Monthly Archives: May 2018

Child’s Clothing Ration Book

On 1st June 1942 the government announced that clothing was to be rationed. Men , women and children would get a set number of ration coupons a year that could be exchanged, with money, for different pieces of clothing. Fabric was desperately needed for the war effort so civilian clothing production had to be limited and most people received 66 coupons for a year. Those who already had extensive wardrobes were not too badly affected, but for many people this then created great difficulties in getting enough clothes to last them. A coat required 16 coupons, a jacket 13, trousers eight, a shirt five, shoes seven and underwear eight. This shortage became more acute in 1945 when the number of coupons issued dropped to 45 a year.

The clothing ration book had a red cover, rather than the buff of the food ration book and tonight we have the ration book for a child from 1944/45:imageThe inside of the front cover explains how to use the book:imageThe interior pages had coupons that were clipped out by the retailer, some are brown:imageOthers orange:imageFurther spaces for coupons were printed on both sides of the rear cover:imageimageExtra coupons were given for children and they needed less coupons for each garment as they used less fabric, both helpful considering how fast children could grow. The WVS also organised swapping systems to allow clothes that children had grown out of to be handed on to other younger children and replacement garments passed down from older boys and girls who had now grown out of them.

Monica Flook explains how clothing rationing impacted her:

All clothes (expect I think hats) were rationed by coupon, 26 coupons every six months. A fully-lined coat was 18 coupons, a half lined one 15. Stockings were 3 coupons a pair silk, 2 a pair lisle. Even underwear cost coupons. I can’t remember about shoes, whether coupons were required, or their very scarcity was a form of rationing. Large shoe shops like Dolcis and Saxone would open at 9.00 a.m., admit the first say 10 people in the queue, serve them, then shut up shop till the next day. Once I queued in the town centre 3 days running at 8.30 a.m. to get a pair of shoes to wear with my “going-away outfit” after my wedding.

There was one good thing about living in Leicester, it was famous of its manufacture of boots and shoes, and hosiery and knitwear. During the 6 years of war I was lucky enough to get 2 pairs of shoes “off ration” — and not quite on the Black Market. A family friend worked in a shoe factory, and once a pair of shoes in my size had a serious mark in the leather and she was able to buy them for me, as shops wouldn’t accept them. The other time was when another friend’s son, who was unfit for the Services, was learning the shoe trade and he had to make a pair by hand. He provided the leather soles, and uppers were from a blue linen skirt. I was discarding. I didn’t cultivate “friends” just because they were useful, but a third family friend often springs to mind. He was too old for military service, and had a small knitwear factory. He made rolls of “Lock knit”, mostly white but some coloured, and tightly woven 1 inch wide strips which were sewn round cardigans to accommodate the buttons and button holes, or round the necks of men’s pullovers. Occasionally a short piece would have a pulled thread, or it might get slightly soiled by machine oil. These pieces were seized upon by his wife and her friends and her friend’s children and their friends. My sister and I, over time, amassed a few yards of white edging, and some red, some green knitted pieces. Sheer desperation helped us to make a kind of bikini each, hers red, mine green, to take on holiday — and the weather was warm enough in Devon to wear them!default


Osprey Mk IV Half Collars and Fillers

We have previously looked at the collars used to increase protection on the Mk II Osprey system here. Tonight we are looking at an example of the half collar used with the Osprey Mk IV and happily in this case the collar has its original filler as well…I am very glad I am not going to have to cut up Yoga mats for this one! Like the earlier design, this collar is made in two sections, but this time in MTP pattern camouflage:imageThe two halves separate to allow the filler to be placed inside each half, the shape of the collar prevents it from being fitted from just one end as the middle section would be wider than the two ends. Each half collar has a piece of ballistic filler inside, which in turn is protected by a black nylon cover to protect the contents:imageEach piece of filler has a white label giving NSN numbers, sizing and when the filler was manufactured:imageThe date of manufacture and lot numbers are important in allowing any faulty or substandard batches of filler to be identified at a later date and removed form service if necessary. The rest of the collar follows the design of the earlier pattern having a loop and popper fastening on the base of the collar to allow it to be attached to the vest:imageThe instruction manual illustrates how this is done:CaptureAnd here it is on my vest set, which is slowly filling out with more components:imageA standard label is sewn to the outside of each collar half, dating these pieces to 2012:image

WW1 Internee Made Royal Naval Brigade Jewellery Box

In 1914 1,500 Royal Naval sailors of the 1st Royal Naval Brigade marched into Holland and internment rather than be captured by the Germans. The Dutch set up a large internment camp at Groningen with barrack huts, recreation facilities and a parade ground in accordance with international law. These men were to spend the rest of the war on neutral territory as effective prisoners and was quickly nicknamed ‘HMS Timbertown’ by the sailors imprisoned there. To help keep off boredom various activities and schemes of work were set up for the men including language lessons, theatre shows and sports. Even with all this there was a need for more distraction and various forms of paid employment were offered, earning the men between 10 and 50 extra cents a day. One of the most popular was carpentry and eighty men were involved in making small trinkets such as photo frames and jewellery boxes. These were sold in the UK to raise funds for books, instruments and other goods for the internment camp with many being retailed through large department stores. It is one of these jewellery boxes, made by internees at Groningen that we are looking at tonight:imageThe box is made from a honey coloured wood and despite suffering damage over the last hundred years was clearly very competently made, with neat dovetails at each corner as one would expect from something that was to be sold in a posh department store like Selfridges:imageThe inside of the box has a green padded silk liner:imageWhat is of particular interest though is the markings on the top of the box:imageAs well as the initials ‘AB’ in one corner, there is a large naval crest with the legend ‘1st Royal Naval Brigade’ in the centre of the lid:imageOriginally the box would have had a paper label pasted to the bottom indicating it had been made by an internee at Groningen, sadly this has become lost over the years so my thanks go to Nathan Phillip and Taff Gillingham for identifying the origins of this fascinating piece.

The British internees were to spend the rest of the war in Holland and although it was often boring, they probably got off lightly compared to the horrors suffered by many during the conflict as the Dutch treated them extremely well and they were afforded a lot of freedom despite their internee status- even being allowed to visit the local pub and marry local Dutch girls.

Jet Engine Starter Cartridge

Early jet engines needed a way to turn the motor over to start the engine going. Many propeller driven aircraft had relied on a man swinging the propeller to turn the engine to kick it into life. This was obviously not an option with a jet engine so a large blank starter cartridge was used. Made of brass, this cartridge looks very much like an artillery shell:imageIt was in effect a large blank cartridge and the gasses from this cartridge expanded and turned the engine over allowing it to start. The top of the case has bent over lips and originally when it was full these would have held a large disc made of a material that would have been consumed by the explosion, such as cardboard:imageThe base of the cartridge is marked up and we can tell this is an Electric Starter Cartridge No9 Mk I and was manufactured in 1952. The ‘K’ indicates it was produced by Kynoch:imageThese cartridges were used on a number of early RAF jets including the Canberra and the Hunter. One American technician who worked on the Canberra bomber recalls using these cartridges:

Tech question: yes, the starter cartridge in the older marks of Canberra was just a huge shotgun shell, albeit without the shot. There was an explosive release of gases which was channelled to the turbine to wind the thing up. The earliest marks B2, T4, TT18 had only 1 fitted per engine, so, after a failed start, it would take several minutes for the area to cool enough for the cartridge to be replaced, often resulting in a delay of 20 minutes or more. 6

The latter (early) marks, PR7, E15, T17, T22 had 3 per engine, 2 as spares. The last mark, PR9, used a really nasty explosive fuel called AVPIN, which was volatile in the extreme. One of our jeeps carrying the stuff through a small town, fortunately in an unpopulated area, caught fire spontaneously, the driver bailed, and the resultant conflagration melted the concrete of the sidewalk. You can imagine the effect this had on the local populous – we were thereafter banned from transporting it through residential areas.

The explosion from the starter cartridge was impressive: 4-foot flames would leap from 3 vents in the engine casing, the whole area would be wreathed in pungent cordite smoke, and pilot and supervising technician would watch the engine and each other nervously in case of engine fire. In 3 years, I only had to evacuate once because of a suspected fire, which turned out to be a false alarm. However, you can imagine that when the plane was fully fuelled, we were out of there in a flash and up and running! untitled
The gas release should take the engine up to about 2000 RPM, which was enough to energize the igniters and allow the engine to work with the start inertia to get it up to normal idling RPM (I forget the figure). The main thing you were watching at this stage was either for an internal fire, in which case the EGT gages would leap off the scale, or compressor surge, usually accompanied by a lot of popping and banging. In both cases, the actions would be the same: throttle closed, HP cock closed, LP pump off; for a fire of course, additional actions would be fire extinguisher shot through the engine (only 1 available) and evacuate (run for the hills!).

Postcard of Light Infantry Territorials at Camp

This week’s postcard is a nice group shot of territorial soldiers on their annual camp, just prior to World War One:SKM_C284e18041711450 - Copy - Copy (4)They wear the standard khaki service dress of the regular army, but if you look closely at the shoulder titles they are particularly large and elaborate, this being typical of territorial units:SKM_C284e18041711450 - Copy - CopyThese brass titles normally included the name of the regiment, the number of the battalion and a ‘T’ for territorial above them, as in this representative example:s-l500The cap badges show this unit is a light infantry regiment and the two most likely contenders are the Durham Light Infantry or the Shropshire Light infantry. Sadly I can’t get a high enough magnification to be sure:SKM_C284e18041711450 - Copy - Copy (3)Behind the men are traditional bell tents:SKM_C284e18041711450 - Copy - Copy (2)This is most likely the Mk V bell tent, the most common model in use at the period. It had a diameter of 12’6” and could sleep up to twelve men arranged in a star burst formation, foot to pole. The following instructions were issued in the Field Service Pocket Book 1914 for pitching bell tents:

  • Mark centre with peg. Describe a circle, with a radius of 4 paces, on which the pegs will be. In this circle, drive in the two pegs opposite the door of the tent, one pace apart. At 3 paces from these pegs, on either side of them, drive in pegs for guy ropes. The other guy rope pegs will be 5 paces from these and 5 paces from each other.
  • Put up tent. Pole to be set and kept perfectly upright. 
  • Drive in the other pegs, which should be one pace apart and in line with the seams of the tent.
  • Doors, if possible, point to leeward.
  • 7 1/2 yards from centre to centre of tents.
  • Cut drains round bottom of tent walls and heap earth inside flap.
  • Dig a hole 6 inches deep close to tent pole, then if heavy rain comes on suddenly, the tent pole can be pushed into the hole and much strain is taken off the canvas, ropes and pegs

The sheets around the base of the tent could be rolled back during the day to air out the insides for hygiene purposes and this pattern of tent remained in service, albeit with territorial units of the army, until the latter decades of the twentieth century.

Rifle Pull-Through

The bores of rifles and other weapons become clogged with fouling after repeated firing. Although modern smokeless powders leave far less residue than black powder did, the bores can still become dirty and this fouling can affect the accuracy and safety of the weapon. To help clean the Lee Enfield rifle, all soldiers were issued with a pull through that was kept in the small compartment in the butt of the rifle:pullthroughTonight we are looking at a rifle pull-through that I believe is the correct one for the Lee-Enfield:imageA metal weight is fitted to one end; initially brass, white metal was often used as an economy measure in the Second World War:imageThe cord of the pull-through needs to be tightly coiled and this example has clearly not been undone for many years:imageThe small arms manual for the Lee Enfield Rifle explains how to use the pull-through:

  1. Open butt trap and remove oil-bottle and pull-through. Unroll and straighten out pull through. Remove sling.
  2. Fitting gauze- in war-time the gauze will be kept fitted to the pull-through. To fit it, fold it as in Fig.2, the longer sides taking the shape of an “S”. Open the loop of the pull-through nearest the weight and put one side of it in each loop of the “S”. Coil each half of the gauze tightly around the cord until the two rolls thus formed meet. Remove loose strands. To make the gauze fit the bore tightly, pack it with a small piece of flannelette if necessary. The gauze will always be oiled before use. Capture
  3. Cleaning the Barrel
  4. Place a piece of flannelette, size 4 inches by 2 inches, in centre loop and wrap it around the cord. Insert weight into the breech. With butt on ground, pull the cord straight through the barrel. Avoid cord rubbing against the side of the barrel. Repeat as necessary, changing flannelette when required.pullthrough01

Cold Weather MTP Cap

I always like a bargain and so whenever I see a hint of camouflage in a pile of jumble I get a little excited. A few weeks back I spotted the distinctive colours of a piece of MTP poking out of a huge pile of clothes on my second hand market. Pulling said MTP out revealed it was a very nice MTP Moisture Vapour Permeable Cold Weather cap and the price was a very welcome 50p! The cap is designed for use in cold weather and so features a large pair of ear flaps that come down either side of the face to secure under the chin:imageThese can also be lifted up and fastened to the top of the hat, much like a deerstalker:imageVelcro is fitted to the two flaps to allow either position to be adopted:imageThe cap has a peak on the front of it, with a piece of wire fitted all along the brim:imageThis wire allows the peak to be adjusted to suit the wearer’s preference and it will stay in that position. This is especially useful in the winter where winds are strong and the soldier’s hands are probably full with equipment and can’t be used to adjust the peak constantly.

At the back of the hat is a Velcro tab and simple plastic buckle that allows a degree of size adjustment:imageA piece of elastic is also included inside that helps keep the hat secure to the wearer’s head:imageAn elasticated chin strap is fitted as well. Even just trying this on the strap was annoying so I would not be surprised if this elastic was frequently taken out in service:imageA standard label is sewn into the hat, here showing that this example is a ‘large’:imageNote also the colour of the fleece lining to the cap, here is a pale coyote brown. Earlier examples came with a black lining and at some point they swapped the colours over. Presumably this was because if worn with the flaps up, the black would show up like a sore thumb in the snow. These caps are very well made and like much modern British Army Goretex equipment they are very popular with hikers as a cheaper way of getting top quality wind and waterproof clothing. At the price this was a very nice addition to my collection.Royal Marine Reserves in Norway During Winter Training