Category Archives: Latest Pick Ups

Child’s Gas Mask

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.imageIt consists of a thin flexible moulded rubber facepiece with separate eye-pieces of non-inflammable transparent material:imageand an outlet valve. A container is screwed into a metal mount on the front of the facepiece:imageThis 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: imageThe 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:imageInside the bag is the name of the original owner, Charlotte Goatley, pencilled inside along with her address:imageThis 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:imageApparently 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!14b769cae40e77e243724c31ae7c991e

Scottish No 6 Dress Bush Jacket

The run up to Christmas saw the secondhand market in Huddersfield go through one of its periodic ‘dry spell’ for militaria with very little worth picking up. One nice item that did come up to break the monotony however was this British Army No6 Scottish uniform tunic:imageThis light tan uniform, known as a ‘bush jacket’ was for ceremonial wear on parade in the tropics and replaced the old KD cotton uniform used up until the outbreak of World War Two. Being a parade uniform it features staybrite regimental buttons:imageIn this case they are for the Queens Dragoon Guards (I don’t know why these are attached as the regiment shouldn’t have a scottish pattern of jacket). The buttons are secured to the jacket with split rings to allow them to be removed for laundering:imageThe jacket itself has pleated patch pockets on each breast:imageAnd the usual pair of shoulder straps:imageThe most distinctive part of the jacket is the ‘cutaway’ front to allow it to be worn with a kilt:imageTwo metal belt hooks are provided on each side to support a belt in the correct position:imageThese are supported by cloth tabs inside the jacket to help distribute the weight and prevent them from twisting:imageA label is sewn into the back of the jacket identifying the type of uniform, its size ‘4’ and laundering instructions:imageThe label allows us to roughly date the jacket to the 1970s approximately- metric sizes taking over shortly afterwards. The jacket was made by Briggs, Jones & Gibson; a clothing firm with factories in Manchester and Stoke on Trent. The company had been founded just after the turn of the twentieth century and specialised in producing uniforms for bus companies and the military- World War One they had won substantial government contracts to make uniforms for the army- something it was to continue to do for many years to come. It does seem to be pretty hard to find much information on this particular design of jacket, even a search by the NATO number has not brought up any information, so as ever if people can help with further details or photographs of the jacket in use.

Baby Gas Mask

A few weeks ago a work colleague generously gave me a small collection of gas masks; along with three standard civilian masks and a child’s mask was the subject of tonight’s post: A baby’s anti-gas hood. Whilst the government quickly issued standard gas masks to civilians in the two years leading up to World War Two, it took longer to develop a mask suitable for small children and babies. The resulting design cost £1 for each mask and the government placed orders for 1.4 million of them at the start of 1939:imageHaving a baby daughter of my own, brings home what a frightening prospect gas warfare must have been, and there is something slightly terrifying about the idea of parents having to use these masks. The following description comes from the 1949 government publication ‘Basic Chemical Warfare’:

This was designed for children too small to wear the Small Child’s respirator. It consists of a hood of impervious fabric, with a large window to cover the head, shoulders and arms of the baby:imageand is tied by means of a draw tape round the waist: imageThe hood is supported by a light metal frame with a back that can be adjusted in length to suit all sizes of babies and children up to the age of five years.

Air is pumped into the hood through a container by means of a rubber bellows worked by the parent or person in charge of the baby: imageAll the time the bellows is working a continuous flow of pure air passes into the hood near the top and out through the baby’s clothes at the waist. The outgoing air prevents any gas getting in.tumblr_mjvvo169xU1qzs4odo2_12801The metal frame supporting the baby has two wire stands that hinge out of the back to hold the mask steady when it is rested on a flat surface:imageA metal cage over the baby’s head helps support the mask and offers a carrying handle:imageThis period photographs shows babies being carried in the mask in this fashion:Gas masks for babies tested at an English hospital, 1940 (1)The child is placed inside the mask, the hood secured around it’s waist and a canvas strap is passed between its legs and buckled to the sides of the mask to hold it secure:image

A small brass plate is fastened to the mask indicating that it remained government property:imageThis example is dated 1939 and has the manufacturers logo stamped into the metal frame:imageTests with babies suggested that most became docile and often fell asleep when placed in the masks- this seems to have been caused by oxygen deprivation as the pumps could not provide the baby with enough air! Thankfully these masks were never needed and they do survive in reasonably large numbers. Needless to say I won’t be trying this out on my daughter (the filter contains asbestos) but I am keeping my eye out for a large doll that can be placed inside instead!BabyHelmet_Edit-thumb-615x447-55701

Indian Made Kit Bag

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:imageThe bag is made of plain white coarse cotton fabric, with a circular weather flap sewn into the opening to protect the contents:imageThis flap has two circular Indian stamps on it, one appears to say ‘F&S’ and ‘IJ’:imageWhilst the other has the /|\ mark, the acceptance code ‘CL53’ and a date that might be ‘43’:imageBesides these marks, the other distinctive feature of many Indian kitbags is that they have a drawstring opening, rather than the eyelets of British examples:imagePresumably 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:9001_1497227107221249_6138116188563721402_n

1945 Dated /|\ Marked Table Knife

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:imageAs 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:imageIt 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:imageSadly 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.

British Indian Army Paperwork

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.

1944 Pattern Jumper

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:imageThe jumper is ‘V’ necked:imageThe forearms have sewn on cotton reinforcing patches:imageThese 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:imageThis 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:imageThis example has a sewn in makers label, dating it to 1951 and showing that it is a size 3:imageAlso 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…