Category Archives: Inter-War

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.

Military Camp Postcard

This week’s postcard is a fine image of a temporary military tented camp, probably taken at some point in the interwar years:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (2)This camp seems to be set up somewhere in England and is possible part of the Territorial Army’s summer manoeuvers. The tents consist of a mixture of bell tents and large ridge tents:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (2) - CopyThe two largest tents however belong to the NAAFI, as can be seen from the letters painted onto the canvas:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (3) - CopyThe second of these tents has a set of chimneys and smaller tents behind which may well be a small kitchen preparing food for the troops:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (4) - CopyThis site seems to have been a semi-permanent location for troops to pitch camp as there are a row of more permanent buildings in the foreground which seem to possibly be latrine and wash blocks:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (5) - CopyThis excellent description of a Territorial Army camp comes from the Daily Mail in 1938:

The holidays-with-pay idea might almost have been conceived in a modern Territorial Army camp. Veteran sergeants probably say of the stuff they give the troops today: “we do everything for them but tuck ‘em up in bed.”

That of course is exaggerated, but a visit to Lympne, Kent, yesterday, where the 1st and 2nd London Infantry Brigades are under canvas, showed me more forcibly than ever how the new common-sense attitude to soldiering and the very real steps to improve conditions are popularising the Service.

Close to 3,000 officers and men of the London Division of the Territorial Army are enjoying their annual fortnight’s camp in the vast fields beside the Lympne aerodrome with the Kentish Downland around them and the sea a mile or two away.

Military training and discipline may sound far removed from sun bathing and tea and biscuits in bed- training in the use of the Bren machine gun and gas-mask drill may seem unreconcilable with concerts and cricket matches, yet the twain meet at camp.

It was not always so. Conditions are better than ever this year for officers and men. For instance the men now have five meals a day instead of four- a lavish supper has been added to the daily diet sheet.

I saw men in “civvies” being taken for a bather in Hythe in army lorries. All boys under 18 get a milk allowance of a pint a day. Every man, from the newest recruit is paid. Now the marriage allowance has been increased, enabling even those “Terriers “ out of employment to go to camp light-heartedly.

How is this for a “day’s work” in the British Army?

Reveille at 6 a.m:

May sound early, but a “gun fire”- the distribution of tea and biscuits- takes place before one even leaves “bed.”

The poor Company Sergeant Major is responsible for the carrying out of this new routine.

Breakfast at 7; Parade at 8; Field Training until 1.

Then the day is your own.

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.

Army Education Certificate

In order to be promoted to Sergeant, the British soldier needed to have completed a Second Class Army Certificate of Education. This was a qualification that showed he had mastered certain subjects sufficiently to be considered for promotion and helped weed out those soldiers of insufficient intellectual ability to succeed as an NCO. These exams were held regularly, both in the UK and at overseas garrisons. The certificate had been set up in the mid Victorian era and AR Skelley describes its foundation in his book ‘The Victorian Army at Home’:

In 1861 a new inducement towards learning was the army certificate of education. On the recommendation of the Council of Military Education three levels or standards were set out and were linked with promotion in the ranks. The third-class certificate specified the standard for promotion to the rank of corporal: the candidate was to read aloud and to write from dictation passages from an easy narrative, and to work examples in the four compound rules of arithmetic and the reduction of money. A second-class certificate, necessary for promotion to sergeant, entailed writing and dictation from a more difficult work, familiarity with all forms of regimental accounting, and facility with proportions and interest, fractions and averages. First-class certificates were a great deal more difficult and were required for commissions from the ranks. Successful candidates had to read and take dictation from any standard author; make a fair copy of a manuscript; demonstrate their familiarity with more complicated mathematics, except cube and square root and stocks and discount; and as well prepare for examination in at least one of a number of additional subjects. After 1887 candidates were examined in British history and geography in place of a special subject. First-class certificates were awarded on the results of periodic examinations held by the Council (later Director-General) of Military Education. Second and third-class certificates were presented on the recommendations of the Army schoolmaster. The third-class certificate of education was considered to be too high given the level of literacy of many army recruits, and the Commission urged the introduction of a fourth (minimum) standard.

These certificates were still very much in use in the interwar period and tonight we have a lovely example of a Second Class Certificate issued in 1932 to a private serving in India:SKM_C30819030107530My thanks go to Andy Dixon who kindly passed me this certificate, knowing my love of all things Indian. The certificate was awarded to Pte E Dixon of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry:SKM_C30819030107530 - CopyHe took his exam in Agra in December of 1932:SKM_C30819030107530 - Copy (2)He studied four subjects:SKM_C30819030107530 - Copy (3)And the award was made in Delhi on 3rd January 1933:SKM_C30819030107530 - Copy (4)Note how the dates have had the ‘2’ crossed out and the year typed next to them! It seems a bit mean of the Indian Authorities to do this when this was probably the only educational certificate Pt Dixon would ever receive!

It is often forgotten how important the army was in educating working class men in the early twentieth century. Many young men joining the military had very limited education, few were truly illiterate thanks to nineteenth century reforms of the education system, but many had left school at a very young age and had only limited reading, writing and arithmetic. The army education certificates encouraged them to learn and prepared them for potential promotion whilst giving an ever more technical military a pool of better educated and more useful men.

Gordon Highlander’s Memorial Post Card

This week’s postcard depicts the splendid war memorial for the Gordon Highlanders at the Scottish National War Memorial:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (2)The memorial includes the regiment’s cap badge at the top:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (3) - CopyTogether with their First World War battle honours and the wording, “To the memory of the 453 officers and 8509 warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the regiment who gave their lives for their King and Country in the Great War 1914-1919”:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (2) - CopyThis memorial is part of the Scottish National War Memorial in a chapel in Edinburgh Castle. Proposals for a Scottish National War Memorial were put forward in 1917, during the First World War, by John Stewart-Murray, 8th Duke of Atholl, and Capt George Swinton of Kimmerghame. Sir Robert Lorimer, one of the architects involved in the Imperial War Graves Commission, was appointed in 1919, but opposition to a large-scale monument arose from the Cockburn Association and others concerned with the castle’s heritage. A more modest scheme to remodel the North Barrack Block was finally agreed in 1923, and the memorial was formally opened on 14 July 1927 by the Prince of Wales. After the  Second World War 50,000 names were added to the rolls of honour. Names continue to be added from successive conflicts, however the memorial itself has been left unchanged.

The exterior of the building is decorated with gargoyles and sculpture by Pilkington Jackson, John Marshall and Phyllis Bone, whilst the interior contains elaborate wall monuments commemorating individual regiments. The stained-glass windows are by Douglas Strachan The original aim behind the Memorial was to commemorate Scots and those serving with Scottish regiments who had died in the First World War, from the declaration of war on 4 August 1914 to the Treaty of Versailles of 28 June 1919 (confirmed military suicides and those tried and executed excepted). Upon the altar within the Shrine, placed on the highest part of the Castle Rock emerging through the floor, stands a sealed casket containing the Rolls of Honour listing over 147,000 names of those soldiers killed in the First World War together with open lists within the Hall. After the Second World War the limiting dates were modified, with another 50,000 names inscribed on the Rolls of Honour within the Hall, and with further names continuing to be added there.

Horse Guards Postcards

Horse Guards in central London was commissioned by King George II in 1745 to replace an earlier building of the same purpose on the site that had fallen into such a state of disrepair that it was dangerous to the cavalrymen billeted there. The new Horse Guards was designed by William Kent in the Palladian style and it is this building that is depicted in this postcard:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (4)The cost of the buildings was £65,000 and took nearly ten years to complete. The Household Cavalry moved into the northern wing of the uncompleted building in 1855; at that time, there was stabling for 62 horses compared to 17 today. Originally, the two wings were connected to the central block by single storey ranges; in 1803-5 a further two floors were added to these, giving the building its present appearance.The building also served as the offices for the various administrative departments responsible to the Secretary at War, which would eventually become formalised as the War Office. Also located at Horse Guards was the office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces. Two famous occupants of the office, a room originally intended for courts-martial, were Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1795-1809), popularly believed to be “The Grand Old Duke of York”, and the Duke of Wellington (1827-28 and 1842-52). The final Commander-in-Chief at Horse Guards was Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, who was so reluctant to move to the new War Office building at Cumberland House in Pall Mall that he had to be ordered to leave by Queen Victoria. Wellington’s desk is preserved in the same room, which is now the office of the Major-General Commanding the Household Division and General Officer Commanding London District. Horse Guards subsequently became the headquarters of two major Army commands: the London District and the Household Cavalry.

In this view the two large sentry boxes for mounted soldiers are clearly visible:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (4) - CopyThe building’s close proximity to the rest of London is clearly seen in the postcard, St Paul’s Cathedral in particular being visible on the skyline:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (5) - CopySadly the cranes of London’s docks are long gone today, Horse Guards is however largely unchanged, the parade ground behind the main building remains the centre of British ceremonial life and the site for trooping the colour to this day.