WW2 British Army Underpants

The most common underwear worn by British soldiers during the Second World War were simple off-white woollen drawers. These were warm and relatively comfortable and came in both short and long length versions. We looked at an example of the Australian made long legged version on the blog here. Tonight we have another example, this time made in the UK and with shorter length:imageThese drawers are simple in construction and like most wartime underwear they do not have an elasticated waist. Instead loops are sewn into the waistband the trousers’ braces slip through these loops before they are buttoned to the inside waist of the battledress:imageThe fly is secured with three plastic buttons:imageThe bottom of each leg has a reduction woven cuff that helps draw it in to the leg:imageThe size, manufacturer and date are stamped in the inside in black ink:imageJB Lewis were a specialist hosiery manufacturer that seems to have been in business for the 1890s until the 1970s. Their main factory was in Nottingham and an article in 1898 described the factory:

The Nottingham warehouse, recently enlarged by taking in the adjoining premises, lately occupied by Messrs. Coombs and Co., Limited, has a total frontage of about 120 feet to Stanford Street and consists of a block of building of six floors, of which the following is the disposition:—On the basement are the rooms for packing and dispatching goods, and the boiler and engine houses for the heating apparatus, by which the whole of the establishment is warmed, and machinery driven. The ground floor is occupied by the receiving rooms for goods brought from the factory, and large stock rooms in which may be inspected in convenient form samples of the firm’s manufactures, to which we shall take occasion to make further reference at a later stage of our notice. The counting-house and general and private offices are situated on the first floor, and above these are additional store rooms and warehouse accommodation for stocks held in reserve.

As the outcome of the rapidly-increasing development of their trade, Messrs. J. B. Lewis and Sons, Ltd., were compelled to find a more commodious site for their manufacturing operations, and thirteen years ago removed their extensive works to Ilkeston, which were erected from special designs to meet the requirements of the business, and were again extended in 1890. By the courtesy of the management, our representative was permitted an opportunity of inspecting this fine establishment, and we are thus enabled to present a description of the more prominent features of organisation and equipment of a thoroughly modern and up-to-date hosiery factory. Passing through the entrance gates from the road, we find a block of two-storey building containing the offices, over which are the press shops and embroidery room, and within a short distance arrive at the main structure, a handsome block of four storeys, with a frontage of upwards of 100 feet, and 43 feet wide, and a side wing 92 feet by 43 feet. The basement of the building is used as yarn cellars, extending the greater portion of the length of the premises, in which are stored raw materials in the various qualities required in the manufacture of hosiery, and adjoining is another cellar where waste is kept, and also two spacious and well-arranged mess rooms, furnished with seats, tables, and every convenience for the hands, next to which is a room equipped with all necessary utensils, heated by steam, for preparing meals, etc. On this level also is the engine-room, containing a fine engine of 70 h.p., and boiler-house in which steam is generated for heating as well as motive force and manufacturing purposes. A lift communicating from the basement to the top of the building conveys us first to the ground floor, where we are introduced to the webbing room, furnished with circular machines; and next to a large apartment 100 feet by 43 feet width, well lighted and lofty, in which is installed a complete plant of Cotton’s patent hosiery machines for pants, vests, hose and half hose. The winding-room, 93 feet by 43 feet, is fitted with a large number of engines for winding yarn on the most improved principles, the machinery in this department being capable of winding 12,000 lbs. of yarn per week. On another floor is a room 93 feet by 43 feet, devoted to the manufacture of seamless hose and half-hose by automatic machines; the patent and rib machine room, and a room in which is placed a plant of Paget’s patent principle, for the production of underwear. The next apartment is arranged with long tables, at which the cutting and stitching of men’s underwear is conducted; and in order following are the circular, web, and rolling machines, with finishing rooms for Cotton’s patent goods, which, in common with all other departments, are provided with counters for giving out and receiving the work, where it is carefully examined and checked by experienced overlookers to detect any fault, ten of these officials being engaged in various parts 

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