Continuing on from Saturday’s post on the entrenching tool cover, tonight we are taking a look at the entrenching tool itself. The ‘Sirhind’ pattern entrenching tool had been developed in India and was adopted as part of the 1908 pattern equipment in 1909.This pattern was dropped by the army in 1923 and reintroduced again in 1941 to replace the Linnerman type of entrenching tool that had been in service up to this point in the war. It is an example of this World War two production entrenching tool we are looking at tonight:The entrenching tool consists of two parts, the head and the helve. The head is made of cast iron:One side is shaped into a broad shovel for scraping and digging:The opposite side is a miniature pick:This head is /|\ marked and dated 1941:It was manufactured by Perks, this being a well known tool maker by the name of John Perks who seems to have been contracted to make these heads in large numbers.
Two different helves were issued with the entrenching tool head, a Mk I and a Mk II:The Mk I was a plain hickory or ash helve, with a metal ferule at one end where the head was pressure fitted to it:The metal ferule helped protect the handle from the shock of using the tool and gave a firm point for the head to make contact with without the risk of splitting the wood. The opposite end of the helve was fitted with a socket bayonet fitting in the Mk II design:This allowed a spike bayonet to be fitted so it could be used as a mine probe. Most examples of the Mk II helve seem to date from 1944, but the evidence suggests that relatively few of this pattern ever reached front line troops before the war ended.
Dates can be found on the socket of the Mk II helve, as seen above, and stamped into the woodwork of both marks of helve:Neither example of helve I have in my collection has a very clear stamp on it and the material does not seem to be great at retaining a legible stamp. Examples of the helve can be found painted olive green and this is a perfectly acceptable variation, however plain wood does seem to have been more commonplace.
These little entrenching tools were not highly regarded by infantrymen:
Our number-one priority was making a hole. In our training days, we all had the small trenching tool most people have seen in photographs or films. It was useless. Within hours after D-Day, every second man had a regular round-bladed shovel; one in every section had a pickaxe.
Despite this most men seem to have carried on carrying the tools throughout the war, presumably for emergencies or to supplement a larger spade when something with more finesse was needed