War Gas Smelling Kit

Posted in Gas Masks with tags , , , , on September 19, 2017 by The Dude

Flag_of_the_United_KingdomFlag_of_CanadaAfter the experience of WW1 gas use, there was a huge effort in equipping and educating military and civilians on protection from so-called “war gas”. Aside from the near universal provision of gas masks, there were also these gas samplers issued so that during training the trainee could get a first hand experience of what the gases actually smelled like. Interestingly each of the four bottles contained a sample of the actual chemical. Some sources say that the sample was simply a similar harmless chemical that mimicked the smell. But from the training guides it is clear that these did, in fact, contain mustard gas, phosgene, etc. A cautious sniff? Yeah bugger that.

This example was manufactured in Canada for the Department of Munitions & Supply by the Gelatin Products Company of Windsor, Ontario.

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Mine Clearance Service Sleeve Badge

Posted in Medallions & Badges, Spanges, Campaign Shields & Cuff Titles with tags , , , on September 19, 2017 by The Dude

Flag_of_the_United_KingdomI’ve always liked this badge, large size, interesting design that isn’t yet another lion or national symbol. These badges are heavily copied. Look for a crack on the obverse running top left to bottom right, as well as poor detail on the rear of the stamping.

At the end of the Great War, the Admiralty appointed an International Mine Clearance Committee on which 26 countries were represented. The Supreme War Council allotted each Power an area to clear, the largest falling to Great Britain. Some 40,000 square miles of sea needed clearing. In February 1919 a Mine Clearance Service was formed with special rates of pay and conditions of service. Members of the Service wore a specific metal cuff badge and cap tally. By the end of 1919 over 23,000 Allied and 70 German mines had been swept with the loss of half a dozen minesweepers.

A Reunited Orphan Birchall

Posted in 1914-1918 Service Medals, Family Groups & Singles with tags , , , on September 19, 2017 by The Dude

Flag_of_the_United_KingdomThis single is a WW1 Victory Medal belonging to William Birchall. It is impressed to 20177 Pte. W. Birchall Essex R. William deployed to the Balkans on the 19th of September 1915. He was discharged on the 30th of March 1917 under category 16, “No longer fit for war service”, in this case because of wounds. William was also entitled to the Silver Wound Badge 152379.

What is fantastic about this humble medal is that I already had his 1914-15 Star from back in 2013 so getting these back together is very satisfying. I am still missing the BWM but my search goes on.

WW1 Canadian Hate Belt

Posted in Belts & Belt Buckles, Insignia with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2017 by The Dude

Flag_of_the_United_KingdomFlag_of_AustraliaFlag_of_New_ZealandFlag_of_CanadaFlag_of_the_United_StatesFlag_of_FranceFlag_of_the_German_EmpireNice simple pickup last weekend at the local antique fair. This is a souvenir belt put together from a Prussian infantry belt and the tunic buttons from a wide range of Allied and German units. This example has a predominance of Canadian buttons so I am guessing that it was Canadian in origin. The rest are French, Australian, New Zealand, German and one single U.S. General Service button. You see these in all sorts of configurations, some on Allied belts, some with cap badges and other oddments. The legend is that these were put together from souvenirs taken from dead bodies but that sounds overly complex to me and likely nonsense. More likely most of the buttons were swapped at rear area camps between bored soldiers making up a souvenir. The U.S. button suggests a late war job, 1917-19. The Empire buttons make sense as often these units found themselves together in the line. The Canadian Regiments are from different divisions so that’s why I think this is a rear area put together. Still, a great belt, in fine condition and worth it just for the buttons and belt IMHO.

A Birchall Driver in the ASC

Posted in 1914-1918 Service Medals, Family Groups & Singles with tags , , on August 4, 2017 by The Dude

Flag_of_the_United_KingdomThis lonely little Victory medal was awarded to Thomas Birchall, 2529, a Driver in the Army Service Corps in WW1. I can’t find much on him but I can see by his entitlement card that he was awarded the Territorial Force Efficiency Medal in 1920. Both this and his British War medal are lost to time unfortunately.

A Self-Award For A Victorian Birchall

Posted in 1850-1900 Medals, Family Groups & Singles with tags , , , , on July 19, 2017 by The Dude

Flag_of_the_United_KingdomHere’s an odd one. We have our share of military imposters today, slipping into a uniform and slapping on a bunch of undeserved medals in order to gain the eye of the ladies. They call them “Walts”, after the deluded central character in the 1939 book, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”.

Now it appears I have one from the 19th Century. This medal, a Crimean Medal with Sebastopol, Inkermann and Balaklava bars is inscribed to Captain Basil Herne Harper Birchill 1854-5-6. Researching Basil tells me that he was a member of the minor gentry from Middlesex. His surname was Diprose at birth but he was able to change his name to Birchall upon the death of Lt Col. Herne Harper Burchell in 1858 (probably due to either a remarriage of his mother or an illegitimate issue). He did indeed serve in one of the County militia, the Royal Bucks. However as far as I can see he never made it to the Crimea. I see a record of him  connected to the British Italian Legion which replaced British troops in garrison on Malta during the Crimean War. And he seemed to be busy in organisations like the Cinque Ports Corps (basically a bunch of rifle clubs) and the Royal Geographical Society. However I sincerely doubt that he left Britain and this medal is a self award. Pompous little classist pommie prick. I would say I’d plant my boot into his nuts if I met him today.

 

Carcano M38 Bayonet Sheath

Posted in Bayonets with tags , , on June 29, 2017 by The Dude

32px-Flag_of_Hungary_1940.svgThe Carcano M38 carbine was issued with a folding bayonet as seen here. The folding function was deemed a failure and the bayonet reverted to be fixed and issued with a sheath after a short time. It’s hard to find these live in the wild so I was thrilled (mildly) to see one drift past me and into my net.