Following the baby’s gas mask we looked at before Christmas, we now turn to the next type of respirator a child would be issued when they became too old for the hood type. This gas mask is made of red rubber, with a blue container. Supposedly this is to make it look like Mickey Mouse and thus less frightening to children; how effective it was is not recorded! The government advice went:
Toddlers soon learn to put on their own masks. Let them make a game of it and they will wear their gas masks happily.
These masks cost the government 3/6 each in 1939 and the following description comes from the Civil Defence Pamphlet Volume II ‘Basic Chemical Warfare’ from 1949:
This respirator was designed for children sufficiently developed to wear a respirator, but not big enough to be satisfactorily fitted with the small size Civilian Respirator. As a rough guide it was suitable for children between the ages of about 18 months and 4 to 4 ½ years. Some Children below the age of 4 years were fitted with the small size Civilian Respirator.It consists of a thin flexible moulded rubber facepiece with separate eye-pieces of non-inflammable transparent material:and an outlet valve. A container is screwed into a metal mount on the front of the facepiece:This container, though smaller, gives the same degree of protection as that fitted to respirators for adults. The respirator is held in place by a head-harness formed of coiled springs enclosed in cotton braid: The head harness is not adjustable but the tension and flexibility of the springs is such that the facepiece is held in firm but comfortable contact with the face. A hook and eye attachment to the two lower springs of the head-harness enable them to be hooked together at the back of the neck which prevents easy removal of the respirator by the child itself. A stout cardboard carton with a sling was supplied with the respirator to contain it when not in use.
This gas mask, as is often the case, has lost its cardboard carton and had it replaced with a more durable and attractive leatherette bag in russet brown:Inside the bag is the name of the original owner, Charlotte Goatley, pencilled inside along with her address:This was a wise precaution as gas masks were frequently lost or forgotten! The inside of the mask has a printed date which puts manufacture at 18th April 1940:Apparently toddlers soon learnt to make rude noises to annoy their parents when breathing out through the flapper valve on the front, the rubber making a sound like a whoopee cushion!
Over the past year we have looked at two British made kit bags, an RAF example here, and one marked to an officer here. Tonight we are looking at a third example of the kitbag; this one is unfortunately unmarked, but interestingly this example is made in India and is slightly different in detail to those made in the UK:The bag is made of plain white coarse cotton fabric, with a circular weather flap sewn into the opening to protect the contents:This flap has two circular Indian stamps on it, one appears to say ‘F&S’ and ‘IJ’:Whilst the other has the /|\ mark, the acceptance code ‘CL53’ and a date that might be ‘43’:Besides these marks, the other distinctive feature of many Indian kitbags is that they have a drawstring opening, rather than the eyelets of British examples:Presumably this was an economy measure to reduce the need for brass and to simplify production. The stitching and quality is slightly poorer than that from British manufacturers, but the bag is still quite serviceable. These kit bags came back to the UK with returning soldiers from the far east, who arrived back in Great Britain with just the clothes on their back and a couple of kit bags (often with interesting souvenirs). As such these bags are not particularly rare, but it is not always easy to identify them from photographs online- this however was a lucky eBay purchase where I could see the circular stamps and took a chance.
In this splendid photograph of the King’s African Rifles boarding a troop ship in October 1943, white kit bags can be clearly seen, seemingly with draw string necks indicating Indian manufacture:
It is odd what items of British Army militaria are rare and which are really common. For some reason /|\ marked spoons and forks are very easy to find, whilst the table knife to complete the set is much harder to come across. I have been hunting in boxes of old cutlery for a few years now and whilst I have had a steady stream of marked spoons and forks, the knife has remained resolutely missing. In the end I have bitten the bullet and bought an example from one of the militaria dealers. As can be expected this was not really cheap, but considering their rarity I was very pleased with my purchase, however humble it may look:As can be seen, this fork is of pretty cheap and basic construction, even for 1945. The blade is made of normal steel- rather than stainless steel that was becoming more common for quality civilian cutlery in this period, and the handle is two simple pieces of ivory plastic secured with visible copper fastenings:It is perhaps because of this cheap construction that the knives are uncommon now, the forks and spoons could happily go in the cutlery drawer when a soldier demobbed, the poorer quality knives may have been more likely to have been thrown away. I stress this is only my theory, but it might explain why its so hard to find /|\ marked knives. This example was made by Wallace & Co in 1945 and has a clear /|\ mark on the blade:Sadly I have been unable to identify the manufacturer, even Grace’s Guide doesn’t list this one. If anyone can provide more information on the maker then, as always, please get in touch. This knife came from World War Wonders and at the time of writing they still have four or five knives of varying conditions available- they are the only dealer I know of who has any stock of wartime knives.
Tonight we have a large selection of documents relating to a Sergeant Tapp of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, attached to the Indian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in India in 1945. the documents are rare survivors of the mundane eveyday paperwork surrounding any member of the army- we have requests for missing uniform, reimbursements for travel and paperwork for living outside of barracks. Alongside this is a nice signed VJ day menu, a letter to an outgoing officer from his staff and an invitation to the sergenat to attend a party for his leaving and return to the UK. As ever click on the images to get large readable copies.
Amongst the many new items of equipment introduced as part of the new 1944 Pattern Jungle webbing and uniform, was a new jumper designed for use in the jungle. This design was a close copy of Indian made jumpers of the period and would see service in the post war jungle campaigns in Malaya and Borneo. Whilst during the day the tropics could be swelteringly hot, often once night fell and certainly at any altitude, the temperature dropped rapidly. The British began using the American system of layering clothes to keep warm- so a man might wear his vest, then a shirt, then a jumper and finally a blanket or poncho, all of which helped keep him warm. The layering system also made it much easier for me to regulate their temperature by adding or subtracting clothing as required. The jumper is made of a machine knitted jungle green wool:The jumper is ‘V’ necked:The forearms have sewn on cotton reinforcing patches:These help prevent wear at a vulnerable point on the garment. On the shoulders a slot allows the shoulder strap of the shirt to pass through, and a hole allows the strap to be buttoned:This allowed badges of rank to be worn and clearly seen, even when the officer was wearing the jumper. The cuffs of the jumper are slightly tighter than the sleeves to help with the fit:This example has a sewn in makers label, dating it to 1951 and showing that it is a size 3:Also visible are a /|\ mark and a manufacturers’ name of SD&S Ltd. Once again my thanks go to Andrew Dearlove who helped set me up with this jumper, which has allowed me to make great strides with my 44 pattern pack contents- more of which on Sunday…