Category Archives: India

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.

Jungle Green 37 Pattern Bayonet Frog

This week sees the final part of our mini-series on Indian jungle green 37 pattern webbing when we take a look at the bayonet frog:imageIn design this exactly matches the description from the 37 pattern fitting instructions:

This is made of narrow webbing with a loop for suspending from the waist belt and has two horizontal loops for suspending the scabbard:imageThe scabbard is inserted and pushed through until the stud on the outside comes out between the two loops.

A second loop is sewn at the top to allow the handle of the bayonet to be slipped under to prevent it from bouncing around excessively:imageAs with the other pieces of jungle green webbing we have looked at, the piece is very faded and the markings on the rear are very badly stamped and hard to read:imageThere were a number of webbing manufacturers in India, Bata and ‘KEF’ being two whilst ‘CA’ is often seen marked on webbing and is the mark of the Cawnpore Government Harness and Saddlery factory. This manufacturer was based in Cawnpore and was a government  run equipment company dating back to the First World War. In addition to this factory, the company had branches at Calcutta and Cossipore, whilst yet more satellites were set up in Amritsar, Bombay and Madras when the threat of Japanese invasion was at its height.

This then concludes our look at Indian jungle green webbing for now, I am still missing some components such as the small and large packs but rest assured, when I add examples to my collection I will bring them to you here.

37 Pattern Jungle Green Shoulder Brace

We return for a second week to look at another piece of Indian produced jungle green 37 pattern webbing, with a pair of shoulder braces:imageThese are faintly dyed green, but would have been more vibrant when new. Dyes were a constant problem in India, with many being supplied from the United States as lend-lease. Chemicals used in the dyeing process included Sodium Bichromate and Potassium Bichromate, neither of which had been produced in India before the war and acetic acid which was only a tiny industry before the war (the Mysore government rapidly set up a plant producing 600 tons a year once the war began). The country also looked into what it could produce from its natural resources, as outlined in the post war review of Indian production and supply:

In the field of drugs and dyes, the failure of imports from abroad resulted in the initiation of research projects for the utilisation of the country’s indigenous resources. Glandular products were prepared from slaughter house wastes. Atoxyl and carbarsone were synthesised from easily available raw materials. Various vegetable dyes were extracted from the country’s forest wealth.

I suspect vegetable dyes, derived from plants such as bamboo, sabai grass and munji grass, were used extensively to dye jungle green webbing which would explain why the colour has often faded quite markedly in the individual pieces.

Even through the jungle green dye, the distinctive ‘striped’ look of Indian webbing comes through, as does the slightly looser weave that gives Indian made webbing its softer feel:imageAs with last week’s components, the brass fittings on these shoulder braces are blackened to aid the camouflage of the piece in the field:imageOne of the two shoulder braces has a set of stamped numbers on the reverse:imageThese are again typical of Indian produced webbing and are most likely inspectors’ marks. All items of jungle green Indian webbing are scarce and this pair are in typical condition. Some pieces do turn up in vibrant green, and these I suspect were produced with chemical dyes, whereas the majority are like these and I think it’s fair to say they were produced with vegetable based dye.

Indian Jungle Green 37 Pattern Belt

Over the coming weeks we are going to be taking a look at a few pieces of jungle green Indian made 37 pattern webbing. Standard 37 pattern webbing had been produced in India for some time in undyed cotton, which gave it a tan colour. This would then be blancoed, as with other webbing across the empire. The problem found in jungles was that this blanco was quickly eroded by the extremes of humidity and the webbing reverted to its natural, light colour. This then stood out like a sore thumb against the dark background of the jungle, making the wearer an easy target for the Japanese. To counter this it was first decided to dye the webbing green, later the thread used in its manufacture was pre-dyed before the webbing was even wove and this has led to two distinct types of jungle green webbing out there for the collector. The webbing that was dyed as a batch of assembled pieces has green stitching, as this cotton was dyed at the same time as the rest of the item. Pieces made from pre-dyed thread often have distinctive lighter coloured assembly stitching as they were sewn together later and have tan thread on a green background.

The first piece we are looking at tonight is a 37 pattern belt in jungle green:imageAs is often the case, the green colour has faded of this belt so it is far less intense a colour than it would have been when new, nevertheless when compared to standard Indian made 37 pattern webbing the contrast is clear.

The fittings on this belt are made of blackened brass, with the buckle, sliders and chapes all black in colour: imageAs are the rear buckles:imageA C/|\?? inspector’s acceptance code is faintly visible on the rear of the belt:imageAs is the maker’s mark and a date of 1946:imageThe jungle green 37 pattern webbing was only introduced in 1944 so was only used in the last 12-18 months of the war. Nonetheless it was a simple but welcome change to the soldier’s equipment and far more suited to jungle fighting than the tan version.

Kasouli Barracks in the Snow Postcard

This week’s postcard takes us back once more to the sleepy hill static of Kasauli and a different view of its barracks, this time under a dusting of snow:SKM_C30819040507550Despite being over 6000 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Himalayas, Kasauli does not usually have temperatures in the winter lower that 2 degrees Celsius, so this must have been taken in a unseasonably cold snap. The mountains can be seen in the background, looming over the cantonment:SKM_C30819040507551The barrack blocks can be seen in the foreground, each an elegant brick building with high ceilings to encourage the circulation of air and keep the interiors cool for the off duty soldiers:SKM_C30819040507551 - CopyMost of these face onto the parade ground, which sits as a large snow covered flat space to the right of the image:SKM_C30819040507551 - Copy (2)In the background can be seen the tower of the local Church of England (now Church of India) church, Christ Church:SKM_C30819040507551 - Copy (3)This attractive sandstone building with a green copper roof was built in 1853 and was the subject of an interesting story set during a rebellion by Gorkahs. The story goes that the rebelling Gorkahs  had raided a treasury and secured loot of Rs. 20000. Somehow some British troops got hold of this loot and fearing for its safety buried it under a tree in the church yard…where it subsequently became lost as happens in all good treasure stories and despite searching has still not been found to this day.

In the foreground can be seen a set of wooden poles with a cross piece:SKM_C30819040507551 - Copy (4)From other views taken at different angles, it seems that this was part of an assault course, with ropes for the troops to climb, bars for balancing on etc.

In the immediate foreground are a pair of galvanised tin baths:SKM_C30819040507551 - Copy (5)Quite what these are doing in the snow isn’t clear- perhaps an officer felt that a hot bath in the snow would be an invigorating experience or perhaps they had just been washed and left out to dry when the snow fell…

This postcard has been marked up as a Christmas greetings and was printed in England for Moorli Dhur & Sons of Umballa. It is impossible to date these kind of images, but I suspect from the style of the reverse that it dates to the Edwardian Era.

Farewell to Lord Birdwood, India, 1930 Postcard

In 1930 Sir William Birdwood stepped down as commander of the Indian Army. As part of his farewell he visited a number of garrisons in India to review his troops before returning to Great Britain. Tonight’s postcard depicts part of this tour, with the Royal Scots Fusiliers parading at Dagshai on 8th October 1930:SKM_C30819032614410Dagshai might be familiar to readers as we looked at another couple of postcards from this base on the blog last year. Here the Royal Scots Fusiliers are lined up on the parade ground, wearing cut away khaki drill tunics over woollen trews. Each wears a Wolseley helmet on his head:SKM_C30819032614410 - CopyOne can’t imagine it was very comfortable wearing woollen trousers in the heat of the Indian sun!

Two officer watch on in the foreground:SKM_C30819032614410 - Copy (2)Whilst a small crowd of the civilian population of the garrison watch on from above the parade ground:SKM_C30819032614410 - Copy (3)It is hard to tell, but some at least appear to be natives and might be part of the regiment’s entourage of hangers on.

One small detail I particularly like is the heavy roller for flattening the parade ground, which is parked up on the edge of the field:SKM_C30819032614410 - Copy (4)The markings on the parade ground itself suggest that it also doubled up as a sports field for the men of the garrison.

On his return to England a dinner was held in honour of Field Marshall Sir William Birdwood and as part of the after dinner speeches he reflected in the soldiery serving in the subcontinent. The Times reported that he had said that:

The British soldier serving in India was today just the loyal, fine and magnificent fellow he had always been. During his 45 years’ service there had been an enormous number of changes in administration and organisation; but he thanked God that there was one factor that had not changed, and that was the British soldier (cheers), and he hoped he would never change. It seemed to him essential to maintain the existing strength of the British force in India. The Indian soldier was a magnificent, true, brave and loyal fellow. If, as was sometimes said, the Indian soldiers were children, he would say that the British officer should (and often did) treat them as his own children, and not as somebody else’s. The sepoy was as devoted as ever to his British officer.

Photograph of an Armoured Car Column, North West Frontier Province, 1937

The interwar period saw the increasing use of modern technology to police the tribal regions of the North West Frontier of India. Budgets between the wars were being squeezed, but aircraft and armoured cars offered a seemingly cheaper way of controlling the tribesmen of this region rather than traditional ‘boots on the ground’. Road building had been prioritised since the start of the twentieth century, but new roads were emphasised throughout the interwar period and these revolutionised British operations. They allowed men and supplies to be moved to troublesome areas quickly and, when supported by armoured cars, relatively safely. This week’s photograph is a fantastic image of a road convoy taking a break in the NWF in 1937 during the Faqir of Ipi’s rebellion:SKM_C30819021407550 - Copy (5)The back of the photograph indicates that this was taken at Tanai Fort ‘en-route for Manzai (and Delhi) from Wana. Wana was a fort in Waziristan whilst Manzai was in Baluchistan.

The part of the convoy seen here consists of an armoured car:SKM_C30819021407550 - CopyNote the British soldiers taking a breather around the armoured car, each is wearing khaki drill with Cawnpore style solar topees. Behind this armoured care are a four wheel and a six wheel truck:SKM_C30819021407550 - Copy (2)And three further armoured cars:SKM_C30819021407550 - Copy (3)Also in the picture is a dispatch rider’s motorcycle:SKM_C30819021407550 - Copy (4)The armoured cars seem to be Crossley type cars rather than Rolls Royce designs. The domed turrets were particularly Indian in design and sported Vickers machine guns that could be slotted into four different sockets to provide all round fire. On top of each turret sits an armoured cupola for the car’s commander to sit in and control fire from. This example is preserved and on show at the Tank Museum in Dorset:imageEven with armoured cars, these convoys could be perilous:

On the early morning of 9 April 1937, a convoy set out from Manzai fort destined for the garrison at Wana carrying supplies and some officers and men returning to their units at Wana. The convoy was a large one, comprising forty-nine lorries, an ambulance, and three private cars, all escorted by four armoured cars, with infantry and a detachment of Sappers and Miners in lorries. One of the armoured cars was at the front, another at the rear, and two more were amongst the transport. Similarly, the infantry in their lorries were distributed along the length of the convoy. The long snake of lorries wove its way uneventfully past Jandola and then westward onto the Jandola-Wana road. At about 7.40 am it was ambushed in the Shahur Tangi, a narrow, steep-sided, three-mile long gorge, eight miles west of Jandola. There, having been slowed by camels let loose on the road, the convoy was attacked by a large party of Mahsuds and Bhitannis, who had occupied positions on the precipitous hillsides.

The leading armoured car and first three trucks, having passed out of the gorge, were not attacked directly and sped to the next manned outpost, carrying news of the attack. Meanwhile, the lorries at the front of the convoy in the gorge were disabled when their drivers were killed, trapping the others behind. Raiders hidden in the rocks close to the road attacked the convoy along its length causing very heavy casualties but, although some trucks were looted, the armoured cars, the infantry escort and the other troops with the convoy fought most gallantly and prevented the convoy from being overrun. An aircraft providing support overhead was badly damaged and forced to land. Reinforcements arrived later in the day and fighting continued sporadically until nightfall. In the evening as the firing lessened the lorries that could be moved were either sent on to Sarwakai or back to Manzai and the wounded were evacuated. By the following morning the raiders had gone…In total, the attack claimed seven British officers and two other ranks (Turner and Davies) killed, five officers and one other rank (Bowkett) wounded, 20 Indian other ranks killed and 39 Indian all ranks wounded.