Monthly Archives: December 2018

HMS Andromeda Christmas Card

Happy Christmas Eve! I hope everything is prepared and you are all ready for a merry Christmas tomorrow. As is traditional on this blog, over Christmas we look at a few items of militaria that fit in with the theme of the season. Christmas cards with a military theme are a perennial favourite for those serving away from home to send back to their loved ones. Although we have previously looked mainly at World War Two examples, this year we have a post war example sent from HMS Andromeda:SKM_C45817052313110The card depicts a line drawing of the ship, cutting through the water:SKM_C45817052313110 - Copy (3)The ship’s badge:SKM_C45817052313110 - Copy (2)And a map of her current voyage:SKM_C45817052313110 - CopyInside we can see that the card was sent from someone named ‘Julian’ to ‘Helen & Co’:SKM_C45817052313111HMS Andromeda was the last ship to be constructed at Portsmouth Dockyard in 1968 and was a Leander class frigate. She served throughout the Falklands and through until 1995 with the Royal Navy before being sold to India who continued to use her until 2012 when she was sunk as a target.

Christmas on board ship can be a difficult time for many who are away from loved ones, so every effort is made to make the day enjoyable for the ship’s crew. The following description is from the submarine HMS Vanguard, but is typical of many festivities across the navy:

Entertainment on board, although enhanced by modern technology (Kindles and hard drives being a God-send on a platform with limited space) remains broadly traditional.

Quiz nights and game nights all play a part, with the more traditional ‘Uckers’ now mixed with inter-mess Mario Kart.

A traditional service of carols was held on the Sunday before Christmas, with the choir of ‘King’s College Vanguard’ providing impressive harmony.

Christmas Eve was marked by a staging of ‘A Christmas Carol’ involving a spooky reappearance of the previous Executive Officer as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Christmas day itself included the opening of presents around the tree, before the Commanding Officer and others helped serve up a sumptuous Christmas dinner for all.

The chefs on board deserve special credit for managing to create such a varied feast.

There was something for everybody on board from carols to Secret Santa, but just as importantly some space for quiet reflection and thoughts of loved-ones at home.

It may sound like all jokes and jollities, but there are good reasons for making an extra effort when on patrol.

Christmas is a sensitive time of the year and for many of the younger ship’s company who have struck-up relationships almost three years ago, couples have still not spent a Christmas together.

Those with young children up to three years of age have yet to have their father home for Christmas.

Every member of the ship’s company has sacrificed something which is emotionally important in order to serve with HMS Vanguard.

British Airship Postcard

This week’s image is rather a fun one, as these things go. This postcard depicts an airship off the coast with the phrase “Keep a Good Look Out. Don’t let this guy give you a fright. Just look inside it- we’re alright.”SKM_C284e18110611560 - Copy (4)This gives a hint of the cards novelty- the airship lifts up and a set of four tiny views of Richmond are hidden beneath:imageThe airship does not resemble the design of the German Zeppelins, and is far more the shape of the early British airships:SKM_C284e18110611560 - Copy (5) - CopyThis is backed up by the fact that the airship is flying the white ensign rather than a German naval flag! Early British airships were shorter and fatter than the long German craft:_59623058_ghw03_ns06Below the illustration of the airship can be seen a battleship:SKM_C284e18110611560 - Copy (4) - CopyThis postcard was sent in 1915 and balloons and airships were still very much cutting edge technology. Britain lagged far behind both France and Germany in the development of lighter than air craft, preferring to focus more of her energy on fixed wing aircraft. The airships the British did develop were designed far more as defensive platforms to patrol the seas of Great Britain rather than having an offensive element like those of Germany. German zeppelins were designed for long range bombing missions over enemy territory, British airships patrolled the North Sea looking for enemy ship and submarine movements that could then be reported by wireless to allow Royal Navy ships to be directed onto target.

Browning Hi Power

Observant readers may have noticed that in some of the posts on holsters over the last few years I have been using a Browning Hi-Power to illustrate how they work. I try not to do weapons posts too often as I don’t have an unlimited supply of different deactivated guns and I want to spread them out a bit, that being said it is a long time since we last looked at a firearm on this blog and it seemed about time we looked at the Hi Power.

The Hi Power was developed in the interwar period by FN of Belgium to meet a French Army requirement. John Moses Browning started work on the pistol’s development but died before it reached its final iteration. The design was however developed and was ultimately ready for service by 1935. The French chose a different model, but it was adopted by the Belgians and was one of the most modern hand guns in service at the start of World War Two.

When Germany invaded Belgium in 1940, the designers at FN fled to England with the designs of the hi Power and after much tortuous negotiation it was agreed that a production facility would be set up in Canada by the Inglis company. Manufacture was started in 1944 and the Canadian produced for themselves, the British and received large contracts for Nationalist Chinese Forces. It is one of these Chinese contract guns we are looking at tonight:imageimageThe Hi Power is a 9mm automatic that can hold 13 rounds in its double stack magazine. The magazine is released by a button on the grip, a spring pushing the magazine down and out ready for reloading:imageThis pistol was designed as a military handgun from the start and so features a prominent lanyard loop:imageAs a Chinese contract Hi Power there are a number of distinctive features to this weapon. Firstly the rear sight is an adjustable tangent sight out to 500 yards (!):imageQuite how it was expected to hit anything at this range with a 9mm round is beyond me, but a slot was fitted to the rear to allow a shoulder stock to be fitted:imageThis was a popular feature for the Chinese who had first started using shoulder stocked pistols during the Warlord era when broom-handled Mausers were imported into the country in huge quantities with shoulder stocks to circumvent international embargos on long arms. By the Second World War most other nations had decided shoulder stocks and long range adjustable sights on a pistol were a waste of time, however they remained the preferred choice of the Chinese.

The pistol is marked along the sides of the slide, with the name of the manufacturer and Chinese characters indicating that it is the property of the Chinese Nationalist Army:imageThe opposite side of the pistol has the serial number on both the slide and the barrel:imageThe CH indicates that this pistol was produced for China and it was manufactured in August 1945. Having acquired this pistol several years ago, this example still strips down into its component parts, although the deactivation process is very obvious with the large hole cut in the breach!imageDespite being made for a Chinese contract, I doubt this pistol ever made it to China. The contract was cancelled before it was delivered (mainly because the Chinese nationalists seemed to be more interested in killing Chinese communists rather than the Japanese) and the stock of pistols was absorbed into the Canadian Army’s inventory. This example has never been upgraded or modified post war and so today is a rare piece.

Royal Engineers H2O Troop Herrick IV T-Shirt

Regular readers will know that I love embroidered unit and operation specific t-shirts. These are usually produced in tiny numbers, privately purchased and only issued to those actually involved with a tour or particular role. They are greatly underappreciated and due to the nature of their acquisition there is virtually no published material on them. Tonight we have a lovely example from Operation Telic IV in 2004:imageThe badge on this t-shirt is for ‘3 H2O Troop’:imageThis design features as anthropomorphised water droplet, holding a Zulu shield with the roman numeral ‘V’ and a Union flag with the letter ‘RE’ for Royal Engineers.

My thanks go to the knowledgeable folks of the Facebook site ‘British Military Uniform & Camouflage Collectors Page’ who helped identify this unit as 3 Troop, 5 Field Squadron, 22 Engineer Regiment which was part of the 1st Mechanised Brigade based in Basra. The design of the badge and the reference to ‘H20’ suggests that 3 Troop were responsible for maintaining a clean water supply and a British government website form 2010 highlighted that amongst the many different aid schemes introduced for the people of Iraq one was:

Access to safe drinking water dropped by one third under the previous regime. Twenty potable water treatment facilities have been built or rehabilitated, and nine centralized sewage treatment facilities have been rehabilitated. More than one million people in southern Iraq have improved access to water.

Whilst in Basra itself:

  • In 2003, only 23% of Basrawis had access to piped water, by far the worst figures for any of Iraq’s 18 provinces. Only 9% of Basrawis were connected to a reliable sewage system.
  • Since then, improvements to water supplies, including pumps for isolated villages, have benefited over 1.25 million people (70% of Basrawis).
  • 200km of modern piping have been laid and over 5,000 leaks repaired.
  • $160 million invested in modernising and extending sewage system.
  • 40km of sewers and 7,000 septic tanks have been cleaned.
  • A water training centre in Basra has been constructed to train and increase the skills of Iraqi engineers in water treatment and leakage repair.
  • A reverse osmosis unit has been refurbished to supply potable water to about 500,000 people.
  • Improved water supply to 60,000 people in Al Amtahiyah (Basra Province).


  • DfID power and water projects will employ around 450 people, generate almost 100,000 workdays and secure around 17,000 workdays per year for operation and maintenance.

Utility Overcoat

Tonight’s object may at first seem an odd choice for the blog as it is just a vintage tweed overcoat:imageThis single breasted garment is of extremely high quality and was made by the famous firm of Burtons:imageWhat makes this coat of interest to us, however, is a tiny ‘CC41’ label sewn into the lining:imageThis mark indicates that the coat was made during wartime to utility specifications to save materials. CC41 stood originally for ‘Civilian Clothing 41’ and the label would become iconic in its own right. After the same principles were extended to other goods the ‘CC’ came to represent the words ‘controlled commodity’.CC41_markThe Utility Clothing Scheme was a rationing scheme introduced in the United Kingdom by the British government during World War II. In response to the shortage of clothing materials and labour due to the requirements of wartime austerity, the Board of Trade sponsored the creation of ranges of “utility clothing” meeting tight regulations regarding the amount of material and labour allowed to be used in their construction. Utility clothing, and later utility furniture, was marked with the CC41 tag.

In spite of its austere specifications, utility clothing designs were commissioned from leading fashion designers including Hardy Amies, Norman Hartnell and other members of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers. Designs had certain restrictions- double breasted suits and coats, turn-ups and superfluous pleats were all banned to save fabric. Dresses could have no more than two pockets and five buttons, six seams in the skirt of a woollen dress, two inverted or box pleats, or four knife pleats. No unnecessary decoration was allowed. This economy of style can be seen in the overcoat above which is single breasted and secured with three large plastic buttons.Wartime_Fashions-_Utility_Clothing,_1942_D10727Utility clothing was also subject to price regulations.
Profits were restricted for both manufactures and retailers which resulted in Utility clothing being significantly cheaper than non-utility clothing when first introduced. This together with the initial dislike by some retailers of reduced profits may have given utility clothing its bad name. Although initially there was a great deal of hostility directed at Utility clothing by the general public this reduced as more of the clothing reached the shops. The public was surprised to discover that the clothing varied in style & colour and was generally hard wearing and good quality.

Australian Army Camo Cream

We end our little Australian odyssey tonight with one final object. When I purchased the 88 pattern webbing set I checked the interior of the pouches, just in case anything had been left behind. Normally I come up empty, but in this case I was lucky enough to find a little pack of Australian Army camouflage cream:imageThe design of the packaging is very familiar as it is almost identical to the British Army version, however the shade of plastic used is lighter, and the printing on the outside indicates it is Australian in origin, along with an Australian NSN number:imageAs one would expect for a sunny country like Australia, the camo cream also acts as a sun block. The inside of the packet is again very familiar, with three different colours of cream and a small mirror to help apply it:imageThe shades are however very different to those used in the UK. Camo cream is issued in colours which complement the main uniform soldiers are wearing so here, instead of black, dark brown and dark green, the Australians use grey, a light green shade and a red brown colour.CmFPZW8VAAAT8FTThe colours of the cream, like those of the uniforms themselves, are designed to work most effectively in different Australian landscapes and pick up colours that are commonly seen there. In arid conditions the red-brown mimics much of the dust and soil seen in the landscape, whilst the green shades are better suited to some of Australia’s verdant jungles. When applying the camo cream, troops tailor the shades to the environment they are working in.untitledThis then brings us to the end of the Australian kit I picked up a couple of months ago. I am very pleased with this web set and I am slowly building up a nice little Australian collection- not an easy task in the UK where nearly everything has to be imported unless you can get lucky on EBay. As ever, I will continue to keep my eyes out for more interesting Australian pieces and cover them on the blog as I come across them.

Indian Army Used Spoon

Tonight we are looking at a metal spoon produced in the UK for use by the Indian Army:imageWe can tell that this spoon was destined for India as it is marked with an /|\ over an ‘I’ mark on the rear:imageThis was the military acceptance mark for India and is seen on a variety of British and Indian made military items used by the forces in the sub-continent. This spoon though was made in Sheffield and is marked with the makers stamp ‘SSPC&Co’:imageThis stands for the Sheffield Silver Plate and Cutlery Company Ltd, of Priestlet Street Sheffield. A 1921 dated advert by the company shows some of the designs of flatware they offered:Im19211203IM-SheffieldSilverPlateI suspect that this spoon was manufactured between the wars, as by the Second World War India was increasingly reliant on domestic manufacture to meet the needs of its military forces, as described in this exert from ‘The History of the Supply Department’

This industry, has been pursued on a small scale by the village blacksmith from times immemorial. In recent times larger units of production have come into being owned by enterprising smiths or others. The lines of production largely conformed to the rural requirements—namely, knives of various kinds, spoons, butcher’s implements, farm implements like sickles etc. Factories worked with steam or electric power were also started and these made cutlery of the modern type and surgical instruments. But such production continued to be small for long and the large proportion of the pen-knives, table knives, scissors, razors, spoons and forks etc. used in cities and towns was imported.

Production is scattered throughout the country but there are certain areas which enjoy notable hereditary skill; for instance, Aligarh and Moradabad in U.F.: Nizamabad and Wazirabad in the Punjab. The bigger factories are located in cities like Calcutta, Lahore and Bombay. The industry was mostly dependent on imported steel.

The war created a large demand for spoons, which gave a fillip to the industry. The Supply Department dealt with some of the larger producers. In other cases orders were placed with contractors who purchased partly wrought articles from rural areas and got them finished in workshops maintained by them. The production enormously increased and the total military demands in 1943 came to 5,800,000 pieces valued at Rs. 96 lacks. The Supply Department mostly purchased knives clasp, knives table, forks, spoons, locks and padlocks, The purchases of all kinds during 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945 were Rs. 10,300,000, Rs. 4,100,000, Rs. 6,200,000 and 4,750,000 respectively.

The goods now made to meet Defence demands are also suitable for civilian markets except that a greater variety may be required.