Monthly Archives: August 2018

Webbing Stretcher Yoke

Over three years ago we looked at a simple stretcher strap from World War Two here. That design of strap was literally just that, an adjustable strap with a loop at either end to put the handles of a stretcher into. As the Second World War progressed it became clear that a better design was needed, one that better distributed the weight of the casualty around the bearer’s body rather than having it all pressing down on his neck. The design that was developed was a yoke, that transferred the weight to the shoulders and not the neck. This design was originally produced in the natural tan colour of cotton webbing, but the design remained in use into the post-war era and later production was made of pre-dyed green cotton. It is one of those later stretcher yokes we are looking at tonight:imageThe yoke measures 66 inches in length and like the earlier straps has a loop on either end to put the handles of a stretcher into:imageNote the heavy duty stitching around the adjustment buckle to prevent the webbing separating under the weight of a casualty. The yoke splits into two parts to create two large loops that each arm goes through, the two sections being joined over the wearer’s back with a sewn on webbing loop, much like a pair of 37 pattern shoulder braces:imageThe sewing required to split a single strap into two loops and still maintain the strength needed to carry the weight of a stretcher and casualty was clearly not easy. This results in some complicated folding and sewing of webbing with one strap wrapped and sewn around the other:imageThis particular example is stamped up with a manufacture date of 1952 and a stores code of CC8765:imageThese yokes remained in service for many years and were added to the NSN system with a number of 6530-99-428-0697. Presumably they were pretty effective considering how long they were used for, today though lightweight stretchers and bashas often come with built in support straps and with most casualties evacuated by helicopter, the need to carry stretchers for long distances is greatly diminished.

ARP Triangular Bandage

Anticipating large numbers of civilian casualties, the Government began stockpiling large quantities of medical supplies to treat those injured in the aftermath of aerial bombing in the months leading up to the outbreak of World War Two. These medical supplies were marked up as being the property of the Air Raid Precautions Department and ranged from shell dressings to bandages and tourniquets. We have looked at a number of these items on the blog over the year and tonight we have an example of a triangular bandage to look at:imageA triangular bandage is exactly what it sounds like, a large piece of triangular shaped cloth that could be used for a variety of different things, but predominantly as a sling or to immobilise a fractured limb. These bandages were compressed to remove all the air so that they did not take up much room in a first aid box, wrapped in blue sugar paper and then had a label applied around the outside with details of their contents. A cloth tab is included on this packet to allow it to be quickly ripped open in an emergency. The front of the packet indicates the contents and that it was manufactured by R Bailey & Son of Stockport:imageThe rear dates this bandage to March 1939 and shows that it was procured by the Air Raid Precautions Department of the Home Office:imageThese bandages were used for training as well as for actual incidents and one small boy recalls their use during one exercise when he played a casualty:

A group of us boys were taken along Stone Road and placed in front gardens as casualties. I had a large label hung round my neck that said “broken right arm”. The exercise started and rescue workers came: my arm was splinted then placed in a large triangular bandage hung from my neck. I was then taken to the “Casualty Clearing Station” on the Common. When the exercise was over, our reward was a cup of tea and a bun at the big green refreshments van.

There were many uses for a triangular bandage, as indicated here in an article from the 1940 edition of First Aid Journal:CaptureCapture1

PLCE Hip Pad

Although webbing sets are designed to be as comfortable as possible, frequently users complain that they cut into their flesh, rub against bones and are generally unpleasant to wear after a day or two of continual use. This becomes especially the case for soldiers of unusual builds, with the very skinny and the more rotund suffering more than the man with an average shaped body. To help alleviate this a little, the army issued a protective hip pad with its PLCE set that offered extra cushioning around the belt where the webbing was most likely to rub. This pad is made of DPM camouflaged fabric and has both a straight and a contoured side to fit the wearer’s body:imageIn this case the fabric is quite badly faded, but it would originally have been the same vibrant greens and browns as the other pieces of PLCE we have covered on the blog over the years. The pad attached to the belt through a series of nylon tapes, secured with plastic Fastex clips:imageThe side of the pad that rests against the body is padded and has a perforated fabric to help keep the wearer cool:imageSadly the stores label in this example has been cut out but it is clear where it once sat. The stores catalogue itself indicates the NSN number for this piece and its unit price:CaptureHip pads were very popular with soldiers, one notes:

Pretty much every infanteer I know uses one. I remember one CSM of my acquaintance that thought they were effectively an admission of homosexual communism, then we did a few days in the field with him actually doing stuff (!) and lo, a CSM who has suddenly changed his mind…!!

They were not always easily available through the stores system and many men resorted to commercial versions. Another soldier who did manage to get one of these issue examples commented:

The issue one is actually quite good, the only gripe I have is the padding under the ammo pouches could be wider and a bit longer

To use the pads soldiers were recommended to fit the pad to the belt first, then add their pouches form the centre working outwards and finally to attach the yoke to the set.

When the Guards are on Parade Sheet Music

It has been a while since we looked at a piece of sheet music on the blog, tonight we have a splendid example from the 1930s though. This piece of music called ‘When the Guards are on Parade’ has lyrics by Leslie Sarony and music by Horatio Nicholls:SKM_C284e18061915100The front cover has some truly splendid artwork with a parade of guardsman, officer on horseback and a crowd of excited civilians watching on. Inside is the music itself, and a copyright date of 1931 which helpfully dates this piece:SKM_C284e18061915101The lyrics for this piece of music read:

There’s a lilting thrum of the rolling drum,

As it echoes thro’ the air,

There’s a blaze of red,

With an even tread,

And an instrumental blare,

There’s a flash and a glint of steel,

As orders are obeyed,

When the Guards are on parade

When the Guards are on parade,

In their uniforms arrayed,

“What the Blankerty Blank”

says the sergeant

“Do you think you’re in?

It’s not the Boy’s Brigade.”

When the Guards are on parade.

And the band is being played,


The bayonets are flashing,

The Sergeant’s teeth are gnashing,

When the Guards are on parade.


The sergeant, he curses,

And frightens all the nurses,

When the Guards are on parade.


Their Chests out are sticking,

You hear their eyes all clicking,

When the Guards are on parade.


When the major starts shouting,

His tonsils get an outing

When the guards are on parade.


The girls with their fair skins,

Love to see their bearskins

When the guards are on parade.


“Left! Left!”

Hark to the tramp of the feet

List’ to the beating of the drum;

Look! Look! Look at the crowd in the street,

Waving and Shouting

Here they Come

“Guards halt!” Never a one with a fault,

See how they stand,

As stiff as starch,

“Parade, Shun! Slope Arms!

By the right quick march.”

British Army Cold Weather Drawers

British Army cold weather clothing works on the layering principle, which was originally pioneered by the US Army in the Second World War. The basic principle is that multiple thinner layers of clothing are more effective at keeping the wearer warm than one thick layer because a small pocket of air gets trapped between each one that then warms up and helps keep the wearer protected from the cold. The base layer of the British Army arctic clothing set was and remains a pair of long-john type cold weather drawers. These are made of a dark green cotton and cover most of the wearer’s legs:imageLike a pair of Y-front underpants they have a separate gusset over the crotch to ensure there are no seams at this potentially uncomfortable spot:imageA light grey-green elastic waist band secures the drawers at the top:imageWhilst the bottom of each leg is also drawn in to help trap the layer of air within the garment:imageA standard label is sewn into the back of the waistband of the drawers, in this case quite badly faded:imageSix different sizes of this garment were produced, as can be seen in this extract from the store’s catalogue:Capture

Mystery Photograph of a Piper

Tonight’s photograph is something of a mystery and has generated much enjoyable debate on one of the Facebook collector’s sites. This photograph depicts a piper in Scottish dress:SKM_C284e18070313140The debate arises from which unit he derives from and the insignia and dress have a number of confusing features. His sporran has two tassels and what appears to be the stag’s head of the Seaforth Highlanders:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (2)The cap badge is at an angle that makes it hard to be sure, but the consensus is that it is possibly the distinctive badge of the 5th Seaforth Highlanders:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (3)This badge is circular with the wildcat of Sutherland rather than the more usual stag’s head badge of the other battalions of the Seaforth Highlanders. s-l300So far then this piper is looking as though he comes from the Seaforth Highlanders, however the 5th Seaforth highlanders had their own distinctive sporran, different from that worn by other battalions and different to the one shown in this photograph. It becomes even more confusing when we look at the cross strap:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (4)This is not a Seaforth’s pattern, but rather the same design as used by the Black Watch. The plaid brooch is again more characteristic of the Black Watch than the Seaforths:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (5)The belt buckle however is of a generic design that was worn by a number of Scottish regiments in the early twentieth century:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (6)All this is very confusing and it thus becomes very hard to pin down which regiment this piper belongs to, if indeed he belongs to any. Many civilian pipe bands of the early twentieth century dressed their members in surplused military equipment and it has been suggested that this might be one of those. Equally in many early territorial and volunteer units there were not official funds for such niceties as a regimental band so they were funded by the men and officers themselves and had to purchase their own uniforms and pipes. This therefore led to a wide variety of semi and non-official uniforms that bore only a passing resemblance to the official dress regulations.

In truth it is probably impossible to say either which unit this man belonged to, or even if he is from a military rather than a civilian pipe band. It does however encourage lively historic debate and is a great little mystery for those who enjoy the intricacies of period uniforms.

1940 Pattern Battledress Blouse

The British Army had introduced its revolutionary battledress uniform just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. This uniform was based on contemporary ski wear and was the most advanced military uniform in the world on its introduction. On the outbreak of war, the military looked at their uniforms and tried to come up with some small changes that would speed up production and reduce the amount of material needed in the uniform’s construction. Saving a few inches of cloth per uniform did not sound much, but multiplied over millions of garments could make a massive saving to a country at war. The new austerity pattern received the designation the 1940 Pattern and tonight we are looking at a battledress blouse in this design:imagePlease ignore the insignia on this uniform, these are reproduction badges that I have added for use in Living history. One simple change made to the pattern was to delete the flies covering the buttons, so the buttons up the front of the blouse are now exposed, as are those on each breast pocket:imageThese pockets are also un-pleated and the buttons themselves are now made of vegetable ivory (plastic) rather than brass which was a strategic resource better suited for making shell casings than buttons.

The earlier design of blouse had three button holes on the rear to attach it to the trousers, the 1940 pattern reduced this down to two:imageOther features remained pretty much unchanged, so the collar still has a pair of hook and eyes:imageThese secure to fasten the blouse right up to the neck:imageA belt is fitted to the waist with a metal slide buckle to tighten the base of the blouse securely:imageAs is usual with these blouses, a label is sewn in to the inside of the garment on the pocket bag, giving sizing details, date of manufacture and who made the item:imageIn this case the item was made by Cohen and Co in 1945 and is a size 16. The sixe is also printed on the inside of the blouse, and a date code of ‘Z’ indicates it was produced in 1945:imageThis pattern of blouse was seen throughout the second part of the war and remained in service until a new pattern was introduced in 1946 when it saw limited use until a whole new cut in 1949 saw it replaced completely. Throughout the war it was worn alongside the earlier pattern, but can be easily identified by the visible buttons. Here the soldier on the far left is clearly wearing the utility pattern, whilst the chap next to him has the earlier design, obvious from the concealed buttons and pleated breast pocket:The_British_Army_in_North-west_Europe_1944-45_B10448The two patterns were also worn together, so it is not uncommon to see a 1940 pattern blouse worn with an earlier pattern pair of trousers and vice-versa.