A few years ago the blog covered an Auscam shirt here. Recently I have been kindly given another Auscam shirt by a good friend of mine and I recently compared the two shirts side by side and it was clear that the two shirts were of slightly different patterns. The previous shirt was dated 1994, this example is 1990 dated:Having spoken with various Australian collectors, it seems the patterns changed over around 1990 to 1991 and it was a gradual roll out of the new pattern, with the old design slowly being phased out as shirts became too tatty for service. This earlier pattern shirt was issued to the Australian Army from about 1988 for just a few years and this example has an embroidered badge sewn on the sleeve:It is interesting to place the earlier pattern shirt alongside the later variation to compare the two patterns. On the left is the later pattern, on the right the earlier pattern. The most obvious difference is in the breast pockets, the earlier pattern has far more square pockets, the later pattern has them attached on a slant:The sleeves are also different, the earlier pattern has a reinforcement panel along the forearm, which was deleted on the later pattern. The shape of the cuff securing tab also changed. The earlier design is pointed, the later pattern is cut square on the end:The final difference between the two patterns is that the later pattern has added a pen pocket to the upper left hand sleeve:This early pattern shirt is dated 1990 and the label inside indicates that it was made in Victoria and has an NSN printed on as well as a sizes, 100L:William Dytes recalls:
I was in the cadets for a while, we didn’t like the old flat pocket uniforms as they got damaged a lot easier and looked out of place when everyone else had slanted pockets.
Todd Fitzgerald remembers the introduction of the new uniform:
This is the original pattern issued to Land Army circa 1988. First units issued were 1 Bde (mechanised) in particular the Tattoo Regiment which was drawn from the 1st Brigade, were part of the issue as they toured on the Bicentennial Military Tattoo from Aug – Dec 1988
In British Army slang ‘shreddies’ is the term for any pair of underpants (although the more disgusting the better). Although today it refers to all different types of pants, its origin comes from the green “drawers, cellular” that were issued for tropical use in the early post war period. These undergarments were made from green cellular cotton, and the open weave resembles quite closely the popular British breakfast cereal ‘shreddies’- hence the name:This pair of mint, unissued underpants date to the mid-1960s and have a simple open fly:The drawers are held up by an elasticated waist:Whilst the label sewn into the rear indicates that they date from 1965 and were made by prisoners at one of Her Majesty’s Prisons:Prisoners could earn small amounts of money by working whilst incarcerated and sewing small items for the military was a common task given to inmates. Previously we have seen a housewife sewing kit made at a prison and this pair of pants was another item produced by the prison service. All these items are fairly simple, nothing of the sophistication of a smock or pair of trousers seems to have been entrusted to the prison workshops!
One old soldier remembers being issued with these underpants:
Oh Yes! I had completely fogotten about the good old ‘Drawers, Cellular’ or as we used to call them. Drawers ,Dracula’! I never ever had ‘The pleasure’ of actually putting any of the three pairs we were issued on my Body! I used to use mine on Bullnights for cleaning the windows! They bought the glass up admirably!…..
Another old soldier’s website gives the following definition:
Drawers Dracular – Real name Drawers Cellular, jungle-green cotton underpants with draw strings, designed to castrate unwary A/Ts, so reducing the need for putting bromide in the tea. The most diabolical underwear ever designed. Indescribable. And why cellular?
My thanks go to Jon Mills who kindly helped me add these to my collection.
The production of knitted goods for military personnel was a major source of woollen items such as gloves, socks, hats and jumpers for the services during the war. To meet this demand from the country’s knitters, various companies produced knitting patterns which could be bought for a few pennies and had the patterns for a number of different garments. Tonight we have a knitting pattern described as ‘Service Woollies for Air Land & Sea’ with a fetching picture of a man wearing some of the items standing in front of a training aircraft:This is a rather more substantial pattern than most, running to ten pages, and so cost 6d when new. The inside of the front cover has a number of the items that the keen knitter can make illustrated:These are all fairly standard garments like cardigans, scarves and gloves.The remainder of the pamphlet has the knitting patterns themselves:Knitting comforts was undertaken by women (and men)up[ and down the country and with many girls learning to knit when they were still young children it was a skill that millions shared. Rita Sarin was a child and she joined in knitting comforts:
I used to love doing knitting on four needles. I used to make loads of pairs of socks and used to like turning the heels. I don’t think I could do it today unless I was shown – but I made loads of gloves and scarves. We used to make gloves on four needles. When you did a finger you’d get so many stitches on each needle and then knit round and round until you’ve got a finger done and then cast off and then do another one, then do the thumbs. I did that at school – we all used to sit — I used to hate sewing, I still do now – but I used to do an ever so a lot of knitting until my thumbs got bad, and that’s all I did at school, was knit! The school mistress used to say to me “Rita Flower did you do your sewing last week?”, (because we used to have to knit one week and sew the next), “Yes I did!” But I never did of course! I always said I did my sewing last week but I never did. I used to hate it. I remember doing khaki gloves and socks, and black for the Navy, and sort of bluey for the air force we had all those colours, I can remember that as plain as day, sitting at my desk knitting.
Sylvia van Oosten’s mother was another who knitted for the troops:
I remember my mother going to a Women’s Guild during the war and the women sat around knitting for the army and navy. She also brought home wool for knitting socks, gloves, helmets etc. I remember the wool for socks for the navy was very oily and thick and very difficult to knit with. My mother eventually “adopted” a sailor and sent him packets of food as well as the knitting she had done for him. Because of my mother knitting so many socks I also picked up this knowledge and can knit a pair of socks “in no time” without a knitting pattern. I began when I was 9 years of age knitting my own socks. My mother would also cut the worn heel or toe from my father’s socks and re-knit these. We had to be thrifty in the war.
At the very end of the Second World War the Royal Navy introduced a new uniform for wear in combat called ‘Action Working Dress’. This uniform consisted of a mid-blue buttoned shirt and a pair of dark blue trousers. It was designed to offer far more protection in combat than the traditional sailor’s uniform and was heavily influenced by US practice of the time. It saw little service during World War Two, but was to become ubiquitous as the Navy’s working dress for the next seventy years and despite updates to fabric and cut would remain in service until replaced in 2015. Tonight we are looking at the trousers from the final pattern of Action Working dress. Although originally made of cotton to be somewhat fire resistant, these garments were later made of manmade fibres until in the Falklands when some sailors found their uniforms melted into their skin. Following this conflict there was an urgent review and new fire resistant fabrics were developed that saw service right through until the end of the uniform’s service. The trousers are made in dark blue and have a slightly shiny look to the fabric due to this fire resistant coating:The trousers are secured with a button and drawstring. Although belt loops are sewn to the waist, belts were seldom if ever used with this rig:A button and tab is also fitted to offer some adjustment to the waist sizing:A pleated thigh pocket is fitted, the flap of which is secured with Velcro:As is typical, a stores label is sewn to the inside of the trousers:Over the years this uniform has had a number of names, my father’s generation refer to them as ‘No8s’ whilst when I was issued them they were always ‘No4s’. The trousers always had to be ironed with a crease, even though they were for working dress and then folded down to A4 size- not always an easy task due to their shape and the number of tucks inwards to make them fit the size. We also wore them with elastic ‘twisties’ during basic training that allowed them to be bloused over our boots, again this was never done again once training was over!
Since being replaced by the new working dress, the older pattern has been cascaded down to many Sea Cadet units which still use the older pattern of uniform until funding permits it to be replaced entirely, but its days are now numbered and it will soon disappear into history.
Once again my thanks go to Wojciech Musial for his kid permission to include another rare South African item from his collection on the blog. The South African textile industry in the 1930s was very small, with most items of civilian and military clothing imported from overseas. Much as in India however the requirements of the military during the Second World War were to boost the union’s manufacturing requirements and capabilities leading to a massive expansion in this area. In 1938 50% of clothing purchased in South Africa was of local manufacture, by 1948 this market share had risen to 86%. South African manufactured uniforms of the Second World War are generally held to be of the roughest quality of any nation, the fabric being even coarser than that produced in India. Tonight we are looking at an extremely scarce South African produced greatcoat:This greatcoat conforms broadly to the British 39 Pattern Greatcoat, without the later expansion pleat in the rear of the coat:The coat is made from khaki dyed heavy grade woollen fabric, with a half lining made of cotton inside covering the shoulders:The original owner’s name ‘C Roberts’ is inked into this lining at the back of the neck:The coat is secured with brown vegetable ivory buttons, each bearing the armorial coat of arms of South Africa as used by the Union form 1910 until it was replaced by a new design in 2000:The inside of the coat has a simple label indicating that it was manufactured by ‘The African Clothing Factory (Ensign) Ltd and is a size 4:South Africa made a massive contribution to the Second World War, both in terms of men and equipment, although this is largely forgotten now both in the UK and indeed in South Africa itself. Les Dwight was one of many who lived in South Africa and joined up:
I joined a youth training brigade in South Africa in July 1942 as a volunteer at the age of fifteen. At the medical during the eye test a man with a glass eye on the right side, was asked to read the chart, covering an eye at a time. The first time he covered his right eye with his right hand and then covered the same eye with his left hand for the second test! Everyone was so keen to join up and do their bit. I was big for my age and so no questions were asked.
I completed infantry weapons training and elected to transfer to the South African Corps of Signals in 1943, where I was trained on radio telephony for armour and artillery work and transferred to an Armoured Signal Squadron. I was drafted to the Middle East for further training and sailed to Taranto, in Southern Italy. I was transferred to a mobile field radar unit and worked my way up through Italy to the North. This was under the command of the Royal Air Force and for security reasons it was known as an air ministry experimental station, to conceal its identity as radar development was extremely secret at the time. I was actually working as a wireless telegraphist by then, which was a long way from the training I had received in South Africa!
I had four years active service and was only just nineteen when I was demobbed in 1946. The price I paid was missing a lot of education, which took some years to catch up on.
I still have no regrets in doing what I did and am proud to be able to relate this story today.