Monthly Archives: July 2018

Field Butchery Set Weighing Scale

There seems no ending to the weird and wonderful finds that come out of the woodwork with a military connection. Tonight we are looking at a spring balance and pan set from the army’s field butchery set:imageThe field butchery set was designed to allow army chefs to prepare freshly slaughtered meat in the field to serve to the men as a supplement to normal rations. It comprised a wooden box with a canvas tool roll inside which carried a selection of saws, cleavers, knives, meat hooks and sharpeners. As well as this it also had a small portable weighing scale and this is what we have here.

The main spring balance is made from brass and has a scale allowing up to 4lbs to be weighed in 1oz increments:imageThe scales are clearly marked with a /|\ stamp and a date of 1943:imageBelow the balance is a large hook and behind this there is a loop through which three chains are fitted to attach the pan:imageThis makes sure the pan does not go missing, but other items can also be weighed by attaching them to the large hook. The pan itself is made from sewn canvas, with a wire ring around the top edge to stiffen it:imageSadly the canvas on this example is pretty rotten, but it’s still there and as I am not about to start weighing out lumps of meat I will leave it as it is for now!

The army often transferred civilian butchers into this trade as they already had the requisite skills. Albert Kemp was one of these:

I am a butcher to trade. I joined the Gordon Highlanders and did my army training at the Gordon Barracks in Aberdeen. I was trained as a slaughterman at Aldershot with Italian POWs. I was sent to Tripoli for 6 weeks, then to Ben Gazi for a year and ended up in Tobruk.

We slaughtered cattle, sheep and pigs and butchered the meat for the army kitchens. Initially we had Italian POWs working for us. After they were sent home we were given German POWs. They did the slaughtering, skinning, etc. of the meat. We picked the best of the animals – a lot of them were skin and bone.

It was quite dangerous. Libyan Arabs would come into the tents and steal. If caught, the Military police would shoot them.

I remember an incident in Tripoli while I was on guard duty at the pens where the sheep and cattle were kept. There was a lot of stealing of animals by locals and we had to chase them off. There were also wild dogs called “peyards” which would get into the pens and kill the sheep. I was dozing in the guard room when I was wakened by six German POWs shouting “Wild dog”.

I got a Thomson gun, never having fired one before. The POWs were all watching. I took aim at the dog which was 10 yards away – and missed. It shot away along the fence. I used rapid fire and killed it. I threw it over the dyke.

RAF Badges Beer Mats

The number of different badges in use within the armed forces at any one time is mind boggling, with rank and trade badges sitting alongside specialist badges for qualifications such as being parachute trained. This wealth of military heraldry is however fascinating and tonight we are looking at a set of beer mats that depict various RAF badges. These beer mats are triangular in shape and a full set consists of 48 different designs, each with a different badge. The full set covers officers and airmen and various specialist badges:imageimageimageimageThe rear of each beer mat has the same design, advertising a career in the RAF:imageI am assuming these beer mats were given out as a promotional gift to encourage recruitment, equally they might also have been used inside RAF messes. I haven’t been able to date them, but I suspect that they are from the 1980s as the design certainly has a feeling of that era. As ever if anyone can help fill in the blanks please get in contact as I am struggling to find much else on these.

Indian Princes at the Coronation Stereoscope Card

It has been a while since I looked at a stereoscope card on the blog, but tonight we have a delightful example entitled ‘Coronation Procession of H.M. the King: Indian Princes’:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (2)As a stereoscope card, the same image is repeated, each being slightly different to allow a 3-D effect when viewed through a suitable viewer:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (2) - CopyIn the centre of the image are the princes themselves, riding on horseback:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (2) - Copy - CopyI believe that this image was taken at the Coronation of King Edward VII and the arrival of Indian royalty aroused much interest in the press, as reported by the Daily Mail on November 12th 1901 where one of the princes in attendance, and most especially his wealth, were described in great detail:

One of the most impressive features of the Coronation will be the attendance of Princes and chiefs from various States in India.

Few European courts surpass the splendour with which on great occasions the native Indian ruler surrounds himself. Usually of striking personal appearance, he adds to his impressiveness by wearing a costume as rich as it is picturesque and tasteful.

Among those who have accepted the King-Emperor’s invitation is the Nawab of Bahawalpur, whose portrait appears on this page. The crown which his highness is wearing weighs nine pounds, and is one glittering mass of diamonds, with a row of very large pear-shaped pearls around the base.CaptureThe great stones about his neck are rubies and uncut emeralds of extraordinary size, depending from chains of smaller gems. Fifteen of the rubies have the names of the Mogul Emperors engraved upon them, each gem measuring one and a half inches in diameter. The Nawab occasionally wears a sword the jewelled scabbard and hilt of which are valued at £100,000. As a rule his Highness carries three gem encrusted watches. Indeed, one of his hobbies is the collecting of dainty and novel timekeepers and he possess no fewer than eighteen hundred.

The pomp and colour of Indian princes was clearly of interest to the general public, but the British military were not to be left out and the soldiers lining the route are dressed in scarlet home dress tunics, with blue spike helmets:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (4) - Copy - CopyFrom the rear we can see that they are wearing minimal equipment, presumably to make it a little more bearable for them to be stood there for many hours:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (3) - Copy - CopySadly the emulsion on this stereoscope card has faded a little over the last 116 years so the image is more washed out than it would have looked when new, but the sight of Indian princes marching in all their finery is as impressive today as it was when the card was first produced over a century ago.

Mk 4 Dead Reckoning Flight Computer

Tonight we are looking at an analogue computer used by navigators in the RAF to make calculations on speed, fuel consumption and the effects of wind upon a flight:imageThe reverse of the computer allows different calculations to be made on the same instrument:imageThis computer was first developed by a US airman called Phillip Dalton in 1937 and came into widespread use in the USAAF in 1940. Over 400,000 of the computers were made for the US during World War II and the RAF soon started developing its own versions of the little analogue computer. Tonight we have an example form the 1950s or 1960s marked up as a ‘Computer Dead Reckoning Mk 4’ and with a /|\ ownership mark:imageThe computer is made up of two parts, an aluminium set of revolving dials:imageAnd a plastic insert panel with a graduated scale on it:imageThe computer can be used on the front side for altitude calculations:imageAnd for Air Speed calculations:imageNote the words ‘Mach Speed’ etched into the aluminium indicating that this computer was indeed used and probably by the pilot of a supersonic fighter like the English Electric Lightning. The rear of the panel is for the calculation of drift caused by wind. I must confess I have absolutely no idea as to how the slide works, but this description I found online explains how it is used:

The front side of the flight computer is a logarithmic slide rule that performs multiplication and division. Throughout the wheel, unit names are marked (such as gallons, miles, kilometers, pounds, minutes, seconds, etc.) at locations that correspond to the constants that are used when going from one unit to another in various calculations. Once the wheel is positioned to represent a certain fixed ratio (for example, pounds of fuel per hour), the rest of the wheel can be consulted to utilize that same ratio in a problem (for example, how many pounds of fuel for a 2.5-hour cruise?) This is one area where the E6B and CRP-1 are different. Since the CRP-1s are made for the UK market, they can be used to perform the added conversions of Imperial to Metric units.

The wheel on the back of the calculator is used for calculating the effects of wind on cruise flight. A typical calculation done by this wheel answers the question: “If I want to fly on course A at a speed of B, but I encounter wind coming from direction C at a speed of D, then how many degrees must I adjust my heading, and what will my ground speed be?” This part of the calculator consists of a rotatable semi-transparent wheel with a hole in the middle, and a slide on which a grid is printed, that moves up and down underneath the wheel. The grid is visible through the transparent part of the wheel.

To solve this problem with a flight computer, first the wheel is turned so the wind direction (C) is at the top of the wheel. Then a pencil mark is made just above the hole, at a distance representing the wind speed (D) away from the hole. After the mark is made, the wheel is turned so that the course (A) is now selected at the top of the wheel. The ruler then is slid so that the pencil mark is aligned with the true airspeed (B) seen through the transparent part of the wheel. The wind correction angle is determined by matching how far right or left the pencil mark is from the hole, to the wind correction angle portion of the slide’s grid. The true ground speed is determined by matching the center hole to the speed portion of the grid.

These computers are no longer used by the RAF but many other air forces and civilian airlines still train their navigators and pilots in their use and it remains perhaps the last slide rule based computer still in use in the air.

Flare Pistol Cartridge Pouch

Over the years the blog has covered both the 1.5” flare pistol and its associated tins for the flare cartridges themselves. Tonight we are looking at a small pouch that was used to carry the tins of flare cartridges as part of a holster and strap webbing system:imageThe webbing flare pistol holster was less common that the leather one, but did see plenty of service. Whilst it could be worn on a belt, it was more common for it to be slung with a shoulder strap. Sewn to this shoulder strap was our little pouch, and a look at the rear shows a darker patch of webbing where the strap was originally attached:imageThe pouch secures with a single strap and a brass Twigg buckle:imageInside it is sized neatly to hold the metal tin containing three flares:imageThis storage method is far safer than placing the tin or individual flares in a pocket and ensures that a flare pistol always has at least three rounds with it, even if the holster is passed to someone new. I am still trying to find any useable photographs of one of these pouches actually sewn to a strap- if it is indeed just a standard 37 pattern shoulder brace then it should not be too difficult to sew it back onto a strap and return it to its former glory.

Schedule of Infectious Diseases Card

At the outbreak of World War One it was recognised that there would not be enough professionally qualified nursing staff in the country to support the number of casualties that might be expected from the front. To help boost the numbers of medical staff available civilian groups were rapidly set up by concerned citizens to teach themselves the basics of first aid and nursing to assist those who were already qualified. This assistance was not always appreciated at first by the professionals but as war went on was to become increasingly important as medical services were pushed to breaking point. Some local authorities did encourage these enthusiastic amateurs and London County Council published some aide memoires for those learning nursing at home. Tonight we have an example of one of these, being a ‘Schedule of Infectious Diseases for Home Nursing Classes’:SKM_C284e18062612550This trifold card was first issued in October 1914 at the very start of the great War, however there must have been a subsequent print run as we can tell by the printer’s code that this copy was one of a batch of 10,000 printed on the 23rd June 1915:SKM_C284e18062612550 - CopyInside is a list of common infectious diseases, how long it takes for symptoms to be seen, what early indicators are and how long the patient needs to be in isolation depending on whether a disease is suspected or confirmed:SKM_C284e18062612551The range of diseases listed is very wide and most are today vaccinated against or treatable with antibiotics. This was not an option in 1914 so isolation became far more important to prevent the spread of the disease and stop an epidemic which could take the lives of many, especially the young. This risk was all the more prevalent in wartime with troops moving around the country and thus able to spread the diseases much more quickly than would have normally been the case.

An article published in the Daily Mail in September 1915 entitled ‘Woman’s Part in the War’ set out the importance the country placed on nursing and how it was seen as a suitable outlet for women’s patriotic fervour:

No able-bodied woman is the worse for some knowledge of the common sense elements of nursing. It is not known at what moment that knowledge may be turned to account. It may be useful at any time and now particularly.

As the war proceeds many homes may have convalescents from wounds and disease to care for.

Whatsoever may be the cause of his invalidism, the returned soldier will need good nursing and skilful care: the nurse must know just the right thing to do or otherwise she will retard her patient’s recovery.

ECBA/Osprey Small Armour Plates

This week’s Osprey item is a little different in that although it was widely used with the osprey system it was never designed for it. The Osprey Mk IV armour can be up-scaled by fitting a pair of cummerbunds, each of which holds a plate of ceramic armour:CaptureIt is this armour plate we are considering this week. The plate was first developed for use with the enhanced combat body armour, ECBA. The first versions of the plates had square corners, but the example here is the Mk 2 plate where the corners have been rounded off to make it slightly easier to slot into the pockets on a set of armour:imageThe material inside the plates is sintered alumina and each plate weighs 1.16kg, making them surprisingly heavy for their size. The plates are slightly dished as they were originally designed to fit over the chest:imageIn the ECBA they are fitted to the pockets on the front:imageAnd rear of the vest:imageECBA was used at the start of Operation Telic, however ECBA was not initially available in sufficient quantities so some men had to make do with the older CBA without the armoured plates. After a number of high profile deaths an urgent operational requirement was put in to secure more of the armour plates to allow ECBA to be issued to all troops in theatre. With armour plates it is essential to be able to track their manufacture and history as a defective batch could have fatal consequences for its wearer. The front of the plate has space for contract numbers to be written and is printed with the NSN number and instructions as to which way round the plate should be fitted to the vest:imageThese plates were considered too valuable to discard when ECBA was replaced with Osprey so they were retained and used to provide the supplemental armour for the flanks on the new system. As such these plates are much harder to find on the collectors market than the soft armour, with the plates being kept in British Army inventory in large numbers. So far I just have the one plate, so I will be looking out for a second as regardless of whether they are worn in the ECBA or in the Osprey cummerbund a pair is required.