Bomb disposal for beginners

The 2 lb. magnesium bomb does not explode, its only object being to start a fire. It will probably penetrate no further than the attic or an upper floor, setting light to anything within a few feet. Vast numbers of these light bombs can be carried by a single aeroplane, and many more fires started than could be dealt with by fire brigades. Householders, with a little training and equipment, can deal with the incendiary bombs and so protect their homes and defeat the enemy’s object.

Image from a 1938 cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills.The intense heat and smoke from such a bomb and the fire which it will have started make close approach impossible until the atmosphere has been cooled down and the fire partly extinguished. This is done with a jet of water from a hose not less than 30 feet long. The stirrup hand pump (illustrated) is recommended for this purpose. The girl in the picture is kneeling, as smoke is not so thick close to the ground. Note Redhill container in foreground.

Image from a 1938 cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills.In this picture the girl has taken sand from the container and is pouring it on to the bomb with a long-handled scoop. Sand does not extinguish the magnesium bomb, but it controls it and reduces the heat, thus allowing near approach. Note the Redhill container placed on its side in such a way that full scoopfuls of sand can easily be withdrawn. After the first scoopful of sand has been placed on the bomb, the glare and heat are greatly reduced.

Image from a 1938 cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills.Removal of incendiary bomb with scoop and hoe. The long-handled scoop illustrated is necessary in dealing with incendiary bombs. It is made in two sections, the scoop on one end and the hoe on the other, and when joined together is 7 feet long. In the picture it is separated, the hoe being used to draw the bomb into the scoop, which is made strong enough to withstand the heat of a burning bomb.

Image from a 1938 cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills.The burning bomb is here being transferred from the scoop into the Redhill container, which can then be carried out of the house. The container is made strong enough to hold a burning magnesium bomb indefinitely, and is so designed that the heat of the bomb will not injure the hand of the person by whom it is carried.
‘Air Raid Precautions’ cigarette cards, 1938.

As easy as that. Like putting the rubbish out. I wonder if anyone actually did this? It looks like a pre-war theory developed by someone who had never been in an air raid and it’s more likely to endanger lives than save them. How do you fight a fire in an attic where the only ventilation is the hole punched in the roof by two pounds of flaming magnesium? And what if you get clobbered by one (or more) of the other bombs from the “vast” number carried by “a single aeroplane”?

When the real action started I believe civilians were advised to head for the nearest shelter when the siren sounded and not get in the way of the professionals.

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Military Mascots and Crimean Kittens

The Royal Warwickshire Regiment [originally the 6th Regiment of Foot].
Warwickshire regiment. Image from a 1939 Godfrey Phillips cigarette card.A formation raised by a few adventurous Englishmen to help the Dutch in 1673-4 laid the foundation of the old 6th. In 1685 it was included in the army of James II, but returned again to the Netherlands, appearing next in England when William of Orange became king [1689]. The distinction of “Royal” dates from 1832.

The regiment won its badge* at the battle of Almanza (1707) by capturing a standard with the antelope emblem thereon – antelopes have since become regimental mascots. Allied regiments are the Weyburn Regiment and the Westminster Regiment, both of Canada, and the Hauraki Regiment of New Zealand.
*The origin of the antelope badge is debatable. This is one version.

Official mascots in the British army are not regimental “pets”. They have a number and rank – and can be demoted for bad behaviour, just like Billy Windsor of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

Image from a 1939 cigarette card by Godfrey Phillips.Of comparitively recent origin, the Irish Guards were raised at the wish of Queen Victoria in 1900 as a tribute to the magnificent services rendered by Irish regiments during the South African campaign [Boer War].

An Irish wolfhound which proudly “follows the drum” on ceremonial parades is the treasured mascot of the Irish Guards. The Army chooses its mascots for a variety of reasons, some symbolise regimental badges, others record campaigns, whilst some pets even have utility, like the kittens which the soldiers carried inside their coats for warmth at the battle of Alma [Crimean War, 1854].

That last line, written in 1939 as if we should know the story, is intriguing. I haven’t been able to find any details so far, certainly no eye witness accounts. If you know more, please leave a comment. It might just be an urban myth that grew from the story of Bulgarian Belle, a cat that’s believed to have survived the same battle in a soldier’s back pack. Go to this link and scroll down to read more about her.

Image from a 1934 Valentine's art postcard.

A postcard by Valentine from 1934.

Text and cigarette cards from ‘Soldiers of the King’ by Godfrey Phillips Ltd. 1939.

The Road to Damascus

Given the evidence of the past eighty years, and especially this past week, it’s difficult to imagine the Middle East has ever known peace. Yet when these words were written in 1926, Beirut and Damascus were recommended to well-heeled tourists looking for an exotic travel experience.

M_BeirutBeirut …. [is a] busy port and a flourishing Syrian town. The visitor sees evidence of this in the fine harbour, the shipping, the commercial buildings and busy streets. But the East is ever present in the native portions of the population with the varied costumes and dwellings. Beirut has its good hotels, fine buildings and a stately Government House from the roof of which one gets a glorious view of the Mountains of Lebanon and the beautiful surroundings to the town.

M_desertThe Lebanon Mountains and plains between provide scenery of remarkable beauty. Contrasting indeed is that apparently trackless waste, the Syrian Desert. Hot, dry and desolate, at times there is practically no vegitation, while after rain, the desert becomes an almost impassable quagmire. On occasions bands of Bedouin horsemen spring seemingly from nowhere, friendly or otherwise, to disappear as quickly as they came. Camel caravans set out to cross this uninviting area, but for the 600-mile journey to Bagdad the motor transport is preferable to the traveller. The cars start from Beirut, additional passengers being picked up at Damascus.

M_olivesThe ancient capital of Syria is set in delightful surroundings, the minarets and domes rising above the white-terraced roofs completing a picture of impressive beauty. Entering Damascus, most of the streets are narrow and ill-kept, while the houses are in a state of dilapidation. But there are many places of interest; the magnificent Great Mosque, the Mosque of the Whirling Dervishes and numerous others. The bazaars also are particularly attractive. Damascus has of course much association with Biblical history. The traveller can pass along the famous ‘Street called Straight’ and can view the window said to be the one from which St. Paul was let down in a basket, also the houses reputed to have been those of Ananias and Naaman the Leper.

M_Damascus street
‘Around the Mediterranean’ cigarette card series, Major Drapkin & Co., makers of the famous ‘Greys’ cigarettes. 1926.

Winter sports

M_Hermitage

The Southern Alps are a favourite climbing ground for tourists who find in snow and ice a playground for their winter holidays, and the comfortable “Hermitage” hotel at the base of the main range is a popular rendezvous for patrons of the winter sports. The Hermitage is a modern hotel in the heart of the Alps, reached by a good motor road, and providing every convenience for climbers. The summit looks right down upon the hotel.

The Hermitage has expanded considerably since this was written in 1928.

M_Cook

I think this is from Sealy Tarns, not Mount Sealy.

The ascent of Mount Cook and its neighbouring peaks is the aim of many mountain climbers and the record of conquests is extremely small. The lofty peak of Mt. Cook is 12,349 feet [3764m] above the level of the sea, and its ascent is a task to try out the steel in a climber’s nerves. The track lies over crumbling glaciers and brittle snowfields where the first false step will probably be the last.
‘Beautiful New Zealand’ series, Three Castles cigarettes (W.D. & H.O. Wills) 1928.
Original images from the New Zealand Government Publicity Office.

Writers who record the heights of mountains should add “at time of writing” because it seems nothing is permanent. Aoraki/Mount Cook lost about 30 metres from its summit in a single rockfall in 1991. Luckily there were no climbers standing in the way. Then, in 2014, modern instruments measured it at 12,218 feet (3,724 metres). Its reputation as a dangerous mountain, however, has not been reduced and the warning about false steps still holds true. Many experienced climbers have died on its slopes since it was first climbed in 1894. The last unclimbed route wasn’t conquered until 1970.

The Southern Alps were a training ground for New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary who first climbed Aoraki/Mount Cook in 1948 and went on to famously “knock off” Everest five years later.

M_Cook2

Aoraki/Mount Cook towers above Lake Pukaki on a hot December day in 2013. Perspective is compressed by a 270mm (equivalent) lens. The mountain is about 60 or 70km away (40 miles).

M_Cook_Pukaki

The view from State Highway 8 at the bottom end of Lake Pukaki.

Follow this link for some spectacular images of the Southern Alps.

Trouble with Trams

Driving hazards in 1934, when British traffic rules and road designs were still evolving.

Image from a 1934 cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills. Safety First series.

Tramcars are built with a considerable amount of overhang at each end, and for that reason the ends swing out for some distance when they round a curve. Do not pass a tram when it is nearing a corner or crossing a junction, as its rear platform may strike the side of your car. It is not safe to rely on the driver giving the correct hand signal, and even if he does so the bulk of his vehicle will hide his hand from you. Never follow a tram closely for it is fitted with very powerful magnetic brakes and should it stop suddenly you may be unable to avoid a collision.

Image from a 1934 cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills. Safety First series.Some towns have by-laws that compel all traffic to stop when a tram stops, so as to avoid danger to any passengers who may be entering or alighting from it. In other districts the procedure is left to the discretion of the motorist who may stop, proceed cautiously or pass the tram on the off side. Of these three alternatives the first is the safest, for among the tram’s passengers there may be an old person or an irresponsible child. Passing round the off side of the tram has its dangers as one may meet another tram proceeding rapidly in the opposite direction.

It is always inadvisable to motor along a tram track, for tramlines, especially if they are wet, are most “skid-provoking.” Often, too, the lines are worn to a sharp edge which cuts the tyres. If you have the misfortune to get your wheels caught in the tram track (as in the case illustrated), pull out gradually.

Image from a 1934 cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills. Safety First series.

Grip the wheel firmly, but gently, and change the direction of motion as gradually as possible. Avoid use of the brakes, take your foot off the accelerator and press down the clutch pedal so that the car rolls along, for rolling road wheels, that have no power transmitted through them, do not skid.

Source: Safety First, a series of 50 cigarette cards issued by W.D. & H.O. Wills.

The Red Cross at the Front

These cards were issued in 1916 by a British cigarette company so we can safely assume there was an element of morale-boosting propaganda involved.

Image of WWI motor ambulances from a cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills, 1916.

The Rulers and Princes of India have vied with each other in showing their patriotism and devotion to the British Empire, freely offering their services and lavishly contributing to the expenses of the great war. The Maharajah of Scindia presented to H.M. King George V., 41 Siddeley-Deasy ambulance cars, 5 motor cars for officers, and 10 motor cycles – a timely and munificent gift. Men, money, and material have been generously offered by the Indian Princes, and freely accepted by our Government.

Image of WWI motor ambulance from a cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills, 1916.This Motor Raft, or Flying Bridge, is used for conveying motor cars, &c., across a river. The raft, on which the car is securely fixed, is attached to a long buoyed cable, longer than the width of the stream, and fastened to a rock or tree further up the river. A lighter rope is tied to the cable, close to the raft, and taken over to the opposite bank; the raft is pulled across and unloaded. The rope is then played out, the force of the stream swinging the raft back to its starting place ready for another load.

RC_NZEDNumbers of these splendidly equipped Motor Ambulances accompanied our brave New Zealand forces to the Eastern theatre of the war. The strongly built cars were eminently suitable for the very rough roads on the Eastern front. The chassis is a 20 h.p. extra strong Colonial Napier. The men were all thoroughly trained, and rendered splendid service during the historic Gallipoli operations, when our Colonial troops earned undying fame through their almost superhuman bravery.

RC_mcAmboThe Red Cross organisation of the French Army has been carried to a high state of perfection. Motor vehicles of all descriptions are adapted and used in different districts. In the mountainous Vosges, where in many places the roads are so narrow and steep that ordinary Red Cross Ambulances cannot be used, these small sidecars have proved most useful for quickly transporting the wounded from the field of battle to the hospitals, where everything is done to alleviate their pain and suffering.

RC_disguised

These cars have been painted to represent the surrounding scenery, and to harmonise with the country in which they work. In the Vosges, where they are doing excellent service, the French first used the ordinary ambulances with the Red Cross painted on each side, but owing to the frequency in which they were shelled by the enemy – regardless of the Geneva Convention – protective colouration had to be adopted, as the cars have frequently to work within range of the enemy’s guns.

While on the subject of non-combatants in WWI, I can recommend this post from Heritage Calling about the almost forgotten men of the various Labour Corps recruited by the British army from all over the world.

The Navy gets its wings

During the late war [World War One], the Navy acquired its wings with the formation of the Royal Naval Air Service, which corresponded to the the Royal Flying Corps ashore. But these two separate forces were merged into the Royal Air Force, and for many years a dual control of the aircraft attached to the Royal Navy caused a great deal of muddle and misunderstanding. The aircraft were supplied by the Air Ministry. While they were embarked in H.M. Ships they were under the control of the Navy, but when disembarked they were commanded and administered by the R.A.F. The pilot personnel was 70 per cent Naval, while all the observers were Naval officers and men. In 1939 the Admiralty assumed control of the Fleet Air Arm.

Image from cigarette card of H.M.S. Eagle, with Fairey Flycatcher biplane.The first of our ships built to carry aircraft was H.M.S. Eagle, which was under construction as a battleship for the Chilean Navy when war was declared in 1914, and was bought by the British Government as she lay on the stocks in 1917. She is of 22,600 tons, but carries only 21 aircraft. The aircraft in this picture is a Fairey Flycatcher.

World War Two Royal Nay aircarft carrier Furious. Image from a cigarette card.Three heavy ships, of 22,500 tons each, were converted later into aircraft carriers – Furious, carrying 33 aeroplanes and completed in 1925; Courageous, carrying 48, completed in 1928, and Glorious, carrying 48, completed in 1930.

H.M.S. Hermes was the first ship to be designed and built as an aircraft carrier. She is of 10,850 tons, and carries only 15 aeroplanes. But design has advanced rapidly, and the more recent ships – Ark Royal and her successors – have accommodation for 70 aeroplanes.

HMS_sharkIn this picture a Blackburn Shark torpedo-bomber aircraft is seen taking off from the flight deck of H.M.S. Courageous. The wire stretching across the deck in the foreground is an “arrester” which catches on to a hook under the aircraft as it lands. The Courageous carries aircraft of various types adapted for torpedo-bombing, fighting and spotter-reconnaissance work.

HMS_RecPlaneThis shows a Fairey III F reconnaissance ‘plane taking off from H.M.S. Courageous. An aeroplane takes off and lands into the wind, the direction of the steam jet seen coming from the bows of the ship indicating to the navigator when the ship is steaming dead into the wind. The aircraft carrier Courageous belongs to what is admitted to be the Navy’s ugliest class of vessels.

Image from a cigarette card of a WWII Walrus aircraft in flight.The most popular machine in the Fleet Air Arm is the Walrus, an amphibian biplane with the propeller behind the cockpit – a “pusher.” This is essentially a reconnaissance plane, and as it is a very sturdy type of flying-boat it is very seaworthy. It is used chiefly on patrol duty on trade routes, for intercepting ships, spotting submarines and floating mines, and carrying out bombing attacks if necessary.

The Skua is a larger aircraft, a low-winged monoplane, and fighters are usually Gloucester [sic] Gladiators, small biplanes with a very high climbing speed and the utmost manoeuvrability.

Gloster Gladiator

Edited from ‘The Royal Navy’, Wm. Collins Sons and Co. Ltd., June 1941, and cigarette cards from 1936 and 1938. Aircraft design advanced so quickly during this period that the Fairey IIIF and Blackburn Shark had been withdrawn from frontline carrier service by the outbreak of war. Curiously, the 1941 book doesn’t admit that Courageous was sunk back in 1939, although it does mention the loss of H.M.S. Hood in May.