Monthly Archives: November 2016

Home Guard Anklets

The regular British Army used webbing anklets throughout the Second World War. When the Home Guard was formed it was clear they would need something similar, however webbing production was stretched and there was not sufficient capacity to rapidly equip this new force in the quantities needed. As it did so often, the government turned to the leather industry to fill the gap; this industry having the spare capacity and skills necessary to produce leather anklets. By 13th August 1940 stocks of the anklets were ready and these started being distributed to units on 28th August. Production was very rapid with a quarter of a million pairs issued by the 3rd September and by January 1941 1.6 million pairs were produced and distributed.

The leather anklets were clearly an almost direct copy of the army webbing design:imageThere were however manufacturing differences as seen on this ‘pair’ which are not actually a pair as they show differing construction methods. Both are made from an artificially grained leather, a deep brown in colour:imageAs first issued these anklets would have been very light in colour, but this was found, via exercises with the RAF, to be impracticable in the field. Some companies, especially those with Rifle Regiment parent units, dyed their anklets black and at least one unit dyed them sage green! Officially however they were to be brown and the 7th Herts received orders belts and anklets should be darkened to a medium brown colour. The anklets themselves were supplied in three different sizes to fit different leg sizes.

These anklets have the same brass buckles to fasten them as webbing anklets, however one pair has them secured by a combination of stitching and a single brass rivet:imageThe other just uses brass rivets:imageBoth sets have leather straps attached to the main body of the anklet but again one is sewn:imageWhilst the other is riveted:imageDespite these differences I suspect no one much minded when they were issued a pair how they had been made, and this set looks to have been together a long time as they both have considerable deformation along the bottom edge from wear:imageStocks of both leather and webbing anklets were supplied to Home Guard units depending on supply, generally speaking units seem to have issued officers with web anklets and other ranks with leather ones, here members of the Broadway Home Guard can be seen wearing the leather anklets:home_guard

India Service Medal 1939-1945

Last year we looked at the British Defence Medal here, a similar medal was issued in India for those personnel serving three years in a non-combat position. The medal is made of cupro-nickel, 36mm in diameter:imageThe medal was instituted on 6 June 1946 and awarded for service between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. The obverse has the legend “GEORGIVS VI D:G:BR:OMN:REX ET INDIAE IMP.” (George VI by the grace of God King of Great Britain and Emperor of India) and the crowned effigy of King George VI:imageOn the reverse it shows a relief map of India and the words “INDIA” and “1939-45”:imageThe ribbon represented the colours of the Order of the Star of India and the Order of the Indian Empire with stripes in light and dark blue:ribbon_india_service_medalCo-incidentally the same colours were used for the roundels of RAF and Empire aircraft in the Pacific theatre.

The medal was awarded to British and Indian officers, warrant officers and other ranks of the Indian Forces and Indian Civil Defence Service. Those eligible for the medal included enrolled non-combatants and civilians in Military employ and Emergency Commissioned Officers and British other ranks of either the British or Indian Army, providing that they resided in India prior to 3 September 1939. It was not to be awarded to those who qualified for the Defence Medal.

Drawers, Pyjama

During the Korean War the British Army started adopting the layering process for combat clothing, first developed during WW2 by the US Army. The principle was basically that multiple layers of thin garments were better than a single layer of a thick garment as it trapped a pocket of air between each piece of clothing which then heated up from the wearer’s body heat and kept him warmer for longer. This contemporary set of photographs illustrates the principle:


Tonight we are taking a look at the bottom layer of this clothing system, worn next to the skin, this is a pair of ‘Drawers Pyjama’:imageThese are made form a particularly soft and comfortable material, in white with a heavily elasticated waist:imageThey have a simple open fly:imageAnd a button fastening on the seat to allow ‘calls of nature’ without removing the garment:imageA label inside gives sizing information, interestingly US and Canadian sizes are also listed:imageA second label on the seat gives instructions for use:imageThis reads:

  1. Wear as a first garment next to the body.
  2. Wear during the day and for sleeping at night if required.
  3. Use brace loops as auxiliary form of suspension if required.
  4. Wash carefully and pull into shape when drying.
  5. Keep clean. A clean garment is a warmer garment

Returning to the original picture we can see the pyjama drawers being worn in the first image:14713582_1504072932943254_1625278665700515060_n-copyThis layering system was introduced in 1951 in response to urgent operational needs, but as can be seen from the date on this piece, production continued for a long time afterwards.

Indian Army Parade Postcard

This week’s postcard takes us back to the days of Empire and the Indian Raj, with this impressive view of a military parade that I believe was taken somewhere in the sub-continent during the interwar period:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001The parade ground is cordoned off, with civilians sat on chairs around the perimeter to watch the occasion:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-8The odd British officer, not required for the parade, sits with the audience to cast a professional eye over proceedings:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-7One member of the audience, disregarding the heat, has dressed in British formal wear, complete with top hat:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-9In front of them the main body of troops can be seen marching in formation:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-2Led by a mounted officer:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-3Behind can be seen what appears to be artillery, drawn by mules distinctly smaller than the other horses on show:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-5A pair of mounted officers watch from the side, their chargers looking particularly impressive compared to the smaller animals drawing the guns:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-6Finally a lone soldier stands at attention to one side, holding a standard:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-4Parades were a regular occurrence for troops in India, however in most cases it was merely a display of drill to practice the men, full dress parades such as this in front of an audience were less common.

Lee Enfield Mk4 Charger Clips

I would argue that the Lee Enfield is the best combat rifle of the early twentieth century (controversial viewpoint I know from those who love Mausers). There are a number of reasons for this, but the main thrust of my argument would be its superior magazine capacity (ten rounds as opposed to the five on a Mauser) and the speed with which it could be fired accurately and reloaded. The speed of reloading was due to the use of charger clips, often seen referred to as stripper clips. A charger clip holds a number of rounds in a sprung metal clip that allows rapid reloading of a bolt-action rifle. The Lee-Enfield used five round clips holding .303 ammunition and we are looking tonight at the most easily found example of these, the Mk4:imageThe clip is made of a stamped blackened steel, with three circular and one oval hole on each side:imageNote how there are two pressed pips on the bottom of the sides to help with the stiffness and that the model number ‘Mk4’ is stamped into the metal. At either end the sides bend inwards and are sprung to help hold the rounds in place:imageA series of four staggered holes on the base allow the user to check how the rounds are seated:imageThis was vitally important as the base of the rounds needed to be in the sequence ‘down-up-down-up-down’ (DUDUD) in order to feed correctly into the rifle to prevent stopages, as illustrated in the Lee-Enfield weapons manual:imageAs mentioned earlier, this clip is the Mk4 version, various changes being made to the clips over the years, as recorded in the LoC:

Mark I LoC 11753 16th Jan 1903

Mark II LoC 13465 24th April 1906, said to be strengthened by the addition of three ridges on the base.

Mark III LoC 18973 15th Feb 1916, “…having circular pips and lightening holes and no ribs across the bottom.”

Mark IV LoC 19786 20th Oct 1917. “Differs…in having four holes in the side instead of five, which leaves more room for the spring on the lug end, and makes it less stiff.”

The clips were made from simple stampings and so were cheap and viewed as more or less disposable. Ammunition was frequently issued ready packed into clips which in turn were packaged in fifty round disposable cotton bandoliers. The charger loading system, along with the well designed ergonomics of the Lee family of rifles ensured a soldier could maintain rapid accurate fire in the field, such that when coming up against rifle equipped British soldiers of the Old Contemptibles the German army thought they were equipped with machine guns.

Fleet Protection Group Royal Marine CS95 Shirt

Tonight we are looking at an interesting CS95 shirt in DPM fabric:imageAs we have already covered this shirt, albeit in desert DPM, here; I will not repeat myself on the basic design of the shirt and instead focus on what makes this shirt particularly different and interesting. This shirt is not actually an army issued example, but rather one for a member of the Royal Navy as can be seen from the large ‘Royal Navy’ flash over one of the breast pockets:imageA tactical recognition flash is sewn onto the sleeve for the ‘FPGRM’:imageThis stands for ‘Fleet Protection Group Royal Marine’, hence the commando knife badge. FPGRM (now 43 Commando) was a Royal Marine unit responsible for guarding ships and Royal Naval bases. It might appear odd that a Royal Navy shirt has a Royal marine flash on the sleeve, but Royal Naval Reserve personnel were attached to this group on a regular basis to supplement it, as described in this news piece from Liverpool’s HMS Eaglet:

A female Royal Naval Reservist (RNR) from Liverpool has deployed with the elite Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines.

Bootle’s Able Seaman Carly Conroy is part of a 10-strong team from Brunswick Dock’s HMS Eaglet that have joined other reservists from across the UK at Fleet Protection Group’s headquarters at HM Naval Base Clyde in Scotland for the next six months.

The reservists will serve alongside the Royal Marines protecting Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships at home and abroad.

This is the first time that a RNR force protection team has been on permanent stand by to be deployed in support of the Royal Navy Fleet on operations at anytime and anywhere in the world.

The Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines usually guard Royal Navy warships and are the only force able to conduct armed boardings of suspect vessels. None of the reservists board vessels, however, as this is solely a Royal Marine and not Royal Naval task.

With Carly and her colleagues now undertaking the force protection element of this role, this frees up Royal Marines for a range of other duties across the world.

As members of the Above Water Force Protection (AWFP) branch of the RNR, the reservists train throughout the year in weapons and combat techniques, allowing them to provide a deterrent force capable of guarding ships in times of heightened threat levels.

This particular shirt has the word ‘Devonport’ inked onto the label on the inside:imageI suspect that this means it was once part of ‘pool clothing’ held at Devonport Dockyard rather than a rating’s name. Since the run down in Afghanistan and Iraq more Royal Marines have become available for Fleet Protection duties so the RNR has been less involved and with the change over the MTP this old CS95 shirt is now obsolete- nevertheless it is an interesting and unusual addition to my more modern part of the collection.

Union Jack Forces Newspapers

Throughout the war different British Army commands set up and ran their own newspapers for troops in theatre. The newspaper for the Mediterranean was called ‘Union Jack’ and was first published in Tunis in September 1943. Originally it was published three times a week, but later became a daily newspaper. The editor of the paper was something of a radical called Hugh Cudlipp who had been an editor of the Sunday Pictorial before the war and other radical columnists included William Connor who used the pen name ‘Cassandra’.

The newspaper featured sports, short stories and a section by Lance Corporal Bernard Brett called “Now We’re talking”. Alongside this were reprinted articles from British magazines , war news and a daily Italian lesson. Some idea of the scope of these forces newspapers can be ascertained by the print run which was reaching 380,000 copies daily in 1943.

The gallery below features some of these newspapers, which I have scanned in at high enough resolution that the content should be fairly readable!