Common As Muck and Rarer than Hen’s Teeth

I have been digging the British army dump permission for quite a while now, and it has produced some truly astonishing WW2 relics. As with many sites, I am not the only one digging it, and earlier this week I paid a visit to the landowners representative, who also happens to dig the site. As usual during these visits, I went digging through his finds, helping to identify stuff and getting jealous of some of the stuff he has recovered, in particular the bits he has from the site that I don’t have examples of!

It just so happens that he also has a collection of stuff that is ‘excess to requirements’, which he kindly lets me rummage through to see if there is anything worth saving. There was quite a bit that was, especially given my ‘thing’ for cloth belt starter tabs. I’ve recovered hundreds from the site myself, and they are as common as muck, with plenty of examples found every time I visit. But I learnt a few years back that rarely, very rarely, the starter tabs are unit marked. These are, by comparison, much rarer than the ordinary everyday starter tab, and I love it when I get one. It has just that little bit more history!

I was also lucky enough during this visit to acquire two relics that are easily classed as rarer than hen’s teeth! We know they disposed of large numbers of Bren 100 rnd magazines at the site, as we find the winding arms from the top of the mags on a regular basis. But so far we have never found anything approaching a complete magazine. Well, until a few weeks ago that is when a decent chunk of one such magazine was found. It was readily identifiable, obviously a tad rusty after being in the ground for 70+ years, but saveable.

I was also very kindly given a couple of big chunks of brass ‘tube’, with male and female parts that obviously slotted together, and were then bolted together. Took a little while to identify them as they are so very rare, but I reasoned they were part of a cleaning rod for a medium calibre artillery piece, the rod being joined like this so it can be readily broken down to effect transport. A rough guess at the diameter of the brass tubes lead me to look for ‘6pdr cleaning rod’ and a few minutes later, there it was on a Google search!

Hence the title of this blog…..

Common as muck – Cloth belt starter tabs

Rare little buggers – Cloth belt starter tabs, unit marked

Rarer than hen’s teeth – Bren 100rnd magazine and 6pdr cleaning rod joining pieces


Many people would look at this pile of corroded relics and think they are beyond saving. Far from it.
A few hours later. Difficult to tell now that these were even ground dug!
Vickers 250rnd cloth belt starter tabs, Mks I, II and III,
Unit marked starter tabs. ELR = East Lancashire Regiment? SWB = South Wales Borderers?
Browning M1917 cloth belt starter tabs (left). Spouts from leather funnel for Browning M1917 along with an adapter to connect the condenser pipe to the jacket. Vickers .50cal cloth belt starter tabs (right)
The Browning tabs are always marked….
As are the Vickers .50cal tabs. Only every found two makers though. Here’s one…..
…..and here’s the other
Recognise these? You might not as they are missing a big part! These are the handles from Sten Mk 2 magazine loading tools
Complete Mk 2 Sten magazine loading tool, showing the brass lever/handle and box that allows it to be positioned on top of the magazine.
Cleaning rods and jag. Little one in the middle is a Lee-Enfield one. Two on the left are obviously much bigger and probably 20mm cleaning rod pieces.
Brass cap on left looks to be part of a cleaning rod, (but not yet fully identified). Lee-Enfield brass oil bottle. Top bung from Vickers MG water jacket
Nicely marked
Bren oil bottles
Bren 100rnd magazine. Currently in the process of being cleaned up and the rust killed.
Bren 100rnd magazine. Currently in the process of being cleaned up and the rust killed.
Brass pieces from a 6pdr cleaning rod
Brass pieces from a 6pdr cleaning rod
Brass pieces from a 6pdr cleaning rod
cleaning rod 3
Complete cleaning rod in place on a 6pdr leg
cleaning rod
Complete cleaning rod in place on a 6pdr leg


I have to say that I much prefer digging relics and preserving them myself, but given the opportunity, I can’t resist saving the stuff other people don’t want! It’s all history that is worth saving…….and I saved this lot today. What did you save? 🙂 🙂


One comment

  1. Very impressive. I collect WWI rifles and ammunition, not WWII, but I recognize the work you put into what you have found. I do recognize history as an important part of learning about the world and life in general. Continue to march!


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