37 Pattern Entrenching Tool Cover

The 37 pattern webbing set originally included a small shovel for entrenching. This was found to be pretty useless and it was decided to reintroduce the ‘sirhind’ type of entrenching tool used with the 08 pattern web set. This entrenching tool obviously needed a carrier, so the designers at Mills took the old 08 entrenching tool cover and modified it for use with 37 pattern webbing. The design included the same kidney shaped webbing bag as the old 08 pattern design, and it was into this that the head of the entrenching tool was placed:imageThe top fastenings were replaced with 1” straps and Twigg buckles to allow the carrier to be attached to the thinner straps of the 37 pattern set:imageThese straps are also slightly angled, in a way the old 08 design was not. This was because men tended to carry the entrenching tool on the rear, over their buttocks, rather than on the side as the designers had intended. The angled buckles make the connection of the carrier to the bottom of the shoulder braces less awkward as they mirror the angles of these straps more closely than if they had been at ninety degrees to the main carrier.

The big innovation on the 37 pattern carrier was the introduction of a set of loops across the top to allow the helve of the entrenching tool to be carried, this having a separate carrier on the 08 design:imageNote the longer strap and buckle used to tighten around the helve and prevent it coming out. This was later felt to be inadequate and post war carriers have an addition strap set at 90 degrees to this one to help prevent the helve slipping out of the end.

Inside the carrier is liner with heavy duty cotton and has the manufacturer’s marks stamped on, here this example was made by W&G in 1944:imageThis is the mark of the company Waring and Gillow who were one of a number of firms contracted to make webbing in World War Two by the government. Waring and Gillow were a large furniture manufacturer before the war and they put their upholstery section to work making webbing, kit bags and tents during the war. The skills needed to manipulate heavy upholstery fabric through a sewing machine would have been easily transferred to working with webbing and canvas.

Technically this entrenching tool cover was not part of the 37 pattern set during World War II, it was only retrospectively added in with the rest of the 37 pattern equipment in stores catalogues and manuals in 1951. It was however used extremely widely throughout the Second World War and soldiers carried not only the entrenching tool, but also other useful items in it such as boot polish, rifle pull throughs and other small bits of personal kit. In this famous image of Fusilier Tom Payne in Normandy you can see not only the entrenching tool cover, but also the outline of a circular tin he was carrying inside it in addition to the head of his tool:large_000000Update: My thanks to Rich for pointing me to these two additional photographs of Fusilier Payne’s entrenching tool cover and it’s contents:large_000000



  1. Here are links to photographs showing Fusilier Tom Payne’s entrenching tool carrier https://www.iwm.org.uk/search/global?query=b9009 and its contents, which also listed https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205235004 Other photos of him and his kit can be found by searching the IWM website using references B9005 to B9015.

    Fusilier Payne is now also remembered through the eponymous Project Payne which is a British Army initiative to reduce the fighting load of the soldier by adopting a ‘fight light’ policy. He is pictured on slides 53 to 59 here https://www.slideshare.net/James8981/uk-combat-load

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