Monthly Archives: June 2018

Request to remove man from Army Reserve letter

These days, happily, most companies are usually quite happy to have members of staff serving as reservists, conscious of the extra training and experience this will bring to their workforce. This situation has not always been so, and until quite recently many employees had to keep their service in the reserves a secret form their employers for fear of pressure to leave either the military or their jobs. Often these private companies argued that the reason for this was that the employee was an important part of their work force and couldn’t be pared for training or if war were to be declared. Tonight we are looking at one such case which comes down to us in the form of a letter written in 1929 to the officer commanding the Royal Army Service Corps in Croydon:imageThe letter comes from a company called Gowllands Limited who made lenses and ophthalmic instruments:imageThe letter concerns a new employee of theirs, J Plumb, who the company felt was too important to their workforce to be called up from the reserve:imageSadly the second page of the letter is missing and it is not quite clear if the man in question was serving as a member of the Territorial Army and was part of the country’s reserve forces or had previously been in the army and had now left but was liable to call up if war were to break out as an old soldier. I have tried to track down the piece of legislation or a report on the change to the status of reservists that the letter refers to, but so far I have drawn a blank.

The company ‘Gowllands’ is still in business today and still makes lenses and ophthalmic equipment in Croyden.

Mitcham Road barracks is also still in existence and is today a base for the Army Reserve and as of November 2017 held the following units: C (Kent and Sharpshooters Yeomanry) Squadron, The Royal Yeomanry, 150 Recovery Company, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and the Mortar Platoon of B Company, 4th Battalion, Parachute Regiment.

RAF Peaked Airman’s Parade Cap

The peaked airman’s cap has been part of the Royal Air Force’s uniform since the foundation of the service in 1918. Up until the late 1930s it was worn as the standard headgear of airmen with the blue serge breaches and high necked jacket. In the 1930s it was superseded by the field service type of side cap, but it made a reappearance after the Second World War. By this point the beret had become standard wear for day to day service, but this was not felt to be smart enough for parade duty so the traditional peaked cap was brought in as part of the RAF’s ceremonial uniform and has remained in service ever since with various modification to reflect the times in which they were made, serge giving way to manmade fibres as these became commonplace for uniforms in the 1960s. Tonight we are looking at an example produced in the early 1960s:imageThe cap has a number of distinctive features of its era that would not be seen on later examples, most particularly the ‘hump’ shape on the crown which was popular for both airmen and officers at this period:imageThe RAF has since made strides to eliminate this type of modification to the cap and it is highly unlikely that today’s airmen would get away with such a radical modification to eh cut of their uniform! The crown of the cap is in the standard blue grey fabric of the RAF, the band around the cap though is made of black knitted mohair:imageNote also the plastic button and vinyl chinstrap typical of dress caps since the 1960s. The peak is a very shiny black:imageBeing manufactured in the 1960s the cap retains the leather sweatband inside and has details of manufacture, sizing and date stamped into the leather, complete with a /|\ mark:imageFrom this we can see that the cap is a size 7, made in 1962 by the Army and Navy Hat and Clothing Company. The cap was worn with standard staybrite RAF cap badge that has been in use since the 1950s. This particular cap came up ion the Huddersfield Second Hand market a month or two back and my thanks go to Michael Fletcher for kindly passing on this cap so I could add it to my collection!raf-swinderby_1986_2

ARP First Aid Outfit No 4

In the run up to World War Two British companies were quick to take advantage of the growing worry about air raids and produced a wide variety of goods that householders could buy to help protect themselves, their loved ones and their property in the event of bombing. This page from the Daily Mail in early 1939 shows some of the products advertised to the general public as being needed if the bombers came:FetchMany of these products would be of limited use when bombs finally came, but first aid kits were a sensible purchase and although advertised as for ‘ARP’ use, they were also functional for more general accidents round the home. One such first aid kit was the ‘First Aid outfit number 4, which came in a stout cardboard box:imageA large label was pasted to the front with details of the boxes title, manufacturer etc.:imageInside was a variety of first aid supplies:imageAnd the underside of the lid had some basic first aid instructions. These have been tailored slightly for ARP use by including advise on treating gas casualties:imageI am unsure if all the contents of this box are original, or how complete it is, but I suspect it is at least representative of what the outfit originally contained. Amongst other items, the box contains cotton wool, crepe and triangular bandages, a box of Elastoplast brand adhesive plasters, pins, a tin of Vaseline, an eye bath and a thermometer:imageThere is also a small vial of insect repellent which I suspect is not original to the box, but is period so was probably added by the original purchaser.

A wide variety of first aid kits were sold to households in this period, at varying prices and with different contents. Some were far smaller than this set, with just a few bandages and slings, others were far more comprehensive and contained many more items. They were usually sold based on the size of household they were purportedly designed for, but often the retail price was a more pressing factor and a poor family with many children, if they could afford a first aid kit, would have purchased the cheaper sets regardless of the fact that they were marketed as being for a smaller number of people.

MTP Osprey Mk IV Smoke Grenade Pouch

The standard set of pouches issued with a set of Osprey Mk IV body armour included two for smoke grenades, We have taken a look at smoke grenades on the blog before, in this post. If you have seen our previous posts on Osprey pouches, it will come as no surprise that this pouch is very similar to previous examples, but sized appropriately to carry a single smoke grenade:imageThe lid is secured with both a tan plastic Fastex clip:imageAnd a piece of Velcro to ensure the grenade does not come out accidently:imageAs with all these pouches, a pair of heavy duty straps are fitted to the rear to allow it to be attached using the MOLLE system:imageAnd a small label is sewn to the bottom rear of the pouch with stores numbers on:imageThis is just a quick post this week as there is very little to say about this pouch that hasn’t been covered in other posts, however it has been included for completeness and to help make this series a useful reference to those researching the Osprey Mk IV.

G45 Aircraft Gun Cine Camera Magazine

During the Second World War a number of different cine cameras were used on fighter aircraft to try and record the moment a plane engaged the enemy. These small cameras were linked to the machine guns and recorded the split seconds that the gun fired and hopefully hit its target. One of the most common of these cameras was the G45 that saw service on aircraft such as the Spitfire and Hurricane and continued in use after the war on early jets such as the Vampire in both combat and for training:RoleEquipment-Williamson-1950-31525Whilst I do not have an example of the camera in my collection, I do have one of the small metal cine-film magazines:imageThese magazines carried 16mm film and were loaded into the camera as in the advertisement above. A metal loop at one end of the magazine helps with inserting and removing it from the camera:imageDetails of the film magazine and a /|\ mark are cast into the metal top cover:imageEach magazine was serialised and the number is repeated on the back:imageThe top cover slides off the magazine:imageAnd this reveals two spools, one for the unexposed film and a second one that the film rolls onto when it had been used, cast arrows in the base show the correct way to load the film into the magazine:imageA sprung platform at one end of the magazine holds the film in place for each individual frame to be exposed:imageR Wallace Clarke in his book “British Aircraft Armament Vol.2: Guns and Gunsights” describes the G45 Gun Camera as follows:

In July 1939 the G45 camera gun was issued to armament schools and fighter units. Designed and manufactured by the Williamson Co. of London and Reading, it was developed from the earlier G42B which had been in service for some years. The G45 used 16 mm Orthochromatic film supplied in 7.62 m (25 ft) lengths. Frame speeds could be regulated to 16, 18 or 20 per second, these speeds corresponding to the rates of fire of the Lewis, Vickers K and Browning. It was supplied in two versions, the fixed gun type with a short lens unit, and a long lens for other use. Williamson also supplied a replica Vickers K gun, the Type 29, with a camera mount and reflector sight bracket.

The G45 proved to be an essential aid to aerial gunnery, enabling a trainee to be shown the results of his ‘shooting’ after an exercise and be advised on any improvements needed. A footage recorder was provided in the cockpit or turret, wired from contacts in the camera. In the centre of the recorder was a ‘sunny or cloudy’ switch wired to the aperture of the camera. Early problems with condensation and moisture were eased when heating elements were fitted to the lens and camera body, although they were never fully overcome. The G45 was fitted as standard on Fighter Command aircraft, but, mounted in the leading edge close to the guns, the vibration affected the film clarity. It was controlled by an electrical switch operated by the gun-firing pneumatic system, or from the turret electrical firing unit. The film was loaded into a cassette, which could be inserted either from the top or side of the housing. The G45 was one of the most practical means of weapon aiming training, and the gun camera hut in gunnery training schools was in constant use. A purpose-made cine-projector made by Specto Ltd of Windsor was used to show films. It could show frame stills or slow motion shots of the trainees’ performance.IMG_2508

Olive Drab Foul Weather Jacket

In the late 1970s the RAF developed some of the best wet weather clothing of the era for use by aircrews standing in wet conditions servicing aircraft (we have covered the trousers of this set here). The British Army quickly took notice of these garments that were vastly superior to their own wet weather gear and appropriated the design. The new version was slightly thicker than the RAF design, but apart from that the only differences were in the labels but it was now a general service item available to both services. Tonight we are taking a look at the jacket from the later General Service version of this foul weather gear:imageThe foul weather jacket is made from a heavy duty green nylon type fabric and is fitted with two large pockets on the skirts, each secured with Velcro:imageThe front of the garment has a heavy duty metal zip covered with a velcroed fly:imageThe jacket has a large hood that can be rolled back and secured with a Velcro tab:imageA drawstring allows the hood to be drawn in around the face when worn up:imageShoulder straps are fitted to allow badges of rank to be worn:imageA common problem with waterproof clothing is that it can be very hot and sweaty to wear, soaking the wearer with sweat rather than rain. To help combat this slightly, the underarms of this garment have a mesh panel for ventilation:imageThe waist is elasticated to help hold the jacket close to the wearer body:imageWhilst Velcro tabs are provided at the end of the sleeves to help seal these and prevent water from coming in at the wrist:imageThe jacket has an inner liner under the main outer shell:imageAs well as sizing and care instructions, the label indicates that this jacket was manufactured by Belstaff International Ltd as part of a contract issued in 1979:imageNote the absence of the specific ‘RAF’ nomenclature on the label. My thanks go to Paul Hannon for his help in unpicking the history of this garment and for supplying this great shot of Ghurkhas wearing the jackets whilst patrolling in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands:33234748_10156485630683854_1649262506746576896_n

Oiling at Sea Photograph Sequence

One of the most dangerous operations at sea is refuelling one ship from another by means of a flexible fuel pipe. This is a manoeuvre the Royal Navy has been experts in for many decades and during the two world wars smaller ships such as Destroyers were regularly refuelled by capital ships with larger fuel tanks such as battleships. It was however more common to take on fuel from small tankers, with both ships having to maintain station whilst fuel was transferred from one vessel to the other. Tonight we have a series of snapshots taken by a sailor aboard a Royal navy warship as she refuelled form a small tanker at sea. The image quality isn’t brilliant, but it is rare to have such photographs and even from these hurried snaps it is clear how dangerous this activity would have been:SKM_C284e18051511411 - Copy (2)SKM_C284e18051511411 - Copy (3)SKM_C284e18051511411 - Copy (4)SKM_C284e18051511411 - Copy (5)SKM_C284e18051511411 - CopyThe fuel lines can be seen snaking up from the tanker, supported by a derrick and then coming down to the warship where they would be pumping fuel straight into her tanks. The sea looks very calm here, but even a mild swell makes this task far more hazardous and anything with cables under tension at sea can be potentially lethal as if they snap they whip back and can cut a man in half instantly.

Eric R Wilkinson was aboard HMS Euryalus in 1944 and describes how she was oiled at sea:

This is the time to write about oiling at sea. Ship’s companies in cruisers and destroyers were used to a life in which it was always necessary to visit a port to take in oil fuel every few days. The time between refuelling varied with all sorts of factors — the speed we sailed at (as I recall we used at least twice as much oil per mile at full speed as at cruising speed) and how low in fuel it was acceptable to be in the circumstances of the place and time. But every week or so, and often more frequently, we put into a port to refuel. This brought respite from the monotony of watch-keeping at sea, at least for the few hours it took to refuel.

But such frequent visits to port would obviously not be possible in the Pacific, and therefore we learned to refuel at sea. This had been part of our working-up programme at Scapa. An oil tanker steamed at constant speed while the ships being fuelled kept station on her, on each side or behind. Flexible hoses were hoisted from ship to ship, and the fuelling proceeded. It was a fraught period for many in the ship. The shipping of the hoses was difficult at the best of times and almost impossible in poor weather. Occasionally the hoses disconnected and fuel gushed everywhere. Keeping station imposed continual strain on the bridge personnel who had to steer and adjust the ship’s speed very precisely.

It was also stressing for the men in the engine rooms who had to adjust the big wheels which controlled the throttle valves which admitted steam to the engines, as orders were telegraphed from the bridge. The engine designers had not envisaged this sort of close speed control being necessary, and the tachometers fitted to each engine gave only rough readings. Fine adjustments had to be made by repeatedly clocking the rev counters. Finally, the engineer officer in charge of taking in oil fuel had to be released from his watch-keeping duties in the engine room so the other engineer officers had to take over his watches