Monthly Archives: September 2018

Photograph of HMS Crane

Tonight we have a photograph of the Black Swan class sloop HMS Crane:SKM_C284e18091908120HMS Crane was launched in 1942 and was to become one of the longest lasting ships of her class with the Royal Navy, only being broken up in 1965. Initially she was allocated the pennant number U23, but post war she was re-designated F123, and it is with this pennant number she appears here:SKM_C284e18091908120 - CopyThe sloops were designed for convoy duty, but were larger and faster than corvettes. Each ship had six quick firing 4” guns in three twin turrets. One on the stern and two on the bow:SKM_C284e18091908120 - Copy (2)Like all small ships of her era, HMS Crane has an open bridge:SKM_C284e18091908120 - Copy (3)A tall mast sits behind the bridge with her various radar and communications antennae:SKM_C284e18091908120 - Copy (4)By the late 1950s she was very out of date and serving in the far east, as one sailor who joined HMS Crane in 1959 recalls:

The first thing that struck me about my new ship, after the journey from HMS Terror to join her, was how old fashioned she looked and the amount of armament she carried…a Gunnery Ratings dream ship I would have thought!

     Having been detailed as to which mess we were to live in, I made my way forward to mine – number 8 mess – only about 20 or so feet long and about 15 feet wide. I believe there were about 17 of us billeted in this space. Down the ship’s side of our mess were a couple of cushioned seats about six feet long. Each of these converted into two sets of bunks. Between them and the other side of the mess was a wooden table of a similar length, bolted to the deck and alongside it a backless cushioned bench running the length of the table, but only about 15 inches wide.

     We newcomers were greeted by our Leading Hand Tony ‘Postie’ Derrett; so called because he was the ship’s postman. We were to get on very well and became run-ashore oppos (mates). What neither of us realized the whole time on that ship was that we were the two in the breast stroke race held 6 years previously at HMS St Vincent, and it wasn’t until we met again 50 years later that this came to light!

     Being a tall one, I was given the top bunk on the inboard side of the mess deck forward. There were three bunks up and two along on a false bulkhead, and this was the first time I had ever had a bunk on a ship.

      The cooling system in the mess, there being no air-conditioning in those days, was a table fan that would be set to sweep across the mess, and one punkahlouvre which could be directed to a particular spot. This directional asset of fresh air, though not cooled, was altered almost every time someone came into our mess, and at night the last person to turn in tried to direct it to his bunk, only to have it redirected by the next bloke. It was extremely hot and humid in Singapore, and this was even more so on the ship. Most of us learnt quickly that the only way to wander about in the mess, and to wear to bed, was to wear a cloth like a sarong around our waists.

     After having sorted out my bunk and locker the first thing I had to do was to get to my place of duty in the operations room. Just below and slightly aft of the open bridge, and raised up a couple of steps from the wheelhouse, it was quite small. I did note that it did have a bench seat in it the same size as my bunk down below.

     Opposite were the two LOP (local operations plot) tables. These were glass topped tables under which a compass rose was directed upwards, and with an attached scaled motor, meant that the ‘spiders web’ of the light, also to scale, would cross the table in relatively the same course and speed of the ship. Therefore reported contacts from the radar operator could be plotted onto the glass topped table (which was about 6 ft x 4ft) and either plotted on a long roll of tracing paper, or on square plastic sheets that fitted on the table. At the bottom of the forward seat was a the navigational 974 radar. The 293 PPI (plan position indicator) radar screen was stuffed in the corner, and also couple of clear plastic upright screens – one for aircraft plotting or general plots, and the other carrying information such as radio frequencies and their use in the Ops room.

1/2 Franc N.A.A.F.I. Token

In the past we have looked at a pair of armed forces tokens here. These were not the first tokens issued to troops and examples can be found dating right back to the nineteenth century. Tonight we have a World War Two ½ Franc token to consider. The token is made of a brown laminated type plastic in a distinctive octagonal shape. The front has the words ½ Fr printed in black in a repeating pattern:imageWhilst the opposite side says ‘NAAFI Canteen’:image“Over to You”, the official news sheet of the 5th Battalion Coldstream Guards reported the introduction of these tokens in its edition of Monday 10th July 1944:

Owing to shortage of small change in French currency, it has been decided as a temporary measure, to use tokens of the denomination of 1/2 franc in NAAFI in FRANCE.
Tokens will take the form of octagonal plastic discs, with the value (1/2 franc) inscribed on the face.
They are issued with authority and may be freely accepted as legal tender as between NAAFI and Navy, Army and Air Force personnel within such limits as may be decided by NAAFI authorities concerned.
It is emphasised that tokens are being issued as a temporary measure only and solely for the benefit of troops in making cash purchases at NAAFI when small change is not available.
They cannot be used elsewhere than in NAAFI establishments, but will be exchanged by Cashiers at home in the case of returning troops with tokens in their possession.
All tokens will be withdrawn by NAAFI as soon as possible and will be redeemed in full by NAAFI

Current Issue Royal Navy Gore-Tex Foul Weather Jacket

The current issue Royal Navy foul weather jacket is an excellent piece of kit. Commonly known as a ‘foulie’ the jacket was originally introduced for wear on board ship in bad weather. It was quickly adopted for use on land as well and was far superior to anything that had preceded it. The jacket comes to mid-calf and is made of blue Gore-Tex:imageA draw string is provided at the waist and the base of the garment, this allows it to be fitted and it is generally bloused slightly at the bottom rather than being worn straight down. A large reflective panel is sewn onto each upper sleeve:imageThis is so that if a man goes overboard in the dark there is more chance of seeing him during a searchlight sweep of the water. The jacket has two large patch pockets with top flaps secured by Velcro on the lower skirt:imageA hood is fitted to the back of the neck and again has a large reflective panel running across it:imageThis hood is only worn at sea in bad weather, and is usually rolled up and stored in the neck:imageThe coat has tape sealed seams to help prevent water from seeping in:imageThe coat has a central zip up the front, covered by a Velcro fly:imageInsignia is limited to a pair of shoulder straps for rank slides to be attached to, here for an able seaman:imageAnd a large removable ‘Royal Navy’ badge on the upper chest:imageThis is secured with Velcro and before recruits have passed out of HMS Raleigh they are not permitted to wear the ‘Royal Navy’ title. Once they have completed the initial training the badge is presented to them with their rank slides at a small ceremony. RN Police have an alternative badge indicating their role that is worn in this place on the foulie.

A standard sizing label is sewn into the inside of the jacket with space for the wearer’s name and number to be written:imageRules regarding the wearing of foulies can be a little hard to follow sometimes:

Got pulled at NEPTUNE gate coming out of the tunnel with a foulie on by a little 17 year old dabber, who told me that “yer outa rig of the day, foulies are only to be worn in inclement weather”.
As the weather was the customary Faslane monsoon (and I hadn’t had a particularly good forenoon on board the boat), my response was along the lines of “get your arse out of your warm little caboose, you might see it’s pissing down out here – how inclement would you like the weather to be, numbnuts ?”.
Alas, I didn’t see his Big Brother Crusher lurking in the lobby, who promptly trooped me. When the patrol report arrived on board, that well known Naval gentleman Mr Rusty visited the Reg Office, explained the facts of life regarding “inclement weather” on 4 Berth, and threw the charge sheet in the bin. I’d’ve followed him through famine, fire, pestilence and the plague after that – and still would. A true Gentleman and Scholar.

These jackets are issued to both ratings and officers and remain a popular and useful article of clothing:PRCC(N) Intro to Lourdes

Embroidered RAF Badge

Embroidery kits were very popular during the Second World War with both civilians and members of the military. Special booklets were prepared with designs in them that were then sold in hospitals exclusively to members of the armed forces as a form of occupational therapy. These came in a small paper envelope and included fabric, needle, coloured cotton and instructions. Some designs were of landscapes and animals, however a perennial favourite were kits featuring the cap badges of various regiments and services. Tonight we have an example of an RAF badge embroidered in coloured thread on a piece of linen:imageThe quality of the embroidery is excellent and the badge is still as bright as the day it was made:imageThis piece has clearly been framed at some point as the fabric has been tucked behind and taped in place:imageIt was noted that embroidery was excellent therapy for wounded soldiers, it being an activity that could be performed seated or stood up depending on a man’s disability and in small groups or alone. The materials needed were cheap and readily available and the task absorbed a man’s concentration giving him a moment’s respite from his thoughts with a physical result from the activity that could be presented to a loved one. After the First World War a number of soldiers came together to form the ‘Disabled Soldiers’ Embroidery Industry’ (DESI) that promoted the recovery of the wounded and found them employment by producing embroidered items for sale. Queen Mary gave the movement her support and they presented her with an embroidered altar cloth that was used in the private chapel in Buckingham Palace. The company continued into the 1960s and produced many intricate pieces of embroidery for public buildings such as banners and chair covers.

Decontamination Kit, Personal No1 Mk1

To generations of squaddies the instructions ‘blot, bang, rub’ will be ingrained into their psyche. Part of their personal decontamination sets, every soldier was issued with a ‘Decontamination Kit, Personal’ stored in a paper wallet that folded up into a little packet about 2”x3”:imageWhen issued these were sealed in plastic to protect them and prolong their shelf life. Each wallet opens out into a long strip:imageInside are four individual white packets:imageEach packet contains a small quantity of Calcium Montmorrillonite, a highly absorbent powder better known as Fuller’s Earth. This powder is used to soak up chemical agents and decontaminate equipment. It is issued inside a small cloth bag inside each sachet. The top of the pad is blotted over the contamination, the pad is then turned over and banged hard to release the powder and this powder is then rubbed over the area. Fuller instructions on its use are printed on the packet:imageThese read:

1. Tear off edge of one sachet and take out pad. 2. Hold pad by inserting three or four fingers through the centre. 3. Rapidly blot area with the pad, then bang the pad on the suspect surface for about 30 seconds so as to cover the area liberally with powder. Follow this by rubbing with the pad to spread the powder over the whole area, especially into folds and creases in the skin, for example behind the ears and between the fingers. BLOT-BANG-RUB 4. Apply a similar procedure to boots, weapons and equipment using further pads where necessary. 5. Ordinary gloves should be discarded before starting decontamination. Re-decontaminate the hands repeatedly during personal decontamination, and as the last action always decontaminate the hands again. 6. Always be alert to the development of symptoms even after decontamination.

This particular packet dates back to January 1981:imageSince then there have been at least two further marks of this piece of equipment, although I am not aware of how they differ from one another.

Here we see a soldier carrying out his personal decontamination drills in the field:Soldier Carries Out Personal Decontamination Drills

Carry Harness

One of the more intriguing pieces of World War Two webbing is the subject of tonight’s post. Few pieces of web gear can be so consistently misidentified as the webbing carrying harness:imageI have seen this described as being for the carriage of a Bren gun tripod on numerous occasions, however although it will attach to a Bren tripod, actually wearing and using it as such would soon cripple the user! The actual use of this harness is a little more prosaic as it is just a general purpose yoke for helping support heavy weights when being carried. It is often seen in use with 3” mortar bomb or PIAT bomb tubes, although the straps could be used to support any heavy weight being carried in the hands such as ammunition boxes or jerry cans. The short cross piece goes behind the neck at the top of the back:imageA pair of straps hangs down, one each side of each shoulder. The end of each strap has a buckle and a short web tab that can be passed through an object and secured:imageObviously this arrangement only works if the soldier has two items of equal load, but would help move the strain from the arms to across the shoulders where it is more comfortable. All the examples of this harness I have seen date from 1945 and most seem to be in unissued condition. This might be as simple as a dealer finding a bale of these made in 1945 and releasing them onto the collector market, equally they might have been introduced in 1945 and a massive production run made in that year. The harness is stamped on the rear of the cross piece in black ink and has date, manufacturer and stores code:image

Royal Navy Petty Officer’s Cap

It has been a long time since I last went to a car boot sale, but last month I got the opportunity for the first time in many years and went off in expectation of great things. I was not disappointed and came home with some good buys, the best of which was this Royal Navy petty officer’s cap for £2:imageA long time ago we covered the wartime petty officer’s cap here. This version however is the modern, post war design. It is made with a white vinyl top that is far easier to clean than the earlier canvas examples. On the front the embroidered badge has a Queen’s crown above a fouled anchor:imageSadly this badge has tarnished slightly and although I have managed to clean up the white top easily enough, I do not know an easy way to recover tarnished embroidery without risking damaging it so for now it is left like this. The badge is mounted on a black mohair band that runs around the cap, on each side are two small plastic buttons that a vinyl chin strap attaches to:imageThe top of the cap is actually removable, allowing it to be replaced and cleaned from time to time, looking at the underside of the cap there is a central piece of fabric that retains the shape of the cap when the cover is removed:imageAs is traditional, the underside of the visor is in green. This colour dates all the way back to the Victorian era where it was felt the colour would help repel the sun. It does not, but tradition means that many caps even today use this colour on the underside of their peaks. There is no sizing or date information anywhere on this cap, however it fits me with a little room to spare so my guess is that it is around a 60. Dating these caps is not easy as the design has remained virtually unchanged since the late 1960s and they are still in widespread use today.MP150039038