The Official History of the Second World War’s volume on Special Weapons and Types of Warfare Volume II outlined the problems of providing sufficient water to men in tropical conditions:
The 3 Pint chagul in wide use in India was an excellent water bag under hot, dry conditions, but it was rather small and had little advantage in regard to keeping water cool in hot, humid climates. Additional water frequently had to be carried on the man, and platoons frequently had to send some distance for water. Without some form of water bag, individual water bottles had to be collected, with the result that water parties were festooned with noisy and cumbersome bottles which might be lost should the party run into any trouble.
As part of the reforms to jungle equipment following the Lethbridge commission, two designs of water bag were developed for jungle conditions. A 2 1/2 gallon version was produced with a tap and a 3 gallon canvas version that we are looking at tonight:
The official history describes the bag as:
A 3-gallon canvas water bag with a plastic stopper and closure but no pouring tap. It had been originally developed for air dropping and fitted into the airborne container. It was adopted for jungle formations to cover the production lag of the American type 2 1/2 gallon bag. It differed only from the airborne item only in proofing and dyeing. It weighed 1lb 10oz. First deliveries were unsatisfactory on account of leakage due to defects in manufacture. Post-war development must aim at eradicating these and developing a more satisfactory pouring tap.
The bag is made of green dyed canvas, with a shoulder strap to help carry it. This is adjustable with a small stamped slider buckle, much like a respirator haversack:
The main feature of the water bag is the large Bakelite screw top:
The top unscrews to allow access to the water within:
The lower collar is also removable, presumably to allow repair or cleaning:
The 3 gallon water bag had been developed earlier in the war in a plain canvas version, and it remained in service into the 1990s, but post war production replaced the Bakelite cap with a smaller plastic version and the colour became a brighter shade of green. The design’s longevity highlights how effective the water bag was as a piece of equipment and my thanks go to Gary Hancock for helping me add a couple of these to my jungle collection.