Army issue vests for the Second World War are really quite scarce and although I have half a dozen different examples of the underpants, it has taken until now for me to pick up an example of the vest. A number of variations of the vest exist, some with buttons around the neck hole to make the easier to put on and many seem to have been made of wool. This example however is a simple v-neck design made of white aertex cotton:The neck is ‘V’ shaped and bound with white tape:There would originally have been a label sewn into the neck but this has been removed, possibly it was scratching the wearer’s neck and he felt it would be better taken out.
The inside of the vest has a black ink stamp with a WD /|\ mark and a date letter of ‘M’:The letter ‘M’ equates to 1944 so the vest can be dated to that year. The design of the vest includes a cut away at the seam on each side, presumably to help make it easier to put on and remove the garment and to improve its comfort:As well as an item of underwear, vests were also used for PT:
I went to Fort George on the Moray Firth along the coast from Inverness; also the home of the famous Seaforth Highlanders Regiment. It was a bleak place to be in the month of November and in winter, particularly when running along the beach in a vest and shorts as part of the training schedule at that time early in the cold mornings.
Sadly this vest is a very small size and so I cannot try it for comfort, it is however an interesting and surprisingly scarce piece of wartime personal clothing.
This week’s postcard is another of the Daily Mail’s War Pictures series. These cards were produced during the First World War for sale to the British public. The paper paid £25000 for exclusive rights to a set of official photographs that were produced as a highly successful series of 176 postcards. Tonight we are looking at card number 56:This card is captioned “The glorious first of July 1916”- our first prisoners. It depicts German prisoners of war being passed down the lines after their capture on the first day of the Battle of the Somme:The ruins of a farmhouse are visible in the background:Whilst in the foreground British soldiers watch on curiously:These men wear the distinctive soft trench cap with its top strap. The standing man also carries a gas mask, possibly a PH hood, in a small pouch slung across his body:Unusually for this series of cards, this image was not taken by an official army photographer, but rather by a member of No 1 Printing Company, Royal Engineers. The series of cards carefully played up the few successes of the Somme battles and missed out the disasters and horrendous loss of British life, the images being carefully chosen and captioned to portray the battle in a better light with those back home. The Germans were to lose 400,000 men during the Somme fighting, including 40,000 taken prisoner. Basil Clarke was a reported for the War illustrated and described the German prisoners coming in:
On each side of the marching column were the British guards in khaki ‑ looking wonderfully spick and span both in walk and appearance compared with the untidy slouch of the prisoners. I spoke with many of [them] and asked if they were comfortable … it was much better, some said, than being in the trenches.
This card makes the third or fourth in this series I have in my collection and I am quite curious to see how easy it would be to build up a set of these cards, I have acquired another couple recently; so do not be surprised if more cards appear in the future.
Following on from last week’s post on DDPM trousers, tonight we are looking at the accompanying pair of shorts:Shorts were not initially issued to troops going out to Iraq and Afghanistan, however men quickly started cutting down spare pairs of DDPM trousers to create their own pairs for wearing off duty and the army decided to formalise this practice with an issue garment. The shorts are identical to the CS95 trousers, but cut off under the pockets, with a hem at the bottom of the leg:The pockets are bellows design, with a triangular top flap. Note the small flap of fabric that allows the pocket to be completely sealed off when closed to help prevent sand getting in:A set of belt loops is provided at the waist:A standard white label is sewn into the rear of the shorts:One interesting point is that the fabric used to make British army desert kit was a poly-cotton blend, as was the material used to make temperate clothing. The difference was that the desert kit was 75% Cotton to 25% polyester, the temperate clothing 75% polyester to 25% cotton. This meant that the desert kit was cooler, but more prone to wearing out quickly.
These shorts were only for use away from operations, as this soldier explains:
Shorts are only to be worn in down time and never ‘outside the wire’.
You are also issued sandals for the same situation to air your feet.
Neither of which can be worn around larger camps either (Bastion, Lash, Price etc) other than in your own area, as previously mentioned, at commanders discretion.
I’ve only seen the shorts in desert DPM but lads got their MTP trousers cut down by the tailor in Bastion for the same reasons.
Don’t think you’ll be on patrol in shorts though…our grandfathers may have fought in the desert in shorts but that’s not how we do things now…
As an Engineer, I sometimes allowed the guys to work in shorts and T-shirts if doing work within the confines of a CP.
FOB maintenance etc.
Helmets/Osprey would then go on if working at height above the wall.
Despite this ruling, they can be seen being worn in combat by base troops who went quickly into action such as mortar teams and artillery units, where personnel only had time to don body armour and helmets:
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.Badges 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.Accompanying 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.The 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.It 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 firstname.lastname@example.org