Monthly Archives: October 2018

88 Pattern Waist Belt

We start our detailed look at the Australian 88 pattern web set by looking at the belt. The rest of the set is built around the belt so it is possibly the most crucial component in the whole set. It is made of a heavy duty woven nylon tape in a light shade of khaki brown:imageThe belt secures with a plastic Fastex clip. The female portion of this is permanently attached to one end of the belt:imageThe tape holding it onto the main belt being sewn on with heavy duty stitching:imageBy contrast the male part of the buckle is free to move about and be taken off completely, incorporating a friction buckle into its design:imageNot only does this allow the belt to be adjusted for length, but in order to attach the belt through the hip padding, the buckle needs to be removed.

The belt is stamped on its reverse with an ‘NSN’ number (even though Australia is not actually part of NATO), the date and the manufacturer’s name:imageWise Pearl Limited produced all the components of my 88 pattern webbing set. This company is based in Hong Kong and its website describes the business as:

Founded in 1991 Wise Pearl Limited is a developer and producer of high quality technical sewn products, mainly for sports, industrial and military markets. Its headquarters is in Hong Kong and it operates two wholly owned factories in China. The newest facility, wholly owned Wise Pearl Myanmar, is located in Myanmar’s principal city – Yangon – and has been in operation since June 2016. Our products are exported all over the world.

Military Uniforms of the British Empire Overseas Cigarette Cards (Part 4)

Gwalior State Forces

 31Gwalior is one of the largest and most important of the Indian States. Situated in Central India, it has a population of three and a half million and covers twenty-six thousand square miles. The Maharaja of Gwalior maintains more Indian State Forces than almost any other prince and they are organised into a cavalry brigade, consisting of three regiments of lancers, a battery of horse artillery and a transport corps, and an infantry brigade of four infantry battalions and a mountain battery. In addition there is an infantry training battalion and half a company of sappers. Our picture shows a captain of the mountain battery, in full dress, standing in front of Gwalior Fort.

Hyderabad State Forces

 32His Exalted highness the Nizam of Hyderabad is the ruler of the premier Indian state, which has a population of over fourteen million, and covers 83,000 square miles in southern India. He maintains three regiments of lancers organised as a cavalry brigade and, in addition, three infantry battalions, a horse artillery battery and a treansport section. His forces number nearly five thousand in all. A regiment of Hyderabad Lancers served with the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade on the Suez Canal and in Palestine during the Great War. The officer shown here in full dress uniform in oujr picture is the commander of the cavalry brigade; the Char Minar, Hyderabad, appears in the background.

Indore State Forces

 33Our picture shows in full dress, a major of the 1st Battalion Maharaja Holkar’s Infantry. This corps with Holkar’s mounted Escort (a bodyguard unit of one squadron) and a transport corps of ponies, mules and carts make up the Maharaja of Indore’s forces. The transport corps rendered noble service in the Great War in France, Macedonia, Egypt and Gallipoli, being present at the Suvla landing, while the mounted escort served in Iraq. Indore is a large state in central India covering more than nine thousand square miles and having a population of 1,300,000. The background shows the Drayao Mahal Palace, Indore.

Jaipur State Forces

 34Jaipur is one of the larger states of Rajputana, having an area of fifteen thousand square miles and a population of more than two and a half million. The Maharaja of Jaipur maintains a regiment of lancers, three battalions of infantry and a transport corps. The last named is the only one of these units which dates back to before the Great War. It saw service on the North West Frontier in 1895-97 and in the Great War was continuously employed throughout the Mesopotamia Campaign. The officer shown in full dress in our picture is a captain of the headquarters staff of the Jaipur State Forces. The background portrays the residency Gate, Jaipur.

Jodhpur State Forces

 35The Jodhpur State forces consist of one regiment of lancers, an infantry battalion and a transport corps. The officer shown in full dress in our picture belongs to the Sardar Infantry battalion. The Jodhpur Lancers proceeded to France with the first units of the Indian cavalry at the very outset of the Great War and fought with distinction alongside them throughout operations both in France and Palestine. Jodhpur, the home of the Rathore Rajputs, is the largest state of Rajputana, covering 35,000 square miles and having a population of over two million. The city itself has an up to date aerodrome which has become an important point in the air route across Northern India. The Fort, Jodhpur, is shown in the background.

Kashmir State Forces

 36The Maharaja of Kashmir maintains a larger number of state forces than any other ruler of an Indian state. These forces are organised into the Jammu and Kashmir brigades, the latter of which is commanded by the officer shown in our picture, in full dress. They comprise one bodyguard cavalry regiment, two mountain batteries, seven active and one training battalions of infantry and a transport unit consisting of both pack and mechanised transport. Several of these units served with distinction on the North West Frontier of India and overseas during the Great War. Jammu and Kashmir lie to the north of the Punjab and cover nearly 85,000 square miles. The population exceeds 3,500,000. A view of Srinagar appears in the background.

Mysore State Forces

 37The state forces maintained by the Maharaja of Mysore consist of one regiment of lancers, one squadron of Mysore Horse and three infantry battalions, only one of which however is a complete active unit. Both of the mounted units were raised from the ruins of the army of Tippoo Sultan after the fall of Seringapatam. The Mysore lancers, to which the officer shown in full dress in our picture belongs, served on the Suez Canal and in Palestine with the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade throughout the Great War. Mysore is one of the two largest states in Southern India, having an area of 30,000 square miles and a population of 6,500,000. The background shows the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade Memorial, New Delhi.

Nawangar State Forces

 38Nawanagar is one of the two largest Kathiawar States in Western India. It covers an area of four thousand square miles and has a population of 400,000. The Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanagar maintains as his state forces a regiment of lancers, consisting of two squadrons and a company of infantry. Both of these units are composed almost entirely of Rajputs, to which race he himself belongs. The officer shown in full dress in our picture is a member of the headquarters staff of the state forces. The present ruler is a nephew of his predecessor, who was better known in this country as the great cricketer “Ranji”. The background shows the Pratab Vilas Palace, Jamnagar.

The Tehri-Garhwal State Forces

 39The Tehri-Garhwal State Froces, of which our picture shows the Commandant, consists of half a company of sappers and miners, two platoons of pioneers and two platoons of infantry. The last two units are of a recent creation, but the sappers and miners did good work during the Great War in France and Iraq. Tehri-Garhwal is a Hindu state of 350,000 inhabitants covering over four thousand square miles in the foothills of the Himalayas to the north of the United Provinces. The Garhwalis, who inhabit the british Indian district of Garhwal as well as the state of Tehri-Garhwal, earned a reputation second to none in the Great War.

Udaipur (Mewar) State Forces

 40The officer shown in full dress in the picture belongs to the Mewar Bhopal Infantry. The Udaipur (Mewar) State Forces consist of one squadron of lancers and two battalions of infantry. The Maharaja of Udaipur rules over some thirteen thousand square miles of Rajputana with a population of more than a million and a half, mostly Rajputs. Udaipur itself is a place of great beauty and historical interest and is one of the chief centres of attraction for visitors to Northern India. The Tower of Victory, Chitorgarh, appears in the background.

Miniature Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal

A few weeks ago I received a very generous gift of a large pile of uniforms and militaria from a retired Royal Engineers Major. We will be looking at various items over the coming months, but we start tonight with one of the smallest, a miniature medal for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002:imageIt is traditional for commemorative medals to be produced for major royal events and these are then distributed to members of the armed forces and other suitable candidates. Alongside the full size medals, miniature versions are required for wear on mess dress and this is an example of one of these. The obverse of the medal features the Queen, wearing the St Edward’s Crown:imageThe reverse has the Royal Coat of Arms and the dates 1952 and 2002:imageThe medal is made of cupro-nickel with a gilt finish. The ribbon is made up of blue, white and red stripes:Queen_Elizabeth_II_Golden_Jubilee_Medal_ribbonAs this is a miniature medal it features a broach clasp on the rear to allow it to be pinned to the recipient’s mess dress:imageMembers of the British Armed Forces regular, reserve, and cadet branches, serving prison officers and members of the emergency services who were enrolled as of Accession Day and had been so for five years were given the medal in the United Kingdom. 94,222 members of the Army received the medal, as did 32,273 in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and 38,889 in the Royal Air Force. Longer serving members of the Royal Household and living holders of the Victoria Cross and the George Cross also received the medal.

Canada issued a similar medal that used the same ribbon, but had differing designs for the obverse and reverse of the medal itself.

British Mule Team Postcard

This week’s postcard is a delightful image of a group of British soldiers posing with a couple of mules:SKM_C284e18102210080Sadly there is no context to this image, but my guess is that it was taken between the wars and judging by the building in the background it was probably taken somewhere in the middle east with the building being constructed of well fitted stone:SKM_C284e18102210080 - CopyI wonder if this is some sort of granary or fortified structure, as the main door is a good ten feet off the ground. A ladder is propped up against it and two men perched on it posing for the photograph:SKM_C284e18102210080 - Copy (2)These soldiers are dressed in the standard shorts and collarless shirts worn by the British Army overseas, with sun helmets on:SKM_C284e18102210080 - Copy (3)Two mules can be seen in the centre of the picture, note the string fly protector covering the eyes of the nearest animal:SKM_C284e18102210080 - Copy (4)Mules were used for transporting pack loads, and to one side of them can be seen a couple of large bundles, presumably about to be loaded onto the beasts for a journey:SKM_C284e18102210080 - Copy (5)Careful packing was needed to ensure the mules were not injured when carrying heavy loads, as indicated in the army’s Manual of Equitation:CaptureCapture1


No85 Artillery Fuze

It felt only right and fitting that the souvenir I brought home with me from my recent trip to Flanders was the fuze from a British Empire shrapnel shell. Artillery killed more men on the Western Front than any other weapon and the fuzes form exploded shells are still regularly ploughed up in the fields of Belgium. I am not a collector of relic, but this piece, that I knew had been fired over the trenches of Flanders seemed a very appropriate memento of my trip:imageThis fuze is a No85 and was used on 15 and 18 pounder shrapnel shells. It screwed into the nose of the shell, and the brass ring from the top of the main shell is still attached to the base of the fuze where it blew to pieces, showing up here as a slightly different colour due to the differing metals:imageThe fuze as it was originally manufactured can be seen in this diagram:post-671-0-73288900-1440513383_thumbThe model of fuze and the manufacturer ‘Scovill’ are stamped into the main body:imageScovill were an American manufacturer and this was produced under contract for the British Empire. The ring of the shell that has been left attached is, however, marked up with a Canadian acceptance mark:imageThis fuze is dated, I believe, 1917:imageThe No85 was a time delay fuze and could be set to fire after the shell had completed a certain number of rotations in the air. This occurred at a set rate so it was possible to set the fuze to go off after a certain time in flight, showering the ground beneath with small shrapnel balls. These fuzes were remarkably complicated little components, as can be seen in this cutaway diagram:post-1365-1250688653The following explanation of how the fuze works was given by ‘Max poilu’ on the Great War forum and sets it out far clearer than I could:

The fuze contains a number of overlapping rings burning in sequence. The relationship of each ring to the other determines how long the burning train of powder is. I believe the black powder used in the fuze time trains was a specially selected grade, all black powder is a ‘selected’ grade – but here a particularly fine and stable type.

From the fuze a hollow tube runs inside the shell to a base plate below the shrapnel balls – around 350 lead balls packed in resin in an 18 pounder. Below this plate is a small charge of black powder. The resin holds the balls stable to avoid an affect on flight and burns to give the puff of black smoke for observation. When the timed fuze triggers above the target a small flash is sent from the fuze down the tube igniting the black powder – this ‘explosion’ is a relatively small charge designed just to expel the balls – it is not an explosion in the sense of a HE shell. The shell casing itself is actually quite thin as it does not need to ‘resist’ the detonation as in a HE shell. The fuze is fitted to the shell with shallow threads so that it is separated from the shell casing easily.

This detonation pushes the base outwards ejecting the balls and the fuze head in a wide area over the ground. Think of the shell as a huge shotgun cartridge. The combined velocity of the forward motion of the shell and ejected balls produces an obvious lethal effect.

The shell casings are not designed to fracture. All the component parts; balls, casing, fuse, flash tube and plate are probably the most easily found and numerous objects in the battlefields today.

Mk 16B Aircrew Coverall

The Mark 16b aircrew coverall was introduced into service in the late 1990s. In its initial form it was produced in olive green, but with the RAF’s commitments as part of the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan a tan coloured version of the garment was soon introduced:imageThe Mark 16B is a development of the Mark 16A but deleting the knee padding and thigh pockets of the earlier model. The suit is made of a flame retardant DuPont Nomex Delta C Aramid fabric and the fastenings are made of special fire resistant Velcro. These fire retardant properties are essential for personnel working around aircraft where hot gasses and extremely flammable aviation fuel are common hazards.

The coveralls fasten up the front with a single metal zip, further zips secure two diagonally cut chest pockets:imageFurther slash pockets are fitted at the waist:imageThe waist itself is adjustable with two Velcro tabs at the rear that allow it to be drawn in and let out slightly:imageThe left hand sleeve has a padded pocket for up to three pens:imageVelcro tab epaulettes are fitted to each shoulder for rank slides to be attached:imageThe lower legs of the suit each have a flapped pocket that is designed to be easy to access when the wearer is seated:imageThe bottom of each leg also features a short zip allowing the diameter of the leg to be expanded to make it easier to get the coveralls on or off:imageA large manufacturer’s label is sewn into the garment giving sizing, NSN number and care instructions:imageThis set of coveralls has never been issued. In service a variety of patches and badges would be sewn on to show the wearer’s qualifications, rank and Squadron:Royal Air Force’s II(AC) Squadron foils insurgent bombers in Afghanistan

Flanders Field Museum Visit

The names of ‘Wipers’, Armentieres, Poperinge and many more of the small towns and villages of Flanders are indelibly inked on the minds of anyone with an interest in the British Army in World War One. Flanders was a portion of Belgium that was to see almost constant fighting from 1914 to 1918. The small and historic market town of Ypres was in the centre of this, and 1918 saw it almost flattened. In the 1920s it was extensively rebuilt, to the same design as before the war and even the magnificent mediaeval cloth hall was reconstructed. Today this impressive building in the centre of Ypres is home to the Flanders Fields museum, newly opened and looking to place the battles of the region in a wider context.

I was lucky enough to visit Flanders and Ypres last week and had the opportunity to visit the museum. The building it is housed in is truly magnificent and captures the grandeur of the original, indeed one has to look at original photographs of the devastation to see just what work the Belgian architects have done as you would believe it had stood untouched since the fourteenth century. On entering the museum you are presented with a white rubber wristband bearing a red poppy. With a sense of foreboding it is clear that this museum is ‘interactive’. On starting your museum tour you are invited to programme your wristband by entering you name, age and gender so that the displays can be tailored to you.

Visually the museum is very modern and impressive but on entering the main exhibition space you are struck by how much space is wasted. There is so much empty space or space given over to interactive displays and very little in the way of real objects and artefacts. Those artefacts that are displayed are often, frustratingly, poorly captioned so it is not clear what you are looking at or its significance. I quickly grew frustrated with the interactive displays and having to tap your wrist over a panel to see a small fragment of text on a screen quickly lost its appeal.

I therefore focused on those objects that were on display, some elements were excellent, the items recovered from the mud at Yorkshire Trench and a large artillery piece being fascinating. Perhaps the highlight of the museum for me though was a set of four twenty foot high display cases that showed, laid out, the uniform, equipment and weapons of a French, British, German and US infantryman. This was a very innovative display and really got home the similarities and differences between the kit of each nation.

Despite these exhibits, the general feeling on leaving was one of slight frustration. The building was magnificent and there were some fascinating exhibits, but they were poorly captioned and the over emphasis on interactive technology detracted from what should have been a truly moving experience. Like many with an interest in military history I find the modern fashion for computer screens over tangible objects in museums a retrograde step; yes there is a need to engage the young and those with a casual interest, but this should be done in such a way as to supplement and showcase the original artefacts, not instead of them.