Continuing our survey of Royal Navy trade badges, tonight we are looking at that worn by Mine Warfare ratings:This badge is a printed example and has a design based around an old fashioned contact sea mine, with a ring at the bottom where a real mine would be tethered to the sea bed and the horns sticking out that would detonate when hit by a ship.
Mine warfare was one of the areas where the post war Royal Navy led the world, with specialist ships and training that few other navies could match- indeed much of the sweeping and hunting for mines in the Gulf over the last thirty years have beeped by the British rather than the US Navy as they recognised the Royal Navy’s expertise.
A 1984 leaflet from the Third Mine Countermeasure Squadron explained:
A nation that depends on sea transport for the bulk of its trade is vulnerable to the threat of enemy mines. Mines are effective weapons in terms of the cost of production and sowing; compared with the amount of damage they do, the disruption they cause, and the effort required to clear them.
The most common minesweeper of the Cold War as the Ton Class, which cleared mines using a sweep that brought the mines to the surface to be destroyed. Mine warfare ratings on these ships were responsible for the sweeps and the paravanes that held the sweeping cables in the correct orientation to the ship:Today, mine clearance is done by hunting individual mines using sonar and dealing with them on the sea bed by exploding a mine disposal charge next to them. This fun cartoon from the early 1980s illustrates the difference:Whatever the method of mine clearance, serving as a mine warfare rating was hard work on small ships, with as much danger from the sea as anything else. This photo shows the sort of seas that tossed little minesweepers around- not an easy posting!
We have looked at the 1980s and 1990s waterproof equipment on the blog before, but technology has come on dramatically since then and light weight, breathable waterproof fabrics such as Gore-Tex are now available. Modern waterproof is a far cry from the older designs and most importantly- it no longer scrunches like a crisp packet every time you move!
The army was quite slow to recognise the importance of waterproof clothing, but one soldier explains why it’s so important in modern warfare:
The purpose of MVP kit is to keep you dry. It keeps you dry so that you can soldier better, harder and longer. You getting wet and miserable can eventually lead to a) you acting like a mong: b) hypothermia leading to c) you being ineffective – in fact, worse than ineffective because you can rapidly become a no duff casualty requiring casevac.
Odd though it may seem, there was still a need for waterproof clothing during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan- it still rains in these parts of the world! To that end waterproof clothing was made in desert DPM and it is a pair of these trousers we have tonight:These over trousers are made from a lightweight Gore-Tex fabric and are designed to be worn over other items of uniform, as witnessed by the simple design. The waist is secured with an adjustable piece of elastic:There is no fly or other adjustment. The cuffs of each trouser leg have elastic around them as well to seal over the wearer’s boots to prevent water from getting in so easily:As ever there is a label in the waist giving sizing and stores numbers:MVP stands for ‘Moisture Vapour Permeable’- meaning that you don’t get as wet from your own sweat as the water the trousers are repelling would have made you! The Gore-Tex fabric is made from nylon with billions of small pores in it- the pores let water vapour out but are too small to let droplets of water in. Ironically for a piece of desert camouflage, the only time I ever wore DDPM waterproof clothing was during basic training with the RNR on exercise on Dartmoor in the UK in October! As is often the case, the correct kit can be hard for stores men to come by and somehow he had acquired some second-hand DDPM waterproofs and for a small bunch of recruits who were only using them as loan clothing for a couple of days this was seen as being perfectly adequate.
This week’s photograph is an interesting interwar image of a fleet of five British submarines tied up in harbour: This is a small snap taken on a box-brownie and judging by the gunwale of a boat in the foreground was taken by someone on a harbour trip on a small pleasure craft. The nearest boat is L22, an L class submarine. We looked at another image of one of this class, L27 here. L22 was sold for scrap in 1935 so the image is before she went to the breakers, and perhaps shows the boats laid up waiting their fate. Other boats in the image include L52 and L20. Interestingly there is another photograph I have found showing all three of these boats tied up together at Gosport in 1933: The L-class submarine was originally planned under the emergency war programme as an improved version of the British E-class submarine. The scale of change allowed the L class to become a separate class.
The armament was increased when the 21-inch torpedoes came into service. The Group 3 boats had two QF 4-inch guns fore and aft of the lengthened conning tower. Also, 76 tons of fuel oil was carried in external wing tanks for the first time in British submarines. Several of the Group 1 boats were configured as minelayers including L11 and L12. In the Group 2 boats, L14, L17 and L24 to L27 were built as minelayers carrying 16 mines but without the two beam torpedo tubes.
The introduction of the L class came too late to contribute significantly in World War I. L2 was accidentally depth-charged by three American destroyers in early 1918. L12 torpedoed the German submarine UB-90. L10 torpedoed the German destroyer S33 in October 1918 but was sunk by accompanying destroyers.
L55 was sunk in 1919 during the British naval intervention in the Russian civil war by Bolshevik Russian destroyers. She was salvaged by the Russians and was re-commissioned by the Russians with her original service number.
The L class served throughout the 1920s and the majority were scrapped in the 1930s but three remained operational as training boats during World War II. The last three were scrapped in 1946 after long distinguished service.
In 1937 The Times reported that another of the class was up for sale:
Submarine L. 71 has been placed on the sale list at Portsmouth. This leaves only eight vessels on the effective list of the once numerous “L” class, which formed the bulk of the British flotillas for several years after the war. The class embodied the experience gained with earlier oil-engined submarines, particularly the “E” class and L.1 and L.2 were in fact begun in 1916 as E. 57 and E. 58. L.71 was begun in September 1917, by the Scott’s Shipbuilding Company, Greenock, but was not finished until 1920, when she was commissioned by Lieutenant G.A. Garnos-Williams, D.S.C., now maintenance commander at Gibraltar. Up to last year she served in the 2nd Submarine Flotilla, Home Fleet, and was among the units detached to the Eastern Mediterranean at the time of the Abyssinian concentration.
We seem to have had quite a number of medical items on the blog recently, and tonight is no exception, with an MTP Medical Trauma Pouch: You might recall we looked at an earlier iteration of this pouch a few weeks back here. This pouch is clearly serving the same purpose, but is a more up to date design that has taken into account some of the shortcomings of the earlier design. One of the problems of the earlier design was that if it was opened whilst still attached to the belt, one of the smaller front pockets was upside down and potentially items could fall out when it was opened. To counter this problem, on the MTP version when opened out only the top half folds down, which then reveals the second smaller pocket with a top flap opening across the pocket so everything remains vertical for access: Two small side pockets have been added to the pouch to separate out items that are needed for easy access. Judging by the shape I would think these were used to hold the morphine syringes: As well as a change in colour from olive green to MTP (there is a DPM version in between that I don’t have yet), the fixings on the rear have changed to allow this pouch to be fully compatible with PLCE web gear: Beneath the top flap are two plastic ‘T’ bars for attaching to the belt: And on the top are the same fasteners you see on PLCE pouches allowing the yoke of the PLCE set to be attached: Note also the medical cross symbol on a printed label on the top flap. The top flap itself has a clear plastic liner that creates another small pocket to allow small items such as alcohol wipes to be easily stowed here: The lid is secured with a black plastic ‘Fastex’ buckle on the front: Interestingly nearly all of these pouches I have seen have an incorrect label sewn to the rear. Although this is an MTP pouch, the labels frequently describe them as DPM: This suggests that the manufacturer’s forgot to update the label printing when they updated the camouflage! The contents of this pouch would be similar to the example we looked at earlier. This is a suggested packing list from the contents card:
1 x Pouch, Medical, 3-compartment
1 x Suction Easy
1 x Resuscitation aid face shield
1 x Adult Triage Label Pack Individual 5 Triage labels 5 Dead
1 x Chest Seal Asherman single use
2 x Morphine auto injector 1 x Pencil, Skin marking
2 x Emergency Bandage Trauma
1 x Tourniquet System Self applied CATS
1 x Scissors bandage universal Tufcut
2 x Bandage triangular calico
4 x Gloves medical examination/procedure size medium
1 x Hemcon Bandage
It is perhaps unsurprising that competitive rifle competitions have always been popular in the armed forces. Good marksmanship is an essential military skill and men competing against each other naturally try to improve their own skills which in turn translates to better trained men in the field.
The Army Rifle Association was formed in 1893 and exists today, it’s stated purpose being:
The aim of service competition shooting is to promote interest in small arms shooting for Service purposes by means of individual and collective competitions, framed to include practice in methods which will lead to increased EFFICIENCY ON THE BATTLEFIELD
These competitions became important parts of the regimental year and India was no exception with several prestigious competitions run there for regiments stationed in the country. Tonight we have a delightful spoon that brings one of these to mind:Although it is not hall marked, I suspect this spoon is in fact made of silver but being produced in India it is not marked in the same way a British made example would be. The top of the spoon has an elegant lion and the initials ARA for the Army Rifle Association:The rear of the spoon is engraved ‘India Cup 1938’:The India Cup was a platoon rifle and Lewis gun competition held in India and I suspect this spoon was given out to one of the participants as a souvenir of his time competing in the match.
India took its rifle competitions very seriously and until the early 1930s sent a team to the annual shooting matches at Bisley in the UK. Unfortunately at this point the cost could no longer be justified and they pulled out of the competition, as bemoaned in The Times in February 1935:
The news, just received from the Army Rifle Association of India, that for reasons of economy it is not proposed to have a team representing the Indian Empire at the Imperial meeting this year has caused surprise and regret.
For many years the India team has been built up from those on leave in this country, stiffened by a backbone of old hands who have retired from the Services, so there is no heavy cost of transport, as there is for teams from Canada and other parts of the Empire. Particularly unfortunate is it that the team should withdraw this year when there will be a big gathering of Empire marksmen to celebrate the King’s Silver Jubilee.
The criticism that this Indian team as it has been constituted for many years past does not truly represent the shooting ability of India can be made with justice; but the commandant must always cut his coat to his cloth. With a more liberal financial endowment the best Indian marksmen could be brought home instead of a team’s being picked form those who are on leave.