Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Kit bag

This post marks four years since the first post on the Tales From the Supply Depot blog was published. We have covered a lot of ground since then with nearly 1400 posts and items covering British, Empire and Commonwealth military history from the 1870s to the present day. I hope you have enjoyed reading these posts and learnt something along the way- I certainly have! Here’s to the next four years…

It has been a while since I last covered a kit bag on the blog, this is not because I haven’t come across them but rather because I have a number of them now so I am only picking up the more interesting varieties. One thing that always gets me interested though are nice period markings and tonight we are looking at a recent acquisition that is very nicely marked by its original owner. Unlike many of the examples we have covered, this is actually a post war bag and as such has a couple of subtle changes to some of the earlier bags we have looked at:imageThe most obvious change over earlier designs is the addition of a heavy duty green carry handle to one side of the main body:imageThis presumably makes the kit bag a little easier to carry and throw onto and off of transport. The neck of the bag is secured with a heavy duty draw string:imageA weather flap is included, and here we can see the /|\ mark and a manufacture date of 1949:imageWhat makes this bag interesting though are the markings, which were clearly added at two separate dates. Firstly we have the original owners name, Bottomley, and his number 22836224 stencilled onto the side of the kit bag in black paint:imageUnderneath this is a free hand shipping notice that informs us that the soldier was a member of the HQ Company of the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and he was shipping out to the Middle East Land Forces. The two battalions of the Inniskilling Fusiliers had been merged together in 1948, but the 2nd Battalion was briefly resurrected in April 1952 to see service in Egypt and in Cyprus against the EOKA insurgents, the battalion lasting until 1956. This allows us to date the use of this kit bag to a quite small four year period. The battalion was disbanded ostensibly due to difficulty recruiting, the fact that it had spent four years overseas being seen as a major factor in this. The government of the day explained that when the second battalion had been formed there was a shortage of front line troops with many commitments across the globe and this was a way of solving that shortfall, by 1956 much of this pressure had gone and so it was felt suitable to draw down the size of the regiment as explained by the Undersecretary for War Fitzroy Maclean:

It might be useful if I were to recall the circumstances in which it was decided, in 1952, to raise eight new second battalions. In 1950, hostilities had begun in Korea, and it had become a matter of urgency to increase the Regular Army without delay. National Service was lengthened from eighteen months to two years, Regular Army reservists were recalled, and Regulars were retained with the Colours. In the winter of 1951–52 China entered the Korean War, and additional problems faced us in Persia and Egypt.…Those were the circumstances in which it was possible to raise the eight new second battalions. Without them it would have been impossible to meet our overseas commitments. At that time we had almost no reserves in this country. Today the situation for the Army is very much easier for a number of reasons. Redeployment of our forces in the Middle East, the reduction of our forces in Korea, the withdrawal of the garrison from Trieste, all mean that we can reduce the active army to the minimum which is required to enable us to fulfil our commitments in Europe and to meet our considerably reduced commitments elsewhere; and, finally, to provide a strategic reserve.

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