Indian webbing has a reputation for being poorer in quality than its British or Canadian counterparts. However it is miles ahead of its South African equivalent which is generally acknowledged as the poorest quality webbing produced in the Empire during the Second World War. South African webbing is unique in using multiple layers of very thin webbing rather than one thicker woven layer of other countries. It seems likely that the decision to make equipment in this fashion was influenced by the lack of manufacturing capability within the Cape and the need to rapidly expand its forces.
Of all the countries who entered the war in 1939 on the allied side, South Africa was the least prepared with virtually no army, weapons nor ammunition. Despite this ‘The Active Citizen Force’ (South Africa’s Territorial Army) was mobilised in 1940 and was involved in the fighting against the Italians in Ethiopia and Abyssinia.
One area where the South Africans were particularly deficient was in the supply of personal equipment. Despite adopting the British 37 pattern webbing, there was a lack of the large box pouches so most of the army were equipped with the cartridge carriers; limiting them to 40 rounds of .303.
By 1941 South African Industry had geared up and was producing its own webbing equipment. This small pack, dated 1943, is an example of this manufacturing:This bag is marked as being manufactured by ‘D.I. FRAM & CO. LTD JOHANNESBURG’.This was one of the two biggest manufacturers of webbing in South Africa, both based in Johannesburg. The bag also has the South African War Department acceptance stamp, a broad arrow within a ‘U’:Interestingly the pack also features khaki drill edging to the webbing, presumably to reinforce the poor quality webbing:The same brown drill material is used to make the interior dividers:South African webbing is rare, and this is the first small pack I’ve ever seen on the market. I am very pleased to add it to my collection, especially as it’s such good condition. I now need to track down the rest of the set…