the lack of long sharp points stopped them accidently hurting the horse by pressing into its flanks too much. Indeed the purpose of spurs was to allow the horse to feel a subtle guiding pressure from the rider’s feet rather than to hurt or punish the horse.

The inside of the spurs is marked to indicate they were made of nickel:imageThese spurs were worn almost as a badge of honour by those issued with them and they can be seen in many period studio photographs:captureaIn close up it can clearly be seen how they were worn:capturea-copySadly the leather straps on this pair are not in great condition, so if I do need to wear them for any reason I think I will make some replacement straps and just move over the lace protectors- happily they easily slip on and off so the originals could be returned after use.

Yellow Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier Deck Hemet

A few weeks back we looked at a blue and orange Royal Navy deck crew cloth helmet here. Since then I have managed to add a yellow example to my collection which we will be taking a closer look at tonight. As mentioned previously, the yellow helmet was issued to aircraft handlers and directors. This helmet is virtually identical to the previous example apart from its colour, therefore tonight’s post will mostly focus on photographs of this piece, for further information please refer to the earlier post.

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One point to note is that this example is actually dated, with a faint /|\ mark and date of 1963 visible:imageThe job role of aircraft handler is still in existence in the Royal Navy and without carriers they have been employed at the various Royal Navy Air Stations and more importantly the commando ships such as Bulwark and Ocean. The following is a useful description of the role and training undertaken by a modern aircraft handler by someone in the branch:

Your training as an Aircraft Handler will be split into two phases,

1.Fire-Fighting, you will spend approximately 6 months of training in this field, it covers all aspects of domestic and aircraft crash rescue procedures in line with their civilian counterparts, although watch this space with regard to the domestic phase. You will receive civilian recognised qualifications which is relatively new. So if you don’t like heights, confined space breathing apparatus or the physical nature of firefighting in general then this is definitely not for you.

2. Aircraft Handling is approximately three months and in essence teaches you how to move aircraft around a flight deck by various means and how to remain safe and unharmed in arguably the most hazardous area of any ship. You will be a specialist at aircraft moves at sea, any monkey can be trained to push an aircraft ashore hence why they allow squadron AET’s to do this task and generally you do not do this ashore unless showing the AET’s how to do it correctly.

When you have completed training you will spend time on the fire station at one of two Air Stations, Culdrose in Cornwall or Yeovilton in Somerset. You will be a piss boy at first but with experience you will be moved on to drive the fire vehicles and gain all the driving qualifications such as LGV, Hazmat etc.

When the QE class carriers are being sailed around the world in the near future you will be working on the deck with all types of aircraft, ours and foreign. Believe me this is the only area of the ship people will be remotely interested in. It’s also a small tight knit branch which has a band of brothers attitude which is quite often envied by other branches and rightly so.

British Army Training Boxing Gloves

Boxing has always been popular in the army, with the combination of fitness, martial prowess and a healthy outlet for aggression appealing to those in the service. Boxing during the Second World War was taken seriouslky by both competitors and spectators, but remained an amateur sport, with pugilists limited to six rounds in the ring. Whilst training for bouts was always secondary to a man’s service commitments, it was still taken seriously and men were provided with training aids to help get them ready for the ring. Tonight’s object is a set of British Army bag or training boxing gloves (my thanks to Adam Heaton for helping identify them as boxing is not something I know much about):imageThe gloves are made of leather, with a large pad over the knuckles:imageUnlike boxing gloves used in the ring, these have open fingers:imageAt the rear of each glove is a set of laces:imageThese allow the glove to be tightened and secured to the wrist:imageThe 1945 guide ‘Games and Sports in the Services in India’ offers boxing coaches the following advice about gloves:

Never lace the gloves too tightly, it may stop circulation; always tie laces on the back of wrist and tuck in loose ends securely.

The gloves have ribbing across the back to help support the wearers wrists and tendons:imageThese gloves each have a label inside dating them to 1939 and with a W/|\D stamp:imageThe same Indian Army pamphlet explains something of the use of these gloves for hitting a punch bag:

As for ball punching. The bag represents an opponent’s target, and training with it is to develop a man’s punching power- especially body punching- and correct hitting. Exactly the same principles apply as when ball punching. Punch ball gloves or knuckle pads should be worn when training with both these articles.

These gloves are remarkably well made and an unusual and interesting addition to my collection- as ever I am amazed at the variety of military items out there to find.

RAF Hercules Trim Calculator

Safely carrying cargo and passengers on an aircraft is not an easy thing, weight distribution and load have to be correct to ensure the aircraft can take off safely and equally importantly get to its destination and land safely. Calculations are needed to ensure the aircraft is not overloaded, and this becomes especially important on large cargo aircraft such as the Hercules. To assist aircrew, the air force has long made use of manual computers that allow the information to be entered, and results read off by turning a dial and setting it to the correct figures, this calculator comes in a plastic cover, the original owner has written his name on the front:imageTaking the computer out of the case we can see that it consists of two white plastic discs that rotate over one another and allow the calculations to be made:imageThe centre of the computer indicates the aircraft type it’s for, the Hercules, and its use, a trim computer:imageAs can be seen below this is the details indicating that it was designed by the Operational Research Branch for the Royal Air Force. A further table is printed on the rear, offering further assistance to the user:imageA series of numbers are printed around the rims of the two discs, with a clear slider that can also rotate:imageI must confess I have little aeronautical knowledge so the exact purpose of the computer and how to use it are beyond me. The Hercules has been the workhorse of the RAF for many decades, the following information form the RAF’s own website offers some interesting information on the current use of the venerable aircraft:

The C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft is the workhorse of the RAF’s Air Transport (AT) fleet and is based at RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire , where it is operated by Nos 24, 30 and 47 Squadrons. The fleet comprises a mixture of C-130K C1/C3 and C-130J C4/C5 aircraft.

The C1 and C3 aircraft are used primarily to carry troops, passengers or freight and are capable of carrying up to 128 passengers, or 20 tonnes of palletised freight or vehicles, for up to 2000nmls. The freight bay can accommodate a range of wheeled or tracked vehicles, or up to seven pallets of general freight. In the aeromedical evacuation role either 64 or 82 stretchers can be carried, depending on the mark of aircraft and the stretcher configuration. The maximum unrefuelled ferry range is 3500nmls, which can be extended to over 4000nmls by air-to-air refuelling. The other main role of the C-130 is Transport Support (TS), which is the airborne delivery of personnel or stores by airdrop. In this role the aircraft supports airborne operations conducted by 16 Air Assault Brigade by the aerial delivery of paratroops, stores and equipment. The aircraft is particularly valuable in its TS role as it can be operated from unprepared and semi-prepared surfaces by day or by night.

The majority of aircraft are fitted with defensive infrared countermeasure equipment, whilst some aircraft used for special tasks have an additional, enhanced defensive-aids suite comprising a Skyguardian radarwarning receiver, a chaff and flare countermeasure dispensing system and a missile approach warning system. The C3 is also equipped with station-keeping equipment, which enables the aircraft to maintain its airborne position in a large formation in thick cloud or bad weather where the other formation members cannot be seen. The aircraft are receiving an ongoing avionics, electrical and structural upgrade, which will enable them to remain the workhorse of the AT fleet into the next decade.herc_class_02_0800

25 Pounder Shell Casing

Arguably the best all round field gun in use by the British Army in the Second World War was the 25 pounder. The 25-pounder fired “separate”or two-part ammunition—the projectile and the propelling charge in its (usually brass) cartridge case with its integral primer were loaded separately. The following description of the case comes from the 1940 handbook for the gun:

The Mark II case is of solid-drawn brass slightly tapered from the base to within 1.1 inch of the mouth, where it is cylindrical. The base is recessed, bored centrally and screw-threaded to receive the percussion primer; it projects circumferentially to form a rim by means of which the extractor of the breach mechanism automatically ejects the case when the breech is opened after firing.

I have just one of these cases in my collection:fullsizerender1There were two types of cartridge. The “normal” cartridge contained three cloth charge bags (coloured red, white and blue). White or blue bags would be removed from the cartridge to give “charge one” or “charge two”, leaving all three bags in the cartridge case gave “charge three”. The cartridge case was closed at the top with a leatherboard cup. The second type of cartridge was “super”, which provided one charge only. The cup could not be removed from the cartridge case. In 1943, an incremental charge of 5.5 oz (160 g) of cordite (“super-plus”) was introduced to raise the muzzle velocity when firing armor-piercing shot with charge super; this required a muzzle brake to be fitted. Adoption of “upper-register” (high-angle) fire needed more charges to improve the range overlap. This led to the development of the “intermediate increment” of 4oz cordite, which was introduced in 1944. The bags were striped red and white to indicate that they should only be used with charges one and two. When one bag was used with charge 1 it provided charge 1/2. When one was added to charge 2 it provided charge 2 1/3, and two bags, charge 2 2/3. This allowed a range of seven different charges instead of four.800px-25_pounder_base_charges_diagramsLike all British shell cases, mine has a wealth of headstamps on the base:fullsizerenderFrom these we can see that the shell casing was manufactured in 1942 and includes the lot number so a faulty batch of ammunition and casings could be tracked down later by the markings. In this photograph of an Australian 25 pounder at El-Alamein in 1942, a large pile of discarded shell casings can be seen in the foreground:2-8_field_regt

WW1 Highlander Postcard

This week’s postcard depicts a young kilted Scottish soldier, probably taken at the outbreak of World War One in a photographer’s studio:skmbt_c36416080909370_0001Our chap is wearing a glengarry, sadly the angle is such that it is not possible to get a clear view of the cap badge and a clear identification of the regiment:skmbt_c36416080909370_0001-copyA number of regiments wore kilts in World War One, the regular ones being:

The Black Watch

Cameron Highlanders

Gordon Highlanders

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Seaforth Highlanders

There were also various other territorial regiments where just one battalion wore kilts;

10th Battalion Kings (Liverpool Scottish) Regiment

14th Battalion London (London Scottish) Regiment

6th Battalion Highland Light Infantry

9th Battalion Highland Light Infantry

9th Battalion Royal Scots

There were also a number of colonial regiments who were kilted. Our highlander wears the Scottish service dress jacket, with a cutaway front to allow it to be worn with a kilt:skmbt_c36416080909370_0001-copy-3The pocket of the kilt apron can also be seen in the above photograph. A kilt apron, such as this one, was worn to protect the expensive kilt from dirt and damage. These came in both full and front only versions, this being an example of the latter as witnessed by the pleats of the kilt being visible at the soldier’s side:skmbt_c36416080909370_0001-copy-6His jacket is worn with an 08 belt:skmbt_c36416080909370_0001-copy-2And he wears hose, ribbons and spats:skmbt_c36416080909370_0001-copy-4As is often the case in studio portraits he carries a regimental cane in his hand:skmbt_c36416080909370_0001-copy-5As usual if anyone can help with a positive regimental ID please get in contact and I will update and credit accordingly.

Canadian 1951 Pattern Webbing Set

My thanks go to Iain McRuvie for providing the photographs for tonight’s post. Iain has kindly sent me pictures of his Canadian 1951 pattern webbing set. Unfortunately I have not managed to find any of this very interesting webbing set myself yet- if and when I get some elements we will look at the individual pieces in greater detail, but tonight we are just taking an overview of the general setup.

The 51 pattern webbing clearly draws heavily upon both traditional Mills webbing products form the United Kingdom, but also on elements of design from the US Army’s wartime equipment sets. The final design was a modified version of the old 1937 pattern webbing with a number of unique features. The most obvious difference is that the set is pre-made in an olive drab colour and uses blackened brass fittings:c7Note the two large pouches, clearly inspired by the 37 pattern design, secured with quick release fasteners. These are larger than the Bren pouches of the 37 pattern design and have a choice of two different fixing positions. A third pouch was provided to hold a mess tin in:c8As can be seen the waterbottle and carrier are clearly based off the US M1910 design, as indeed was the British 1944 pattern example. The belt of the set had a series of three eyeleted holes along its whole length:c6The back of the pouches had loops to thread the belt through and a metal hook that engaged with the holes on the belt:c3Two different haversacks were produced as part of the set, one roughly the size of the old 1937 pattern small pack, and one equating to the old large pack:c5Turning to the rear we can see that they use the same design of ‘L’ strap popularised by the 1937 pattern webbing:c4Officially this design was replaced by the 1964 pattern set, but this was so poorly regarded that the older pattern continued in use for many years.