Tonight’s item is a shell casing from a Nordenfelt 6 pounder, dating to 1901. The Nodrdenfelt Quick Firing 6 pounder was a 57mm short single barrelled gun used on board ships and for coastal defence by many different countries. Britain introduced the gun as the ‘Ordnance QF 6 Pounder Nordenfelt’ in 1885. They were used as a light gun for protection against fast moving, lightly armoured torpedo boats that were becoming popular with navies of the era. Below we can see examples on HMS Camperdown in the late 1880s:
Multiple Nordenfelt guns were mounted around the ship with clear arcs of fire to put down a large volume of shells to try and blow torpedo boats out of the water before they got into range to launch their weapons at the capital ship. The guns were light and handy to manoeuvre, easily operated and quickly reloaded by a small crew, making them ideal for close, quick firing protection. The gun had a range of approximately 4000 yards and could fire around 12 aimed shots a minute. The innovation which allowed this high rate of fire was combining the casing, propellant and shell into a single, easily handled unit. Up to this point most naval guns had used separate elements that slowed the rate of fire down. My case is approximately 12 inches high, with fairly straight sides and has traces of chroming on the outside:As can be seen the case has been modified at some point by having the top turned over, however the base of the case still has a multitude of markings:
From these we can see that the case was originally manufactured in 1901, was loaded with a Cordite Full Charge and refilled with the same charge at a later date (CFF Stamp). When it was reloaded the case was annealed (A in the circle). The gun was shortlived with the Royal Navy as the very similar Hotchkiss 6 pounder became widely adopted instead. The Nordenfelt was a simple gun to use an maintain, consisting of only 10 working parts for its breach and firing mechanism and was to be used by many navies across the world in the run up to WW1. The example below is in the Manege Military Museum, Helsinki, Finland:
Drill rounds have been in use since the dawn of the cartridge rifle as a safe means to train with the operation of a weapon with no risk of a cartridge going off and injuring someone. The term ‘Drill Round’ refers to a dummy rifle cartridge that is the same length and design as a service cartridge, but with no propellant or percussion cap. Normally these cartridges have some sort of distinguishing feature that allows their identity to be confirmed even in the dark- holes and grooves being the most common methods. As might be expected, with such a long service life there are many variations of drill round for the various .303 Lee Enfield rifles. I have a selection of these rounds in my collection and hopefully these will give a flavour of the evolution of the round.
Dummy Drill MkIV
This type of drill round was approved in 1910 and consists of a reject brass case with a wooden Mk VII spitzer type head and four small holes drilled in the body of the case:This example uses a MkVI ball case dated 1909, with a circular strikethrough to indicate its drill status:
Clip of 5 Drill Rounds
This clip of 5 drill rounds dates from around the First World War and consists of five brass cases, with large holes drilled through to indicate drill status. The heads are made of wood and are of the earlier MkIII drill round type. The pointed spitzer bullets were found to be to fragile so a return to round heads was made. The cases themselves are sub standard reject 1911 dated brass cases, with a circle struck through the markings to indicate their use as drill rounds. The holes drilled through the cases are some of the largest seen on drill rounds, clearly allowing them to be identified by touch alone in the dark. The clip holding the five rounds is of the earlier WW1 pattern:
Dummy Drill MkVI
These drill rounds were the first to be made of white metal and feature deep grooves in the case to allow easy identification. The cases are made of cupro-nickel and the MkVI was introduced in the dying days of WW1:The headstamp shows these are MkVI rounds made by Royal Laboratory, Woolwhich:
Drill Round MkVIII
These rounds were introduced as an expedient in WW2 and like their WW1 counterparts consisted of reject brass cases with wooden heads. In this instance their drill status is indicated by long flutes down the case. Again the wooden heads were found to be too delicate for regular use:
Drill D Mark 10
Post war rounds are very similar to the MkVI rounds but chrome plated rather than being made of white metal:These examples are dated to the 1950s and the RG headstamp indicates they were made by the Royal Ordnance Factory, Radway Green, Cheshire:
This small selection barely scratches the surface of British drill rounds, however I hope it gives some pointers for identifying rounds you might find. For further reading, the best resource on British small arms ammunition I have found on the web is https://sites.google.com/site/britmilammo/home
Well its back to the second hand market today, after too long an absence. Whilst it was a bit quiet, I did pick up some nice bits including yet another ammunition box! My wife is very tolerant of these, but they do start to take up a bit of room after a while…
This ammunition box is made of wood and covered in stencil markings. It is worth remembering that ammunition boxes came as often in wood as they did in metal. Metal was a strategic resource, so if a box could be made of wood and be as safe as a metal one then this was the preferred policy. Wood was the traditional material for munitions boxes as it was cheap, durable and most importantly couldn’t cause sparks like metal boxes could.
This box is dated 1943 on the base:
However it has been repainted and re-stencilled for reuse in 1953. I haven’t tracked down which type of box this is yet, so if anyone knows the model number, then please let me know so I can carry on my research.
One of the best and longest lived anti aircraft guns in service is the Bofors 40mm. This was introduced into the British Army in 1937 and became the standard light anti aircraft gun in service throughout the Second World War. It was used as a standard towed artillery piece and on a variety of vehicles to become self propelled:
This casing is dated 1942 and has a profusion of ordnance stamps on the base:Trench Whistle
Following on from last week’s pickup of a Metropolitan type Trench whistle, this week I was lucky enough to pick up the ‘Snail’ type to go with it. Its marked ‘J Hudson & Co, Birmingham, 1916’:RAF Observer Photograph
This rather elegant portrait photograph is of an Observer from the RAF in the Second World War. Sadly the chap isn’t identified, but his insignia is clearly visible:British India Passport
Finally we have this passport. Its not strictly military, but as it was issued in April 1944 I hope you will forgive its inclusion here. British subjects born and domiciled in India needed passports just like anyone else, and the government of India issued them with these:This example was issued to a Miss Jayne St: Pierre Bunbury:This particular example is stamped as having been issued in the North West Frontier Province and is overstamped as ‘cancelled’ presumably following Indian Independence.:
A quieter day on the market today, but a few nice finds none the less.
Aircraft Starter Cartridge
Although it looks like an artillery shell, this little dumpy casing is actually a blank cartridge for starting an aircraft engine. Before modern electrical starters, it was quite common for aircraft engines to be started by firing a blank cartridge. It is likely this example was for use in the first generation of jet fighters. The gasses from this cartridge turned a small turbine that in turn started a compressor of the main turbine, once it was up to speed the engine would sustain ignition.This example is 7 inches high, dated 1953 and marked ‘ELEC. ENG. START. VAEL’ and ‘LOT 30’.Clothes Brush
Amongst the small kit issued to every man was usually a clothes brush. Woolen uniforms collect fluff and hairs and a brush was the quickest and easiest way of cleaning them off. The forces must have produced and distributed millions of these throughout the war, and as they continued to be useful in civilian life, many have survived.This particular example is marked as having been made by H.D. Don and Son in 1941 and has the WD arrow.On the top is the original man’s name and number, 2055744 M. Keys, and the date he received it 2/42.
Photograph of Soldiers in the Desert
Finally we have a simple little snapshot of two friends serving somewhere in the desert. From the 37 pattern belts and WD issue shorts they are wearing we can tell this was taken in or just after the Second World War.On the reverse is the little note:
“Here’s introducing a grand duo. Including a glorious hero. Who Although C.3. Chanced to land by me. And with throbbing leg unheard. Watch the Dicky Bird. Gordon”