About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Friday, November 10, 2017

P is for Project to Perfectly-Polish Pusser's Pom-Pom

I have nothing in the queue after this, it's not that I haven't got tons in Picasa, not that I haven't got lots lying around and loads of stuff was emailed to me in the last fortnight, it's just that I've been a bit lackadaisical or tardy in processing anything!

I'm sure I'll sort something out today (in the real world) for publishing tomorrow in Blog-world (it's still Monday in the real world!) there's those Moose moshling-things somewhere, but I'm not sure I've got Internet tomorrow either, so when Thursday's will publish - time wise - is anyone's guess, in the meantime I've been working on this for a while and it's satisfying to 'put it to bed'.

There are several stories here; what it is, where it came from and how I cleaned it up!

The story my mother tells is that it was presented to my Grandfather sometime in or just after WWII, by one of his ships' company's, and has always been referred to as 'the Pom-Pom gun', it was supposedly made in the on-board engineering workshop, probably on commission from the junior officers.

Now I'm sure all the bits of the story are reasonably accurate, but as a whole I have problems with it, and I'm sure those of you with equally far-fetched or legendary family myths and tales will forgive the cynicism of the grand-kid, questioning the previous two generations; it is in any event an interesting thing, and my cynicism will be seen as more justifiable as we move down the post.

Now, Mum won't mind me pointing out that she's not as young as she used to be, and the 'Pom-Pom' had become a bit lost and forgotten among the acquired chattels of 80-years on this Earth, I decided to sort it out, but in secret, which involved smuggling it away, doing a 'phase' and smuggling it back, only to repeat the exercise the next time the opportunity presented itself!

Some of the shots in the above pair of collages were taken about a year ago, but the shoot as a whole wasn't a success, so I took some more a while later and mixed them together. We'll look at the cleaning first, and then study the object and look again at its mythology.

1st phase was to just give it a clean, get the real crud and surface build-up off it, which I did with those sealed-packet, treated cleaning cloths, having previously noticed how they will polish-up slightly tarnished silver; I was hoping the result would be better than it was.

Having said that, had I polished harder, for longer, I'm sure it would have removed more, but sometimes it's easier to give up on a bad job and get the big-guns out!

I turned to silver-dip, silver-polishing wad and that old favorite and garage-door saver - Jenolite. Like Clear floor-cleaner, Jenolite was illegal in the army, but we all had some - of both!

Actually that's not quite true, a lot of blokes would persevere with elbow-grease, especially if only a rifleman, but with a GPMG; I was a fan of Jenolite for getting the carbon off the gas parts, when I was carrying an SLR I cheated by having a spare gas-plug and return rod in the lining of my Bergen, which would be snuck out at End-Ex, so I could hand my gatt in quick and bugger-off, cleaning it's actual gas parts later in my room and slipping them back in next time I signed the weapon out!

As to Clear - having mentioned it - we used to use it to put a quick shine on bulled-boots, however if it then rained on the parade (not a euphemism - real water from the sky), all those who had used Clear would get found out as their boots took-on the inky petrol blue-purple sheen of ground-beetles!

Some close-ups, pre deep-clean; the steel, being a decent engineer's grade steel, cut from blocks, hadn't rusted too badly, but there was a surface crust and two slightly poor bits, while the elevating mechanism had collected a thinker layer of crud due to its being oiled in the past and collecting household dust on the quite for years.

The whole had also suffered from a few years sited next to the gas cooker, where its guard duties included a fine layer of cooking oils. Indeed - it wasn't easy to work out what was rust and what was cooking-polymer 'glue'!

Phase 3 Polishing (phase 2 was the silver dip, which I didn't photograph)  - once the silver-polishing wad comes out it all starts to get a bit messy, this is the deck-mounting plate, which was soldered to the base of the plinth, but from which it has become parted at some point in the last 35 years?

Still - that much mess and you know it's doing the trick!

Shrapnel-shield fully polished, both its little brass bolts had also been silver-plated on the ends and not only did they clean-up in the dip, but it cleaned the worst of the black oxidation off the threads too; bargain!

Jenolite applied at phase 4 and for a few minutes (about 20) it actually looks worse as it lifts the lumps of rust and oil off, and they all go black or bright orange, with the pinky-mauve of the Jenolite it all starts to look like an odd pudding, maybe an alien pudding, maybe more imagination is required, if you haven't got the imagination, you're probably on some hick-town, ten-member forum telling them I "is......different? Shall we say"! Robot's pudding!

The steel parts were polished (phase 6) after a wash with shampoo and a toothbrush - phase 5.

Polishing was done with fine steel wool wound round ear-bud/Q-Tips, and is an equally messy job and the very fine steel wool tends to disintegrate to powder as you go, but a powder than can work into your fingers, like swarf if you're not careful, because it is swarf.

Three-quarter views, the heat-signal on the barrel in the right-hand shot is just the flash reflecting off the shield, the whole gun came-up a nice gun-metal, steel-grey.

So - back to the family story; The British had two Pom-Pom's the 2lbr which looks like a naval gun and definitely isn't this, and the 1lbr Vickers-Maxim, which to be fair doesn't look much like this either! The Americans used the Maxim-Nordenfeldt (see below), which looks nothing like this (but quite like the Vickers-Maxim's) but did have a similar mounting.

In point of fact, this looks exactly like a bog-standard Vickers .303 heavy machine-gun, as used by the Army from WWI until the 1950's/into the 1960's. The twin-handles, thumb-button trigger, cocking leaver, all tie-in, however there was also the less known Vickers .5-inch, sometimes known as (and used as-) a Pom-Pom, which is a scale-up - visually - although in Naval service usually fitted with long flash eliminator - but that weapon was an inter-war model, which could be significant to this model's story.

However, the pedestal and shield are similar to those used on some Pom-Pom mountings. So, what we seem to have here is more of a field-modification utilising an MG, rather than an actual Pom-Pom per-se.

Gunner (not seaman) Smith on the USS Vixen with his
Maxim-Nordenfelt QF 1-pounder Pom-Pom MG - 1898

Yet there are a couple of question-marks over this, one being the shoulder-rest, which is the sort of thing you do find fitted to fixed-mount 1lbr Pom-Poms as seen above, these weapons were all scaled-up, big beasts and you needed to get your shoulder 'behind it' to move it.

The other being the position of the shelf for the ammunition, which on Gunner Smith's is low and to the right, below the [beautifully polished] brass feed-gates and wooden roller, while on the model it's at the back of the pedestal, near the top but under the gun; not practical at all.

So the first possibility is that Granddad's model is meant to represent the 1lbr Vickers-Maxim Pom-Pom, but that the modeller used a handy .303 or .5" to model from? This is not terribly likely, as servicemen tend to 'know their stuff'.

Although you could then suggest that a civilian metal-smith in India may have made that mistake, but, by the time Granddad was head of the Indian Navy, these mounts were long-gone and forgotten; in all their guises, replaced by quad .5", twin and octoplett 1lbr Pom-Poms and 20mm Oerlikons, so that's almost less likely than the previous explanation.

Re. the USS Vixen shot, note the raked-profile of a three mast clipper (or schooner?) on the horizon, and the bloody great Dreadnaught or pocket-battle-cruiser type (I've said it before - I don't know my ships!) just in shot to the right, also; is that tin can bottom right the ammo-box? The wooden box seems to contain a very small steam-engine!!

The relevant links are here;


But, you see; Granddad was seconded from the Merchant Navy into the Royal Navy in WWI where he served off-shore at the Dardanelles (Gallipoli) as a nineteen/twenty-year-old, transferring into the Indian Navy later; in 1929.

I suspect this is a model of a local modification, fitted to the various landing and stores barges, hospital ships, troopers and fleet-protection vessels in use in that theatre? There was no dedicated amphibious force then, no specialist vessels; it was all done on a wing and a prayer, with both naval and merchant ships using their attendant boats and tenders as ad-hoc 'landing craft'.

I don't know much about the nascent Turkish (or 'Ottoman') Air Force either, but I'm sure there were also experienced German aircraft/pilots in the area too (if only - training Turks), and AA cover would have been required by the fleet of ships serving the disastrous misadventure of young Mr. Churchill?

I know a bit more now! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottoman_Aviation_Squadrons

A .303 Vickers machine-gun would have had a number 2, feeding the twisty canvas belt, leaving the shelf - as modelled - for the water-can used to cool the army version of this weapon? Which would leave the shoulder-piece probably just missing a piece of leather or wood, modelling the original padding at shoulder height?

That Granddad may have served-on, with a/his original merchant vessel equipped with such a deck-gun, before being elevated to warships, would therefore make sense of this model and that while it probably was made in local workshops and presented to him by his comrades for some reason (usually upon leaving, but it's too nice a piece, not the usual plaque, ashtray, desk-lighter, tankard or whatever, so maybe he did something noteworthy, at least in the eyes of his fellow crew?), it was in - or just after - the First World War, not as Mum (who was still very young) thinks - the Second World War?

It's all conjecture, no answers here, but with Wikipedia and the Vickers sites not helping, or only helping to reinforce the question marks I had over it, I think it's a more reasonable scenario.

Equally, it could be that the Indian navy had such local modification later, being less well funded than the parent Navy? I can't find any evidence of that though, they got modern ships like Achilles - with Granddad at the helm!

Therefore; all I need to complete it, is a piece of heavy string, finely-sewn into a piece of chamois and stained-down (with boot-polish), glued to the shoulder piece as padding, which would make more sense for a 'mere' .303 Vickers, than the heavy vertical plate Gunner Smith is snuggled-up-to above?

Hopefully I might inherit it one day, but I might have to fight my brother for it as we both used to get it of the mantlepiec and play with it as kids - Action Man looked 'well sorted' - sat behind it!


Terranova47 said...

After all the hard work polishing the model did your mother find any other domestic chores for you?

Paul´s Bods said...

That´s a lovely bit of kit and you´ve done a great Job on cleaning it.
Having a spare gas-plug and return rod to get the cleaning on the SLR done quick..that and cheating at bulling with clear (never used it myself) brings back memories :-) One bod was a genuis at bulling his boots up, the shine was unbelievable, so unbelievable the sarge (actually, a corporal of horse ) didn´t believe he had achieved the effect the proper way and that he had cheated by using clear. On an insection the afore mentioned Corp, trod on the toe of one of his boots. It cracked and fell off the way infinate layers of painstakingly and lovingly added boot polish does...and the Soul of the guy could be seen visibly cracking in the same way. He eventually ended up with bits of metal on his shoulders but I reckon he only got there so he could beast sergeants.

Paul´s Bods said...

PS...my web mail address has changed..and I´ve lost yours when I changed provider. I Need your address..Post your mail address on my blog (no-one but me will see it) and I can get back in contact.

Hugh Walter said...

Paul - My eMail's on the blog! maverickatlarge[at]hotmail[dot]com

Terra - She's 80 . . . I earn my keep! Firewood is the big task at present!