Category Archives: equipment

L24A1 Parachute Flare

A very long time ago the L5 parachute illuminating flare from the early 1980s was covered on the blog here. Obviously this design is long obsolete and various more modern versions have been used by the British Army over the years. Tonight we are looking at what I believe to be the current model, the L24A1 model:imageThe design is fairly similar at first glance, consisting of a green plastic tube with a firing system at one end and a rubber cap at the other protecting the flare itself which bursts out through this on firing:imageThe flare’s designation is printed onto the outside of the tube in white:imageThis also indicates that this particular example was produced in October 2012. The reverse of the tube has the instructions for actually firing the flare:imageThe firing position is indicated by a raised ‘F’ on the base, whilst a white ‘S’ for safe is visible to the left:imageThe slider is pulled down to arm the flare, revealing a red dot:imageThe flare is then twisted to fire. The base of the flare is marked ‘P’ to indicate by touch that this is a parachute flare in the dark:imageThese flares are used both in operational service and training to illuminate the battlefield as in this press story from 2016:

The Royal Logistics Corp let off the Shamooli flares near the base where exercise Shamal Storm is taking place.

The British Army is currently staging its biggest overseas military training exercise in more than 15 years. 

Around 1,600 troops are taking part in Exercise Shamal Storm, which is testing their capability to deploy up to 30,000 personnel if needed.

The flares are small plastic tubes with a pullstring that, when pulled, shoots a rocket propelled flare approximately 800m into the air.

The flare then burns with a bright orange-red colour for 50 seconds whilst dropping to the ground with a small parachute.

It allows infantry units to light an area up in a battle about 1km squared so as to expose the enemy they are engaging.

Although technically called Illumination Flares, military personnel refer to them as Shamoolies…

As 30 flares were shot into the night sky, it was a brief delay before the landscape was thrown into a bright light, illuminating the rough mountainous terrain 

Universal Cleaning Kit

The British Army uses a wide variety of small arms, the SA80 rifle in 5.56mm, the GPMG in 7.62, Glocks in 9mm, 40mm grenade launchers and even some shotguns for shooting out door locks when entering compounds. Each of these weapons has its own cleaning kit with different brushes, pull throughs and tools. Recently however a universal weapons cleaning kit has started to see service that incorporates the correct brushes etc. to allow all these firearms to be cleaned. Produced by H&K, the L47A1 ‘Cleaning Kit, Universal’ is issued in an MTP Cordua nylon pouch:imageOpening the pouch up, it can be seen that there is a selection of elasticated loops and velcroed pockets to allow the different cleaning brushes to be carried:imageTo prevent items being lost in the field, the edges of the pouch are elasticated so items dropped back into the pouch won’t go missing when it is rolled up, even if they have not been put into the loops:imageThe pouch itself has a label indicating it was made by Heckler and Koch in 2011, along with the British Army NSN number:imageThis set is almost complete, but there are still plenty of spare loops to allow soldiers to add their own pieces if needed:imageTaken out of the pouch it can be seen that the set has a variety of chamber and bore brushes, a multi piece cleaning rod, wire pull through, oil in a sprayer bottle and a wire brush:imageThe full list of contents reads:imageWhilst the reverse of the instruction leaflet shows where to place each piece in the pouch:imageThis cleaning kit seems pretty comprehensive and well thought out and I can imagine it would have been popular with many. It should have a small detachable field pouch to allow a cut down set of cleaning equipment to be carried in the field, but this feature is sadly missing from my example. The spray pump oil bottle seems a definite improvement over the old type and would allow oil to be directed to exactly where it is needed rather than using a piece of pull through to try and smear it in the right direction. This kit was picked up for £10 at Haworth WW2 weekend a few months back and as they usually fetch over £40 for a full complete set I feel I did rather well.

Air Ministry Radio Valve

Earlier this year we took a look at a War Department marked radio valve. The War Department were of course not the only service to use valves as part of their electronic equipment in this emerging field during the Second World War and the Royal Air Force also used valves extensively in both simple radios and more complex electronic devices such as radar and navigation equipment. These valves are also marked up, but show ownership by the Air Ministry and it is one of these valves we have tonight:This large silvered valve has a Bakelite base plug with seven pins on the bottom:The main valve is marked up with the A ‘crown’ M mark of the Air Ministry:And a stores code of 10E/9141:This stores code is equivalent to the civilian designation 220B and the online “Valve Museum” explains its use:

The 220B is a double triode audio output valve from the early 1930s. Like similar valves this was designed to offer reasonable volume at minimum consumption from dry cell HT batteries by being operated as a Class B push-pull stage. Pure Class B suffers from cross-over distortion as the initial conduction region of the valves operating slope is non linear.

The site indicates that the design was introduced in 1933 and I suspect continued to be used in radio equipment throughout the Second World War, when this valve was probably manufactured.

Charles Brooks instructed wireless air gunners in this emerging electronic warfare field:

After this I was posted to Cranwell and started 6 week courses for Radio Telephony Operators, both men and women. As there were only 6 instructors we worked double shifts starting at 6a.m. and the courses went on until 10p.m. but we did get leave after each course. As the war progressed equipment improved and VHF equipment was brought out so the range became greater and I also had to instruct on this equipment. At the end of each course was a Trade Testing Board and I used to serve on this as well. I had been made a Corporal and my Morse improved to 30 words per minute. Eventually I had to instruct all nationalities from the Empire Air Training Scheme to teach them Radio operating and theory for operating in the air. The equipment was old but one day there arrived in my laboratory a new transmitter and receiver made by Marconi. My instructions were to install it and be ready to instruct officers and staff on its uses. Within 4 hours of receiving it I gave a lecture on it. After that I instructed on it most of the time going to stations with new aircraft such as Lancasters and Halifaxes as the operational crews didn’t know how to use it. In 1942 I was posted to RAF Bobbington as a Sergeant to an officers and crew training unit where the men came for training on the Marconi equipment. I have photographs of classes taken in front of aircraft whom I instructed prior to going into operations.

IACC Sergeant’s Metal Trunk

Tonight special thanks go to Michael Whittaker who helped me secure a large and visually impressive metal soldier’s trunk a few weeks back:These metal trunks were used to carry uniforms, personal items, books and other effects on long sea journeys. The large box would have held items that were not needed on the voyage and would have been placed in the ship’s hold. This example was used by a W Mallinson:Of the Indian Army Corps of Clerks, as indicated by the letters IACC on the sides of the trunk next to his name:The Indian Army Corps of Clerks was founded in 123 under the authority of Army Instruction (India) 352 of 1923. An article in the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research explains:

The corps was established to provide clerical support for the General Headquarters of the Army, and also at Command, divisional and brigade level, with military officers and Indian civilian clerks. The officers were initially transferred from the India Miscellaneous List, with British Warrant Officers also supplied from the IML and ranked as Conductors (Warrant Officer Class I) or Sub-Conductors (warrant Officer Class II). The officers filled posts in the grade of Commissaries in headquarters, while the Conductors and Sub-conductors filled posts such as Headquarter Branch Superintendent Clerks and other administrative clerical positions.

The IACC was partially a civilian service until 1933 when it became entirely military in character and junior grade civil servants were replaced with military personnel, such as the sergeant whose name appears on the trunk above. These large trunks fell from favour once the Second World War broke out so this probably dates the trunk to that small window between 1933 and 1939.

The soldier’s name and unit are repeated on the opposite side of the trunk:Across the top are instructions of the trunk’s final destination, here an address in Huddersfield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, via Bombay:A handle is attached to each end of the trunk to make it easier to carry, what the lettering above this means is unclear:A third handle is attached to the front and centre of the box, beneath the clasp:Security was obviously important with a steamer trunk often having valuable contents, the lock is therefore proudly declared to have 19 levers. The interior of the box shows reinforcing ribs to help prevent the trunk form being squashed (the dents in it eighty years later show that this cannot always have been entirely successful):Note how the interior is painted blue, the same colour was used on the metal pith helmet tin we covered earlier this year and was perhaps a standard colour for the interior of these sorts of items of luggage.

Frances Ingall joined the Bengal Lancers as an officer and he decided a wooden trunk was more suitable:

When I had done the rounds of the tailors and outfitters I went out and bought a substantial wooden trunk, lined with tin, to store my clothing in when I reached India, particularly the woollens and serges. India is full of bugs of varying voracity: termites, moths and the insidious ‘woolly bear’, a minute furry insect that can ruin an unprotected drawerful of woollies in a single night. Cotton and drill garments, I was to find, were generally safe from predatory insects- but not from the dhobi, the Indian washerman.

Grundy Tray

Aluminium catering equipment has changed little in decades and the items used in a modern kitchen are often interchangeable with those from a century ago. When catering for large numbers of people, it is essential to have large and efficient cooking vessels, especially if cooking is to be undertaken in less than ideal conditions such as in the field. One of those long lasting items of cookware is what is commonly referred to as a ‘Grundy’ tin:imageThis is an oblong aluminium tin with a lid that comes in a variety of sizes. The flat top allows these dishes to be stacked on top of each other in an oven to allow the most efficient use of the space and fuel to cook large quantities of food in a single sitting. The lid is a simple stamped piece of aluminium, but fits snugly over the lower pan. Removing the lid allows the dish to be used as a serving tray:imageThese dishes were used extensively in prisons, army camps, schools and by the Civil Defence organisations for emergency feeding after a disaster such as bombing or a nuclear strike. Here we see the tins being used by a Civil Defence welfare group demonstrating cooking in the field:imageThe example we have tonight is dated 1948 and has the Royal cypher stamped on the lid:imageThis is repeated of the main  pan:imageAs these are stamped with GR rather than the /|\ mark, they were for civil use and so might have been for a prison, school or most relevantly for us to see service with the Civil Defence organisations.

The front of the lower pan has a handle attached to allow the dish to be pulled from a hot oven easily:imageAlthough named Gundy tins after the original manufacturer of this ware, this example was made by Watsons Engineering Service, Enfield:imageContainers such as this were essential to feed people in emergencies and the level of food needing to be provided after enemy raids can be gleaned from this report from a member of the WVS in World War II:

I visited East and West Cowes to find out the position with regard to feeding personnel. Contacted Mr. Preston, Emergency Feeding Officer, and Mrs. Ewbank re night staff. Miss. Weeks took night staff and a considerably supply of stores to West Cowes Police Station, and I took 40 cooked suppers from the Newport British Restaurant to East Cowes Police Station, also urns of tea for East Cowes Rest Centre. Friday morning, arrived Newport 8 o’clock. I took breakfasts to East Cowes Police Station. Miss Weeks collected staff from West Cowes Police Station. During morning sent out approx.1,200 meals, also made arrangements for supplies during day. In the early morning a telephone call from Reading re additional C.A.B staff, who arrived in time for lunch. Eight tea urns ordered on Thursday by telegram arrived during the morning. These were hailed with joy, and all immediately filled with tea and despatched. Attended funeral of Mayor’s son during afternoon at special request. Returned to office and dealt with Police suppers. Relief staffs were arranged from every area to assist at East Cowes Rest Centre, and also relief C.A.B staffs.

All day Saturday collected containers and cleared up and arranged for decentralisation. Took Police Suppers to East Cowes. On Sunday afternoon received an urgent call to West Cowes owing to report of rumours. Monday morning arranged for broadcast to contradict this.

Admiralty 47A Avometer

In 1923 a Post Office engineer called Donald Macadie got fed up with having to use different instruments to check voltage, resistance and amperes so designed the first multimeter. This he named the Avometer, combining A for Amps, V for Voltage and O for Ohms, the measure of resistance. The Automatic Coil Winder and Electrical Equipment Company (ACWEECO), founded in 1923, was set up to manufacture the Avometer and by the Second World War was well established and supplying the instrument to British forces. The Admiralty bought the instrument at the start of the war in the form of the Pattern 40 Avometer. This was upgraded during the war and this led to the Pattern 47a:imageThis avometer was originally issued in a wooden box with a selection of accessories:imageSadly I only have the avometer itself, but it is a striking and impressive instrument. The front of the avometer has the important dials and gauges:imageAt the top we have a window with the scales for reading off voltage, amperes etc.:imageThe model number is printed at the top of the dial, whilst a serial number is marked at the bottom right of the dial, the last three digits indicate that this avometer was produced in June 1944:imageUnderneath this dial are the controls to set the instrument for different purposes, whilst the bottom two corners have the terminals to allow the instrument to be wired up to a piece of work.imageOn the rear is a printed panel describing how to use the instrument:imageA leather carrying handle is fitted to the top of the avometer:imageUnderneath this is a removable cover to access the battery compartment:imageNote also the loop to hold the two separate aluminium probes, sadly missing from this set. The avometer uses a small 1.5V dry cell battery, this looks like a post war example from the packaging, but is similar to the type used during World War Two:imageThe voltage range of these avometers is a little crude and looking online it has been suggested that they were for use with electronics such as engine starters and vehicle electrical systems rather than more delicate electronics such as wireless or radar systems.

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