Category Archives: British Army

37 Pattern Haversack

The 37 pattern haversack was far larger in capacity than its predecessors. There had been a gradual increase in size from the 08 pattern model, which was very shallow in depth, through the larger but wedge shaped haversacks of the 19 and 25 pattern sets to the much squarer 37 pattern version. This haversack was introduced with the rest of the webbing set in 1938 and the fitting instructions described it as:

Haversack- This consists of a rectangular bag of dimensions approximately 11 inches by 9 ½ inches by 4 inches,

and has a flap secured by two small straps and buckles.

The interior is longitudinally divided by means of a partition, which is in turn connected to the front of the bag by a small partition, to form two front compartments of equal size. These compartments contain the water bottle (in carrier) and rectangular mess tin.

On the back of the haversack near the top two tabs are fitted for attachment of the shoulder straps

and on the base two small buckles are fitted for the attachment of the diagonal portion of the shoulder straps.

Weather flaps are provided which fold underneath the flaps.

The haversack would be produced throughout the war and in all corners of the empire (we have previously covered Indian and South African variants). This example however is of British manufacture and the stamps on the underside of the top flap indicate it was manufactured by Bass Smeaton in 1941:

In service the waterbottle was soon removed from the haversack and hung from the brace ends to free up more space in the haversack for personal kit. The pack is small, despite being an improvement on its predecessors, but a surprisingly large amount of kit can be carried. Contents of course varied based on personal preference, timeframe and standard operating procedure. Whilst on the recent Monty’s Men trip the contents of my haversack were:

  1. Woollen jumper
  2. . Cap comforter
  3. . Woollen gloves
  4. . Spare socks
  5. . Mess tins
  6. . Emergency ration tin
  7. . Tea tin
  8. . Washroll with soap, razor, spare laces etc.
  9. . Towel
  10. . Hussif sewing kit
  11. . Mirror
  12. . Candle
  13. . Knife, fork and spoon
  14. . Waterproof cape (under top flap)
  15. . Tin mug (attached to outside)

Mk 6 Helmet Nape Protector

For service in Northern Ireland, the British Army issued an upgrade kit for the standard MK 6 helmet that converted it into something more suitable for dealing with rioting. The IS (internal security) pack consisted of a Perspex see through visor that could be folded down to protect the wearer’s eyes or lifted up when not needed and a nape protector to protect the back of the neck.

The back of the neck was vulnerable as there was an unprotected section below the helmet but above the collar where a man could be struck with a blunt object or where a projectile could hit and injure him. The nape protector is also fireproof and so prevents burning liquids such as petrol bombs from pouring down a soldier’s neck.

The nape protector was a piece of padded heavy duty green nylon, with a wire stiffener along its bottom edge:

Stitched ribs held the protector together and added further stiffness to it:

The nape protector was secured within the helmet with strips of Velcro, which married up with their counterparts on the inside of the helmet shell:

A label was of course attached with NSN number, year of manufacture and contract number:

Photographs can be seen of soldiers wearing these nape protectors whilst serving in Northern Ireland:

These protectors seem to have been first manufactured around 1986, just as the first MK 6 helmets were coming into service and production continued until at least 1999 as evidenced by my example.

Troops Disembarking From a Steamer Postcard

This week’s postcard depicts a group of soldiers parading on the quayside after disembarking from a steamer:

The men are dressed in khaki drill and pith helmets:

By contrast they are being inspected by members of the diplomatic corps, who are dressed in white parade uniforms:

The steamer itself can be seen in the background and this seems to be a small vessel, perhaps carrying both freight and passengers. It has a single funnel and seems far smaller than one would expect for a troop ship:

The ship’s officers can be seen, again dressed in white, on the bridge:

Landing in a new country from a ship could be a dizzying experience, here William Pennington describes landing from a steamer in India:

Aboard the ship we troops were assembling, glad that the journey was over. I was full of excitement as I dragged my kit-bag to the landing deck, wearing my Wolseley helmet, to protect me from the blazing sun which, even at nine in the morning, was casting its heat and brilliance everywhere…

And, as we took our first step on the gangway, we were already bathed in sweat and feeling the discomfort we would come to know so well. The stentorian voices of those in command, both aboard and ashore, were clearly heard above the bedlam of noises, as were the martial tunes played by the Royal Artillery band as it marched the length of the docks with its measured tread. Beyond the activities alongside the ship stood the troop-train, black smoke rising from the funnel. It’s drabness was punctuated only by the flashes of colourful headwear and the dress of the bandsmen.

My walk down the gangway added but a few more steps to the countless thousands which had been made by the soldiers of the British Empire since 1857 and the days of the East India Company. I was to join the garrison of some sixty thousand who were presently stationed in India to keep order in the country and to provide protection from potential invaders…

Type D, Mk V Field Telephone

During the Second World War, Divisional HQ level units and above used the F type field telephone (see here). Units lower down the food chain tended to be issued the D Type MK V field telephone, which we are looking at tonight:

The following excellent description comes from Joseph Barrett on the Warrelics forum:

The Telephone Set D Mk V was a portable instrument for field use in Army formations forward of divisional headquarters. It provided the following facilities:

1) Calls by buzzer

2) Responds by bell to magneto generator calling and by aural indication to buzzer calling

3) Speech communication

4) Morse communication by buzzer and key

The instrument, having a magneto bell, could only be rung by another telephone, or telephone exchange, which has a magneto generator. It could only call by buzzer, which gives visual indication to Switchboards UC (Universal Call), and aural indication to another telephone when not working through an exchange. Maximum range was 14-16 miles (speech) and 25 miles (Morse) using D8 twisted cable or 8-10 miles (speech) and 15 miles (Morse) using D3 cable. Like the F Set, it was powered by two 1.5V ‘X’ or ‘S’ Cells. In addition to the normal handset, the set also incorporated a single headphone, which could be used on a listening watch. The Telephone Set D Mk V* was similar but without the headphone. In army slang, the set was commonly known as a “Don Five”.

The D type telephone was housed in a sturdy metal tin:

The lid of this tin was hinged so it could be opened as in the photograph above and a small hook acted as a latch to prevent it opening unexpectedly:

A pair of metal loops are fitted on either side to allow a carrying strap to be attached:

Finally the telephone seems to be able to be carried on the waist belt as a pair of webbing loops are riveted on the back of the case:

Inside the telephone lacks a magneto to allow it to alert another telephone that the operator is calling (hence no winding handle), but it does have a bell to indicate incoming calls:

The two terminals in front of the bell allow the telephone wires to be attached. Next to this is a battery box (missing it’s top cover) and a key to allow Morse messages to be tapped out:

The extreme right of the telephone has the buzzer unit:

This can be pulled out for maintenance (and is consequently frequently missing):

The handset of the telephone is stored underneath and consists of a large black receiver and microphone made of Bakelite in the usual manner:

A button is fitted to the handset and needs to be depressed in order to speak:

A metal tab is fitted to the telephone that can be pulled out to place the handset on when the telephone is in use:

This slides back into the telephone body when not needed:

Finally the underside of the lid has a couple of etched brass instruction plates with details of the telephone’s wiring and instructions on its use:

These telephones saw extensive use throughout the war and can be seen in use here with a Canadian artillery battery:

Clansman Ancillaries Bag

Clansman was the British Army radio system in use from 1976 until 2010. The system had a huge array of parts, accessories and add ons and collecting all the features would surely be a challenge for any collector. As a system that was used extensively and has only recently been disposed of, some elements are readily available at ridiculously cheap prices. Recently I picked up a Clansman ancillaries bag at a show for £1, one of many dozens in a box:

The bag is made of butyl nylon and was used for carrying spare batteries, headsets, handsets etc. This diagram from the Clansman user manual illustrates some typical contents:

The bag has a pair of weather flaps under the main top flap to help protect its contents:

And a complicated set of friction buckles and straps to secure the lid of the bag:

A pair of plastic D rings are fitted to each side of the bag to allow a shoulder strap to be attached if required:

The rear of the bag has the NSN number for this component clearly stamped:

Some of the last users of the Clansman radios were the Cadet forces, and this account of them training on it comes from 2010:

On Saturday 22nd May, Cdt Borhara and Sgt Cotton (ATC) from 487 Sqn attended the Khaki Badger Clansman Radio conversion course at 1289 (Stratford) Sqn, for a lesson in how to use the VHF Provisional and Full skills in a practical setting, using Clansman 350, 351 and 352 radios.

The day started off with an introduction to the course by Sgt Caine, with a brief for what was going to happen on the day. With the sun blazing and the mood high, we got to work with the radios.

First lesson was a hands on introduction to the 350 Clansman radio, learning about its component parts and how to set up the radio to function correctly in the field. This day was a large learning curve for some of the staff in attendance, so the introduction was eye opening to say the least. Once familiar with the set-up of a 350 Clansman we moved onto the 351 parts and functionality, including the contents of an ancillary bag, how to use each part and how they were connected to the main radio.

Once familiar with the first two radios, we quickly learnt that a 351 and 352 radio are very similar, so looked at how to set up the radio for each configuration. After a brief lunch, we headed out into the scorching sunshine to carry out some practical exercises with the radios in our groups. Each group headed out to their own spot (in the shade!) and proceeded to set up the radios in the assigned configuration, erect a GSA antenna and carry out a radio check between all call signs. After some hands on experience with trouble shooting on the radio, we carried out some communication exercises using the VHF Provisional skills the cadets already had.

The day wrapped up with a demonstration of how to erect an elevated GSA antenna which was 25ft tall and took 6 cadets to put up.

Cdt Borhara enjoyed the day and found it interesting to see the difference between achieving his full VHF license and putting it into practice with real radios out in the field. Sgt Cotton, having never seen a Clansman radio before, learnt valuable radio skills which she is sure will be put to good use on the next Khaki Badger exercise later on in the year.

Thanks go to the Khaki Badger staff team for making the day both interesting and enjoyable.

Aromatic Ammonia Ampules Tin

Smelling salts are compounds of ammonia used to revive someone who has fainted or is feeling faint. These compounds have been used since Roman times and Smelling salts release ammonia (NH3) gas, which triggers an inhalation reflex (that is, causes the muscles that control breathing to work faster) by irritating the mucous membranes of the nose and lungs. The action of breathing in deeply reverses the fainting and revives the patient.

Smelling salts were standard items in both civilian and military first aid kits of the Second World War, frequently referred to as ‘aromatic ammonia’. The ammonia compounds were sealed in small glass ampoules that were then wrapped in cotton wool and tied into a secure package. To use them the ampoule was crushed and the gas released, the glass being safely contained within the cotton wool.

These ampoules were obviously fragile, so they were held in small metal tins to protect them and it is a small tin that would have contained twelve ampoules that we are considering tonight:

A paper label is pasted to the top of the tin, and although a little rusted and damaged now, the lettering indicating the contents of the tin is still clearly visible:

The design of this label corresponds with that used on British Army examples I have found online, so I am happy that this is most likely a tin used by the military. The lid of the tin is hinged across the back and the tin can be opened up to access the aromatic ammonia ampoules within (now long gone):

An American soldier describes their use on him:

I had one used on me once.. Legit! I was at sick call in basic training. I had a bad infection on my hand and it needed lanced. Well.. It wouldn’t drain so the nurse kept digging around. It hurt so bad, I fainted. They used the salts to wake me up before I fell off the exam table. Worst. Smell. Ever

1990s Talcum Powder Tube

Last year we looked at the modern issue tube of ‘talc, sterilised, dusting’ here. Tonight we look at another example, but from twenty years earlier:

This bottle even shares the same NSN number, but is made of green plastic with a small screw top that opens to reveal a dusting top with five small holes:

The front of the bottle is printed in black and reveals that it was manufactured in November 1994:

There are many different pieces of advice on how to care for your feet and whilst many ascribe to footpowder, not all find it appropriate. This infantryman shares his experiences:

There are as many opinions as people who’ve gone through it, but from personal (long, bitter, Infantry feet) experience:

1. Talcum powder largely useless. 2. Vaseline is brilliant for sore spots – eg a rubbing toe. 3. Oldie but goodie: rub a bar of soap inside the sock – just helps it not rub. 4. Forget all the goretex and other special socks. The best thing against your skin is a well fitting natural material (ie cotton) sock. Your feet are going to get wet, so don’t expect otherwise. 5. I ended up normally wearing a thin cotton inner sock, and a thicker outer sock. Both natural.

Make sure boots and socks are best fit possible, don’t go near all the ‘harden them with spirits’ stuff, and hope to toughen your feet gently over time. Keep nails short, wash feet regularly to keep ’em really clean, and try to keep blister free.

Some people never have foot trouble, others are unlucky. I wouldn’t waste any hard earned on special/hi-tech kit until you have sussed your own feet and their ‘tendencies’.