Sherwood Foresters Miniature Silver Trophy

Miniature trophies were often given out as prizes to those who won regimental sports matches, although there would be a big trophy that would be engraved with the winning soldier or team’s name, smaller trophies were given to individuals that were there’s to keep. Examples of these small trophies can occasionally be seen next to bigger trophies in photographs of winning teams such as this one here.

Tonight we are taking a look at a small silver trophy produced in India and presented to a member of the Sherwood Foresters:imageThe trophy is made of ‘935’ silver and this is stamped into the metal:imageMost UK silver is 925 silver which means it is 92.5% silver with the rest usually copper to provide strength. This is the minimum silver content to be legally declared silver in Great Britain and in the early twentieth century many foreign manufacturers deliberately made a slightly purer silver alloy (93.5% silver) so that they could be sure of passing the UK minimum requirement, even if their alloys were slightly less pure on testing than they expected at manufacture.

This trophy is in the form of a miniature two handled loving cup and is engraved on the front with the regimental crest of The Sherwood Foresters:imageThe trophy is mounted on a mahogany base and the base has a round manufacturer’s disc showing that it was made by J Manikrai and Sons of Karachi:imageMy thanks to Mike Garrett who offers this information about this manufacturer:

Presumably this firm is the continuation of the silversmith Manik Rai. Manik Rai was a silversmith who fled the Kutch area following the ‘Chhapaniyo Dukal’, the great famine that struck the Kutch area in 1899-1900, and then settled in Karachi. He was noted as an exhibitor in the Lahore Exhibition of 1909.

Unfortunately we don’t know for what sport this cup was issued, nor the exact date. To give a flavour of some of the sport undertaken by the Regiment in India, this account of boxing from 1934 is perhaps a good representation of the esteem sports were held in:

Following upon the Blake Cup Novices meeting came the inter company and individual championships. These took place at the end of February, and it was decided to hire the Western India Football Association Stadium for the occasion. Furthermore to attract the Bombay public, five special contests were arranged between leading Presidency amateur boxers and well-known boxers from surrounding stations. These proved to be first class contests.

The very excellent lighting arrangements in the Stadium were erected by the Royal Engineers, and two stands were put up by a local contractor. The result was a very large and impressive boxing arena, excellently lit at night, and capable of seating twelve hundred people at a session.

The companies experienced a certain amount of difficulty in training some of their men up to the necessary company standard. This was due to the fact that a very great number of old company and battalion boxers had gone home during the last year.

However the improvement shown by some of those who had fought in the Blake Cup only a fortnight before was remarkable, and we saw three good nights of boxing.

MTP Rucksack Cover

Just as it had done with the desert DPM rucksack covers, the British Army introduced MTP pattern rucksack covers when that camouflage became standard issue to allow its DPM patterned bergens to continue in service. Bergens are a relatively expensive item of military kit, whilst a simple cloth cover is comparatively cheap and a simple way to ensure that supply chains were not clogged up waiting for replacement kit to replace serviceable bergens that just happened to be in the old camouflage.

The rucksack cover consists of a large piece of MTP fabric:imageThis has a drawstring around its edges that allow it to be secured over the bergen:imageA plastic slider buckle allows the string to be tensioned to give a secure fit:imageAs usual, a small white label is sewn inside with details of the item’s NSN number and date of manufacture:imageTwo MTP covers can be found, a smaller version designed to cover packs such as the daysack; here modelled by a Ghurkha on exercise:imageAnd a larger bergen cover like the example above, which can be seen here being used by a fusilier:image

D-Day 50th Anniversary Commemorative Items

Today marks seventy five years since the D-Day landings, and thoughts turn to the brave men of the Allied Expeditionary Force that fought in Normandy on this day. Commemorations are taking place in both the UK and France and whilst impressive, these celebrations are small in comparison to the fiftieth anniversary back in 1994. There were of course many thousands more veterans alive for that anniversary and massive commemorations were organised on both sides of the channel. Personally I was ten years old and I remember watching it on television and as an avid stamp collector I was entranced by the Royal Mail commemorative stamps that were issued. The Royal Mint also issued a special 50p coin to commemorate the event and my father bought both myself and my brother a special souvenir pack.

Since then I have picked up a small collection of commemorative items relating to the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day and it seems appropriate to look at them tonight:imageThe Royal Mail’s stamps were inspired by the design of the magazine ‘Picture Post’ and a special point of sale card was produced to display in post offices to encourage people to buy the new set of stamps:imageThe stamps themselves were of course sold individually for use in the mail, but special collector’s packs of mint stamps were produced:imageAs well as the standard first day cover:imageThe first day cover included an explanatory card inside with a brief outline of the Normandy Landings:imageThe Royal Mint’s 50p was offered in a card commemorative folder:imageThis folded out and the coin itself was contained in a plastic blister:imageThe coin featured a design of the landings with gliders flying overhead and the seaborne invasion beneath:D-Day-50p-1994This particular design is often cited as one of the public’s favourite ever con designs and even twenty five years later is a striking design.

Sadly it seems unlikely that veterans will be able to return to Normandy in any great numbers for future commemorations as all are well into their nineties now, it will so be left to those of us from future generations to keep their sacrifice alive in people’s hearts and minds.

Please take a moment tonight to reflect.

1972 Pattern Butt Pack

Tonight we come to the fourth and final component of the 1972/75 webbing set; the rear haversack, more commonly called the butt pack:imageThis is a nylon haversack that sits at the rear of the webbing set and is designed to carry the same contents as the 58 pattern kidney pouches and poncho roll:- NBC kit, field rations, spare socks, wash kit etc. Whilst the pouch is larger than the kidney pouches of the earlier set, without the poncho roll the capacity remains small and this was one of the major shortcomings of the set.

The throat of the rear pouch secured with a drawstring:imageThis in turn was covered with the top flap. On the underside of this top flap are the maker’s details:imageAt the rear are a pair of plastic D-loops that allow the yoke to be attached to the pouch:imageBeneath these is a white panel used to write the soldier’s name and number on when in service:imageThe 72/75 pattern set does not have a separate belt, so the rear pouch attaches to the side pouches directly so straps and plastic frictions buckles are sewn to each side of the pouch:imageTwo variations of haversack apparently exist; a plain one and a type like this one that has a long pocket across the base:imageSome sources say this was for a machete, whilst others say it was for a pick axe head, which is what I have fitted it with:imageA loop with a friction buckle is also fitted to the top of the flap of the pouch:imageThis seems to have been used to allow extra items to be strapped onto the webbing.

This piece finishes my set of 72/75 pattern webbing and I now have a complete set:imageThese sets are scarce as they were a trials item half a century ago, but all the pieces are still available from one supplier (albeit not cheaply) so I am pleased to have finally finished the set and have a full set up as a soldier on exercise whilst trialling the new web set in the early 1970s:imageimageimageimageHaving worn the set, I can see why it was never adopted. It is flimsy and complicated and the carrying capacity is limited, as is the sets adaptability. On the plus side the butyl nylon is much easier to decontaminate than cotton webbing, but it would be another ten to fifteen years before a far superior design was adopted by British Army when the PLCE set became the standard load bearing set for the next thirty years or more.

I have deliberately named this as being the 72/75 pattern in this post rather than the 72 pattern as I have done previously. I have been informed that the term 72 pattern is a collectors’ term and the official designation was the 1975 pattern PLCE set- this name would today cause far more confusion as the pieces are all dated 1972 or 1973 and PLCE is more commonly associated with the 1980s and 90s sets.

Modified 37 Pattern Bayonet Frog

We have previously seen how the British Army had introduced leather and brass tabs to allow spike bayonets to be carried in the 37 pattern bayonet frog that was designed for the very different SMLE sword bayonet and scabbard. This was an expedient design and many troops also solved the problem by simply cutting a small slot into the frog to fit the boss of the No4 scabbard. In many cases this was simply done with a soldier’s knife and the threads left loose to fray. In May 1944 this expedient was made official when an army instruction was distributed that formalised this modification. The order stated:

Open one side of the upper loop by carefully cutting the stitching. Lay the loop flat and cut a slit 1/2″ long horizontally in the desired position 3/4″ from the top edge of the web. After the slit has been securely reinforced by means of button hole stitching, the loop must be carefully re-sewn in its original position.

A diagram was provided to explain how this modification was to be made:imageIt is one of these modified bayonet frogs we are looking at tonight:imageThat this started out as a standard frog for the SMLE bayonet is evident from the upper loop to secure that bayonet’s handle under:imageThe modification itself can be seen on the upper loop where the slot has been cut as per the instructions and the hole stitched around with button hole stitching:imageThis then allows the scabbard of the No4 spike bayonet to be secured through this little hole:imageThis little modification is one of those fascinating cases of the War Office recognising a common practice undertake by troops and deciding that it was better to just formalise and regulate the practice as it was the simplest and most practical solution to the problem rather than trying to outlaw it.

Jacket, Overall, Green

In 1962 the British Army introduced a new work uniform to replace the denims that had been in service since before World War II. This was the ‘overall, green’ uniform made of a heavy duty green cotton. Although designed as work wear, it was a popular choice for combat uniform in the summer months in preference to the heavy 1960 pattern uniform. The uniform was very shortly lived, being obsolete by 1971-72 and in that time a variation made of poly-cotton was also introduced. Tonight however we are looking at the standard cotton jacket, officially titled the ‘jacket, overall, green’:imageThis jacket is a simple single breasted garment, secured up the front by large green plastic buttons, hidden behind a fly:imageThe hiding of the buttons was presumably to protect them from snagging whilst the soldier was working. A pair of epaulettes was also provided, each fastened by a green plastic button (buttons missing on this example):imageA pair of patch pockets are sewn to the skirts of the jacket, each cut with the flap on an angle:imageInside the jacket a draw string at the waist allows some adjustment so that it is not completely shapeless:imageA third, interior, pocket is also provided:imageThis is where the manufacturer’s label is sewn:imageFrom this we can see that this jacket dates to 1963 and is a size 5. Richard Emms Ltd seems to have been a clothing company in existence until 1991. I have found the following description of the factory in the period this jacket was manufactured:

In 1955 Jenny Clarke started working as a machinist at Emms, she also now lives in Scole. In those days the toll bridge was operated by Mrs Reeve the 1d. (old penny) foot or cycle charge was waived for Mill employees. At that time the old mill was used for storage of imported rolls of fabric, packing and offices with most of the work being carried out in the new factory “over the road.”

This was a prefabricated building of no architectural merit but fitted out as a fully operational clothing factory powered by electricity direct to each machine.

Electric sewing machines were arranged in rows, the machinists operating a production line passing the item on for the next process. To the rear of the machinists, material was cut out, steam irons and presses were operated. In all when working flat out it was a noisy place but a happy factory with respect between staff and management.

Emms had factories at Diss (on Victoria Road now Ridgeons) and Wilby Road, Stradbrooke. Altogether they were major employers but as the 60’s drew to a close increased competition from the Far East was eating away at their margins they also found it difficult to recruit machinists.

In 1971: F.W. Harmer & Co. Norwich bought the whole of Emms business. Harmers, who were well aware the business was in decline, introduced the latest management techniques. The time & motion man appeared along with his stop watch. The clothing boxes were replaced with a rail, staff bonuses suffered. But they struggled on until December 1989 when F.W. Harmer closed down Syleham with the loss of 100 jobs.

Military Camp Postcard

This week’s postcard is a fine image of a temporary military tented camp, probably taken at some point in the interwar years:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (2)This camp seems to be set up somewhere in England and is possible part of the Territorial Army’s summer manoeuvers. The tents consist of a mixture of bell tents and large ridge tents:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (2) - CopyThe two largest tents however belong to the NAAFI, as can be seen from the letters painted onto the canvas:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (3) - CopyThe second of these tents has a set of chimneys and smaller tents behind which may well be a small kitchen preparing food for the troops:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (4) - CopyThis site seems to have been a semi-permanent location for troops to pitch camp as there are a row of more permanent buildings in the foreground which seem to possibly be latrine and wash blocks:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (5) - CopyThis excellent description of a Territorial Army camp comes from the Daily Mail in 1938:

The holidays-with-pay idea might almost have been conceived in a modern Territorial Army camp. Veteran sergeants probably say of the stuff they give the troops today: “we do everything for them but tuck ‘em up in bed.”

That of course is exaggerated, but a visit to Lympne, Kent, yesterday, where the 1st and 2nd London Infantry Brigades are under canvas, showed me more forcibly than ever how the new common-sense attitude to soldiering and the very real steps to improve conditions are popularising the Service.

Close to 3,000 officers and men of the London Division of the Territorial Army are enjoying their annual fortnight’s camp in the vast fields beside the Lympne aerodrome with the Kentish Downland around them and the sea a mile or two away.

Military training and discipline may sound far removed from sun bathing and tea and biscuits in bed- training in the use of the Bren machine gun and gas-mask drill may seem unreconcilable with concerts and cricket matches, yet the twain meet at camp.

It was not always so. Conditions are better than ever this year for officers and men. For instance the men now have five meals a day instead of four- a lavish supper has been added to the daily diet sheet.

I saw men in “civvies” being taken for a bather in Hythe in army lorries. All boys under 18 get a milk allowance of a pint a day. Every man, from the newest recruit is paid. Now the marriage allowance has been increased, enabling even those “Terriers “ out of employment to go to camp light-heartedly.

How is this for a “day’s work” in the British Army?

Reveille at 6 a.m:

May sound early, but a “gun fire”- the distribution of tea and biscuits- takes place before one even leaves “bed.”

The poor Company Sergeant Major is responsible for the carrying out of this new routine.

Breakfast at 7; Parade at 8; Field Training until 1.

Then the day is your own.