Tropical Aircrew Survival Kit

Introduced at the very end of the Second World War, the Tropical Survival Kit was a bag containing essential supplies for airmen shot down in hostile territory in the tropics. It consisted of a waterproof gabardine bag with various pockets inside to hold the survival gear:imageThree grab handles are fastened around the main bag, which measures 22 inches from top to bottom, whilst a carry handle is also provided to allow it to be slung over a shoulder when used on the ground. A large zipper runs down the back of the bag:imageThis is unfastened and gives a hint of the pockets inside:imageIn order to access these pockets and their contents, the bag is turned inside out:imageThe original packing list for the survival kit indicates the stowage position of the various items:imageThe RAF’s guidance noted:

Most of the equipment stowed in the pockets is labelled with instructions for use, and where such instructions are not provided it is considered that the good sense of the individual will be a sufficient guide. The emphasis should be on economy, every endeavour being made to “live on the land”. If economy can be practiced, the equipment will provide the means of survival for a considerable period.

A detailed photograph shows the individual items that were packed into this survival kit:imageThe front of the kit has a large pocket above a zip fastener:imageThe pocket secured with a press stud was to carry maps and the zipped pocket was to take a rubber water bottle. The official guidance noted that the water bottle when full could also be used as a pillow or to help support the back.

Above the map pocket the kit is stamped to indicate it is for tropical use and above this is the RAF stores and contract codes:imageThe map pocket itself has stamps indicating that it was originally filled in 1945 and then serviced and refilled in 1952:imageThe survival bag was to be worn either attached to the life saving waistcoat when flying over water, or to the parachute back pad when flying purely over the land. These survival kits are uncommon, but do surface from time to time. Their contents are much rarer and it would prove quite a challenge to collect together.


  1. Fascinating. I have one of these, complete with partial contents, but missing some items.
    I’d be happy to send you pictures of the items I have, if these would be of interest.
    I have done an Instagram composite of the items that came with the kitbag under my Instagram persona of ‘Rodthejeep’, although it was a while ago and you’d have to flick back a way to find it!

    All the best,
    Rod. (

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