Monthly Archives: June 2018

No 15 Large Wound Dressing

Over the years we have looked at a large number of different wound and shell dressings on the blog. Some are carried around by soldiers in the field, like first field dressings, others are for use by medics and are either carried in a specific medical haversack or used in dedicated medical posts to dress wounds. Many of these dressings are identical to those produced for the civilian market and not all have the familiar /|\ mark which makes identification harder, but the consensus does appear to be that they are military as well as civilian items and I am treating this example accordingly. The coal mining industry had one of the best developed systems of first aid at the time of the Second World War, mines being very dangerous places. This means that many dressings are called ‘mine dressings’ and the colliery industry seems to have come up with a set of standardised guidelines on what size and shape dressings should be, hence many dressings including tonight’s example, say ‘authorised by mines department’ on them. The Board of Trade’s Mines Department was in existence between 1920 and 1942 which helps provide a rough date for many of these medical items.

Tonight’s dressing is a No15 Large Plain Wound Dressing:imageThis dressing is wrapped in waxed brown paper, with a paper label wrapped around it. The front of this label clearly identifies which dressing this is:imageThe back of the dressing gives some instruction in its use:imageNote the cloth tape at the top for opening the packaging easily with. At one end of the label is a stag trade mark:imageWith the manufacturer’s details on the opposite side:imageRobinsons & Sons were founded in the 1830s and specialised in manufacturing both packaging and cotton based absorbent products such as ladies sanitary products and surgical dressings. A company who specialised in medical supplies would obviously be in large demand during wartime and it seems that Robinsons were given a number of very large contracts to produce dressings for the British Government for both civilian agencies such as the ARP and for the military.arms_med_armymed_5

S6 Respirator Spectacles

The S6 respirator was introduced in 1966, however it was not until 1968 that serious trials began into developing corrective lenses that could be worn with the mask. Previously spectacles with thin flexible arms had been used, such as the example we looked at here, that did not interfere with the respirator’s seal around the face. For the S6 a different approach was taken and a pair of lenses that ‘plugged’ in to the mask were issued instead:imageThe lenses were provided in the wearer’s prescription and came in a standard green plastic hard case to protect them:imageThe box has a /|\ mark and NSN number moulded into the top:imageI am unsure if the ‘Mark 5’ refers to the case or the spectacles it contains. The lenses are actually quite a loose fit inside the box and rattle around a bit:imageThere is at least one variation of the box and it can be found made of black rather than green plastic. The spectacles do not have any traditional arms to go over the ears and are sprung in the centre between the two lenses:imageThe opposite side of the spectacles have a pair of metal pegs in this position:imageA selection of corresponding holes are moulded into the S6 mask above the nose, allowing the exact positioning of the lenses to be adjusted for the best sight picture:imageThe two metal pegs are pushed into a pair of these holes and the spectacles are then held securely in the mask:imageIt has actually taken me quite a while to add these spectacles to my collection, I did purchase a case off of eBay a few years back in the hope it would come with the contents, but sadly when it arrived it was empty. I am therefore very pleased to have added another little component to my Cold War respirator haversack and it is now looking far more complete than it did when I first did a kit layout for it nearly four years ago- perhaps an updated layout is in order.

Wings Over the Navy Sheet Music

Tonight we have another piece of sheet music form the Second World War to look at, this one though has one of the nicest covers I have seen on a piece of music with a wonderful illustration of planes flying over a fleet of battleships:SKM_C284e18053008200‘Wings Over the Navy’ was a song written for an American propaganda movie about naval flyers called ‘Wings of the navy’ this film was released before the US entered the war and the song became instantly very popular in the UK, its words very much reflecting the mood of a nation at war. What is interesting however is that the words themselves were subtly rewritten for a British audience to reflect the Royal Navy rather than the US Navy. Comparing the words in a section of the piece line by line shows the changes made to the lyrics:


If you ever come to town

And Uncle Sammy offers you a job

Pick out the aviation

When you put your moniker down

Wings over the Navy, wings over the sea,

We’re top o’ the service,

The Navy’s cavalry

High over the oceans

Flying wide and free

The soldiers, sailors

And marines are demons

At eating pork and beans.

Or posing in the magazines.

But we’re the Navy’s eyes.


A sailor is a guy they call a tar

A tars a guy who sails the seas afar

But listen all you country boys, if you ever come to town

And if you want some pips up or a star

Pick out the aviation when you put your moniker down

Wings over the Navy

Wings over the Sea

We’re top of the service

The navy’s cavalry

High over the ocean

Flying wide and free

The soldiers, sailors and marines are demons at pinching all the scenes

Or posing in the magazines

But we’re the navy’s eyes

The Admirals fireflies

We’re sky high riding aeronautical guys

SKM_C284e18053008210SKM_C284e18053008211The film the song comes from is today regarded as a middle of the road piece for its era, with some excellent footage of US Naval aviation of the period. Seton Margrave reviewed the film for the Daily Mail in March 1939 when it came out and his comments on the movie were generally favourable:

Now we go up in the air with “Wings of the Navy” at the Warner Theatre.

For the Air Force attached to the American Navy this is a magnificent propaganda and it is also good film drama.

Probably British producers will say again that if such a film were made of the British Fleet Air Arm nobody in the united States would have seen it. Again they will tell us about the apologetic way in which British films creep into the United States and the Anschluss by which American films are shown in Britain.

But the truth is the British film industry has not yet developed a national conscience.

Wings of the Navy is not a big picture, it offers George Brent and Olivia de Havilland perhaps the most harmless parts they have played to date.

The story is the very old one about a nice girl being engaged to one young man and at the same time being in love with his brother. Not that I dislike this story. On the contrary, I have a special grievance against British film producers for not having made it into, what I know, would be the only serious rival in popularity to ‘Smilin’ Through’ by filming Francis Brett Young’s “My Brother Jonathon”.

Wings of the Navy still leaves the way open.

The production is reasonable enough in all respects, but the best of it is the performance put up by the men of the American Naval Air Service.

American naval stations at Pensacola and San Diego have contributed brilliantly to the making of Wings Over the Navy and once again we have a tale of heroism on the part of American airmen without any corresponding film of British airmen in sight.

DDPM Osprey Holster

After a few weeks looking at MTP osprey components, this week we return to the slightly earlier DDPM items with a look at the desert pistol holster, issued extensively during the operations in Afghanistan and used to carry the Browning Hi Power and Sig P226 issued to troops at the time. The holster is a simple open topped design, made in desert DPM infra-red resistant Cordua nylon:imageA top strap goes over the back of the pistol and secures the gun into the holster with a simple press stud:imageA plastic adjustment buckle is fitted to the rear of this strap to allow it to be tightened to hold different weapons effectively. The holster is designed to be used with the MOLLE straps and PALS loops of the Osprey system so two straps are fitted to the rear:imageThere is one long and one shorter strap to conform with the shape of the rear of the holster. Beneath these is a series of loops that allow the straps to be interwoven with the straps on the Osprey vest to allow a secure fit:imageA label is sewn to the rear as well and indicates that this holster was manufactured in 2011:imageInterestingly the design of holster is open at the bottom, leaving the muzzle of the pistol exposed:imageThis seems an odd choice for a piece of kit designed to be used in the desert where there is a high likelihood of dirt and dust getting into the muzzle of the gun. I suspect though that it was felt that gravity would remove most traces of debris that entered the barrel and it was better to allow it to fall away than leave it in the bottom of a holster where it would gather and could start abrading the weapon or turning into an abrasive paste with the oil coming off of the weapon.

These holsters were commonly worn either on a drop leg panel or strapped to the chest on the Osprey body armour cover.

Book Review- Great Britain- The Tommy Gun Story

Until the widespread introduction of the Sten gun into British service, the Thompson was the prominent sub machine gun used in the British Empire, with nearly half a million being supplied to the British government form the US. The story of this British procurement is often wrapped up in rumour and anecdote rather than fact- for instance according to popular legend most of the guns ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean after the ships carrying them were sunk by U-Boats. Up until now most histories of the Thompson machine gun have concentrated on the development and manufacture of the weapon and its extensive US service. British sales have often been relegated to a few paragraphs.Capture‘Great Britain- The Tommy Gun Story’ by Brian Davis Jnr seeks to address this gap by looking at the specific purchases of guns by the British, both under the Cash and Carry scheme and under Lend Lease. Davis has gone back to the original documents and telegrams sent by the Ministry of Supply in Great Britain and he looks at each order in turn, how many guns were purchased, what spares and magazines were supplied with them and how the MoS tabulated them. From all this it seems that we finally have an accurate figure for the number of weapons acquired, rather than the guesses put forward by previous authors. Equally important is his analysis of the ships transporting the weapons and how many of these were actually sunk. By looking at the figures he comes to the conclusion that only around 4% of the weapons sent across the Atlantic actually failed to complete the journey due to enemy action. I must confess this figure was far lower than I had already assumed and shows the importance of actually looking at the original documents rather than relying on anecdote!Capture1This book is very much a history of procurement, rather than the service use of the Thompson by the British and as such does not have any information on the British combat use of the weapon. As mentioned it does not cover the development history of the weapon either, however other books have already covered this topic and this is a niche publication that sets out to look at how Thompsons were procured, how many were purchased and how these orders were fulfilled. As such this book may not appeal to every reader, however for those with a specialist interest in British small arms of the Second World War this is an invaluable volume and helps clear up several myths once and for all. One area of particular praise is the number of original documents that are reproduced in the book, either as transcripts or as copies of the originals. Primary source based history is always to be commended and it is clear the authors spent many hours going through archives to find this information.Capture2The book is a print on demand paperback title from Amazon and as such normally takes a few days for delivery. This is the first print on demand book I have purchased and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the printing and binding and this sort of esoteric title is ideally suited for this medium as it allows it to be available on a continuous basis despite the presumably limited sales it would generate. The book can be found here.

SAS Altimeter Pouch

In the late 1960s a number of new items of webbing were quietly added to the stores catalogue to go with the 58 pattern web set. These were items for use by the SAS and were pieces of equipment that were felt to be useful based on operational experience and some experiments in unit with producing similar pieces of equipment unofficially. None of these items of SAS webbing are easy to find now, however the most common piece to come across today is the altimeter pouch.

The altimeter pouch is a small green webbing pouch for carrying an altimeter, the SAS had been operating in jungled mountainous terrain in Indonesia and Borneo and an altimeter was very helpful in determining a troopers height in this rugged landscape and how far up a particular mountain they had actually gone. The altimeter was small and round, so the pouch was shaped accordingly:imageA box lid fits over the altimeter and is secured with a single press stud, keeping the contents safe and secure within:imageDue to the size of the pouch it was impractical to have it mounted on the belt itself, so a pair of one inch drop straps allow it to hang below the waist belt:imageThe large eyelet is to allow a lanyard to be fastened, securing the altimeter to the pouch and preventing it being dropped and lost. Underneath is the faint markings of a stores code and date, it seems to have been made by MW&S in 1982:imageI have struggled to find much further information on the pouch, presumably due to the secretive nature of special forces there is not much out there on the pouch. I did however come across this photograph which I believe is a 1980s photograph of an SAS belt kit set up (the site I found it on is in Polish so I have no context I can give to the image). Here the altimeter pouch can be seen on the belt, but it is being used to carry a compass:img27If anyone has any pictures of the actual altimeters used with this pouch, please get in contact as it would be interesting to see what is supposed to fit inside the pouch!

RNVR Group Photograph

This week’s photograph is a splendid image of a group of Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve seaman, taken at around the time of the Great War:SKM_C284e18041711450 - Copy (4)The men can be identified as RNVR by their cap tallies which read R.N. (Anchor) V.R.:SKM_C284e18041711450 - Copy (5) - CopyThe RNVR was a reserve made up of men who were not sailors in civilian life, the RNR by contrast had its ranks filled by fishermen, tug boat crews etc and were consequently natural seaman who needed different training to the more ‘amateur’ RNVR. The men in this photograph where the white cotton duck working uniform:SKM_C284e18041711450 - Copy (4) - CopyAlthough it looks like a tropical uniform, this particular design was used on the UK as a heavy duty uniform for use during tasks that would damage the traditional dark blue serge uniform. And all seem to have the high laced anklets typical of the RN at this period:SKM_C284e18041711450 - Copy (6) - CopyMore information on these anklets can be found here. It is interesting to note that in the photograph above at least one man clearly has hobnails in his boots. At the time hobnails were not routinely fixed to RN boots unless the sailor was undergoing instruction or based ashore. Hobnails would have been dangerous on board a ship where they would make it very easy to slip on a wet deck. Ashore they were essential to help prevent the boots form wearing out very quickly.

The men are stood in front of a mast, the top of which can be seen above their heads, one rating holding the halyard to steady himself:SKM_C284e18041711450 - Copy (7) - CopyThese men are probably on a training course ashore, either as part of their annual training commitment or if the photograph was taken in wartime then before being deployed to a ship for service.