Monthly Archives: October 2018

88 Pattern Webbing Overview

I am very pleased to say that tonight marks the start of a new mini-series of posts covering the last variation of the Australian 1988 Pattern webbing set. I have covered two pieces on the blog before, the early pattern of water bottle carrier and the later version of the Minimi ammunition pouch, but I have recently managed to add a homogenous 2010 dated set of webbing to my collection and we are going to look in detail at the various components on a Wednesday for the next couple of months.

The 1988 Pattern set was the first complete indigenously designed and produced webbing set used by Australia, previously the sets of accoutrements had been based off of foreign designs, the British 37 Pattern and the later US M56 sets being copied and modified to suit Australian needs, but neither design originating in the country.

The end of the Vietnam War saw major changes to the military uniforms and equipment in Australian service. Auscam was introduced as the first Australian camouflage pattern and a new webbing set was produced to match this, entering service at the very end of the 1980s:imageThe design was based around a belt and H-Yoke, with a large padded section to protect the wearer’s hips. Originally a haversack was worn centrally on the back of the belt, but this was quickly dropped in favour of an extra Minimi pouch and an extra water bottle. The original designs used metal clips and had press button buckles, by 2010 all the fittings were in plastic and fixed Fastex buckles were used. There are numerous set ups of the webbing to be seen in photographs, mine is a typical example and has the following components:88 Pattern WebbingHere we see a bunch of Australian Cadets practicing with the F88 Austeyr battle rifle, all wearing various configurations of the 88 pattern webbing set:37dbb28f494bb63a7ed70f13c6e93919On operations the choice of pouches would depend on the load and weapons a man was carrying, one soldier explains:

I simply wore standard Australian army issue. I wore the normal webbing belt, a “double” belt comforter and 5x Minimi pouches, 2x water bottles and a bayonet. This was all held together with “fastex” plastic clips and DPCU tape

An Australian Cadet handbook explains about the system:

Webbing is designed to be versatile and interchangeable. Individuals will set up webbing to personal preference. Typical webbing will consist of the following pieces of equipment:

  1. Harness, There are many designs with different tether points. The harness should be comfortable to wear as it will help carry the load.
  2. Belt; Most of the pouches will connect to the belt. The belt should sit on the hips to help spread the weight of the load.
  3. Water Bottle & Pouches; Pouches designed specifically to carry water bottles. Common designs have an external pouch for carrying addition items.
  4. Pouches, Steyr or Minimi; Modern DPCU webbing pouches come in two sizes, Steyr or Minimi. As the name suggests, the pouches are designed for either the F-88 Austeyr or the F-89 Minimi. The Steyr pouch is designed to carry 3 Steyr Magazines whereas the Minimi pouch is designed to carry 200 rounds of linked ammunition. In the AAFC, both pouches are used to carry equipment with the Minimi pouch being favored due to its larger size.
  5. Bum Bag. Not as prevalent as they once were, the bum bag is a larger pouch that can expand to carry a significant amount of equipment. These days however, many people use Minimi Pouches instead.
  6. Comforter: Foam mat used to cushion the belt and help prevent chaffing.

We will continue with further in depth posts about the components in the coming weeks.

Military Uniforms of the British Empire Overseas Cigarette Cards (Part3)

The 8th Punjab Regiment

 21Our picture shows a Subadar-Major, holding the honorary rank of lieutenant in the 1st Battalion, in Full Dress. Raised in 1798 as a part of the Madras Native Infantry, this battalion remained a portion of the Madras army until it was reconstituted in 1903 as the 89th Punjabis with its present composition of Sikhs and Punjabi Musalmans. During the Great War it saw service in Egypt, Gallipoli, France, Iraq, Salonika and the Black Sea. This officer is a Musalman from the Northern Punjab and he has been awarded the Order of British India in recognition of distinguished service. The background shows Lahore Fort, Navlaka

13th Frontier Force Rifles

 22Our illustration shows a British Major (in Full Dress) of the 1st Battalion (Coke’s), which was raised in 1849 by Captain Coke as the 1st Regiment of Punjab Infantry. Shortly after this date it became part of the Punjab Frontier Force which was maintained till the beginning of this century as a local force for the protection of the North West Frontier. Under Lord Kitchener’s regime this localisation ceased an all infantry battalions of the Indian Army now share the guarding of the frontier, as well as other duties which fall to their lot. Coke’s Rifles saw fighting in the Great War in East Africa and on the North West Frontier.

The 17th Dogra Regiment

 23Our picture shows the Subadar-Major (the senior Indian officer of the 10th Battalion) in Full Dress. In each Indian Regiment the 10th is the Training Battalion, which trains the recruits and acts as record office for the three, four or five active battalions of the Regiment. The Dogra Regiment is recruited entirely of Dogra Rajputs, who are high caste Hindus descended from the original Aryan invaders of India. They inhabit the foothills of the Himalayas between the Jhelun and Sutlej rivers in the Punjab. It is one of the few regiments which is composed of a single class, the majority being made up of class squadrons or companies. The Victoria Memorial, Calcutta, appears in the background.

10th Gurkha Rifles

 24The 120 Infantry battalions of the Indian Army include twenty of Gurkhas. These are divided into ten regiments of Gurkha Rifles, each with two battalions. The most senior of these dates back to the end of the Nepal War in 1815. The 10th is the youngest, having been formed in 1890, but during the Great War it earned a reputation equal to that of the older regiments in Gallipolli, Eqypt and Iraq. These regiments are composed entirely of Gurkhas, turdy and cheerful little hillmen of Mongolian stock, who are subjects of the allied kingdom of Nepal. The rifleman shown in Full Dress in the picture is wearing the famed kukri, of Gurkha knife.

The Indian Mountain Artillery

25The Indian Mountain Artillery batteries, which number twenty-one, are units of the Royal Artillery, and their number is on the increase, as new batteries are formed to take the place of light batteries which are disappearing form the British Army. In the rough country of the Indian Frontiers, where hills are steep and roads are few, there is still room for artillery carried on mules, which can cover ground impassable to mechanised or horse-drawn guns. There is in addition an Indian Regiment of Artillery which came into being in 1935 and which consists at present of one field-brigade. This will ultimately be officered entirely by Indians. Our illustration shows a Subadar-Major in Full Dress.

The Alwar State Forces

 26The Alwar State Forces, of which our picture shows the Commandant in Full Dress, consist of two troops of Lancers and one active and one training battalion of infantry. The forces of the Indian Princes which are classed as Indian States Forces are organised on the same lines as the corresponding units of the regular Indian Army. The active units of the Alwar Forces served in the Great War, the Lancers on the North West Frontier and in Afghanistan, and the infantry battalion in Egypt and Palestine. Alwar, which is situated in Rajputana, has a population the three quarters of a million.

Bahawalpur State Forces

 27Bahawalpur is a Mussalman state lying to the south-west of the Punjab with an area of 15,000 square miles and a population of about one million. The Nawab of Bahawalpur maintains as Indian State Forces one troop of bodyguard lancers and one and a half battalions of Infantry. The Major shown in Full Dress in our picture belongs to the 1st Bahwalpur Infantry (Sadiq Battalion). The Bahawalpur troops have more than once been loaned for Imperial purposes, and in the great War the Sadiq battalion served in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on the North West Frontier of India. The Sadiq Garh Palace is shown in the background.

Baria State Forces

 28The officer shown in Full Dress in the picture is the Lieutenant Colonel of the Baria State Forces, which consist of about 150 men organised as one troop of cavalry and two platoons of infantry. Baria is a Rajput state in Western India covering about eight hundred square miles and with about 160,000 inhabitants. The Raja of Baria, who takes a great personal interest in his forces, was promoted in 1937 to the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army. The background shows the Secretariat, Devgad Baria.

Bikanir State Forces

 29The Bikinir State Forces number about 1,800, consisting of one battery of artillery, two motor machine-gun sections, two squadrons of lancers, an infantry battalion and the Ganga Risala, a Captain of which is shown in our picture in full dress. This famous camel corps rendered good service in the early days of the Great War in the fighting east of Suez. Bikanir is one of the largest of the Rajputana states, but much of it is desert, and its population numbers less than one million. The Maharaja of Bikinir holds the honorary rank of General in the British Army and is an extra Aide-de-Camp to the king. The Old Palace and Fort, Bikinir, are shown in the background.

Dhrangadhra State Forces

 30Dhrangadhra is one of the smaller states of Kathiawar in Western India, covering an area of about twelve hundred square miles and having a population of about 90,000. The Maharaja of Dhrangadhra maintains a bodyguard of two mounted troops and two companies of Infantry known as the Dhrangadhra Makhwan Infantry. The officer shown in full dress in our picture is the Commandant of the infantry. The State-Forces are mostly composed of Rajputs, but have an admixture of other Hindus and also of Musalmans. The Delhi Gate, Dhrangadhra, appears in the background.

DPM Helmet Cover

The Mk 6 helmet was issued with a large number of different helmet covers, desert DPM examples for combat in hotter climes, a white example for use in the arctic and a blue version for UN peacekeeping duties. Until the introduction of MTP camouflage though, the most common type of helmet cover was the standard DPM fabric version and we are looking at a pair of these tonight:imageThese are a simple fabric bag with a drawstring around the base:imageThe helmet is put into the cover and the string drawn tight to prevent it from slipping off. Elastic straps are sewn to the outside of the covers to allow vegetation to be slotted in to improve the camouflaging of the helmet:imageNote how on this example the original owner has written his surname, “Whitehouse-Strudwick”, his service number ‘J8417010’, and his blood type, A Negative. A further piece of personalisation are the words ‘chill out’ written onto a strap in marker:imageThe basic design of the helmet cover is very simple, however two reinforced panels are sewn into either side to protect the cover where it fits over the mounting blocks for a helmet visor on the Mk 6 helmet:imageThese are just a slightly raised section on the base of the helmet over each ear, but clearly were expected to wear the cover out faster than the rest of the helmet so reinforcing was provided.

The inside of the cover has a printed stores label with information on which size helmets this cover is compatible with and the NSN number for the cover:imageHelmet covers were common areas for squaddies to indulge in a little personalisation, even more so than these examples. Common changes included removing the scrim elastic and adding glint tape. The authorities clearly got fed up with this as in 2012 the 1st Mechanised Brigade told its men:

Nobody is to modify their helmet cover in any way.
Helmet covers are to be worn as issued, without having the elastic removed.
Scrim is not to be worn on helmets.
Sniper tape is not to be seen outside of helmets.
We are soon to be issued new MTP helmet covers; anyone that modifies this equipment will face administrative action.
Those that have modified or unserviceable helmet covers will be ordered to remove them and they will wear no helmet cover at all.
This directive is to be in effect from 30 Jan 12.

Royal Artillery NCOs in India in the 1920s Postcard

For the fourth Sunday in a row we are back to India for tonight’s postcard, this time however it is a nice group shot of the sergeants and NCOs of a Royal Artillery unit:SKM_C284e18100911340Judging by the style of the uniforms I would date this postcard to the early 1920s. The khaki drill service dress they are wearing has a standing mandarin style collar, with the brass collar dogs of the Royal Artillery:SKM_C284e18100911340 - CopyThese are paired with a white lanyard, one of the distinguishing features of an artilleryman:SKM_C284e18100911340 - Copy (2)Each man is also wearing a brown leather Sam Browne belt:SKM_C284e18100911340 - Copy (3)Interestingly the man on the extreme right has very well cut trousers which look like riding breaches:SKM_C284e18100911340 - Copy (4)Most of the men have chests full of medals, indicating service in the Great War:SKM_C284e18100911340 - Copy (5)Many of the soldiers depicted here are sergeants, with their rank prominently displayed on their sleeves with removable insignia:SKM_C284e18100911340 - Copy (6)The two men in the centre are different however. This gentlemen appears to be a warrant officer as you can make out the faint sign of a crown on his lower sleeve:SKM_C284e18100911340 - Copy (7)Whilst this man is clearly the officer as he has an open collar and shirt and tie on:SKM_C284e18100911340 - Copy (8)In front of the group are a wide selection of small trophies, presumably won by the regiment in various competitions with other local battalions and units:SKM_C284e18100911340 - Copy (9)Behind can be seen a typical Indian barrack block, with a broad veranda to try and keep the building cool in the heat of the midday sun:SKM_C284e18100911340 - Copy (10)The Royal Artillery was spread across the whole of the Indian Sub-Continent with batteries and detachments located in many of the different army bases of India. This list dates from before the Great War, at the census of 1911, but gives some idea of the spread of RA units and is probably indicative of the situation in the 1920s as well:

  • India, Ambala, N Battery Royal Horse Artillery.
  • India, Lucknow, U Battery Royal Horse Artillery.
  • India, Lucknow, C Ammunition Column Royal Horse Artillery.
  • Punjab, India, Jullundur, 16th Brigade RFA Staff.
  • India Hyderabad 18th Field Artillery Brigade Staff.
  • India, Hyderabad, No 4 Ammunition Column Royal Field Artillery.
  • Unknown, Unknown, 12th Battery, Royal Field Artillery. This entry appeared with others relating to India.
  • India, Cawnpore, 19th Battery Royal Field Artillery.
  • India, Lucknow, 20th Battery Royal Field Artillery.
  • India, Hyderabad, 59th Battery RFA
  • India, Belgaum, 84th Battery Royal Field Artillery.
  • Punjab, India, Jullundur, 89th Battery Royal Field Artillery.
  • Punjab, India, Multan, 90th Battery RFA.
  • Baluchistan, India, Quetta, Royal Garrison Artillery Staff.
  • India, Jutogh, No 5 Mountain Battery RGA.
  • Baluchistan, India, Quetta, No 7 Mountain Battery RGA.
  • India, Quetta, No 8 Mountain Battery, RGA.
  • India, Quetta, 51 Company RGA.
  • Punjab, India, Multan, 90th Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery.
  • Baluchistan, India, Quetta, No 101 Company RGA.

Boots’ WW1 Commemorative Jug

Boots the Chemists remains a familiar high street brand in the UK to this very day. A hundred years ago it was equally as popular and alongside the traditional range of medicines, potions and lotions, the shop also stocked what were referred to as ‘fancy goods’. Fancy goods was a term in common use in the early part of the twentieth century for small decorative gifts or knick-knacks. Tonight we are looking at an example of one of these sold by Boots in 1914, a small china jug:imageThe design on the jug is typical of the china items brought out to celebrate the outbreak of war, with six different flags:imageLeft to right these are Belgium, Japan, Great Britain, France, Imperial Russia and Serbia. The base of the jug has the mark of the chemists and that it was purchased from the Fancy Goods Department:imageIt is interesting to note that the mark clearly indicates that the item was made in Britain. This was common in the early days of the Great War as people boycotted German goods, of which Britain had been a major importer. Boots went so far as to take out an advertisement indicating that they had replaced their German Eau de Cologne lines with local alternatives:FetchEven in 1914 Boots was one of the largest retail companies in Great Britain but during World War One their retail business was supplanted to some extent by contracts with the government. They were the main government supplier for vermin powder, anti-gas cream, water steriliser, anti-fly cream (flies were a big problem on the front), iodine tubes, matchless tinder lighters, peppermint, compressed medicines and quinine. The company was also instrumental in producing aspirin and saccharine in the UK which up until that point had been imported from Germany.

Helmet Counterweight

Increasingly soldiers in the British army are having scopes and electronic devices mounted to the front of their combat helmets. Items such as night vision scopes are heavy and tend to pull both the helmet and the wearer’s head forward. To counter this effect balance weights can be fitted to the rear of the helmet to even out the load. A number of designs are in use, but tonight we are looking at an example commonly known as a ‘choc block’ by troops:imageThe reason for its nickname is quite obvious and this counterweight consists of sixteen separate metal weights encased in rubber. The groves make it possible for the weight to follow the contours of the helmet and the actual weight of the counterbalance can be adapted by cutting away individual blocks. The White residue between each block is a form of talc used to prevent the rubber from sticking to itself and a full block like this weighs 565grams.

The rear of the block has four Velcro hook-panels that allow it to be mounted on a corresponding piece of loop Velcro on the rear of the helmet:imageNote that the original owner of this weight has inked his name in white pen along one side of the block. An NSN number is printed onto the rear as well:imageThese items are not on general issue, but rather distributed to those most likely to need them such as members of special forces and air crews. As such they seem quite an uncommon item and I have struggled to find out much about them. There seems to be a number of different versions of helmet weights in service, of which this is just one.

Dried Milk Tin

Milk rationing was introduced in Great Britain in November 1941 when fresh bottled milk went on the ration for the first time. Each person was allowed three pints of fresh milk a week and in December 1941 tins of skimmed milk powder began to be imported from the United States:imageThese were in addition to the usual milk ration and each person was allowed one tin every four weeks. The tins cost 9d and one ration coupon and the powder made up an additional four pints. The tins were made of metal and had a paper label wrapped around them. The label was printed in red and blue and featured stars and stripes and the country of origin printed proudly on the front:imageThese packs of milk powder were specially produced in the United States for the Ministry of Food and this is marked on the side of the tin, along with a warning that the contents were not suitable for babies:imageAlternative milk powder containing whole full fat milk was also produced, especially for babies who needed the fat content to grow. The back of the label is unfortunately quite badly damaged, but gave instructions to the housewife about how to mix up the powder to make the milk:imageThe tins of milk powder were shipped form the US to Great Britain and shopkeepers in cardboard cartons, each holding 72x8oz cans:household-milk-cartonMilk powder was used for a variety of things during the war, as recalled by Anne Butcher:

Over-riding all these trifling discomforts was the non-stop foraging by the housewife to provide some variety in her family’s meals. I cannot recall ever being literally hungry, but the country had been reliant upon imports, which were now impossible because of the sea blockade. Everything was scrupulously rationed and we ate some strange things to supplement our diet.

Tea tablets were used to make the tea look stronger; babies’ dried milk or ‘National’ milk was added if it could be obtained; and saccharine was used as a sweetener. Some even resorted to using honey or jam. What a concoction – but we drank it. Bread was heavy and a dull grey colour, but it, too, was rationed – so we ate it.

Sweets were devised from a mixture of dried milk and peppermint essence with a little sugar or icing sugar if available.