Monthly Archives: November 2018

Officer’s Barrack Dress Jumper

For wear around the barracks officers were sometime instructed to purchase woollen pullovers often known as ‘Guernseys’ of a finer weave than the standard British Army woolly-pully. These were not only less itchy, but also gave a smarter and more soldierly appearance for men when they were working in office type roles. Tonight we have an example issued to Major Ian Ward, Royal Engineers in the early 1990s:imageIn most respects the design echoes the standard woolly-pully, with a round neck:imageIt is quite clear however that the weave of the knitting is far tighter than the standard issue item. Reduction knitting is used on the cuffs:imageAnd waist band:imageThis draws the garment in and hugs it tight to the body in these places. Fabric panles are fitted to the shoulders, with space for a rank slide- here a major’s crown with embroidery for the RE:imagePanels are also fitted on the forearms to protect them:imageAnd a small pencil pocket is sewn to the upper sleeve:imageA unit formation flash for the Tyne Electrical Engineers is sewn to the upper sleeve:imageThis badge dates back to 1922 when it was registered with the College of Arms as “out of a mural crown or, a dexter cubit arm grasping a winged arrow inflamed proper’.

This example has had its label removed from the back of the neck for comfort, but companies such as Brenhyre Knitwear produced these for officers, examples in 2007 costing the individual a hefty £60 each!

Barrack dress disappeared in the late 1990s/early 2000s and although some regiments persisted with it, the official policy was for everyone to be in Soldier 95s all the time. One irreverent wag described barrack dress as:

Barrack dress was always known as Uniform, Officers, Nothing to do. How can you do your job as an officer in barracks when you’re dressed in all that nonsense escapes me.
“Oh no, corporal, I couldn’t possibly join the chaps doing that mucky veh maint / SAA / PT etc when I’m dressed in my best shoes and trousers, wearing this hideously coloured baggy gardening jumper, wearing a daft hat and carrying this stupid stick.”

This policy has now been reversed and most regiments now include barrack dress once more. The Royal Engineers sets out what clothing should be worn in their dress regulations:

No. 2 Dress hat or side hat (CO’s discretion)

Jersey, wool, heavy duty

No. 2 Shirt

Tie, silk knitted, RE pattern

Trousers, Barrack Dress

Socks, Khaki

Shoes, brown, plain leather

Fragment of a World War One Ale Poster

On Saturday we looked at a 1919 dated certificate and at the time I said that the original framers who had mounted the certificate had used an offcut of card to do it with. This offcut of card is as interesting as the certificate itself and is part of a World War one advertising poster for ale:imageUnfortunately I do not know which ale this was as the top part is missing and I have been unable to find a matching design online. This particular poster though incorporates some gorgeous artwork and has four war related characters, admiring the pint in front of them. Firstly on the left we have a sailor from HMS Invincible:SKM_C284e18110612520 - CopyHMS Invincible was the lead ship of a class of three battlecruisers launched in 1907. She took part in the Battle of Jutland and was destroyed by a magazine explosion during the fighting.  The next figure is a munitionette:SKM_C284e18110612520 - Copy (2)Munitionettes were women who worked in shell factories producing shells for the guns on the front line. They typically wore brown overalls and mop caps to protect their hair. World War one saw the number of different employment possibilities for women expand dramatically and as well as working in factories, the Women’s Auxilliary Army Corps was set up in 1917 and our third figure is dressed in their distinctive uniform:SKM_C284e18110612520 - Copy (3)The final figure is an archetypal British Tommy, wearing the cap badge of the Machine Gun Corps:SKM_C284e18110612520 - Copy (4)The Machine Gun Corps was founded in October 1915 and assuming this poster is reflecting this period accurately and not using artistic licence this would quite accurately date the image. If anyone has any more information on the poster, and indeed knows which brand of ale it was for please get in contact as I would be fascinated to know.

Second Pattern 88 Water Bottle Carrier

We continue our review of the 88 Pattern webbing set this week with the second pattern water bottle carrier. The earlier pattern was covered here, and side by side the differences are clear (the first pattern is on the left, the second on the right):imageThe most obvious change between the two patterns is the replacement of the webbing loop on the front with a full pocket for carrying a hexamine stove:imageBoth the front pocket and the base of the carrier have eyelets to drain water out:imageThe pattern of Auscam is also brighter and slightly greener than the older carrier. On the rear the belt fastenings have changed:imageInstead of the sprung metal ALICE style clips, plastic fasteners are fitted instead:imageThe rest of the carrier is broadly similar in design, borrowing heavily from the US M1910 style of carrier. Two top flaps secure the bottle into the carrier, fastening with a pair of press studs:imageThe inside of the carrier is lined with felt to help insulate the bottle and keep it cool in the heat of the Australian outback:imageThis particular carrier dates from 2010:imageThe US M1910 must be one of the most enduring designs of webbing in history, inspiring dozens of derivative designs across the world; we have covered the 44 Pattern British carrier, 51, 64 and 82 pattern Canadian and 88 Pattern Australian designs which are all inspired by this design and this does not include all the non-commonwealth countries that have also adopted variations of this design.

With water being such a high priority in Australia, it is typical for soldiers and cadets to carry a minimum of two bottles on their webbing at all times, with extra bottles added to the rucksack if extended operations are expected.untitled

Fifth Army Old Comrades’ Association Badge

We have looked at a number of old comrades badges on the blog over the years and one thing they have all had in common is they have been based around individual regiments. Tonight however we have something a little different. In 1932 a new Old Comrades organisation was set up for veterans of General Gough’s Fifth Army. This is, as far as historians are aware, the only old comrades organisation for an army. They started raising money to found a ward in the army’s honour but failed to raise sufficient funds so instead sponsored a window in the church of St Peter upon Cornhill in London:CaptureAt the base of the window can be seen a leaping red fox. This was the insignia of the Fifth Army and features prominently in the Old Comrades badge:imageThe insignia featured on an interwar cigarette card:fox_cig1fox_cig2My little enamelled badge was made by the famous firm of Frattorini in Birmingham, and has a brooch style fastening on the rear:imageThe Old Comrades association held a dinner and parade in 1937, with General Gough a guest of honour:

On the 19th anniversary of their famous march retreat, officers and men of the Fifth Army, headed by their commander, General Sir Hubert Gough, attended their Old Comrades’ Association Memorial march on the Horse Guards Parade yesterday…After the parade the contingent marched to the Cenotaph, where General Gough laid a wreath in memory of the men who fell during the retreat.

There appears to have been at least two designs of badge for the Fifth Army’s Old Comrades Association. The example pictured above and an alternative which incorporated a large star into its design:495_1393596180_1584_300_300

SA80 Polymer Magazine

In 2011 the British Army started to upgrade the magazines soldiers were issued with for use with the SA80 rifle. Until this point the H&K steel magazine had been in service and was generally well regarded (see here). The only problem with the magazine was the materials used in its construction. Steel is heavy and new polymers were available that allowed a robust magazine to be produced with a lighter weight:imageThe government at the time sent out a press release explaining the benefits of the new magazine:

The 30-round Magpul EMAG magazine is around half the weight of a standard metal magazine and helps reduce the weight that soldiers have to carry in their kit.

Made from a polymer, the EMAG weighs 130g compared to its metal equivalent of 249g. Troops carry up to 12 magazines, so this change means each carries around one kilogramme less weight in total than before. imageAlthough it is lighter than others, the EMAG is robust; it’s durability is enhanced by an easily detachable cover to help protect against dust and sand while being carried – meaning fewer need replacing. imageA clear window in the magazine allows troops to easily monitor how much ammunition they have left, helping them ensure they have sufficient levels at critical points in battle. imageThese magazines were produced in the US for the British Army and are brand named ‘EMAG’, which is molded into the body of the magazine:imageDetails of the rounds to be used in the magazine and the manufacturers details are also included:imageThe rounds of 5.56 are fed into the top, where two feed lips ensure they are presented into the breach of the rifle correctly:imageThe plastic dustcover snaps over this to keep out dirt and debris:imageThe base plate of the magazine is removable allowing the spring and follower to be removed for cleaning:imageThe response from troops was positive:

The new magazines are a great bit of kit. The little window lets me see how many rounds I have left at a glance and it’s a lighter and more robust design. The dust cap is a useful addition in the dusty Afghan conditions as it helps keep ammo clean.image

Feed the Guns Postcard

In October 1918 an innovative fund raising campaign took place in London that saw Trafalgar Square transformed into the battlefields of the Western Front. The ‘Feed the Guns’ Campaign took over the whole square and created a ruined farmhouse and windmill as well as trenches and original pieces of captured German equipment. Like many of these exhibitions, postcards were sold as souvenirs and to raise money:SKM_C284e18102512120The London Illustrated News reported that the square was:

Being “camouflaged as ruined churches, windmills, and cottages. The lamp-posts, even, will figure as shell shattered trees. Investors will be given application forms for War Bonds in a camouflaged military hut, and will be conducted through sandbagged trenches to the great guns in their emplacements.

The Daily Mail reported on the setting up of the exhibition:

The work of transforming Trafalgar Square into a ruined village on the western front in readiness for next week’s “Feed the Guns with War bonds” campaign was begun yesterday. Men of the “Camouflage Corps”, or Army Special Works School were busy making sandbag trenches and erecting a ruined farmhouse.

Seven big guns are to arrive tomorrow, and during next week investors will be able to take their bonds to a gun and “feed” them into the barrel, where they will be stamped with a special device.

One item that could not be disguised was Nelson’s Column, however advertising hoardings were fitted around its base encouraging the purchase of War bonds:SKM_C284e18102512120 - CopyThe fountain has become a French farm and a windmill covers one of the famous lions:SKM_C284e18102512120 - Copy (2)The lion himself can just be seen beneath the fake windmill! The destroyed village can be seen ranged out in the square:SKM_C284e18102512120 - Copy (3)The campaign was nationwide, with London as its focus, and lasted a week. £31 million was raised and this event was clearly popular as can be seen by the crowds queuing up for admission:SKM_C284e18102512120 - Copy (4)London alone raised over £23 million pounds and much of this money came for the visitors to the ‘Feed the Guns’ exhibition in Trafalgar Square.

1919 Food Production Certificate

By the last two years of the Great War the German U-Boat offensive was beginning to take effect in Britain and supplies of food were becoming more and more restricted. To counter this drop in imports, the government of the day encouraged as much home production as possible with many areas of previously fallow land being turned over to crops. Although the large centralised system of the Second World War was not adopted to the same degree, local agricultural societies played a large part in encouraging food production. They offered guidance and advice to farmers and ran competitions to encourage food production. Despite the war ending in 1918, these efforts to increase home production continued into the first few years of peace and tonight we are looking at a certificate from the Royal Lancashire Agricultural Society:imageThis certificate was awarded for the production of potatoes in Burnley:SKM_C284e18110612500 - Copy (4)The name of the organisation is emblazoned across the top of the certificate, along with the purpose of the award, “for the encouragement of the increased home production of food stuffs”:SKM_C284e18110612500 - Copy (5)There was a great emphasis on increasing food production on all forms of land and in March 1919 the Daily Mail ran an article on ‘What a 10-Rod plot Produced’:

That a demonstration plot for object lessons and successional planting and trials of varieties of potatoes and manures should be set aside in each group of allotments has been recommended by the Food Production Department.

The report for last season on the 10-Rod allotment in Kew Gardens shows that the produce raised was: CaptureThe Soil was a poor gravel, on which several of the crops failed through drought. At wholesale prices the produce was worth £8 15s.

The date of the competition is 1919 and this is apparently a ‘special victory diploma’:SKM_C284e18110612500 - Copy (3)The design of the certificate incorporates two illustrated panels, one of farming:SKM_C284e18110612500 - CopyAnd a second depicting soldiers advancing across no-man’s land:SKM_C284e18110612500 - Copy (2)This certificate is both large and beautifully engraved and is a rare survivor today. Interestingly the piece of scrap card it is mounted on is as of much interest as the certificate itself and we will look at the reverse in an upcoming post!