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Ian Hutchison




Location: Louisiana / Nordrhein-Westholland
Joined: 27 Nov 2007

Posts: 464

PostPosted: Sun 27 May, 2018 12:38 pm    Post subject: Mystery British WWII leather chest piece?         Reply with quote

What is this exactly? Marked:
Mk. II
Ayres Sports Goods Ltd.
[Broad arrow] 1940
[Broad arrow] K

I assume it is some kind of protective equipment. It is leather, filled with some kind of spongy, strands, maybe horse hair?






'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Ben Joy




Location: Missouri
Joined: 21 May 2010
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PostPosted: Sun 27 May, 2018 2:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So, Ayres Sports Goods, LTD. was a sporting goods company founded in 1810 and was around for over 125 years. At the end of its first life it was part of a large merger of several companies that became "Slazengers Skyes Gradidge and Ayres" Group of Companies after WWII. The four companies, which merged after the events of the bombing of London (which apparently damaged most of the originally individual companies factories), were famous for making sporting equipment in England.

The companies -before merging- made primarily Tennis (Slazenger), Football/Soccer (Skyes), Cricket (Gradidge), and Archery (Ayres) equipment, but also made other sporting goods materials, gaming tables/cabinetry, and other goods. I couldn't find any records of Ayres making any military equipment. That doesn't mean they didn't, it just means I couldn't find it. However, that at least gives a plausible narrowing of possibilities. I doubt it's any sort of actual military body armor.

Therefore, what you're possibly holding is a piece of 1940's archery safety equipment. That would certainly explain the single-breasted coverage style and sling-like chest harness, as well as explaining why it would be stuffed with something as non-protective against Flak -or other war hazards- as horse hair. Basically, it's the 1940's version of one of these:


However, that said, trying to find another picture of a vintage archery chestguard in use is rapidly becoming a headache.

"Men take only their needs into consideration, never their abilities." -Napoleon Bonaparte
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Ian Hutchison




Location: Louisiana / Nordrhein-Westholland
Joined: 27 Nov 2007

Posts: 464

PostPosted: Sun 27 May, 2018 3:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, but it covers the entire torso (almost like a catchers vest), and has British military acceptance stamps. I have read that Ayres had already been bought by Slazenger, and during the war Slazenger and subsidiaries devoted almost all of their manufacturing for military goods (particularly rifle stocks).

I suspect it is a protective piece for bayonet training, but I would like to know for certain + learn of any official designation.

'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Ben Joy




Location: Missouri
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PostPosted: Sun 27 May, 2018 6:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

According to what I can find, Slazenger didn't acquire Ayres Sports Goods LTD until 1943, after its factories were damaged during the bombing of London. Slazenger had been working on military contracts, but I can't find anything on Ayres working on military contracts. That doesn't mean that Ayres wasn't making some military goods before then, but it's proving difficult to find. The references to the acquisition of the companies, however, does directly mention that they were targeted for being direct competitors in their sports manufacturing and to help recover from their damaged factories.

Before that Ayres had been acquired and REFORMED by William Sykes LTD in 1940, which pulled the company away from their Rocking Horse production (interesting tidbit to learn) and pushed the focus towards the sporting goods they produced. From what I can find, they were making some sporting goods (for golfing, cricket, and archery, especially) as well as the rocking horses all the way up until they were purchased.

This site has the only list of Slazenger war contracts that I can find. https://wikivisually.com/wiki/Slazenger. I know, it's a wiki, but it's not like I have a much reference material at my disposal; and Ayres seems to be rather obscure to begin with. Regardless, they don't mention any sort of padding or armor. However, they WERE making boxing gloves . . . so maybe this is some sort of chest guard for boxing training/sparring? That would certainly explain the soft and cushioned padding, as well as a need to cover the whole chest. A version of something like this (apparently a vintage British boxing photo):


AND a modern incarnation (sorry for the HUGE photo):


These are two links to history on the Slazenger company, which both reference a 1943 acquisition of Sykes/Ayres:
http://www.ossett.net/beyond/Slazengers_Horbury.html
https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Slazenger
. . . so . . . whatever you have appears to come from before the Slazenger acquisition.

According to this reference, I cannot find those marking you're referring to as British Acceptance markings for military equipment:
http://www.wilkinsonfscollection.com/wilkinso...kings.html
If it is, then what is the [Broad Arrow]K supposed to mean? If the letter was used for national ownership, the K doesn't seem to fit anything. Granted, I'm a rank amateur on this, so if I'm missing something and need it explained to me, please don't hesitate to do so.

Can you even find any images or references for British Bayonet Training in WWII? Do they mention any sort of protective padding?

Just trying to help. Hopefully there's something useful in that mess of info.

"Men take only their needs into consideration, never their abilities." -Napoleon Bonaparte
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Ian Hutchison




Location: Louisiana / Nordrhein-Westholland
Joined: 27 Nov 2007

Posts: 464

PostPosted: Sun 27 May, 2018 7:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, the broad arrow mark is a British military acceptance stamp. I don't know what 'K' signifies, perhaps an inspectors mark or series letter. 1940 is either the date manufactured or accepted, I suspect the latter (or both).
'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Ben Joy




Location: Missouri
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PostPosted: Sun 27 May, 2018 7:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, Slazenger is still in business to this day (now a subsidiary of Dunlop); and they're the ones who acquired Ayres, so maybe contact them directly and see if they know anything about it? There's got to be some kind of company historian, or something, that'd know what it is . . . especially for a company that's been around that long with that kind of heritage; and having merged with all the big names of British sporting gear in the era.

I'd be quite fascinated to find out if it's an archery chestguard, padded boxing vest, bayonet training armor, or something else entirely.

"Men take only their needs into consideration, never their abilities." -Napoleon Bonaparte
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Ian Hutchison




Location: Louisiana / Nordrhein-Westholland
Joined: 27 Nov 2007

Posts: 464

PostPosted: Sun 27 May, 2018 11:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Joy wrote:
Well, Slazenger is still in business to this day (now a subsidiary of Dunlop); and they're the ones who acquired Ayres, so maybe contact them directly and see if they know anything about it? There's got to be some kind of company historian, or something, that'd know what it is . . . especially for a company that's been around that long with that kind of heritage; and having merged with all the big names of British sporting gear in the era.

I'd be quite fascinated to find out if it's an archery chestguard, padded boxing vest, bayonet training armor, or something else entirely.


Excellent idea!

'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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