I am hoping someone who reads the blog can help me with tonight’s object. This small metal box turned up on the second hand market on Tuesday:The box is made from thin sheet steel, and is dated 1915; it is marked B.S.Co indicating it was made by the Burlington Steel Company of Canada:From my research so far I believe this company was based in Hamilton Ontario, and I have come across this drawing of the plant in the interwar period:Returning to the box, we can see a heavily stamped Canadian army acceptance mark, with a /|\ mark inside a ‘c’:The significance of the ’21’ is not clear. The lid of the tin is hinged along the long side, with the folded hinges soldered to the underside of the lid:A simple hinged tab acts as a securing lock:My assumption is that this little tin was used to hold the spare parts for a particular piece of equipment; a machine gun, artillery piece or vehicle. This sort of box is commonly seen for these sort of purposes. What I don’t know however is its specific purpose and which particular piece of equipment it is associated with- if anyone reading recognises its actual use please get in contact as I would be very interested to know.
The Aden Cannon was developed in the immediate post war period to provide a weapon with a much higher rate of firepower than wartime aircraft cannon. The ever increasing speed of fighter jets meant that a weapon was needed that would put as much firepower on the target in as short a space of time as possible as closing speeds were so much higher and time on target so much shorter than anything that had come before. ADEN stood for Armament Development Establishment, where the Cannon was developed, and Enfield where it was produced and the cannon had a rate of fire of between 1,200 and 1,700 rounds per minute depending on model.
The weapon had a revolving chamber and fired 30mm shells that were linked together by a set of disintegrating links and it is one of these links we are considering tonight. The link is made of blackened pressed steel and is about 4 inches in length:The design is different from any used previously as each link is joined by hook and eyes. The link is marked ‘RG’ and ‘Mk 1’ indicating it was made by the Royal Ordnance Factory, Radway Green in Cheshire:The link has deep pressed grooves in the metal to help it maintain rigidity and to increase its strength without increasing the weight:The shell itself was a small, short round with an overall length of 199mm which had a relatively low velocity; it was developed from the Second World War German 30x50B cartridge used with the Mauser MG 213C/30 cannon.
The ADEN cannon was first introduced into general service on the Hawker Hunter in 1954 and was used on nearly every frontline fighter in the RAF until the Tornado in the 1980s. The weapon is still in widespread use across the globe with various different air forces.
Tonight’s object is an interesting aide memoire for a rifle coach at the Small Arms School in Warminster. This aide memoire dates form 1973 and is printed on A4 blue card, folded into three. The cover has the SASC badge and an SLR bayonet, with a list of contents: The aide memoire goes through what an instructor needs to do before, during and after a shoot:The principles of marksmanship are still taught in the British Army, and the following guide comes from a 2011 Skill at Arms leaflet:
To achieve a high standard of shooting we follow a process known as the Marksmanship Principles. This ensures we always hold, aim and fire the weapon correctly, and therefore should always hit the target. They are a simple set of rules which you will cover in detail on the course. Your instructor will also explain how they are applied, however if you can learn them now you will be able to relate to them during lessons. They are as follows:
- The Position and hold must be firm enough to support the weapon.
- The weapon must point naturally at the target without any undue physical effort.
- Sight alignment and the sight picture must be correct.
- The shot must be released and followed through without undue disturbance to the position.
Battledress was introduced in 1937 after extensive trials and the trousers were unlike anything that had come before. They were far looser and more comfortable than the old Service Dress trousers and were based on contemporary ski wear. The trousers are made of the traditional khaki wool serge:The most distinctive feature of the trousers is the large patch pocket on the leg:These pockets were useful, but not universally popular as reported in the Daily Mail:
Rifleman Richard Wall, Royal Ulster Rifles, who has served 12 years and signed on for 21 is all in favour of battledress.
“But,” he said, “there are too many pockets. The big one on the front of the trousers makes an ugly lump if used.”
A pocket for a first field dressing is sewn high up on the left hand side of the trousers:The trousers have a pair of slash pockets:And a single flapped pocket on the seat:The trousers have both belt loops:And buttons for sets of braces:Buttons are used exclusively, so the fly is secured by buttons as well, note that many of these have been replaced with plastic examples:Brass buttons had a tendency to cut into the thread and came off with regularity so were frequently replaced with plastic examples that stayed on for longer. The base of each leg has a set of three brass buttons:And a cloth tab:This was designed to allow the cuff of the leg to be tightened, making it easier to but cotton webbing anklets over. Sadly the original label for this pair of trousers is long gone, with just a faint mark indicating where it was stitched on. Although replaced by an austerity pattern during the war, this original design continued in use alongside is simplified cousin and was preferred by those of a sartorial bent as it had concealed buttons and looked smarter than its successor.
Introduced in 1985, the Mk 6 Helmet was the first non-steel combat helmet to be issued to all arms of the British military. It was to see service for over twenty years and was officially superseded in June 2009 by the Mk 7, although it remains on widespread issue to this day. The helmet is typically issued with a cloth cover in a variety of different patterns, including in this case desert DPM:Under the cover the helmet is made of a dark green ballistic nylon, the shininess of the finish clearly showing why covers are used:The Mk 6 was a major move forward for the British Army as it was designed to work with ear protection, radios and respirators. Additonal kits could be added to the helmet to offer eye and neck protection for riot control. This helmet is a Mk6 helmet, with the original configuration of foam pads inside to offer cushioning to the wearer:This was later upgraded on the Mk6A with a mesh top piece that velcroed in. The helmet uses a chin strap that connects at three points; either side and the rear and has a soft chin cup that secures with a tab and press stud:The cover fitted to this helmet has a series of elastic loops that allow camouflage to be added:The cover is unissued, and in a large size:There are two sizes of cover, and four sizes of helmet to fit a variety of head sizes. The leaflet that was issued with the helmet offers some more information on it (see here for the full leaflet):
- This General Service Combat Helmet consists of an outer protective shell of many layers of resin bonded ballistic nylon and a shock absorbing liner. This is fitted with soft, leather covered foam comfort pads and the helmet is secured by a cotton chin strap with a 3-point fixing and quick release fastener.
- This helmet has been extensively tested and trialled. It gives more ballistic protection from shell and grenade fragments than did the Mk.4 steel helmet. It covers more of the head than the steel helmet and gives excellent protection against severe impact and bumps. It will also protect against heat flash without catching fire itself.
- The helmet is fully compatible with personal weapons and the great majority of weapon sighting and fire control equipment. The ear cut-outs allow space for CLANSMAN Headsets (Inf and B Vehicle, staff user and PRC 349 single ear piece) and approved ear muffs/defenders.
- A DP camouflage cover is available for all sizes of helmet (one size for small and medium and another for large and outsize) and has loops for retaining garnish. The cover is made of polyester cotton to be sufficiently durable. Tests have shown that it presents no melt hazard if set on fire. A shite ‘arctic’ cover is also available.
- When required the helmet can be converted for internal security and similar work by addition of a 3mm thick polycarbonate transparent visor and a flame resistant absorbing neck protector. Suitable instructions for this conversion are contained in the kits.
This week’s postcard is a rather splendid studio shot of a private in the Machine Gun Corps:The private is clearly wearing the Corp’s cap badge of a pair of crossed Vickers Machine Guns surmounted by a crown:He has brass ‘MGC’ shoulder titles:And wears a cloth recognition flash sewn to the shoulder of his uniform:This has been identified as this patch:Whilst the exact meaning of the patch is unclear, it is commonly associated with the Machine Gun Corps.
At the outbreak of war in August 1914 the tactical use of machine guns was unappreciated by the British Military. Consequently, the Army went to war with its infantry battalions and cavalry regiments each having a machine gun section of only two guns each. This was added to in November by the forming of the Motor Machine Gun Service, administered by the Royal Artillery, consisting of motor cycle mounted machine gun batteries. A machine gun school was also opened in France. A year of warfare on the Western Front proved that to be fully effective, machine guns must be used in larger units and crewed by specially trained men. To fulfill this need, the formation of the Machine Gun Corps was authorized in October 1915 with infantry, cavalry, motor and in early 1916 a heavy branch. A depot and training centre was established at Belton Park in Grantham, Lincolnshire and a base depot at Camiers in France.
The Infantry Branch was by far the largest and initially formed by the battalion machine gun sections transferring to the MGC, and grouping into Brigade Machine Gun Companies. New companies were raised at Grantham. In 1917 a fourth company was added to each division. A further change in February and March 1918 saw the four companies of each division form battalions.
The Heavy Section was formed in March 1916, becoming the heavy branch in November of that year. Men of this branch crewed the first tanks in action at Flers, during the battle of the Somme in September 1916. In July 1917 the heavy branch separated from the MGC to become the Tank Corps.
In its short history the MGC gained an enviable record as a front line fighting force, seeing action in all the main theatres of war. At the end of hostilities the MGC was again re-organised in a smaller form as many of its soldiers returned to civilian life. However, the Corps continued to see active service in the post war campaigns of Russia, India and Afghanistan until being disbanded in 1922 as a cost cutting measure, as lamented by a former member George Coppard:
No military pomp attended its birth or decease. It was not a famous regiment with glamour and whatnot, but a great fighting corps, born for war only and not for parades. From the moment of its formation it was kicking. It was with much sadness that I recall its disbandment in 1922; like old soldiers it simply faded away.
Some 170,500 officers and men served in the MGC with 62,049 becoming casualties including 12,498 being killed.
In the past we have considered an ammunition box for British .30 calibre belted ammunition here. I have recently been able to find part of the cloth belt used with this ammunition and that is the subject of tonight’s post:As can be seen this belt is only part of a much longer one, this piece holding fifty rounds, the full belt would have been for 250 rounds. The number of rounds is helpfully marked on the belt so the gunner can get a rough idea of how many he has fired, and how many he has remaining. These marks are at 25 rounds:And 50 rounds:These markings carried on in multiples of 25 for the length of the belt. The belt itself is made of woven cotton, with loops for each round of ammunition:A metal starting tab is fastened to the end indicating the belt is for .30 In ammunition and is a Mk I belt:The reverse of the tab is dated 1966 and has the fleur-de-lis symbol of a British manufacturer Thomas French & Sons of Manchester:This company had been founded in 1882 to make ribbons, tapes and braids, by the Second World War they were making various woven curtain fittings. Starting in the interwar period they had supplemented this with the manufacture of machine gun belts for the Vickers and .30 cal machine guns. This work continued after the war alongside their civilian contracts and the company were clearly proud of their work as they included a reference to their War Office, Admiralty and Air Ministry work in a 1929 advert:The design of the ammunition belt is based on that used by the US in the Second World War, with the original concept coming from the great man himself John Moses Browning who first decided upon cloth belts in 1900 for his Colt ‘potato digger’ machine gun, creating a purely fabric belt without the metal reinforcements used in contemporary Maxim belts: it is desirable that such feed belts should be light in weight, flexible, capable of holding the cartridges close together and inexpensive. The possession of these qualities renders it necessary to avoid the use of beaded edges and of metallic strips between the pockets…