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Op Banner artefacts


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I don't whether many members on here also visit ARRSE but on there can be found a wide range of topics which often degenerate into posters attacking each other, but through all this there are serious threads that can throw up interesting less well known bits of history.

The Op Banner thread is one of the more serious threads, where I have been moved to make a post. I'll post my bit here if I may as it illustrates I hope that MV enthusiasts have something to contribute & a reminder that amongst all the silly questions we get asked about our vehicles & sometimes with no great feedback, there are some veterans out there with good memories & do know the difference between a Humber Pig & a Saracen!

In the thread in question, a chance reference was made to cufflinks. So I posted this picture of a pair that I have that were made in NI in the early 1970s. (Those with good memories may recall I used these on a Mystery Objects Quiz, but the explanation I gave at the time was rather brief)


This is the story of the cufflinks, which is a bit long winded I’m afraid.

I used to have a couple of Humber Pigs which I would take vehicle shows that would receive varying levels of interest from visitors with varying levels of understanding. It was always difficult to know what level of information I should offer whilst the vehicle was being viewed.

I found it hard to engage with visitors who declared “You can’t tell me anything about these, I know all about these mate, the good old Sarican” yet other visitors had more reasoned interest.

I had two visitors who seemed receptive, so I mentioned that at one stage in N.Ireland up to 80 Pigs were in the workshops with wheel station problems. I explained a bit more that all Humber 1-Tons had Tracta joints but armoured Humbers (Pig & Hornet) had stronger rear joints, known as Chobham joints. These Chobham joints had articulated pads that were held in place with clips, which had a propensity to snap off. It was such a problem that rear Tracta joints from unarmoured Humbers were fitted and even new ones manufactured although that was delayed by the gas workers strike in February 1973.

Rear wheel station failures were running at about 150 per month. So desperate was the situation was that the now notorious Chobham joints had to be scavenged from scrap Pigs, with knowledge that within 2-3 months they would fail.

It is commonly believed than the stronger Birfield joints were fitted in Op Bracelet, as the Pigs were converted to so called Mk2 status, this is not the case. Bracelet 1 ran from September 1972 to June 1973, but by then wheel station failure was running at 120 per week.

Of the 487 Mk 2 Pigs only 383 were subsequently fitted with Birfield joints, but this did not start until March 1974. This continued until October 1974 when the supply of Birfield kits ceased due to a lack of steel from West Germany for the drive shafts.

My visitors seemed to take this all in without question, other than when they left, asking me “Will you be here tomorrow, I’m rather amazed that civilian would know so much about Humber wheel stations”.

The next day they appeared, it turned out that one of them had served in NI workshops during Pig wheel station crisis. He revealed they were so exhausted & peed off by the whole situation that in the evenings a few of them occupied their evenings with the machinery in the back of a Bedford by making six pairs silver-plated cufflinks. He presented his pair of cufflinks to me, thanked me & walked off.

The next year I didn’t see him but I recognised his companion who informed me that his friend had a major stroke & now knows little about the world around him. What happened to the other five pairs is anyone’s guess, they are not something that would be recognised for their significance. I don’t know what to do with my cufflinks, they deserve to be in a museum as it tells a back story to challenges of keeping a fleet of Pigs in operational use under very difficult circumstances. But I don’t trust museums to keep, let alone display such artefacts, which I think tell a far more interesting story than perhaps a display case with a uniform & some medals.

In case anyone wonders on the factual content of above I went through all the REME SITREPS held at Arborfield & I believe I have every EMER that relates to Pigs.

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