Monthly Archives: December 2016

Intelligence Corps Christmas Card

In what is now an annual tradition I am looking at three different Christmas related pieces of militaria over the festive period. The first of these is a very simple Christmas card from the Intelligence Corps:skmbt_c36416111810000_0001This card is made of a heavy buff paper with the regiment’s cap badge printed on the front:skmbt_c36416111810000_0001-copyA piece of green ribbon adds some colour and decoration to the front:skmbt_c36416111810000_0001-copy-2Inside is a greeting and the sender has signed it ‘all the best alan xxxx’:skmbt_c36416111810001_0001The writing in the bottom left corner indicates he was a member of 284 Field Security Section. The 1943 Manual of Field Security outlined their role:

(1) Compiling and using Black and White Lists from information provided from multiple sources including the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), Special Operations Executive (SOE), and Ultra. Black Lists were for the arrest of known enemy intelligence operatives and sympathizers / collaborators. White Lists used for the contact with local resistance and friendly persons.

(2) Arrest and Field Interrogation of Black List/high category prisoners (INT CORPS personnel were often selected for language skills) such as the SS, Gestapo, the SD, local Nazi/sympathizers.

(3) Searching of captured enemy HQ/Intelligence offices, etc for valuable intelligence information and translation of documents.

(4) Briefing Division and Brigade intelligence staff officers with information derived from the above.

(5) Key point security and security investigations prior to operational deployment..

The Field Security Sections were a development from the Corps of Military Police’s ‘Field Security Police’. With the formation of the Intelligence Corps (Int Corps) in mid 1940, Field Security Police duties and personnel were transferred from the CMP to the Intelligence Corps.

In the early days training in field security duties was conducted by the CMP at Mytchett, but it subsequently moved to Winchester as the Field Security Training Centre and Depot (via a short period at Sheerness). This centre managed to turn out 77 fully trained sections by December 1940. Maurice Vila was part of 49 Field Security Section:

At the time we arrived in Normandy the battle front in the British Sector was situated somewhere between Bayeux and Caen, about 10 miles south from the coast, and 20 to 30 miles wide in an east/west direction. Our section was in General Montgomery’s 21st Army Group and our particular job was to take care of the security of the area immediately surrounding the little fishing port and village of Port-en-Bessin situated approximately 8 miles west of Arromanches, and where we arrived the following evening at 8pm. We were billeted in the village school and set to work immediately on our field and port security duties which included the oil installations, tanks and pipelines situated outside the village.

Our work brought us into constant touch with the local French authorities and in particular the gendarmerie, and with what remained of the population of the village which had returned after evacuating the vicinity of the coast during the surprise bombardment on D Day. We were especially concerned with the prevention of possible sabotage of the oil installations and other military targets by enemy agents or pro-German elements amongst the local people. Fortunately our work was not made difficult in this connection as the French police and other officials as well as the villagers were usually only too ready to co-operate with us in bringing to our attention any suspicious incident or person whose identity was not known to them.

Italy Star

Continuing our slow and steady survey of British WW2 campaign medals, tonight we come to the Italy Star:imageIf you have read the posts on the 1939-45 Star and the France and Germany Star you will be familiar with the design of this medal, here it is just the ribbon and wording on the star that have changes, with this medal saying (logically enough) ‘THE ITALY STAR’:imageThe ribbon is striped red-white-green-white-red, the colours of the Italian flag:ribbon_-_italy_starThe Italy Star was instituted by the United Kingdom in May 1945 for award to those who had served in operations in Sicily or Italy during the Italian Campaign, from the capture of Pantellaria on 11 June 1943 to the end of active hostilities in Europe on 8 May 1945, both dates inclusive.

The criteria for award were:

Service afloat

The qualifying sea areas for the award of the Italy Star were the Mediterranean Command, the Aegean, and Albanian and Cretan Waters between 11 June 1943 and 8 May 1945 inclusive. For service afloat, the qualification requirement was entry into operational service in an operational area in the Mediterranean or in naval operations during the invasion of the South of France, on condition that the six months service requirement for the award of the 1939-1945 Star had been completed.

Casual entry into the qualifying sea areas which was not directly connected with actual operations, service in Merchant Navy vessels landing troops or supplies at ports in North Africa, Palestine, Syria and in Cyprus, or service in vessels at ports in Spain, the Balearic Islands and Turkey east of 30° East, were not regarded as qualifying service for the Italy Star.

The award of a gallantry medal or Mention in Dispatches qualified the recipient for the award of the Italy Star, regardless of service duration. Personnel whose qualifying service period was terminated prematurely by their death or disability due to service were awarded the Star.

Certain special conditions applied governing the award of the Italy Star to those Naval personnel who entered operational service less than six months before the end of the qualifying period. Those who entered operational service in the qualifying area on or after 10 November 1944, were awarded the Italy Star by entry into operational service. In such cases, however, the 1939-1945 Star could not be awarded for service of less than 180 days.

Service ashore

Service on land had no prior time qualification. Qualifying service on land by Army personnel, Naval shore-based personnel and Air Force non-air crew was entry into operational service as part of the establishment in the following areas, all dates inclusive:

  • Aegean from 11 June 1943 to 8 May 1945.
  • Corsica from 11 June to 4 October 1943.
  • Dodecanese from 11 June 1943 to 8 May 1945.
  • Greece from 11 June 1943 to 8 May 1945.
  • Italy, including Elba, from 11 June 1943 to 8 May 1945.
  • Pantellaria on 11 June 1943.
  • Sardinia from 11 June to 19 September 1943.
  • Sicily from 11 June to 17 August 1943.
  • Yugoslavia from 11 June 1943 to 8 May 1945.

Air crew who flew on operations against the enemy in the Mediterranean theatre, or over Europe from bases in the Mediterranean area, had no prior time qualification and qualified by an operational sortie. The Italy Star could not, however, be awarded to air crew based elsewhere than in the Mediterranean area. The qualification for flying personnel posted or employed on air transport or ferrying duties was at least three landings in any of the qualifying areas on or during the stipulated dates or periods.

Army personnel who entered Austrian territory during the closing stages of hostilities in Europe were eligible for the Italy Star, but not for the France and Germany Star. Similarly, flights to Europe from bases in the Mediterranean area during the period from 11 July 1943 to 8 May 1945 were qualification for the Italy Star, but not for the France and Germany Star.

2″Parachute Illuminating Mortar Round

The 2” mortar was to remain in British Army service from 1937 until it was replaced by the 51mm mortar in 1981, it was a very simple but effective weapon and as time went on a large range of specialist rounds were developed for the mortar including drill, smoke, high explosive and the subject of tonight’s post, the parachute illuminating mortar round. As might be expected from the title, these rounds were fired into the air where an illuminating flare was deployed attached to a miniature parachute that let it gently drift down over the battlefield providing bright illumination at night. The round itself is similar to other 2” mortar bombs, with a thin metal tube attached to a tail unit:imageThe tail has a ballistite cartridge in it that when fired provides the force needed to launch the bomb out of the tube, a small screw on cap was provided to prevent accidental detonation:imageMetal fins on the tail of the bomb help stabilise it in flight allowing the bomb to be dropped accurately on the target:imageThe walls of the bomb are made of thin steel, in this case pained white with a red band and black markings:imageThese indicate that it is a 2 inch Mortar Illuminating Round. A filling date stencilled on the body shows this example dates from 1963:imageThis bomb has been fired and the contents are therefore missing from the bomb case, however originally the parachute illuminating round had the following internal components:2in-13_zpsa5c59d0dDuring the Second World War these bombs were delivered in cardboard tubes, by the 1960s these were replaced with metal tins which offered better resistance to moisture:imageAs can be seen the contents are stencilled onto the outside of the storage tube, inside a plastic liner helps prevent the bomb from rattling around:imageThe date ‘1965’ is stamped into the base of the storage tube:imageThis is my first mortar round and I think I have started off with a particularly nice example.

Indian Made 37 Pattern Bayonet Frog

Earlier this month we looked at a set of Indian made 37 pattern shoulder braces and delved into the history of the Bata company. The other major manufacturer of webbing in India were the Government Harness and Saddlery Factory, Cawnpore and tonight we are looking at a bayonet frog from that company. The frog is made to the same basic design as other examples from across the Empire:imageThe webbing has the distinctive slightly striped pattern of Indian production. The loops at the base of this frog do not have any cut outs for spike bayonets- The Indian Army sticking with the SMLE and sword bayonets for the most part and not needing to modify their frogs in the same numbers as the British:imageThe stitching holding the frog together has a distinctive arch shape to it, allowing the process to be done with one pass of the sewing machine:imageThis compares with the much squarer stitching used on British made frogs where the stitching turns through 90 degrees rather than being a single arc. The stitching is through both layers of webbing so can be seen on the rear as well:imageThis frog was made in 1942 and has the ‘CA1942’ stamp of the manufacturer The Government Harness and Saddlery Factory, Cawnpore indistinctly stamped on the back:imageThe following history of the factory comes from ‘Karkee’ and is the most comprehensive I have come across, as ever if you get the chance check out his superb threads on the Warrelics forum covering British and Empire equipment:

After the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and the capture of reserve stocks by rebels, the British Army in India faced severe shortages of harness saddlery and leather accoutrements. Resupply from England involved a long sea voyage around the Cape of Good Hope which damaged much of the leather equipment. Lieutenant John Stewart of the Bengal Artillery was ordered to stimulate the local leather industry and established the Government Harness & Saddlery Factory, Cawnpore in 1863. Many other private leather and textile firms followed and Cawnpore quickly became a major industrial center in Northern India.

The Government Harness & Saddlery Factory was operated by the Military Supply Department of the Government of India and was entirely devoted to the manufacture of military equipment. It had its own brass and iron foundry for making equipment fittings and during times of mobilization it could place orders with the private firms of Cawnpore, which were brought up to the standards of the harness factory.

The Government Harness Factory expanded rapidly to meet the needs of the Indian Army during the Great War, employing around 4,000 workers by 1916-17. Demand decreased during the interwar years.

In addition to leather accoutrements, the factory began producing Mk V Gasmask Bags and Pattern 1908 Web Equipment components. It is unclear when the production of webbing commenced or if full sets of webbing were manufactured, but extant examples of frogs and water bottle carriers bear 1930s dates. The Government Harness & Saddlery Factory marked their items with a Ca. for Cawnpore, which changed in 1940 to ca. The brass fittings on early pieces were also stamped with the same “Ca.” mark and were probably made on the factory premises. In general, early production webbing is of higher quality with better stitching and fittings. Additionally, some early pieces feature a mix of canvas and webbing.

In November 1941, large scale orders for Pattern 1937 Web Equipment were placed by the Indian Government. The Government Harness & Saddlery Factory produced the full range of components, but the wartime webbing was of a much looser weave with undyed stitching and cruder brass fittings made by outside firms. Additionally, snaps were a mixture of imported British-manufactured snaps made by Newey Brothers, Limited of Birmingham as well as locally made Indian snaps of poorer quality. The latter featured the classic ‘pebbled’ pattern or a snowflake pattern unique to India. The stamps on wartime webbing are often upside down and poorly stamped, which may be due to a largely Indian workforce with less supervision from European foremen. The government factory may have also called upon local private firms to fill these orders during the war.

A Last Appeal to Reason Propaganda Leaflet

On the night of the 10th/11th August 1940 German bombers dropped an unusual load on the people of Britain- propaganda leaflets. These leaflets were entitled ‘A Last Appeal to Reason’ and were a translation of a speech given by the Fuhrer to the Reichstag calling for peace. The speech was printed on a tabloid sized four page newspaper, in a dense piece of text covering all pages:

1 2 2a 3

As ever click these images for larger sized copies if you want to read it in more detail. It is hard to assess the impact of this leaflet- during my research into the leaflet I find myself repeatedly being directed to revisionist history sites telling us that this was a sign of Hitler’s good intentions and that there were numerous plots on the British side to ensure the war continued (these sites often add an anti-Semitic slant to the history as well). I would argue that the leaflet was a pragmatic approach from the Nazis who were planning the invasion of Russia and wished to avoid a battle on two fronts. If the leaflet worked and encouraged peace they could concentrate on the upcoming battle with communist Russia and if not they had not lost anything.

The British response is related by Lee Richards in his book “Whispers of War: Underground Rumour-Mongering in the Second World War”:

Sefton Delmer, the future head and mastermind of British black propaganda, was just about to make his debut broadcast to Germany on the BBC when he heard the Fuhrer’s “last appeal to reason”. Spontaneously, without governmental approval, Dlemer tersely rejected any notion of a compromise peace. “Herr Hitler,” Delmer announced, “you have on occasion in the past consulted me as to the mood of the British public. So permit me to render your Excellency this little service once again tonight. Let me tell you what we here in England think of this appeal of yours to what you are pleased to call out reason and common sense. Herr Fuhrer and Reichskanzler, we hurl it right back at you, right in your evil smelling teeth…” The unofficial rejection upset a few Members of Parliament but Delmer’s attitude was indicative of a new mindset in the country.

John Smith found one of these leaflets and offers the contemporary British perspective from the ordinary man on the leaflets:

A couple of months after the bus incident I was visiting Ramsey, a small village about four miles from Harwich, and found a German leaflet in the Hedgerow, which in all probability had been dropped by a bomber returning from an air raid on London. The leaflet, was double A3 size and had close type on all four sides. It was an excellent piece of crafted propaganda and quite likely had the hand of Josef Goebbels in its preparation and the making of the German case. There were no lies, but the manipulation of the facts stood truth on its head.

Clearly then the leaflet was considered as more of a joke than having any great impact on the British who found them- indeed elaborate newsreel pieces were filmed of people cutting up the leaflets to use as toilet paper! In this photograph a member of the Civil Defence services can be seen reading and laughing at the content of these leaflets:last-appeal-to-reasonToday these leaflets seem to be quite scarce, with copies only turning up occasionally when they had been saved as a souvenir. I paid a few pence for my copy but I have heard of examples selling for three figure sums!

Coveralls, Fuel and Lubricant Handlers

In today’s increasingly safety conscious world even the armed forces have to ensure they provide the correct PPE (personal protective equipment) to their personnel involved in potentially hazardous tasks. One of the most hazardous duties involves working with fuels and lubricants. Not only can they be highly flammable, they also have the potential to be corrosive or at least an irritant to a human being. Normal cloth overalls are fairly useless in these circumstances as they absorb rather than repel these substances and so still allow contact with the skin underneath. Special coveralls are provided to those who have to work in these areas, they have a tough impermeable layer over the front and sleeves:imageThis extends over the back of the shoulders as well, but the rear of the coveralls are unprotected, presumably to allow the uniform to breathe and help keep the wearer cool:imageNote also the elastic at the back of the waist to help improve the fit. The coveralls fasten up the front with a zip, which is in turn covered by a flap secured with press studs:imageTwo pockets are provided, one on the thigh and one on the breast:imageThese are each secured with Velcro. The neck of the coverall has the label, indicating it is a ‘Large’, giving the official designation ‘Coveralls, Fuel and Lubricant Handlers’ and the manufacturer ‘Multifabs Ltd.’ Of Derby:imageMultifabs specialised in protective clothing, including specialist equipment for the foundry industry and was in business from about 1980 to 1997 which at least gives us a time frame for this set of coveralls. I must confess that this is the only one of these I have ever come across, and it sounds as if they were not always issued even to those who did work with fuels. Even so it is an interesting and unusual addition to the collection.

Signaller Postcard

This week’s postcard is a nice studio shot of a soldier from, I believe, the Great War:2From his cap badge he appears to be a member of the Royal Engineers:2-copy-3And he is wearing a greatcoat over his service dress:2-copy-5He has the three stripes of a sergeant on this great coat:2-copy-4These are repeated on the opposite side with a crown and bomb in brass above them:2-copy-2The brass bomb was a distinctive feature of Royal Engineers in the Great War, whilst the crown above three stripes was used to indicate company, battery, squadron and troop sergeant majors. Below this rank insignia, and virtually obscuring the last stripe, is a two coloured arm band. It is hard to tell its original colours, but my best guess is that it would have been blue and white indicating a signaller:2-copySignallers were amongst some of the most vulnerable troops in the Great War, as described in this extract from an article in the Bradford Telegraph and Examiner:

In the First World War, being a signaller usually meant you were close to the frontline troops, providing signals communications back to your Battalion HQ…Second Lieutenant Thomas Maufe from Ilkley was awarded the highest honour of all, the Victoria Cross, for the action he took on June 4, 1917, at Feuchy in France. Maufe wasn’t even a signaller.

He was serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery. During an intense German bombardment of high explosive and shrapnel, Maufe single-handedly repaired a damaged telephone wire connecting the front line and the rear, which enabled the British to return enemy fire.

Three years before at the start of the war telephone wires were few and far between. Flags were still being used for signalling but this practice quickly died out as the war years advanced and the technology of war changed rapidly. Where possible wired telephones were used but this involved laying landlines which was a hazardous job due to enemy shelling, mines and the risk of being picked off by a camouflaged sniper.

Tricia Platts, Secretary of Bradford’s World War 1 Group, said: “Where it was not possible to lay landlines then many forms of visual signalling were used which made use of light either from sunlight flashed by mirrors in day time or by Lucas lamps at night. “Messages were sent in Morse code, one man operating the signalling device and one man using a telescope (where distances were great) to read the message sent back. “The standard field telephone used with landlines consisted of a wooden box containing two dry cells, a magneto generator, polarised bell, induction coil testing plug, and a Hand Telephone C Mk.1. Towards the end of 1916 these were being replaced by the Fullerphone.

“Signallers were also used in forward positions with the Forward Observation Officer (FOO) to relay information on enemy targets and assist the artillery in ranging the guns. “In these, often isolated, positions the signaller became vulnerable to enemy sniping and machine gun fire, and many signallers lost their lives.”

An old joke from the period reflects the gallows humour of the front line, necessary for survival. A front line officer dictates a message to be sent back, perhaps by Morse, to staff officers at the rear.

The message was ‘Send reinforcements, we are going to advance’. The message received was rather different: ‘Send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance’.