Plumber’s Tool Bag

Over the years I have bought a large number of British Army tools and up until now they have usually been chucked in a drawer or cupboard. Recently however I have picked up a military pattern plumber’s tool bag in which to store them:

This tool bag is not marked, the markings usually being found in the very base of the bag where the most wear would occur. It does however exactly conform to other military pattern bags so I am happy it is of the correct type, even if I can’t say with complete certainty that it is indeed military in origin. The tool bag has heavy duty handles that are attached to straps that pass down to the base of the bag to help hold the weight of a full bag of tools. The handles themselves are sewn round a former to make them wider and more padded for comfort:

There is a small internal pocket on the tool bag:

The base of the bag, where markings would normally be seen, is a separate panel, sewn into the bag:

Charles Harrison spent the war as a plumber with the Royal Engineers, as recalled by a family member:

After training he was posted to the Royal Engineers and he worked on several construction programmes including repairing the port of Stranrar where they also installed a pipe line under the jetty. Whilst posted to Sandwich, Kent, he was sent to London to work on repairs to the London docks which had been damaged by enemy air raids. In London he was billeted, with many others, in the Tower of London, and remembers the many air raids whilst they were working. Later he and his colleagues were billeted at bomb damaged houses in the east end of London. When he had free time he enjoyed dancing, especially at the Hammersmith Palais.

Prior to the D Day invasion Charles was instructed on the construction of valves and later worked on installing valves in the concrete blocks used in the construction of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches, France. Following the invasion he went to France although, he says, they were never told that France had been invaded at the time. He travelled across the English Channel in a landing craft and says he was ‘as sick as a dog’, and was so ill he didn’t care what happened to him!

On landing, his unit set about constructing the Mulberry Harbour. They encamped in Arromanches and such were the skills of the men of the Royal Engineers that they built their own showers out of biscuit tins and by welding pipes together. From there, he travelled north to Calais where he was engaged in repairing the docks and cranes and then to the River Rhine to repair damaged bridges.

Although usually behind the front lines his company did come under fire once near Dortmund and he recalled seeing the tops of the German tanks which were firing at them. Some of the men he served with were killed, mostly by accidents especially whist constructing Bailey Bridges. Charles recalled that he had very little leave during his four years of Army service.

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