Monthly Archives: April 2019

Badges on Battledress Book review

It is said that every author has a ‘Magnus opus’ in them; that one masterpiece that eclipses all their other work and stands as the crowning achievement of their career. Badges on Battledress is that book for Jon Mills, an author we have reviewed several times before on the blog.imageBadges on Battledress is a two volume book covering the cloth insignia worn on Battledress uniforms from the start of World War II until the uniform was dropped on the 1960s. These badges were both officially sanctioned and privately purchased and were worn on the sleeves by numerous different units of both British and Empire forces. Between the two volumes this topic stretches to fill over 1200 pages and these books are likely to remain the definitive work on the subject for decades to come. Over 6000 images fill the volumes, a mixture of modern photographs of the badges themselves and period photographs showing troops wearing some of them. The quality of the images is excellent throughout as you would expect from a book of this sort.imageAccompanying the images is a well written text that provides background on the units wearing the badges, if possible details of when and where badges were introduced as well as a wider information on the official machinations surrounding military insignia, the manufacturers of the badges and other anecdotes as they apply to military insignia. This makes for an enjoyable read, with individual badges signposted in the text by the use of numbers that point the reader directly to the specific badge. If there is any shortcoming with the book it is this as sometimes a number refers to an example hundreds of pages away from the text or indeed in the other volume. I am unsure if there is actually any way round this, and when doing specific research it is not a problem, however if you are just browsing the text it can be a little distracting. There are also occasionally slight problems with the numb reign itself where the text is a digit or two out from the images referenced- again this is very forgive able given the size and scope of the book and it is easy to work around as it is pretty obvious the text is referring to the next badge along.imageThe book also covers the post war period, with insignia worn by the army, WAC and TA throughout the 1950s and 1960s. This is the first work to cover this subject since Cole’s short book published over sixty years ago. The books do not cover the Home Guard (which Mills has already covered in his book on the Home Guard) or the cadet forces, but the books are already massively long without these units so this is an entirely sensible choice and perhaps we will be lucky enough to get an accompanying volume on cadet insignia in a few years time.imageIt is fair to say that these volumes will be the definitive text on this subject for many years to come. They are not cheap, costing £150 plus postage for the two volumes, but their size and scope make them exceptional value for money and if you are a badge collector, researcher of just find the subject of military heraldry interesting I would urge you to pick up a copy. I suspect that these will not be reprinted and once the original print run has sold out I would suspect the secondary prices will climb to ridiculous levels so buy while you can. Copies can be purchased direct from the author by emailing bob19391967@yahoo.co.ukimage

72 Pattern Right Hand Pouch

The 72 pattern web set was a trials webbing set that was experimented with in the early 1970s. It was designed to be easier to decontaminate in an NBC environment and to address some of the shortcomings of the 58 pattern design. It has been several years since we last looked at any parts of this set, looking at the yoke and the left hand pouch. Tonight we look at the right hand pouch. imageThis pouch is a mirror of the left, but does not have a set of loops for a bayonet frog. The waist belt is also a female fastener rather than a male:imageOther than that the design is identical so there is a ready use pouch for a single SLR magazine secured with a press stud:imageAnd a larger utility pouch that can hold either L4 magazines or a water bottle:imageThis pouch is fastened with a black plastic two prong fastener:imageThis was highlighted as a weak point in the design as the fastener easily broke in service.

The rear of the pouch has a sewn on panel to add a name and number to, originally white this example is now very worn:imageA pair of eyelets are fitted to allow a machete to be slung using a wire hanger:imageAs this would be right above the wearer’s thigh, this does not seem the most practical of designs!

The pouch fastens to the rear pouch with a set of tapes and plastic and in lieu of a bayonet fixing, the right hand pouch has a couple of loops to attach other equipment to:imageIt goes without saying that the 72 pattern was not a success. One soldier who tried it recalls:

I tried a set on once. It was alles über der platz. Unlike trusty ’58 it was very awkward to don with any kind of speed and looked fit to fall to pieces under any kind of strain. Gash.image

Kasouli Barracks in the Snow Postcard

This week’s postcard takes us back once more to the sleepy hill static of Kasauli and a different view of its barracks, this time under a dusting of snow:SKM_C30819040507550Despite being over 6000 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Himalayas, Kasauli does not usually have temperatures in the winter lower that 2 degrees Celsius, so this must have been taken in a unseasonably cold snap. The mountains can be seen in the background, looming over the cantonment:SKM_C30819040507551The barrack blocks can be seen in the foreground, each an elegant brick building with high ceilings to encourage the circulation of air and keep the interiors cool for the off duty soldiers:SKM_C30819040507551 - CopyMost of these face onto the parade ground, which sits as a large snow covered flat space to the right of the image:SKM_C30819040507551 - Copy (2)In the background can be seen the tower of the local Church of England (now Church of India) church, Christ Church:SKM_C30819040507551 - Copy (3)This attractive sandstone building with a green copper roof was built in 1853 and was the subject of an interesting story set during a rebellion by Gorkahs. The story goes that the rebelling Gorkahs  had raided a treasury and secured loot of Rs. 20000. Somehow some British troops got hold of this loot and fearing for its safety buried it under a tree in the church yard…where it subsequently became lost as happens in all good treasure stories and despite searching has still not been found to this day.

In the foreground can be seen a set of wooden poles with a cross piece:SKM_C30819040507551 - Copy (4)From other views taken at different angles, it seems that this was part of an assault course, with ropes for the troops to climb, bars for balancing on etc.

In the immediate foreground are a pair of galvanised tin baths:SKM_C30819040507551 - Copy (5)Quite what these are doing in the snow isn’t clear- perhaps an officer felt that a hot bath in the snow would be an invigorating experience or perhaps they had just been washed and left out to dry when the snow fell…

This postcard has been marked up as a Christmas greetings and was printed in England for Moorli Dhur & Sons of Umballa. It is impossible to date these kind of images, but I suspect from the style of the reverse that it dates to the Edwardian Era.

Civilian Duty Respirator

It was quickly recognised in the 1930s that a level of respirator was required that fell between the cheap but limited civilian respirator and the far more effective, but expensive, general service respirator. The government therefore introduced the Civilian Duty Respirator, the “Air Raid Precautions Handbook No1” described it as:

The Civilian Duty respirator has been designed for members of civil air raid precautions services and others who might be called upon to carry out their normal duties in the presence of gas, but who are not likely to be continuously exposed to the highest concentrations.

The civil duty respirator was issued with a canvas haversack, an anti-dimming set and an instruction leaflet:imageWe will take a closer look at the haversack next week, tonight we are concentrating on the respirator itself:imageReturning to the ARP Handbook No1, the following description was provided for the mask:

The facepiece is of stouter construction the in the case of the civilian respirator, to withstand harder wear. It is made of rubber, moulded to fit closely to the face. It is fitted with an outlet valve, imageand has a protuberance on the left cheek to which a microphone can be attached for those regularly employed of telephone work.imageThe facepiece is held in position on the face by elastic bands passing round the back of the head. These can be adjusted for fit and comfort by means of buckles.imageThe rubber of the facepiece fits tightly round the end of the container and is secured by means of a metal band, or, in earlier examples, by cord.

The eyepieces are made of strong plain glass discs fitted into metal rims, and are removable by unscrewing for decontamination purposes. imageThere were three different patterns of canister on these masks, the MK I was made of waterproofed cardboard with metal ends. The MK II was identical but made entirely from metal. The third pattern is the one one this mask:imageC.D. Mark III: an improved and slightly larger container, which is in fact identical with the container of the civilian respirator except that the charcoal in it has a higher degree of activation. The main effect of this difference is that the container can absorb more gas before becoming saturated- i.e. That it’s effective life in use is longer. In this container the inlet valve is at the inner end, and can itself be disinfected, so that no absorbent pad is required as in the case of the Mark I and II patterns.imageThe Mark III container is distinguished from the civilian respirator container by having a red band round the black lacquered body.

This example of the civilian duty respirator is stamped with a date of manufacture, here December 1941:imageThis design of respirator continued in service with the Civil Defence into the post war period and was used throughout the 1950s and into the 60s. Of the three main designs of early war respirator (Civilian, Civilian Duty and Service), it is probably the least recognised, but served for decades, thankfully never for real.

Spithead Silver Jubilee Fleet Review Mug

1977 marked twenty five years since the Queen had ascended to the throne. To mark. The Silver Jubilee the Royal Navy held a fleet review at Spithead. A fleet review saw many ships of the Royal Navy, plus vessels from friendly nations, come together at Spithead which was a large sheltered anchorage for the Queen to inspect. These events were becoming increasingly rare in the modern era and so a variety of commemorative items were produced for the sailors taking part to commemorate the event. Tonight we have an example of a china mug that was given out to some of the participants. Being the 1970s, an attractive brown colour was chosen!imageOn the front is the official Silver Jubilee logo with the Queen’s head in the centre:imageThis design is seen on many different Silver Jubilee items; more unusually however is the design of warships in the background.

This mug was produced with many different designs on the rear for different ship’s companies. In this case it has the badges for the Royal Navy hospitals on it:imageThe mark on the base of the mug indicates it was manufactured by Lord Nelson potteries:imageMy guess is that this firm specialised in making commemorative ware for purchase by Royal Navy ship’s companies.

The fleet review was a major event with the obligatory runs ashore, as remembered by one sailor:

wuz there – HMS Plymouth, bastard to get ashore, pubs rammed, loads of pissed septics and other nations, didn,t bother after that

The RNR were on the Rothesay next door and had pussers rum – went around there

Made you proud to be a matelot though……………………………….

The full programme for the review is available online here.

Shell Dressing Haversack

The shell dressing haversack was a small webbing satchel issued to troops to carry shell dressings in in the field to allow stretcher bearers to perform first aid on casualties before they were passed back down the line to the Royal Army Medical Corps. These bags had originated in the First World War, where the edges had been bound in leather and the securing straps made of leather with brass buckles. By the Second World War this design had been updated to a completely web based design:imageThe satchel is a simple design, with a pair of weather flaps and a box type top flap to protect the shell dressings from the elements:imageThe lid itself is secured with two web straps and a pair of brass Twigg buckles:imageAlthough the main body of the bag is made of woven cotton webbing, the carry strap is of a lighter weave, sewn to the rear of the haversack:imageA brass buckle allows the length of the strap to be adjusted, in the same manner as the respirator haversacks of the period:imageThe front of the haversack has a large red Geneva cross on a white circle to indicate that the contents are for medical use:imageThe designation “Shell Dressings” is stencilled on the front, together with the number ‘2’:imageThe markings inside indicate that this haversack was made by M&Co in 1942:imageThe haversack would hold a dozen of the standard shell dressings and can be seen being carried in the field by medical personnel:imageThese packs lasted in service for decades and even today they lurk in various reservist units as a haversack for general first aid supplies during exercises.

I do not currently have enough shell dressings to fill this pack, however it does serve as a useful place to keep all my other medical related equipment.

DDPM CS95 Trousers

Throughout much of the War on Terror British soldiers wore desert DPM uniforms, the two tone sand camouflage coming to represent the standard appearance of soldiers in the press and on television screens. This pattern was to have shortcomings in Afghanistan when troops moved into the ‘green zone’ but in desert conditions it was an excellent choice of colour, especially in Iraq where the majority of the landscape was sand. The cut of the uniforms issued mirrored the CS95 uniforms produced in standard temperate DPM, but in the correct colour palette for the terrain.

Tonight we turn to another of those items that I should really have covered on the blog before, but haven’t for one reason another; the DDPM CS95 trousers:imageThese trousers are made of the standard desert camouflage with a dark brown pattern printed over a lighter coloured sand background. The trousers are generously cut for comfort and sport two large buttoned patch pockets on the thighs:imageA further pair of slash pockets are available at the waist:imageAnd a single buttoned rear pocket over the right buttock:imageThe fly is secured with a zip, whilst the waist is secured with both a drawstring and a button:imageWaist adjustment can also be made through a pair of button tabs on each hip:imageNote also the belt loops to pass a trouser belt through. The bottom of each trouser leg has a drawstring to allow them to be drawn in and bloused over the boot:imageAs is usual a white stores and sizing label is sewn to the trousers:imageThis design and pattern of trouser was ubiquitous for many years and can be seen in numerous photographs of troops deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. The introduction of MTP made them obsolete, but they survive in huge quantities and e collector should have no difficulty in finding a pair for the collection.image