Tag Archives: British Army

A look at the ‘Mad Minute’

A typical Tommy of the BEF’s original 1914, “The Old Contemptibles.” Not to be trifled with.

While slow, aimed, and deliberate fire was preferred– early SMLEs had magazine cut-off switches to leave the 10-rounds in the magazine as a sort of emergency reserve, forcing users to hand-feed single cartridges into the chamber as they went– the average “Tommy” was trained to deliver rapid-fire when needed, topped off by 5-shot charging clips.

As described in the British musketry regulations of the day, a trained rifleman should be able to lay down between 12 and 15 rounds in a minute, accurately.

In practice, the “Mad Minute” drill on the range became a standard of Commonwealth infantry for almost a half-century, with Australian troops still documented as carrying it out in the 1950s just before the Enfield was replaced with inch-pattern semi-auto FN FALs. Surpassing the 12-15 round minimum mark, some were able to squeeze in over 20 rounds in the same allotted time. One riflery instructor, Sergeant Alfred Snoxall, was credited with being able to deliver an amazing 38 hits on target with his Enfield in a one-minute period.

You see the Sergeant on the left, with an eye peeled for cockups? He will make sure your musketry is correct and by the book.

More in my column at Guns.com.

The Ghost of Robert Rogers, now taking the Queen’s schilling

One of the key figures in the historically abhorrent but no less entertaining AMC series Turn, portrayed by Angus Macfadyen, was Robert Rogers, the famed irregular whose unit excelled in combat along the frontier during the French and Indian War.

Color mezzotint of a representation by Johann Martin Will of Robert Rogers, published by Thomas Hart Anne S K Brown Military Collection

Known as Wobomagonda (white devil) among the Abenakis, the frontierman gave birth to what was known then as “ranging” warfare, with his men being the Rangers, a scratch unit that had American Indians as well as freedmen in its ranks.

His men were no red-uniformed line infantry, ready for set-piece battle. 

Knötel, Herbert, Rogers Rangers, 1758. Ranger of Rogers’ Company. Summer dress (1949)

Knötel, Herbert, Rogers’ Rangers, 1758. Ranger of Spikeman’s Company, Winter dress (1949)

His most lasting piece of military guidance is, of course, his 28 Rules of Ranging also seen in as a more concise 19 Standing Orders.

A defacto loyalist, as in 1775 he still nominally held a British officer’s commission, Rogers tried to wrangle an appointment from Washington but was spurned, which led him to raise the Queen’s Rangers in 1776– a unit he was cashiered from the next year. The Queen’s Rangers, led at the time by the unremarkable Maj. James Wemyss was decimated at Brandywine when used as traditional infantry, leading the unit to be resurrected by John Graves Simcoe. After the war, the Rangers were sent to Canada and quietly disbanded.

As noted by the British Army today, “After the loss of the North American colonies, the British Army lacked a forested frontier where it could usefully employ a ranger unit and the capability ceased to exist in its pure form,” with later “Ranger” units such as the Central London Rangers, The Connaught Rangers, The Royal Irish Rangers, and The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, holding the name as more of an honorific title than as descriptor for a force designed for a specialist ranger role, or that they used unconventional tactics.

Now, the newly formed Ranger Regiment in the British Army– to be stood up with volunteers drawn from across the infantry as well as from four battalions folded into its organization, 1 SCOTS, 2 PWRR, 2 LANCS, and 4 RIFLES — will officially carry the legacy of the American-born Robert Rogers.

True to form, it will be part of the Army Special Operations Brigade and will be tasked with “unconventional action.

As per the Army:

While the new Rangers might not have to abide by the original 28 Rules of Ranging – including turning up to evening parade with a ‘firelock, sixty rounds of powder and ball, and a hatchet,’ they will be self-sufficient and highly resourceful, just like the Rangers of the past.

Social Distancing: Scots Guards Edition

Using the standard British Army pace stick–the 30-inch measure introduced by Sandhurst Sgt. Maj. Arthur Brand in 1928– WO2 Drill Sergeant Rae, 1/Scots Guards explains and demonstrates the correct distance individuals should keep apart, during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Scots Guards have been following such rules for PT, which, unlike many U.S. units and branches, still remains standard in the British Army, even in garrison.

Speaking of the Guards, the ceremonial changing of the guards at Buckingham and elsewhere this week changed to a more understated “Administrative Guard Mount” where the Old Guard hands over duties to the New Guard without music or ceremony. It is not a new drill as it is standard for situations, for instance, during heavy rainfall.

Looks like rain.

Fit for a Kingsman

All photos Chris Eger, except where noted

The folding clasp knife, aka jackknife, aka pocketknife, aka penknife, aka peasant knife, et. al, in military ancillary use dates back to the Roman Legions as early as 200~ AD. Fast forward to the 19th Century and the level of inexpensive standardization that was brought about by the Industrial Revolution, and good folders became available on the cheap. By 1905, the British Army started to standardize the basic issue clasp knife (the Pattern 6353/1905), used for opening tins, working ropes, and other basic non-fighting tasks.

For help in opening and processig stuff like this:

Typically made in Sheffield by a myriad of firms, they were marked with a Broad Arrow acceptance mark on the blade, included a sheepsfoot main and can opener secondary auxiliary blade with a tertiary marlinspike in some cases. By the 1930s, shell and bone handled knives fell by the wayside and scales were commonly made from “chequered black bexoid (plastic).” This was the standard Commonwealth jack used through WWII and Korea, with surplus stocks in wide circulation for decades after.

A vintage multitool, the blade ends could be used as screwdrivers as could the center scale insert and the canopener as a fork when hungry enough.

Here is my British Army WWII era clasp knife. Marked SSP 1943 with a Broad Arrow, it is a hoss at 5.1-ounces and is built like a tank.

The two blades are 2.75-inches long overall and the knife itself, when closed, is 3.75-inches.

The strong shackle on the heel enabled the knife to be used as an ersatz plumb in field construction and in use as a slungshot to throw lines.

army issue clasp knife (WEA 4120) Clasp knife with chequered black bexoid (plastic) grips secured by three rivets. Pivoting at one end of the knife are a“ sheepsfoot” style blade and a tin opener. At one end of the knife is a flat screwdriver head and at the other is a pivoting steel shackle. Tied to the shackle is a buff cord lanyard with a large loop at the opposite end. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30003938

A more pointed “dagger jackknife” was commonly issued to commando, paratrooper and Marine units as well as the gentlemen of the SOE.

Carried on a lanyard attached to the camouflaged jumpsuit for cutting parachute shrouds lines if required while the blade was to be of sufficient length for stabbing…(Photo by Range Days in France)

In a form of flattery, this 1960s follow-up was made by Bianchi in Italy for the Italian military and is marked, Campobasso. It is lighter than the preceding Anglo-Saxon model, tipping the scales at 3.7-ounces. The two blades are 2.5-inches and the knife itself, closed, is 3.5-inches.

Post-war, the Brits themselves moved to adopt a slimmer version with metal scales. Today they are still made in Sheffield and, taking a key to the marketing behind Swiss Army knifes, Joseph Rodgers/George Wostenholm make “Genuine British Army” knives for the market in various models, with the below being one of the more svelte models, a single blade that weighs just 2.2-ounces.

I quite like it while the other ones see time in the safe.

As for the revolver, of course, it is a .38/200 Enfield No.2, 1943 production, the same date as the Bren gun brass cleaning kit.

Happy Red Hackle Day

Today is Red Hackle Day! This annual celebration on 5 January commemorates the award to The Black Watch (3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, 3 SCOTS) of the right to wear the Red Hackle in their caps.

The Black Watch at Quatre Bras, 1815, by William Barnes Wollen. Note the red hackles in their caps

The Black Watch at Quatre Bras, 1815, by William Barnes Wollen. Note the red hackles in their caps

Forward! 42nd Highland (Black Watch) at the Battle of Alma, 1854, Crimean War. Note the red hackles

Forward! 42nd Highland (Black Watch) at the Battle of Alma, 1854, Crimean War. Note the red hackles

The origin of the wearing of the Red Hackle is uncertain. There is evidence that it was worn by the 42nd in North America in the 1770s, however a 19th Century tradition ascribes the award of the Red Hackle to an action at the battle of Geldermalsen in 1795 when the 11th Light Dragoons retreated, leaving two field guns for the French. The Black Watch promptly mounted an attack and recovered the guns.

It was for this action that the Red Hackle was allegedly awarded and on the King’s birthday on 4 June 1795, there was a parade at Royston in Hertfordshire, when a Red Hackle was given to every man on parade. It was not until 1822 that the Adjutant General issued an order, confirming that only The Black Watch would have the privilege of wearing the red “vulture feather” in their bonnets.

In 1919 the Central Committee of The Black Watch Association formalised the date on which the Regiment should celebrate “Red Hackle Day”.

The tradition is carried on to this day.

Date 03/09/11 Location Fort George Invernes-shire Photo by Mark Owens: His Royal Highness The Duke of Rothesay inspects troops at Fort George today. Photo Caption: DUKE OF ROTHESAY VISITS 3 SCOTS Today [Saturday, 3 September 2011] His Royal Highness The Duke of Rothesay visited The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland at their Fort George base. The Battalion paraded its new Colours in the presence of HRH and Battalion’s families. The Parade was followed by a BBQ lunch, which led into a number of afternoon activities, encompassing military stands, entertainment for the children, and an inter-company competition. The day provided an opportunity to assemble the Battalion community for the final time prior to 3 SCOTS forthcoming deployment to Afghanistan , and allowed HRH – the Battalion’s Royal Colonel - to meet soldiers and their families. ENDS Note my new DII e-mail address: 2XX-G3Media-Ops-Edin-PIO (Jamieson, Bill Mr) Bill Jamieson Press Officer Army G3 Media and Communications (Based at G3 Media and Communications HQ 2nd Division) 94740 2611 - HQ 2nd Division (Military) 0131 310 2611 - HQ 2nd Division (Civilian) 07900 607919 (Mobile) bill.jamieson678@mod.uk

Date 03/09/11 Location Fort George Invernes-shire , Photo by Mark Owens: His Royal Highness The Duke of Rothesay inspects troops at Fort George today.
Photo Caption: DUKE OF ROTHESAY VISITS 3 SCOTS, Today [Saturday, 3 September 2011] His Royal Highness The Duke of Rothesay visited The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland at their Fort George base. The Battalion paraded its new Colours in the presence of HRH and Battalion’s families. The Parade was followed by a BBQ lunch, which led into a number of afternoon activities, encompassing military stands, entertainment for the children, and an inter-company competition. The day provided an opportunity to assemble the Battalion community for the final time prior to 3 SCOTS forthcoming deployment to Afghanistan , and allowed HRH – the Battalion’s Royal Colonel – to meet soldiers and their families.

The Royal Tank Regiment is having a 1980’s throwback, but it’s not for a parade

The British Army’s RTR is using a series of urban camo-painted Challenger 2 MBT’s in a series of tests to judge their ability to lay low in ruined cities. Of their three Sabre Squadrons (Ajax, Badger, and Cyclops), one has had their 18 tanks given a throwback paint scheme.

From RTR:

AJAX have just taken delivery of their latest tanks. These have been specially painted in the Berlin Brigade urban camouflage scheme and will be used for UK training as part of an ongoing study into proving and improving the utility of Main Battle Tanks in the urban environment.

AJAX are the urban specialists within the Regiment and will be looking to test current doctrine, tactics and procedures whilst experimenting with other techniques from across NATO and the rest of the world.

The brick red, slate gray marine blue and arctic green of the camo hails from the old pattern used on 18 Chieftain Main Battle Tanks assigned to the armored squadron of the British Army’s Berlin Brigade in the 1980s.

British Army Chieftain tanks of the Berlin armored squadron, taking part in the Allied Forces Day parade in June 1989 via Wiki

According to the Tank Museum, the “Berlin” pattern originates back to 1982 when the CO commanding the 4/7 Royal Dragoon Guards tank squadron in Berlin felt that the normal Green paint scheme of the British Army was incompatible with its current urban environment.

The story of how “well” it worked, from the Tank Museum:

[A] senior MOD official was invited to Germany to inspect the new camo, and when he looked out of the window he is said to have remarked: “I can’t see your f*****g tank, must be a good idea” – what he wasn’t told was the Chieftain had typically broken down en route and no tank was there at all.

By the way, if you are curious about the eye painted on the turrets: These were painted on many of the tank corps vehicles and dates back to 1918, when one Eu Tong Sen, a prominent Malayan businessman of Chinese decent, paid £6,000 for a rather expensive Mark V tank via subscription. He insisted that, like Chinese river junks that have eyes to guide them in their travels, it should have eyes painted on it. British regulars familiar with Hamsa evil eye charms from prior Indian service also likely chimed in that they would repel evil.

The eyes seemed like a good idea either way to Tommies in France and was copied on other tanks in the field, a tradition that has endured in 1 RTR today.

The Pats are now in charge of the Palace

On Sunday 18 June 18 a company of 85 personnel from the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI) and 35 members of the Royal Canadian Artillery Band took over the Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace for the first time in history. The mounting of the Queen’s Guard will continue until 3 July.

The Canadian troops are instantly recognizable by the distinctive French Grey color on the regimental facings of their full dress scarlet tunic, Diemaco/Colt Canada C7A2 carbines with green furniture and German-made Eickhorn bayonets, and traditional Canadian Wolseley Helmet.

The Wolsely, a cork helmet for hot climes issued to British West African and Chinese regiments, was adopted by the Canadians in 1911 for all units that didn’t already have assigned headgear. Founded 10 August 1914, the PPCLI fell into this classification. Some in the PPCLI also unofficially wore captured Italian pith helmets in Sicily in 1943.

The Pats were the first Canadian infantry unit to arrive in France during the Great War, fought again in the Second World War, Korea (again the first Canadians to arrive), Afghanistan as well as dozens of UN peacekeeping missions. The regiment has received 39 battle honors, three Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendations and the United States Presidential Unit Citation, the latter for the defense of the Kapyong Valley in 1951, which saved Seoul.

From the MoD:

The Queen’s Guard are soldiers charged with guarding the official royal residences in the UK. These include Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Tower of London.

Ceremonial duties are an important part of Army history and tradition both in the UK and in Canada. The soldiers participating in the public duties act as sentries during the day and night.

“It is an honour for the Canadian Army to provide soldiers to mount the guard for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We are pleased to play an important role in this long-standing Army tradition in the UK, especially as we in Canada mark Canada 150,” said Lt. Gen. Paul Wynnyk, Commander Canadian Army

Canadian Captain Megan Couto, 24, has been given the prestigious role of Captain of the Queen's Guard, 2pplci

In another first, Canadian Captain Megan Couto, 24, has been given the prestigious role of Captain of the Queen’s Guard, the first such tasking for a woman largely because restrictions on women in the British Armed Forces means none has been Captain of the Queen’s Guard.

Not your average catch of the day

crate-of-british-enfields-were-dragged-off-newfoundland-in-2011

The archaeology department at Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland has been working since 2011 to save a crate of 20 Pattern 1853 Enfield rifled muskets that were delivered to Canada via fishing trawler after an extended period on the bottom of the Atlantic.

The rifles, still in the crate they have been in since around the 1850s-60s, are housed in a large container filled with a chemical solution that includes a bulking agent and corrosion inhibitor designed to stabilize the relics.

“This soaking process will take many years and is done to prevent the wood from collapsing, cracking, or warping once dry and also to prevent any remaining iron from staining the wood surface,” Memorial’s Archaeological Conservator, Donna Teasdale, told me.

And they are now starting to find inspector’s marks on very well preserved brass and walnut.

img_1758

More in my column at Guns.com