Monthly Archives: March 2018

RAF Foul Weather Jacket

Like all the other services, the RAF issue waterproof coats for its personnel working in wet and windy weather. A foul weather jacket in blue grey was issued from the 1990s until the widespread introduction of Goretex fabrics and it is this jacket we are considering tonight:imageThis coat has a concealed zip up the front, covered with a Velcro fly:imageNote also the small zipped pocket alongside the main zip fastener. Two further patch pockets are provided on the skirts of the garment, with flaps to each:imageA centrally mounted tab for a rank slide is fitted to the front of the jacket:imageThe collar is designed to be worn down, however a Velcro tab is provided that allows the collar to be drawn up and secured around the neck in particularly bad weather:imageTo aid in keeping the wearer warm, hidden elasticated cuffs are provided:imageA label is sewn into the inside of the jacket giving sizing and stores number etc:imageThis example is quite small and almost certainly belonged to a cadet. Cadet units have continued to use these coats long after the main RAF had upgraded to more modern designs. A full list of sizings is:

8415-99-978-7280 160/90

8415-99-978-7588 170/96

8415-99-978-7589 170/104

8415-99-978-7590 170/112

8415-99-978-7591 180/96

8415-99-978-7592 180/104

8415-99-978-7593 180/112

8415-99-978-7594 190/120

It was official policy to continue issuing these jackets to cadets whilst stocks lasted so they had something to wear in bad weather, even if it wasn’t the latest pattern of foul weather jacket. The jacket is commonly called a ‘Jeltex’ and seems to get most use at camps and for remembrance day parades. The following illustrations from the RAF Cadet’s dress regulations show the jacket being worn by both male and female cadets:CaptureCapture1

P60 25 Pounder Ammunition Box

Continuing our look at a selection of British Army ammunition boxes from the Second World War, tonight we have an example of the ‘P60’ box:imageThis box is unusually shallow in depth and originally held four projectiles for the 25 pounder field gun. The 25 pounder used separate projectiles and propellant cases, the gunners adding or removing charge bags to alter range. The projectiles were packaged into separate metal ammunition boxes for safety and this is an example of one of these and was used for armour piercing shells. The box’s designation can be seen embossed into the lid:image‘MC’ would be the manufacturer’s mark and I suspect this might be Morris Cars but I cannot be sure yet; this box dates back to 1943. Apart from its shape the box is pretty conventional and has metal handles at both ends for carrying it:imageNote that as a later box this does not have the rubber grips of the M104 we looked at a few weeks back. The lid is secured with two heavy duty hinges:imageAnd a pair of wire spring clips:imageThis particular box is one of the more common to find, the 25 pounder remaining in service for many years after the Second World War, this example survived as a tool chest and has been repainted by me back into it’s original service-brown colour. Ammunition for the 25 pounder was normally held in a special armoured limber that was pulled behind the quad tractor. These limbers had their own ammunition trays and were armoured for use in a battlefield, therefore it would have been the job of the gun crew to replenish these armoured limbers form ammunition boxes such as this one during quiet times so as to keep the gun fed during battle.5796b58ae2b1a

Auscam Woolly Pully

Regular readers will know I have a bit of a soft spot for Australian Disruptive Pattern Camouflage Uniform items, more commonly known as Auscam. This uniform is not easy to find north of the equator, so when items do appear in my price range I try and pick them up. Tonight we have an example of the Australian Army woolly pully:imageThis jumper is very similar to that we are used to in the UK, it is made of a machine knitted wool with fabric shoulders and elbow patches. What is nice about this example though is that not only is the khaki colour distinctive to Australia, but the cloth used on the jumper is in Auscam. Each shoulder has a fabric panel on it, with a shoulder strap that is secured with Velcro:imageThe neck of this jumper is cut as a round neck, rather than a ‘V’:imageElbow pads in the same Auscam are sewn onto each sleeve:imageThe sleeve itself is quite generously cut to aid movement, but has a distinctive narrowing of the width as it approaches the cuff:imageA pair of small pen loops are sewn to the upper left sleeve:imageA label is sewn into the neck of the garment:imageThis has the standard sizing and NSN number and indicates the jumper was made by ‘Elegant Knitting Company’ of Penrith New South Wales. This company was set up in 1952 in Sydney and won its first army contract to produce jumpers in 1978. The company’s website sets out their philosophy:

Flimsy catwalk designs are not suitable for our customers, instead they demand well designed, contemporary knitwear that will perform.  Whether it’s for an Army officer, an airline pilot or a school student, our knitwear is worn all day – everyday.

The reverse of the label has care instructions and indicates the jumper is made of 80% wool and 20% nylon:imageThis blend must have changed at some point as I have seen other Australian jumpers that are made of 50% wool and 50% acrylic. I cannot say for certain why the blend might have been changed- it might just be a different manufacturer or to reduce the risk of mothing, but I suspect like most things in the military it comes down to cost and the different blend is probably cheaper to manufacture.

This jumper was not cheap, but it is a really nice design and I am very glad to be able to add it to my expanding modern Australian collection.

Osprey Mk IV 8 Round UGL Ammunition Pouch

After looking at a couple of Osprey vests and a set of collars, tonight we are looking at one of the pouches used with the Mk IV Osprey system, that issued to carry eight rounds of underslung grenade ammunition:imageWe have looked at a number of UGL pouches and a bandolier before, and these designs have always held rounds individually, often with some sort of system to raise a round up when needed. This pouch does away with this and holds the rounds altogether in one large pocu, but does have a central divider:imageThis is velcroed down the centre and can be undone to give one large pouch that can be used to carry a wide variety of ordnance.

One very obvious feature of this pouch is how deep it is, which really comes apparent when it is viewed from the side:imageThe lid is secured with a large tan fastex buckle:imageAnd the usual drain hole is fitted to the base:imageThe pouch attaches to the Osprey armour using MOLLE Straps and PALS loops, which are sewn to the back:imageThe Osprey Mk IV Manual explains how to attach the pouches to the vest:CaptureAs ever a label is sewn to the back with details of the pouch’s function:imageLike most of these Osprey pouches it lacks an NSN number as it was an urgent operational requirement. Instead it is marked ‘NIV’ for ‘Not in Vocabulary’. For a long time these pouches, and indeed all the MTP webbing and vests, were quite expensive on the collector’s market. Prices are still higher than the DDPM equipment, but have dropped rapidly and I am enjoying being able to pick them up without breaking the bank!

British Army Syringe

The syringe is an essential medical tool used to inject fluids into the human body and to extract them from the same. Today most syringes are single use plastic devices that are thrown away after one injection to prevent the spread of infection. During the Second World War though they were made of glass and metal and were designed to be reusable, having to be sterilised between each use. Tonight we are looking at a military example of one of those syringes. It is housed in a small stainless steel box:imageThe lid of the box is marked ‘JJEFF’ and has a /|\ War Department ownership mark engraved on it:imageThe lid comes off to reveal the syringe itself, in this example the glass part is missing, presumably broken at some point in the object’s history:imageThe syringe and its accessories are mounted on a sprung steel tray that is a tight push fit into the outer box:imageThe syringe is made of stainless steel, with a large plunger running down the centre:imageIt is marked up as being a ‘Plimm Product’:imageAlso included is a small metal tube, but quite what this is for I don’t know:imageThe syringe and all the components unscrew for cleaning, it being much easier to sterilise in little parts than as a whole unit where elements might be hidden under other surfaces:imageSterilisation was not always followed strictly in a busy army setting, as recalled by Percy Bowpitt:

Next came the introduction to Army medical care. In the medical room stood the MO and his orderly, the orderly with a list of names, a swab, a dish of spirit, and a tool that we later found out was for inoculating us. Next to him stood the MO with a huge syringe that contained a cocktail of vaccines against Tetanus, Typhoid, and probably all the diseases known to man. The procedure was quick and efficient but hardly hygienic. First the orderly would give each man a quick wipe on the arm with his swab then a smart dab with his inoculating tool that looked like a miniature branding iron. Then quickly onto the MO. Again a quick dab with the swab, this huge syringe was then inserted into the arm, a squeeze, another dab with the swab and you were sent on your way. The same syringe and needle would be used on every man with the occasional wipe with a swab dipped in spirit.

Alf Wilson was another who endured an injection in the army during World War Two:

Every so often we had to have injections for T.A.B, Tec Tox and Typhus. You lined up in a long line, a medical orderly wiped your arm and then a medical officer gave you a stab. On one such occasion, I moved up in line and had just been stabbed by the officer when someone called to him. He left me with the syringe stuck in my arm for quite a while. The fellow behind me must have been worried about injections, because he fainted. The medical officer didn’t realise what he had done and after the parade we went for dinner and rested up in our tents as normal.

The next thing I knew was a sergeant shaking me. I hadn’t turned up for parade. I was out with a temperature and my arm had swollen up. I explained about the episode with the M.O. and they rushed me to hospital for a day or so.

Armed Forces Operational Prayer Book

It was once said that “there are no atheists in a foxhole”. Whether this adage is entirely true is open to debate, but it is true that the padres of the British Armed forces play a vital role in helping with the pastoral needs of Britain’s servicemen and women. There are however only a small number of them serving at any one time and in theatre it is often a junior commander who has to lead an impromptu memorial service or burial. To help these officers, and for any of those who are looking for more general spiritual guidance, the military issues a small A5 sized prayer book, in a DDPM effect cover with the tri-service logo on the front:imageThe small size of the book allows it to be easily slipped into a pocket without adding much weight or bulk to the soldier’s load. The inside of the front cover has details of the booklets official JSP number, JSP587, and a list of the contents:imageAs well as prayers and a good selection of hymns, a significant portion of the book is devoted to conducting a burial service, with words for a Christian service:imageA Jewish service:imageHindu ceremonies:imageThe words used by Buddhists:imageAnd Muslims and Sikhs:imageThe wide range of services provided for reflects not only the increasingly diverse faiths of Britain’s armed forces, but also recognises that soldiers may have to bury civilians and the military personnel of allies who are not necessarily Christian. Paying the bodies of the deceased the appropriate respect for their religion is an important part of maintain good relations with these civilians and allies, as well as just being a decent human courtesy. Happily this portion of the book is unlikely to be used too often and it is more likely that the prayers before combat and the selection of hymns would be used to allow an informal service to be held in the field for those who felt the need.

Royal Navy Rating Sentimental Postcard

It has been some time since we last looked at a sentimental postcard from the First World War. For those unfamiliar, there was a huge postcard collecting frenzy from the 1890s until the Great War and postcards with sentimental images and poems were very popular. These cards were often parts of much larger sets and together they made a long poem of often variable quality with a series of different but interrelated images. As can be expected, during World War One those cards depicting soldiers and sailors were particularly appealing to the public and we have looked at a number of these on the blog before. Tonight we have another example, this time depicting a sailor:SKMBT_C36416010513330_0001The verse reads:

I WONDER IF THE GIRL I ‘M THINKING OF IS THINIKING OF ME (3)

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” so thought a sailor on the sea.

He is thinking night and day

Of one girl far away

“Wish that I could send a message just to tell her where I am

I’d also like to send some kisses to my Susan by Marconi telegram”

Ignoring the terrible quality of the poem, the final line is interesting in referring to the telegram. This was very much the wonder communications device of the era and was akin to the satellite revolution in that it finally allowed instant messages to be sent from around the world back to Britain and revolutionised communications in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. These cards are hard to date without a postmark on the back, but I suspect this example is from the 1910s or the very start of World War One.

The card depicts both the sailor himself, looking suitably pensive:SKMBT_C36416010513330_0001 - CopyAnd the girl he is dreaming of, in a suitably wispy panel high on the card as if in a thought bubble:SKMBT_C36416010513330_0001 - Copy (2)What is far more interesting is the ship behind him. This warship is straight out of the 1890s, and has a single, large double barrelled turret:SKMBT_C36416010513330_0001 - Copy (3)This design was long obsolete by the Great War, replaced with more modern Dreadnoughts from 1906 onwards which suggests that the postcard manufacturer was looking for a more evocative image for his card design than a modern battleship would have given him. Likewise the ship is painted in the Victorian colours of a black hull, white superstructure and buff funnels rather than the far more drab warship grey that WW1 warships were painted in. This design choice in unsurprising when one considers that the postcard is painting a sentimental and romanticised image of longing and distant love rather than an accurate portrayal of a modern navy.

To modern eyes these postcards seem very saccharine, especially in light of the looming conflict, but they were hugely popular at the time and tapped into the mood of the era.