The MK VII groundsheet cape in green is a very common piece of militaria, and although prices have risen sharply in the last ten years these capes are still easy to find. By contrast the World War II era version in tan is much harder to find even though they must have been produced in their millions. It was therefore very nice to be able to finally add an example to my collection recently and tonight we are going to have a look at this piece:The design is identical to its successor, but in a light shade of tan rather than jungle green. The cape is essentially a rectangular ground sheet, with a triangular portion and a collar attached that allows it to be worn as a rudimentary waterproof:Here a soldier can be seen modelling the groundsheet cape:Each seam is secured with a strip of tape on the inside to improve its water repellent properties:Flat plastic buttons allow the cape to be secured up the front:Whilst a tab at the collar allows this to be drawn in for better weather protection:In reality this fastening was pretty useless and water easily got down the neck of the wearer. The design was also criticised as even a small amount of exertion ensured the inside was as wet as the outside due to sweat. The design also directed water down to the back of the soldier’s legs where it quickly soaked through his trousers! Nor was the cape much good in its role as a groundsheet, a tent proving difficult to construct from the capes.
Despite these criticisms, the design remained in use for more than half a century and was often the only waterproof clothing a man had access to.
The neck of the cape is fitted with a small cotton loop that allows it to be hung up to dry:The original owner’s name is written on this loop, the name being repeated inside the cape as well:An oval maker’s stamp is visible on the inside of the cape but is unfortunately too indistinct to make out any details:In service these capes were folded up and carried under the flap of the small pack:This is not an easy process to do neatly, but there is an excellent tutorial by Rifleman Moore on YouTube that explains how to do this correctly and it is his method I have used to get my cape to the right dimensions.