200 Gallon Water Bowser Float Straps

Ensuring adequate supplies of fresh water is an essential logistical element for any military operation. Combat often disrupts water infrastructure and so water often needs to be carried in bowsers, jerry cans and bottles to men in combat. In the Second World War the British Army had a number of water bowsers in service of different capacities, both towed and built directly on the chassis of lorries. Here a towed 180 gallon bowser is used by troops in France in 1940:imageOne feature many of these bowsers had was a pipe that could be deployed from the main tank into a suitable river or lake to suck up water that could then be filtered and sterilised before being used by the men to drink. This pipe had a filter on the end to keep out debris and to prevent it from sinking into the mud, a wooden float was strapped to the end by a leather belt, indicated here in the red circle:imageTonight we have a pair of these leather straps to look at, but rather than the 180 gallon bowser seen above, these come from a 200 gallon version that would have been built into a lorry:imageWe can confirm their use easily enough as this is stamped into the leather along with the dates showing one strap is from 1941 and the other from 1944:imageimageThis diagram from the manual for the 200 gallon bowser’s strainer clearly shows the wooden float and the leather strap securing it:imageThe strap was secured by a large iron buckle:imageThis is a particularly obscure piece of militaria and took some detective work to identify, however it is these little puzzles and the learning of new things that I love so much about collecting! My thanks got to Alan Tanknut for his research and for supplying the diagram above.

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