Category Archives: WW2

Type D, Mk V Field Telephone

During the Second World War, Divisional HQ level units and above used the F type field telephone (see here). Units lower down the food chain tended to be issued the D Type MK V field telephone, which we are looking at tonight:

The following excellent description comes from Joseph Barrett on the Warrelics forum:

The Telephone Set D Mk V was a portable instrument for field use in Army formations forward of divisional headquarters. It provided the following facilities:

1) Calls by buzzer

2) Responds by bell to magneto generator calling and by aural indication to buzzer calling

3) Speech communication

4) Morse communication by buzzer and key

The instrument, having a magneto bell, could only be rung by another telephone, or telephone exchange, which has a magneto generator. It could only call by buzzer, which gives visual indication to Switchboards UC (Universal Call), and aural indication to another telephone when not working through an exchange. Maximum range was 14-16 miles (speech) and 25 miles (Morse) using D8 twisted cable or 8-10 miles (speech) and 15 miles (Morse) using D3 cable. Like the F Set, it was powered by two 1.5V ‘X’ or ‘S’ Cells. In addition to the normal handset, the set also incorporated a single headphone, which could be used on a listening watch. The Telephone Set D Mk V* was similar but without the headphone. In army slang, the set was commonly known as a “Don Five”.

The D type telephone was housed in a sturdy metal tin:

The lid of this tin was hinged so it could be opened as in the photograph above and a small hook acted as a latch to prevent it opening unexpectedly:

A pair of metal loops are fitted on either side to allow a carrying strap to be attached:

Finally the telephone seems to be able to be carried on the waist belt as a pair of webbing loops are riveted on the back of the case:

Inside the telephone lacks a magneto to allow it to alert another telephone that the operator is calling (hence no winding handle), but it does have a bell to indicate incoming calls:

The two terminals in front of the bell allow the telephone wires to be attached. Next to this is a battery box (missing it’s top cover) and a key to allow Morse messages to be tapped out:

The extreme right of the telephone has the buzzer unit:

This can be pulled out for maintenance (and is consequently frequently missing):

The handset of the telephone is stored underneath and consists of a large black receiver and microphone made of Bakelite in the usual manner:

A button is fitted to the handset and needs to be depressed in order to speak:

A metal tab is fitted to the telephone that can be pulled out to place the handset on when the telephone is in use:

This slides back into the telephone body when not needed:

Finally the underside of the lid has a couple of etched brass instruction plates with details of the telephone’s wiring and instructions on its use:

These telephones saw extensive use throughout the war and can be seen in use here with a Canadian artillery battery:

Aromatic Ammonia Ampules Tin

Smelling salts are compounds of ammonia used to revive someone who has fainted or is feeling faint. These compounds have been used since Roman times and Smelling salts release ammonia (NH3) gas, which triggers an inhalation reflex (that is, causes the muscles that control breathing to work faster) by irritating the mucous membranes of the nose and lungs. The action of breathing in deeply reverses the fainting and revives the patient.

Smelling salts were standard items in both civilian and military first aid kits of the Second World War, frequently referred to as ‘aromatic ammonia’. The ammonia compounds were sealed in small glass ampoules that were then wrapped in cotton wool and tied into a secure package. To use them the ampoule was crushed and the gas released, the glass being safely contained within the cotton wool.

These ampoules were obviously fragile, so they were held in small metal tins to protect them and it is a small tin that would have contained twelve ampoules that we are considering tonight:

A paper label is pasted to the top of the tin, and although a little rusted and damaged now, the lettering indicating the contents of the tin is still clearly visible:

The design of this label corresponds with that used on British Army examples I have found online, so I am happy that this is most likely a tin used by the military. The lid of the tin is hinged across the back and the tin can be opened up to access the aromatic ammonia ampoules within (now long gone):

An American soldier describes their use on him:

I had one used on me once.. Legit! I was at sick call in basic training. I had a bad infection on my hand and it needed lanced. Well.. It wouldn’t drain so the nurse kept digging around. It hurt so bad, I fainted. They used the salts to wake me up before I fell off the exam table. Worst. Smell. Ever

Indian Army Mosquito Net

The risk of malaria was recognised by the military from an early point and by the inter war period precautions were routinely taken to minimise the risk of mosquitos at night. In barracks the easiest method was to rig individual mosquito nets above each man’s bed:

Tonight we are looking at an Indian made mosquito net, produced in the late 1930s, for use in a barracks to cover a man’s bed:

The main part of the net is, of course, the net itself. The 1941 ‘Memoranda on Medical Diseases in Tropical and Sub-Tropical Areas’ explains the correct mesh size for mosquito nets:

Reliance is placed primarily upon the mosquito proofing of houses or the use of mosquito nets. The latter should be employed whenever it is possible in the absence of mosquito proofing. On service, suitable types of bivouac or tent nets should be available and the strictest orders in regard to these should be issued… In the case of cotton netting, the mesh consists of two series of holes, the lines intersecting each other at an angle of about 60 degrees. The mesh is the sum of the number of holes along both lines within an area of one square inch, the hole at the angle where the two lines meet being counted twice. The mesh of the nets issued to the army is 28/29 holes to the square inch. Cotton thread is standardised by weight, being described as “30”, “40”, “50” etc., the higher numbers indicating the thinner thread, the thread used for army nets is 30/40 cotton (I.e. 30 warp, 40 bobbin).

The net is edged with cotton panels that give the mosquito net its structure and has cotton ties that allow it to be secured to a frame or wires and rolled up and tied during the day:

The RAMC’s journal gave some advice on how to set up the mosquito nets back in 1927:

The mosquito net has a plethora of different stamps over it. There is the usual circular Indian Army acceptance stamp that dates this to 1943:

Another large stamp seems to refer to the roll of netting the mosquito net was cut from, again there is a date of 1943:

Finally there is a large purple stamp that I do not know the meaning of, but may be an inspector’s stamp:

This mosquito net is large and in surprisingly good condition, the netting often getting damaged and ripped

1948 Khaki Beret

The khaki beret was introduced in 1942 for wear by members of the Reconnaissance Corps and motor battalions of Infantry. It’s use was extended in 1943 to personnel of light scout car companies and in 1943 the army authorised its wear by colonels and above, standardising what seems to have already become standard practice. After the war the beret became the army’s standard headdress, although most wore the midnight blue version. The khaki example continued to be worn by some regiments however and tonight we have an early post war example to look at:

Unlike the GS cap, the beret is knitted as a single piece and when laid flat is a circular shape without any seams or stitching in the main body:

A pair of metal eyelets are sewn into the crown of the beret, just above the leather sweat band:

The size of the beret can be adjusted slightly due to a draw cord through the sweat band that is secured by a small bow at the rear:

The interior of the beret is black fabric, with sizing, date of manufacture and maker’s name stamped inside in white:

Occasionally unscrupulous sellers try to modify these to a wartime date in the hope of selling them for a higher price- changing an ‘8’ to a ‘3’ for instance. Happily this example has escaped this fate and remains in good condition and one advantage of buying a post war example is that you can be sure it’s genuine- if you were faking one you would make sure it was wartime dated!

Kangol was founded in Britain in 1920 and its name is an amalgam of three words: K was for knitting,the ANG was for angora, and the OL was for wool.

Osprey Green Plastic Mug

The green plastic Osprey mug has been issued to new recruits for many decades now and is one of those ubiquitous pieces of kit that knocks around and no one thinks anything of. I cannot find an exact date of introduction for the mug, but I suspect it was in the 1970s as a replacement for the china mugs issued up to this point (probably to the great dismay of instructors who enjoyed throwing the china ones onto the ground and smashing them!). The mug was used on bases to drink from and was carried to and from the mess halls by the individual soldier. The mug itself is a simple green plastic mug that can hold ¾ pint of liquid:

It has an angular handle:

And the base has a partial NSN number and a date of manufacture:

These mugs were a standard item to issue new recruits, as recalled by one soldier:

I joined the Regular Army, Infantry, in 1982 so my original issued kit was all ‘Falklands’ period kit – so to speak. We were issued a set of KFS, a green Osprey mug and two tin plates (the tin /aluminium plates were for use at camps where crockery was not provided i.e. central messing in the field or on some camps).

The mugs are also put to many other uses they were not designed for. During firefighting training I found them used to measure out the liquid used to make foam in practice fire extinguishers, a single cup full being placed into an empty extinguisher before it was topped up with water and pressurized.

Other Ranks’ Field Service Cap

Alongside its new battledress uniform, the British Army reintroduced the Field Service cap in 1937. The design dated back to the start of the century and had been used, amongst others, by the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. It had fallen from favour and was largely replaced by regimental pattern caps or the stiff peaked service dress cap. The FS cap, however, was easy to fold flat and tuck into a pocket or pack and so was far more practical than the SD cap. The same design was used for officers and other ranks; the officers being made of barathea (see here and here), whilst the other ranks version was made of plain khaki drab serge:

The cap was to be issued a size larger than a man normally wore and was to be positioned on the right side of the head, with the front just over the right eye:

Technically the cap could be undone and the sides worn down to offer protection to the ears and chin (although thankfully few chose to make the sartorial decision). In order to allow this feature to work, the sides were secured with small brass hooks that looped into metal grommets on the crown of the cap:

A pair of brass buttons were sewn to the front of the curtain that could be undone to allow the cap to be unfolded, but were usually just polished to give a soldierly appearance without being used:

The serge ran into the inside of the cap and acted as a sweat band, wear being seen on the inside of this example:

The crown was made of a cotton drill type fabric, note also the hooks from the curtain visible on the inside. The size, manufacturer and date are stamped into the cap here; 1938, a size 7 and produced by Collett Ltd:

Gordon Spikins was issued one of these caps as a member of the Army Cadet Corps:

We received our uniforms, which consisted of a battledress blouse, trousers (too long for me), a big, wide web belt, 1914 pattern, a pair of gaiters and a “forage cap”. This cap was to be worn on the right side of your head, with two buttons over the right eye. It took some practice to keep the hat on, particularly when you turned, as the hat spun off your head, to the anger of the NCO giving the orders!

3 Gallon Water Carrier

The Official History of the Second World War’s volume on Special Weapons and Types of Warfare Volume II outlined the problems of providing sufficient water to men in tropical conditions:

The 3 Pint chagul in wide use in India was an excellent water bag under hot, dry conditions, but it was rather small and had little advantage in regard to keeping water cool in hot, humid climates. Additional water frequently had to be carried on the man, and platoons frequently had to send some distance for water. Without some form of water bag, individual water bottles had to be collected, with the result that water parties were festooned with noisy and cumbersome bottles which might be lost should the party run into any trouble.

As part of the reforms to jungle equipment following the Lethbridge commission, two designs of water bag were developed for jungle conditions. A 2 1/2 gallon version was produced with a tap and a 3 gallon canvas version that we are looking at tonight:

The official history describes the bag as:

A 3-gallon canvas water bag with a plastic stopper and closure but no pouring tap. It had been originally developed for air dropping and fitted into the airborne container. It was adopted for jungle formations to cover the production lag of the American type 2 1/2 gallon bag. It differed only from the airborne item only in proofing and dyeing. It weighed 1lb 10oz. First deliveries were unsatisfactory on account of leakage due to defects in manufacture. Post-war development must aim at eradicating these and developing a more satisfactory pouring tap.

The bag is made of green dyed canvas, with a shoulder strap to help carry it. This is adjustable with a small stamped slider buckle, much like a respirator haversack:

The main feature of the water bag is the large Bakelite screw top:

The top unscrews to allow access to the water within:

The lower collar is also removable, presumably to allow repair or cleaning:

The 3 gallon water bag had been developed earlier in the war in a plain canvas version, and it remained in service into the 1990s, but post war production replaced the Bakelite cap with a smaller plastic version and the colour became a brighter shade of green. The design’s longevity highlights how effective the water bag was as a piece of equipment and my thanks go to Gary Hancock for helping me add a couple of these to my jungle collection.