Monthly Archives: August 2017

GSR Haversack

It has been quite some time since we looked at the current British Army GSR here. To accompany the respirator a new haversack was introduced in MTP fabric. This new haversack is in a distinctive ‘wedge’ shape and has a removable shoulder strap:imageThe main flap is secured with press studs and Velcro:imageThree different press studs are provided to low a number of different positions for the top flap depending on how full the pack is:imageTwo linked zips allow the size of the pack to be expanded to make ti easier to put in or take out the respirator. The rear of the pack has a pair of MOLLE straps allowing it to be connected to body armour or a belt:imageOne user explained:

Point to note though, this haversack should not be attached to webbing. Although it has the capability to be attached, it’s not how it’s meant to be worn or used. Shoulder slung or belt worn and sat on top or outside the webbing, but never fitted on it.

The underside of the top flap is printed with ‘Field Pack’ and an NSN number:imageTwo small pouches are attached to either side of the pack, these being removable:imageOne side would be used for DKPs, the other for other extras needed for the respirator. The same user we heard from earlier explains how the pack is used:

Once the GSR is in, there is no space to store anything else and nothing else should be stored in there anyway. Everything you need can be carried in the side pockets with gloves kept behind the retaining straps under the lid, apart from the DP, cloth piece and combipens which sit inside on the inner pocket. No more room for clunky or spank mags!
There are only four poppers inside for the former, the remaining two are the ones you can see outside that have the webbing straps on them. The elastic strap isn’t so much for the former as you’d only use that if the poppers fail. It’s more a place to store things like sealed gloves, etc, behind the mask.
The side pouches can be removed and replaced with bigger pouches should you deem it necessary, although these aren’t supplied, merely if you happen to have a larger pouch. This is for when things go bad and we’re looking at spending long periods in 4R and need the decon supplies to hand to see us through. It will, with some fiddling, take a utility pouch on each side.
It’s possibly one of the best designed bits of kit I’ve come across in ages and we find that it works very well, is robust and can take a solid beating.
The addition of the former is sheer genius too. No more squished masks that have compromised seals! Although thinking about it, behind the former with the strap is probably where you could stash your clunky and porn mags now. That’d work quite well and they’d be hidden too. No going into 4R and your copy of Razzle flops to the ground

Partly Completed 7.62mm Cartridge Casings

For most of us who have had some involvement with firearms, either through the military, through living history or as a recreational shooter, cartridge cases are ubiquitous and we probably pay them little thought. The process behind manufacture though is rather involved and the act of turning a piece of raw brass into a functioning case is a complicated one. Last week I was lucky enough to pick up some partially completed cases of 7.62mm NATO standard ammunition that were made in 1976 and never finished:imageBrass is made into small cups, that are then put through hydraulic presses to draw them up into the basic shape of a casing, several draws are needed to make the brass thin enough to form the basic shape. After this, the cases are trimmed to length and the bases stamped into them, with primer pockets and headstamp detail. The cases on the left below have reached this stage:imageDepending on the manufacturer, the next stage is to ‘neck’ the cartridge down, and the case on the right has gone through this procedure. Although these cartridges appear rimmed, this is merely because they are unfinished. The rim would next be turned down and an extractor grove cut into the base of the cartridge. Here we see the two stages next to a completed round:imageThis illustration shows all the steps of the manufacturing process:brass_case_formingThese cartridges have headstamps indicating they were made by Radway Green in 1976:imageNot only is the manufacture of cartridge cases a complicated procedure, but due to the tight tolerances of firearms it needs to be done with a high degree of precision, any cartridges that do not meet the required specifications are rejected as these examples presumably were.

Canadian 37 Pattern Shoulder Brace

I would argue that of all the countries manufacturing webbing in the British Empire in World War Two, the Canadians produced some of the nicest. The quality is superlative and aesthetically their webbing has a lovely yellowish hue. The Canadians also used some distinctive methods of construction for some of their webbing pieces and tonight we are looking at a nice example of a 37 pattern shoulder brace:FullSizeRender1This particular example is (poorly) stamped up as having been made by Zephyr Loom and Textiles Ltd (ZL&T):FullSizeRender2There is also half a Canadian acceptance mark of a /|\ inside a ‘C’ visible. ZL&T Ltd used a unique form of construction on their shoulder braces, with a continuous piece of 1” wide webbing, around which a wider piece to aid comfort was sewn. Here the central core can be clearly seen running underneath the main load bearing surface:FullSizeRender4This method of construction differed from other manufacturers who either used reduction weaving to make the shoulder brace as one single piece, or sewed together webbing of varying widths. Other features of this shoulder brace include a sewn loop to pass the matching brace through on the back:FullSizeRender3The strap also includes a bright brass chape at the end:FullSizeRender5These were replaced with ‘battle brass’- a brown phosphate metal- in 1943. It is these minor manufacturing variant that to me are so fascinating- wartime economy and ways of speeding up production all having an impact on the design of components. Small changes multiplied over hundreds of thousands of pieces had a major cumulative effect and could help make large savings in manpower and strategic materials such as brass.

Mk IV NBC Smock

The Mk 3 NBC suit we looked at last month was very good for its day, but in the mid 1980s the British Army decided to update the design to accompany the new S10 respirator it was introducing. The Mk 3 was only available in olive green fabric, so a small batch of Mk3a suits were produced in DPM (we will look at an example of these at a later date). Whilst this was a definite improvement, the smock still needed to be pulled on over the head and it was felt that having a conventional zipped fastening up the front was a better design. This led to the next major version of the NBC suit, the Mk 4 and tonight we are looking at the smock:imageWhilst the camouflage fabric and front opening are the most obvious changes to the suit, perhaps more importantly was an improved fabric that was more effective at repelling chemical agents. The outer layer of the smock has a silicon treatment that helps waterproof the fabric from rain and allows liquid agents to spread over the surface rather than sinking in, aiding evaporation. A fluorocarbon finish was also applied which acts as an oil repellent, increasing its effectiveness against liquid agents. The suits were also designed to be fire retardant. Despite all this protection, the suit remains breathable preventing the wearer from overheating. When it was introduced this was one of the most effective NBC suits in the world and it remains in use to this day, underlining the general strength of its design.

Returning to the Mk 4 smock then, we can see that it opens up the front, with a metal zip that is covered by a Velcro flap:imageA piece of elastic is sewn around the edge of the hood to ensure a tight face seal with the respirator:imageVelcro tabs allow the sleeves to be adjusted:imageAnd the waist:imageA pair of large angled bellows pockets are sewn over each breast:imageThe stitching of these pockets only penetrates the first layer of fabric so it doesn’t compromise the suit. Another small pocket is fitted to one sleeve to carry pens etc.:imageA label is sewn into the collar giving sizing:imageIn all six different NSN codes are allocated to the DPM smock based on sizing:

160/092                Extra Small                          8415-99-130-6921

170/100                Small                                     8415-99-130-6922

180/100                Medium                               8415-99-130-6923

190/108                Large                                     8415-99-130-6924

200/116                Extra Large                          8415-99-130-6940

Special Fitting                                                    8415-99-130-6925

The underside of the label indicates that it was made by Remploy:imageThis suit was also produced in desert DPM fabric and at some point I will pick up one of those to accompany this example.

Cawnpore Etching

This week’s image dates back to the nineteenth century and is a fine etching of a group of Highlanders storming the guns at Cawnpore during the Indian Mutiny:SKM_C45817022215110In the mid nineteenth century printed etchings gave a way for art to be enjoyed by the masses. Photography was still in its infancy and true paintings were beyond the pocket of most. Etchings could be mass produced and were very affordable. The more wealthy had them framed and hung on the wall, emulating the paintings of the wealthy. The poor decorated their houses by pulling the etchings from magazines and sticking them to the walls, much like the posters of today. Most of these etchings were in fact copies of actual paintings, the engraver’s skill being to translate this image onto metal for reproduction. Consequently some etchings are crude, others like this one are remarkably detailed. As well as scenes from history and famous people, current events and especially British military victories particularly appealed to the Victorians. This particular engraving dates to 1860 and judging by the large number of copies for sale online was a very popular print.

The following stirring fictionalised account of the attack by the 78th Highlanders comes from VA Stuart’s book Massacre at Cawnpore:

The Highlanders of the 78th, led by their pipers, hurled themselves at the enemy positions, the sun glinting on the bright steel of their ferociously jabbing bayonets. The riflemen of the 64th flattened themselves to the ground, then rose, as one man, to advance firing. The 84th, with memories of comrades who had defended the Cawnpore entrenchment, took guns at bayonet point and neither they nor the Sikhs who fought beside them, gave quarter to any gunner who had the temerity to stand by his gun. In their famous blue caps and “dirty” shirts, the young fusiliers fought grimly…they had Renaud, their commander, to avenge and they had brought in blood, the right to call themselves veterans.SKM_C45817022215110 - CopyAnd always the order was “Forward!” Shells burst and round shot and grape thinned the advancing ranks; a 24-pounder held them until it was blown up by Maude’s guns from the flank; then a howitzer from the enemy centre ranged on the charging 78th, forcing them to take cover behind a causeway carrying the road.

Havelock himself rallied them, his sword held high above his head as a storm of shot and shell fell about him. “Another charge like that wins the day, 78th!” he told them and the red coated line re-formed at his bidding and stormed the howitzer’s emplacement, their pipes keening above the noise of battle and the shouts and oaths of the weary, sweating Highlanders.SKM_C45817022215110 - Copy (2)

Wartime Signals Satchel Number 1

As regular readers will know I have been picking up bits of kit for my WS38 set radio slowly over the last couple of years. This week I was very pleased to pick up a wartime signals satchel to go with the set:imageI have previously looked at an example of a signals satchel here, but that example was a post war version in green canvas with white metal fittings. This example is the correct one for wartime use and will go nicely with the radio. This is officially a ‘Signals Satchel No 1’, had a stores code of ZA 6292 and was introduced on 27th May 1938. The main body of the satchel is made from pre-shrunk woven cotton webbing, with a box lid:imageThe lid is secured with a single strap and brass buckle to secure it:imageThe inside of the satchel is lined with cotton-drill fabric to help protect the contents:imageTwo variations of the signals satchel can be found, one with the shoulder strap sewn to the satchel itself, and the more common variety such as this one that has a standard 37-pattern shoulder brace secured with brass buckles:imageThe top of the satchel is printed with ‘SATCHEL SIGNALS’:imageThe inside of the top lid is clearly marked with the date 1942 and the manufacturer ‘MECo’:imageThe strap is also stamped:imageAccording to the instruction card the signals satchel should hold:

– 2 mics and 2 phones (one for the officer)

– 1 batteries, (spare)

– 1 hooks, brace (spare)

– The instruction card

The actual batteries and junction box should have been stored in a separate pack on the back, but by all accounts only the satchel was used for much of the time so the wireless operator actually had somewhere to carry his own personal kit!

As far as I am aware this satchel was made in both Britain and Canada. I have not seen Australian, Indian or South African examples but that does not mean there was not production in these countries.

Cold Weather Woollen Wristlets

Over the last few years I have slowly been building up a little selection of modern Arctic kit, with items such as crampons, survival guides and over-gloves. Many of these items are pretty inexpensive and today we have a set of woollen wristlets that cost me just £1:imageThese are made of white knitted wool and fit over the wrist to keep it warm, a hole being provided for the thumb to fit through:imageNote the cloth binding to protect the edges from catching and unravelling. A simple cloth label is sewn into each wristlet, with a crude /|\ mark on it:imageThese wristlets have been in service for many years, and the page in the MoD’s Black Book of Kit gives a date into service of before 1991:WristletsOne serviceman who was issued them reports: Wristlets are pretty good if you can get some. Keeps the blood flowing to your fingers warm.

Knitted woollen wristlets have been worn by British soldiers since at least the time of the Great War, with knitting patterns published for people at home to make them for the troops, this illustration comes from a period knitting pattern and the design is broadly similar to the arctic wristlet we have above:759e304fec48c14ce22c675846d397fa--wristlets-vintage-patterns