Monthly Archives: January 2017

51 Pattern Mess Tin Pouch

One of the unique elements of Canadian webbing design was to add a dedicated mess tin pouch to their 51 and 64 pattern sets. Most nations carried their mess tins inside the large pack, or if the design permitted slung from a convenient strap on part of the equipment. Canada however seems to have looked at the experience of its troops in the Second World War where it was common for them to acquire a second water bottle carrier to be used as a mess tin pouch- the mess tin then being easily available at unexpected ration stops without the need to go hunting in the main pack:etool10etool10-copyThe 51 pattern set had a large pouch to carry the mess tins in:imageThe top flap is secured with a quick release pull tab fastener:imageA pair of mess tins fits inside, they are tight enough to prevent rattling, but easy enough to pull out:imageThe methods of attaching the pouch to the rest of the equipment follow the same pattern as the canteen carrier we looked at last week:imageWith a wire hook to attach to the belt:imageAnd a pair of brass Twigg buckles on either side to attach to the ends of the shoulder braces:imageAs with a lot of this 51 pattern webbing, the markings are too faint to read, however unusually this pouch appears to have been blancoed at some point in its life, giving it the slightly shiny appearence seen in the photos abovve. Interestingly despite adopting this pouch, and a similar one for the following 64 pattern webbing set, Canada abandoned aluminium mess tins in the 1980s due to fears of aluminium poisoning- something the British military clearly didn’t consider a problem for their troops as aluminium mess tins are still issued!

As ever my thanks go to Andrew Iarocci for helping me add this piece to the collection.

RN Ratings’ DDPM Slide

It would be fair to say that there must be hundreds of different designs of rank slide to collect for the British military forces. Each regiment has a full set of ranks, each with the regiment’s name embroidered below, unique designs exist for cadet and university units and the RAF and Royal Navy have their own designs. On top of this, these rank slides can be found in a variety of camouflage colours and in gold on black for the RN. Tonight we are looking at a small selection of rank slides for ratings in the Royal Navy:imageThese are all on the now obsolete desert DPM fabric and follow the traditional badges for Royal Navy rates, embroidered in khaki for a subdued design. The lowest RN rate is that of Able Seaman, for many decades there was no badge at all, however today ABs wear a rate slide with the words ‘ROYAL NAVY’ embroidered on it:imageThe next rate a sailor can aspire to is that of ‘Leading Hand’, equivalent to a corporal in the army. This rate is indicated by a traditional fouled anchor:imageThe leading hand is the last of the junior rates, the next rate is the first rung on the ladder of ‘senior rates’ and is the Petty Officer. This rate is represented by a pair of crossed fouled anchors, with a crown above:imageThe Petty Officer is equivalent to a sergeant in the army. Here we can see an RN Petty Officer in a hospital in Afghanistan wearing the rate slide shown above:tfh4mechbde2010041015A Chief Petty Officer has a badge consisting of a fouled anchor, surrounded by a rope ring and a laurel wreath with a crown above:imageThe most senior RN rate is the Warrant Officer and he wears a badge with the coat of arms of the monarch on it. It is worth mentioning here the quality of the embroidery on this rate badge for a very intricate design:imageThese rate badges, like most others, are very cheap and available in large quantities, most can be found for no more than a couple of pounds and they make a good starting point for the young collector of militaria.

Chakrata Falls Photograph

Update: My thanks to Stuart Bates for identifying the regiment as being the Essex Regiment who wore a vertical purple flash on their helmets, giving rise to the nickname ‘The Pompadours’.

Compared to the usual postcard sized images we look at on a Sunday, tonight’s photograph comes in at a pleasing 8” by 6” and dates back to the First World War. Despite the carnage on the Western Front, the British Army still needed to garrison the Empire, and this photograph was taken in 1915 in India, with some of the British troops in the sub-continent posing in front of an impressive waterfall at Chakrata:skmbt_c36416120208080_0001A British Army cantonment had been set up at Chakrata in the Dehradun District if the United Provinces in 1866, the nearby Tiger Waterfalls are the highest in India and I am guessing that this is where the photograph was taken- they were clearly as popular a tourist attraction in 1915 as they are in 2017! The men in the photograph wear typical British Army KD uniforms of the period:skmbt_c36416120208080_0001-copyWith puttees:skmbt_c36416120208080_0001-copy-2And solar topees:skmbt_c36416120208080_0001-copy-3Many of these have a regimental flash on the puggaree, but I have not been able to identify it yet. Chakrata was one of two military establishments in the region, a few miles apart as described in this 1891 report on Enteric Fever:

The troops here consist of two bodies of men. A whole regiment is quartered upon two hills known as Chakrata proper. On an adjacent hill, called Kailana, which is about two-and-a-half miles from Chakrata , some 750 men (small detachments from several regiments and batteries), known as “details” are located. The “details” generally march up some ten or twelve days later than the regiment.

The Black Watch took up garrison duties in Kaliana in 1933:

550 men of the 1st Black Watch spent three months at Kailana in 1933. The first part of the journey from Meerut to Kailana was made by train to Dehra Dun. From here the trip uphill was by bus, to Kalsi via Jumnipur. Kalsi rest camp lay in a perfect setting at the bottom of the thickly clad lower slopes of the Himalayas. Kalsi was also well known for its bat like mosquitoes. All of the baggage would be offloaded from the buses on to A.T carts and then in the cool of the evening a route march was begun to Saiah. Saiah rest camp was besides an ice cold stream, which had its source in the Pindari glacier. An early start the next day brought the troops to the bottom of the infamous “Short Cut” – a narrow and very steep hill road leading to Kailana camp.

As usual sport dominated the activities here along with Khud walks but there was unfortunately only one football pitch. Soldiering was confined to route marches and musketry, which were often interrupted by torrential rain or made impossible by the terrain. Other amusements were few. The Bazaar was indifferent and the Soldiers Club many weary miles away which was made worse by the complete absence of the “tat”.

It is likely that at least some of these route marches would have been to the Chakrata Falls where no doubt similar souvenir photographs would have been taken. Due to its pleasing size, I have actually had this photograph framed up and it looks particularly fine hanging on the wall.

British Military Authority One Shilling Note

In 1943 the British forces in the Mediterranean issued a set of bank notes for British troops to use, in anticipation of the upcoming invasion of Tripolitania. These notes were issued in 6d, 1/-, 2/6, 10/- and £1 denominations and were lithographed onto paper with a security thread included. Tonight we are taking a look at the one shilling note:skmbt_c36417011714550_0001As can be seen these notes lack any serial number, but the letter code does change so this presumably refers to a printing run. The Lion over a crown is a typical symbol for the British Army in this period. The design consists of a large number of intricate lines to help reduce fraud. Turning to the rear of the note, the design is again made up of different coloured lines and hatching, with the denomination of the note in the centre:skmbt_c36417011714551_0001ME Griffin was stationed in the Mediterranean and remembers the notes:

An Intelligence Officer took me to one of the ships moored in a bay off Athens. He said to me, “This ship has got Red Cross supplies on board — but there are also 85 sealed boxes of money for the Greek Government under cover.” This was to replace the money the Germans had printed which was useless now. In fact the Greek civilians were using gold sovereigns issued by the British Government, and we were paid with notes issued by the British military authority for 5 shillings, half crowns and 1 shilling. The civilians would also accept these notes but they would charge you 5 shillings for a tin of corned beef!

CAT Tourniquet

A tourniquet is a piece of medical equipment that puts sufficient pressure on blood vessels to stop major arterial bleeding following severe trauma. These days a tourniquet is standard issue for British soldiers on active service and the standard issue example is called the ‘Combat Application Tourniquet’ or CAT:imageThis tourniquet, which saw extensive use in Iraq and Afghanistan, was revolutionary when it was introduced in 2006 as it allowed the injured soldier to apply the tourniquet to himself simply and easily for the first time. A medical study reported:

Four years continuous UK military experience in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003-7 was analysed for the impact of tourniquets in first aid. 107 tourniquets were applied to 70 patients. Most applications (64/70 patients) occurred after 2006, when tourniquets were issued to individual soldiers. 87% (61/70) survived their injuries.

The CAT tourniquet is an American product that uses a windlass to apply pressure to the effected region of the body:imageThe tourniquet is passed around the limb and tightened by pulling the end through a plastic buckle as far as it will go:imageThe plastic windlass is then twisted to increase the pressure, plastic hooks hold it in place one it is tightened, with a Velcro strap over the top securing it:imageThis Velcro strap is white and has a space to write the time the tourniquet was applied- it is vital to know how long it has been applied to prevent tissue damage from blood deprivation:imageThe following diagram shows in detail how to use the tourniquet:tourniquet-cat-3This particular example dates from 2012:imageAnd was manufactured in the US, hence the NSN number:imageThese tourniquets have become ubiquitous in both British and US military service and soldiers’ faith in them is so high that some have taken to wearing them, loosely tightened, around their limbs before going into combat. All troops are trained in their use and it is typical for them to be carried in the pocket or on the front of MOLLE vests so they are readily available in combat.

Anti-Gas Eye Shields

Photographs of Rommel in the desert frequently show him wearing a set of British Anti-Gas eye shields perched on the peak of his cap. These eye shields were issued to all troops who carried respirators, a special pocket being provided for them in the respirator haversack. They were designed to be a first line of defence to protect the wearer from misted irritant gasses until he had time to don his mask proper. The 1935 Defence Against Gas pamphlet explains:

If an enemy is likely to use aircraft spray, the eyes must be protected when personnel are not under cover of buildings. The respirator affords complete protection to the eyes and can be worn for long periods without serious discomfort or loss of efficiency, but, in order to avoid the necessity for wearing it continuously before aircraft spray is actually detected, protective goggles, which will protect the eyes form falling drops, will be issued. It must clearly be understood that the goggles are not a substitute for the respirator and that, immediately gas is detected in any form (including aircraft spray), the goggles must be removed and the respirator adjusted.

Every man was issued one pack of these eyeshields, containing six separate plastic visors within. The Mk I pack was issued in a small box, and is now by far the rarest example of these, whilst later packs used a cardboard sleeve of varying designs. This example is made of buff card, with the instructions printed vertically:imageThe instructions continue to the rear and here is a date of 1942:imageThis second example is made of a much darker brown waxed card, with the instructions printed horizontally:imageThe rear of this packet just details the contents, again this one dates from 1942:imageInside the visors are packed between layers of paper to keep them separate:imageThere were three tinted eye shields like the one above and three clear eye shields in each pack:imageThe edges of the plastic are secured with a piece of waxed fabric, and a piece of elastic holds them to the wearer’s head. Press studs in the corners shaped the eye shields from a simple flat piece into something that better fitted the wearer’s face:imageThese eye shields remained in inventory into the 1950s and post war dates can be found on packets indicating they were checked whilst in stores. These are one of the most common pieces of WW2 British anti-gas equipment, but prices have been steadily rising over the last five years and where these were once a £2 item, they are now reaching as much as £10 a set now!015

Shallow Water Diver’s Patch

Unlike the Royal Navy where diving is a specialist trade, in the army it is an additional qualification on top of soldier and trade skills and divers are not employed in the role on a full time basis. Despite this the training and requirements are just as rigorous and the award of a shallow water diver’s badge at the end of the training is treated with great pride. The badge is in the form of an old fashioned diver’s helmet, embroidered in yellow or gold thread on a suitably coloured background. This example is in yellow on a khaki piece of felt:skmbt_c36416121312260_0001Army divers train at the same facility as the Royal Navy, at the Defence Diving School at Horsea Island and high levels of fitness and teamwork are essential. Once they have completed their training they can expect to be employed in a number of tasks such as underwater demolitions, underwater concreting, searching and recovering equipment and people and underwater engineering tasks. The training is spread over four different courses:

  • Army Diver Selection Course (SEL).

The aim is to select those Officers and Soldiers suitable for training as Army Divers. DTU(A) assess physical fitness, diving aptitude, ability to learn new information and attitude towards military Diving. Only those who are selected can apply for the next course.

  • Army Diver Class 2 Course (AD2).

The aim is to train Officers and Soldiers, who have successfully passed an Army Diver Selection Course, in the use of SABA MOD 1, in-service self contained equipment, in techniques that will allow them to operate at depths of up to 30m, as a member of a Unit Diving Team. The 5 week course includes first aid, underwater search techniques, demolitions, minor repair, object recovery and removal and fast water search.

  • Army Diver Class 1 Course (AD1).

The aim is to train Class 2 Army Divers in the use of the Open Space Diving System (OSDS), in-service surface demand equipment, in techniques that will allow them to operate at depths of up to 50m, as a member of a Unit Diving Team. The 6 week course includes underwater engineering, concreting, hydraulic tools and decompression diving.

  • Army Diving Supervisor Course (ADS).

The aim is to qualify Class 1 Army Divers as Army Diving Supervisors or a percentage of personnel for training as SABA supervisors by means of assessing them in the following supervisory roles over 5 weeks; local agency tasking in both OSDS and SABA, fast water tasks and deep diving tasks.

Here we see a pair of army divers at Horsea, note the shallow water diving qualification badge on the sleeve of the left hand diver:surg-lt-jamie-vassallo-being-prepared-for-army-diving-session