Category Archives: British Army

‘First Type’ Mk III 37 Pattern Basic Pouch

The introduction the Sten gun in 1940 gave the British Army a minor headache when it became apparent that the magazines were too long to allow them to be carried in the standard 37 pattern basic pouches then in service. This therefore led to the introduction of the MK III pouch, which was 1/2 inch longer than the earlier model to allow the magazines to fit in. Later models would be produced with quick release tabs, like the example here, but the early versions retained the press stud to secure the lid and it is an example of this pattern we are looking at tonight:imageApart from its length, the pouch conformed to the standard design that had been in use since the start of the war, described in the 37 pattern webbing manual as:

Basic Pouches- these are interchangeable, and are rectangular in shape to contain two Bren gun magazines each, or a number of grenades, or S.A.A. A buckle is provided at the top of each pouch for attachment of the brace;imageThis buckle has a loop at the top which serves for connecting the hook on the shoulder strap. Two double hooks are fitted to the back of each pouch for attachment to the waist belt:imageAs mentioned earlier, these early MK III pouches retained the brass press studs to secure the lid:imageThis particular pouch is marked on the underside of the lid as having been manufactured by BG Ltd in 1943:imageThese pouches saw service after the war and the following instructions for what to carry in them come from a Royal Navy publication of 1950:

These are designed to carry ammunition or Bren magazines. A typical ‘carry’ for the rifleman of a section is two Bren magazines in each pouch, or two magazines in one pouch and fifty rounds of rifle ammunition in the other. Grenades cannot be carried in the pouches with other ammunition. There is no specific place for grenades to be carried, but they are usually placed in the haversack. The pouches are fitted with metal prongs that fit in the canvas sockets in the inside of the belt. They are worn on the front of the equipment, equidistant from the central buckle and so that the arms are free to move across the body.

Black Kestrel Patrol Boots

The Kestrel patrol boot was a medium weight set of boots issued to soldiers as a general purpose boot for short to medium patrols and exercises. It was not as good in cold weather as arctic boots, nor designed for use in extremely hot temperatures, but fitted into the mid-range where most exercises and indeed combat was expected to occur. These boots were designed to be lighter weight and more comfortable than earlier designs and incorporated fabric panels for breathability and robust soles for marching in. The boots were also produced in both brown and black, and it is the black pair we are looking at tonight:The boots were issued in a standard cardboard shoe box:On the outside a stores label has been attached with NSN number and sizing:Opening the box it can be seen that packaged in with the boots are a number of accessories:These include insoles and spare laces:A tube of boot polish:And an instruction leaflet:The boots themselves feature a deeply cleated rubber sole:And fabric panels let into the uppers to make the boots both softer and more comfortable and to aid the movement of air so the wearer’s feet don’t overheat:The boots fasten up the front with laces in a mixture of standard lace holes and quick lace hooks:A stores label is sewn into the tongue of each boot:One cadet user has given a detailed assessment of this pattern of boot that makes interesting reading, covering its use by cadets in detail:

Looking at them they looked a good pair of boots and felt very light when compared to the good old assault boots that were issued in the past – not a bad thing at all! 

Looking at MOD literature, the YDS Kestrel boots are a patrol boot which means they are suited to situations where the threat of combat is medium to low with a temperature range of -10º to +35º. Which makes them ideal for cadet use!  

It is also recommended that they are used with gaiters in wet weather which is something to keep in mind, although you don’t need to rush out a buy a pair.

First test was how they fit. After adjusting the laces, an easy job with the lacing loops on the upper part of the boot and the lace locks as well, I put them on had a quick walk around the house. No problems at all and no squeaking or creaking either!  

I decided to put them through a series of different environments to simulate the sort of things you’d come across in cadets: a two mile road walk, a two mile walk through muddy fields and woodland close to where I live, a two mile walk with a 10kg pack on and lastly a quick go on the outdoor ‘gym’ trail in the local park. 

On the first two mile walk I found the boots to be comfortable and I didn’t feel that my feet got ‘hot’ while walking. I stopped after about half a mile to adjust the laces – something I do with every pair of boots when heading out to ensure they fit snugly without rubbing.

At the end I had no rubbing or pinching on my feet and they still fitted nicely.  

Next up was a trek through a muddy field and through a local woodland. Now looking at the MOD advice I did this with gaiters on and again I found the boots comfortable to walk in. 

One thing I did note was that the soles held a lot of mud, but I purposely went through all the muddy patches to see how they did at the extreme end of muddy so it’s not a surprise they clogged up.

Now I didn’t go through any puddles deeper than about 50mm and in all honesty I avoided trying to wade through a stream as I know the fabric upper would get my feet wet and to be frank I don’t think doing that would be a true reflection of how they perform on cadet type activities.

After bit of a clean I headed out for a walk with a 10kg pack on to see how much support the boots offered and how comfortable they were walking in with a little weight on. 

Again I thought they were very comfortable and the high leg provided a good level of support for my ankle with no rubbing etc. and the boot flexed enough to allow my feet to spread slightly with weight as well.  

Lastly I headed out to the outdoor gym trail in the local park and went over the various obstacles to stretch and twist my feet to see how supportive these boots are over obstacles and the like.

As I expected having gone over the last few tests with them they were fine, comfortable and supportive with the fabric upper coming into its own moving and flexing with ease.  

So after putting the boots through a few tests and wearing them generally for a while I’d have to sum up by saying that I think these are a good cadet boot.

Yes they have a fabric upper which means wading through water may be an issue but in all honesty that’s not something that will happen a lot, if at all while on cadet activities. But that fabric upper also makes them comfy and easy to ‘break in’ as well – good news for cadet feet!

They are comfortable to walk and march in and clean up easily which is a big plus.

58 Pattern Webbing Overview

The 58 pattern webbing set was the mainstay of the British Army throughout the Cold War and although we have covered odd pieces on the blog before, a recent purchase of a nice clean set of webbing has given the opportunity to go back and look at the set as a whole and then study the missing components not previously covered.

When it was introduced the official list of changes from 1959 described the set as:

The above items of web equipment are hereby introduced to meet the requirements for an improved pattern of equipment for use in temperate and tropical climates. The equipment will enable the soldier in the field to carry his ammunition, rations, water, personal clothing and necessaries. Issue will be restricted to units as nominated by War office from time to time.

The new design comprises two orders, Fighting and Marching.

The main features are:-

  • Transference of the weight from the shoulders to the hips
  • Transference of the ammunition pouches from the front of the body to the sides of the waist belt.
  • The fitting of a yoke to the shoulder straps to provide greater stability

 

The design was to remain in manufacture for over thirty years and many of the components were updated and their design tweaked with experience. This example is a very late set, but shows the basic principle and the primary components:58 PatternThe water bottle and its carrier were not originally included in the set, and had to be retrospectively added. This component is not shown above, but we have covered it here. Also not illustrated is the large pack, which was universally detested for its poor design, again this has been covered previously here.

The web gear was attached using a combination of traditional wire ‘c’ hooks and also straps with metal hooks and loops that secured each piece to the belt or yoke:imageThe yoke itself was a major advance for this set of webbing as it was padded and far more comfortable than previous webbing sets and the 58 pattern set was to see service right through until the mid-1990s, with the Falklands campaign being its shining hour. By the fist Gulf War it was partially replaced by PLCE, but was still used by many troops who had not yet received the new PLCE web set.image76The first set of fitting instructions gives the following, comprehensive, overview of the set:

With this equipment a considerable part of the load is normally borne by the waist, but the import of the old adage “a change is as good as a rest” can be brought into effect by the simple expedient of unfastening the buckle of the belt, thus transferring the load entirely to the shoulders. The equipment can be assembled in “fighting order” or in “marching order” and by means of easily adjustable straps the load can be shifted whilst the wearer is on the move. The front of the body is kept free from encumbrances which might restrict certain movements.

The items of this equipment, which are not interchangeable with similar items of earlier types of webbing equipment, have been designed to accommodate the latest types of arms and accessories issued to the Services, including the lightweight pick and shovel.

Description of the Equipment

The main items of equipment are made of rotproofed and water repellent lightweight webbing, dyed to British Standard Camouflage Colour no 15.

The metal fittings are principally of light alloy with a dull protective finish which should not be removed. Quick release fittings have been used wherever possible to give quick access to the contents of the pouches etc.

The following are the component parts, which can be assembled in a variety of combinations to meet differing load carrying requirements:

  • Belt, Waist
  • Carrier, Cape
  • Pack
  • Pouch, Amunition, Left
  • Pouch, Ammunition, Right
  • Pouches, Rear (pair forming one item)
  • Straps, Utility (two)
  • Yoke

 

 

Softie Trousers

Following on from the softie jacket we looked at a few weeks ago, tonight we turn to the matching trousers, which are again made of a reversible soft shell construction, with thick padding inside. They can be worn with either a green side outermost:imageOr with the tan side showing:imageIn order to accommodate this reversible nature, the waist is secured with a pair of buttons, one facing outwards and one inwards, regardless of which way round the trousers are:imageA full length zip runs up each leg to allow them to be easily taken our off, even with boots on:imageNote also that the cuff is elasticated to help retain air inside the trousers and give the wearer another layer of insulation. A label is sewn into the garment with details of sizing, NSN number etc.:imageThese trousers are normally issued with a compression or ‘stuff’ sack, much like a sleeping bag which allows the air in them to be squeezed out and their size reduced right down for storage in a rucksack when not needed, sadly my example is missing this, but they are a fairly cheap and common thing to come across so I am sure one will turn up soon enough (I have already gotten lucky and found one for the jacket for £1!).

Softie jackets and trousers seem to be very popular with the troops, as one soldier explains:

Softie! All day, worth spending money on a good one, especially if you’re static for a decent while, packs smaller , keeps you drier , keeps you warmer, and you can use it as a pillow in its stuff sack if you are that way inclined.

The only criticism of the issue softie seems to be that it gets worn very quickly and even with its compression sack it is bulkier than the latest commercial designs. Many troops do buy Snugpak or North Face softies in preference to the issue examples, but equally many really like the standard army pattern.

A British Heavy Gun in Action Postcard

This week’s postcard is another from the Daily Mail’s War Picture series, this time of British heavy guns in action:SKM_C30819043011190This image was actually used in at least two series of these cards and can also be found in a black and white version. This example is however colourised. The main focus of the image is of course the gun itself:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (2)I am not actually sure which gun the image illustrates, but it certainly seems to be particularly large and may be something like a breach loading 60 pounder. Shells for the gun can be seen being prepared to the left of the image, the shells and their propellant charges can be seen being prepared for firing:SKM_C30819043011190 - CopyAn officer and a couple of gunners stand to the right watching proceedings:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (3)A curious item sits on the ground in the foreground. I suspect that this is some sort of device for cleaning out the barrel of the gun, but I am not entirely sure so if you recognise it please comment below:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (4)The Daily Mail’s postcard series was hugely popular, as the paper was keen to report at the time:

The popularity of the Daily Mail Official War postcards was manifest yesterday. They met with a ready sale in the shops and won enthusiastic praise from the public.

Wherever the cards were displayed they attracted groups of people throughout the day, and there were many favourable comments on the extraordinary wide range of subjects, the clearness of detail, and the wealth of human and historic interest in the series.

A Chaplain’s Discovery

An interesting incident occurred at on the large West End Stores. An Army chaplain came in to see the postcards. Suddenly he came upon the postcard entitled “An Army Chaplain Tending British Graves.” With a look of surprise he bent forward and examined it more closely. The he turned to the attendant:

“As a matter of fact,” he said, “that’s myself!”

He had recognised the little field cemetery with his own figure bending over a grave in the foreground of the picture. He belonged to a famous Highland regiment. They had buried their adjutant in the field cemetery that morning, he said. He pointed to the little crosses laid on the heroes’ graves and spoke of the tender care with which the soldiers had fashioned them.

Sherwood Foresters Miniature Silver Trophy

Miniature trophies were often given out as prizes to those who won regimental sports matches, although there would be a big trophy that would be engraved with the winning soldier or team’s name, smaller trophies were given to individuals that were there’s to keep. Examples of these small trophies can occasionally be seen next to bigger trophies in photographs of winning teams such as this one here.

Tonight we are taking a look at a small silver trophy produced in India and presented to a member of the Sherwood Foresters:imageThe trophy is made of ‘935’ silver and this is stamped into the metal:imageMost UK silver is 925 silver which means it is 92.5% silver with the rest usually copper to provide strength. This is the minimum silver content to be legally declared silver in Great Britain and in the early twentieth century many foreign manufacturers deliberately made a slightly purer silver alloy (93.5% silver) so that they could be sure of passing the UK minimum requirement, even if their alloys were slightly less pure on testing than they expected at manufacture.

This trophy is in the form of a miniature two handled loving cup and is engraved on the front with the regimental crest of The Sherwood Foresters:imageThe trophy is mounted on a mahogany base and the base has a round manufacturer’s disc showing that it was made by J Manikrai and Sons of Karachi:imageMy thanks to Mike Garrett who offers this information about this manufacturer:

Presumably this firm is the continuation of the silversmith Manik Rai. Manik Rai was a silversmith who fled the Kutch area following the ‘Chhapaniyo Dukal’, the great famine that struck the Kutch area in 1899-1900, and then settled in Karachi. He was noted as an exhibitor in the Lahore Exhibition of 1909.

Unfortunately we don’t know for what sport this cup was issued, nor the exact date. To give a flavour of some of the sport undertaken by the Regiment in India, this account of boxing from 1934 is perhaps a good representation of the esteem sports were held in:

Following upon the Blake Cup Novices meeting came the inter company and individual championships. These took place at the end of February, and it was decided to hire the Western India Football Association Stadium for the occasion. Furthermore to attract the Bombay public, five special contests were arranged between leading Presidency amateur boxers and well-known boxers from surrounding stations. These proved to be first class contests.

The very excellent lighting arrangements in the Stadium were erected by the Royal Engineers, and two stands were put up by a local contractor. The result was a very large and impressive boxing arena, excellently lit at night, and capable of seating twelve hundred people at a session.

The companies experienced a certain amount of difficulty in training some of their men up to the necessary company standard. This was due to the fact that a very great number of old company and battalion boxers had gone home during the last year.

However the improvement shown by some of those who had fought in the Blake Cup only a fortnight before was remarkable, and we saw three good nights of boxing.

MTP Rucksack Cover

Just as it had done with the desert DPM rucksack covers, the British Army introduced MTP pattern rucksack covers when that camouflage became standard issue to allow its DPM patterned bergens to continue in service. Bergens are a relatively expensive item of military kit, whilst a simple cloth cover is comparatively cheap and a simple way to ensure that supply chains were not clogged up waiting for replacement kit to replace serviceable bergens that just happened to be in the old camouflage.

The rucksack cover consists of a large piece of MTP fabric:imageThis has a drawstring around its edges that allow it to be secured over the bergen:imageA plastic slider buckle allows the string to be tensioned to give a secure fit:imageAs usual, a small white label is sewn inside with details of the item’s NSN number and date of manufacture:imageTwo MTP covers can be found, a smaller version designed to cover packs such as the daysack; here modelled by a Ghurkha on exercise:imageAnd a larger bergen cover like the example above, which can be seen here being used by a fusilier:image