Monthly Archives: September 2017

Medical Trauma Pouch

In addition to the standard combat PLCE set, other items of olive green webbing were issued that were associated with, but not officially part of the main set. One piece of associated equipment was a piece of medical kit, the First Aid Trauma Pack that offered a wider selection of medical equipment than could be carried by a standard infantryman whilst still being a small enough pouch to fit on a belt.

Like other elements of the PLCE set, this pouch is made from olive green Cordua nylon, with a black Fastex buckle to the front:imageThis pouch looks conventional enough from this angle, but looking at it from the side illustrates it’s much greater depth and bulk than a normal pouch:imageA single strip of green nylon webbing is sewn to the rear as a belt loop:imageThe unusual nature of the pouch is revealed when it is opened up:imageInside are two smaller pockets, and one much larger example to hold the various medical supplies. This example comes filled with a great variety of medical equipment; bandages, field dressings, airway tubes, gloves, slings etc:imageI believe this is the original and correct contents for the pouch, minus one or two small items. What is clear is just how much stuff is stowed in this pouch and indeed it is pretty dense and weighty when it is full. Markings on the pouch are limited to a printed panel giving description and date of manufacture, 1990 in this case:imageThese pouches were also produced in DPM later on and were popular with non medical troops as a utility pouch- the large capacity and three pockets being much appreciated.

Lee Enfield Chargers

Following on from our recent post on the MK VII .303 round, tonight we are looking at the chargers used with these rounds to load the Lee Enfield, P14 and Ross rifles. Firstly on the matter of nomenclature: these are not clips and especially not stripper clips! All the period literature refers to these as chargers, they are fed into a rifle using a charger bridge and indeed the conversion of the early long Lee rifles to use this method of loading was referred to as the ‘Charger Loading Lee Enfield’.

Chargers are small sprung metal holders for five rounds of .303 ammunition and altogether there were four different marks of charger. Tonight we are looking at the MK II and the MK IV:imageThe MK II is on the left and the MK IV on the right. The official List of Changes for the chargers lists the following models:

Mark I, LoC 11753, 16th January 1903

Mark II, LoC 13465, 24th April 1906, strengthened by the addition of three ribs on the base.

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

Mark IV, LoC 19786, 20th October 1916, “Differs…in having four holes in the sides instead of five, which leaves more room for the spring in the lug end, and makes it less stiff.”

This last mark would remain in use with the SMLE and No4 rifles for the rest of their extensive service lives.

Here we see the MK II above, with its distinctive rectangular cut outs to the base and reinforcing ribs. The MK IV is below with four holes cut in the base of the charger to lighten it:imageOn both chargers however each end is slightly sprung to help keep the rounds in:imageWhen loading chargers, .303 is fitted with the rims down-up-down-up-down (DUDUD). This is often described as a way to avoid rim-lock, but is as much to do with allowing the chargers to be used either way up in the dark and to help them pack together neatly.

Returning to our chargers, looking at the sides we can see that the MK II has lightening holes that are both circular and oval, on the MK IV only the left hand hole is oval, the rest being circular:imageThe MK IV chargers are exceptionally common and are easily picked up for around £1-£2 each. The MK II chargers are considerable scarcer and can sell for up to £10 each. I have been lucky enough to come across four of the MK IIs, including two chargers with original pre-WW1 drill rounds.

Extreme Cold Weather Trousers

Over the years we have looked at a number of pieces of the quilted extreme cold weather uniform, but up until now I have not had an example of the trousers in my collection to show you. Happily I have now rectified that omission and tonight the blog is considering these:imageThe trousers are made from a green quilted nylon, with a simple Velcro and tie fastener at the fly and waist:imageA zip runs up each side of the pair of trousers, from the ankle to the waist, with a small Velcro tab at the bottom of each trouser leg to secure it:imageOne early user of the trousers explains its function:

They were worn under whatever you want. With the zips inside the legs you can drop your trousers, zip the Mao trousers up, pull your trousers up and you have nicely warm legs underneath whatever you are wearing without having to remove your boots, be it lightweights (de rigour in command Troop whatever the season), combats or overalls as worn by crewmen.

I was first issued a set I suspect in January 1978 for my first ever winter CPX in Command Troop, to be returned post-exercise. We were told they were experimental. Everyone in our recce regt got a full set a year or two later. Excellent piece of kit: only the hands, head and feet turned blue in the cold instead of spreading and turning the body numb all the way to the torso in the West German winter.

A loop is sewn to the back of the trousers below the waist to allow them to be hung up to dry if they got wet:imageA standard green sizing and care label is sewn into the back of them:imageI seem to be slowly acquiring a fairly comprehensive selection of cold weather gear and it’s a fascinating, if overlooked area of collecting.

Vickers Machine Gun Feedblock

A Vickers Machine Gun was issued with a spare parts box and amongst the (many) components in that box were two spare feedblock mechanisms. The feedblock is the part of the gun that pulls the belt of cartridges through the weapon and offers the rounds up in the correct position to be extracted and moved into the chamber ready for firing. The feed mechanism on the Vickers is built around a heavy brass casting that slots into the front of the receiver immediately above the chamber:imageThe most obvious feature here is the large ‘mouth’ and it is into this the belt and cartridges are fed:imageA pawl on the inside of the feed mechanism grabs the cartridges and mechanically advances them one at a time. You can see the two arms poking down here:imageThe cartridges are presented, rim first, at the back of the feed mechanism ready to be extracted from the belt and passed down into the breach of the gun:imageThe whole feed block is actuated by a rotating arm on the base that connects up to the rest of the mechanism inside the Vickers, which can be seen on the right of this view of the underside of the feedblock:imageThis feedblock is a later example- originally they were made of steel but this was found to corrode too easily so it was switched to brass. This block is an insanely difficult piece of machining and must have taken many operations to mill out of a solid piece of brass. When you consider each weapon needed at least three of them to cover the one on the gun and two spares it is easy to see why Vickers guns were so expensive!

Olive Green PLCE Entrenching Tool Cover

Tonight we come to the last part of our mini-series on the olive green PLCE set of webbing and we are looking at the entrenching tool cover. I would direct you back to this post here for more details on the entrenching tool itself and the rubberised case it fits into. The cover itself is made of olive green Cordua nylon and is in the same distinctive ‘shield’ shape as the DPM version we looked at previously:imageAs can be seen there are a number of plastic Fastex clips on the front of the cover. The clip right in the front and centre is used to hold the entrenching tool itself into the cover securely:imageThis clip is mounted on an ‘v’ of webbing which allows a waterbottle to be substituted, the cap fitting neatly in the notch of the webbing ‘v’. Two other Fastex clips are fitted inside the cover:imageThese are used to secure the cover to the belt of the PLCE set, simply clipping around the belt itself:imageTypically the entrenching tool was worn centrally mounted at the very rear of a set of PLCE as it was the most seldom used piece of equipment so could be tucked away in the most inaccessible part of the set.

Interestingly the rear of the cover is actually almost completely bare:imageA single loop is provided to pass a piece of para-cord through to help tie down the components of the webbing set so they don’t bounce around when the wearer runs.

This then concludes out little foray into Gulf War PLCE, as with many of the other components my thanks go to Michael Fletcher who helped hook me up with many of the pieces of the set.

Stainless Steel Jack Knife with Spike

The stainless steel jungle jack knife is a fairly easy item to pick up, and we have looked at an example previously here. A few weeks back however I came across a variant that I had not found before, an example with a ‘spike’ on the back:imageThe spike sits across the back of the knife, and in this example has suffered quite badly from corrosion over the years:imageThe use of the spike is often recorded as being for the removal of stones from horses’ hooves. Whilst I am sure it would do this job, in the jungles of East Asia in the 1950s, this would seem to be a rather superfluous tool! As a sailor I was always taught that it was for splitting the strands of rope to allow them to be spliced correctly and this seems a much more probable explanation!

The rest of this jack knife is entirely conventional with a single blade and a can opener being included:imageA large loop is fitted for a lanyard to be secured to:imageThis example was made by JH Thompson in 1956:imageThese examples seem marginally rarer than the two piece clasp knife, but a quick search of the web suggests they are still out there and were being manufactured as late SAS the 1990s. I suspect there is no logic behind which version troops were given, but it is a nice variant to add to my little collection of jack knives.

Photograph of Lancashire Fusiliers Officers

This Sunday’s photograph is a rather lovely informal snap of a pair of junior officers, taken around the time of the outbreak of World War One:SKM_C45817083008150Both men are from the Lancashire Fusiliers, as can be seen from their cap badges:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (4)Whilst you cannot see the rank of the left-hand man, the chap on the right has the cuff rank of a lieutenant:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (5)Both are wearing officer’s service dress and the Sam Browne leather equipment set. The waterbottle of the left hand man is very obvious:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (6)A number of different water bottles were available for the officer to purchase, of varying prices, as seen in this period advertisement:imageThe man on the right has both sword:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (8)And a pistol ammunition pouch:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (7)Presumably he is also wearing a holster, but it is obscured by his arm. The officers seem to be on exercise, and their men can just be seen in the background between them:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (9)It is however the small boy muscling in on the picture on the left I particularly like:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (10)Assuming these officers are regulars and the photo is pre-WW1, they were part of the 2nd Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers- the 1st Battalion being in Karachi at the time. The 2nd Battalion was sent to France and spent the war on the Western Front, in which case it is highly likely these officers were to see service in France.