Parachutist’s Weapons Sleeve

When jumping into combat, parachutists are heavily weighed down with equipment and weapons. Weapons especially are awkwardly shaped and difficult to jump with. Experience showed however that dropping them seperately was fraught with difficulties as men who became seperated from their small arms were very vulnerable during the initial stages of a landing and were not combat effective until they had found drop canisters and opened them.

To get around this various methods were employed to allow them to jump with their personal small arms and one method was to have a harness with bags attached containing the small arms. This was fastened to the parachutist until he jumped, when it was released and allowed to hang below by a cord. Once he had landed on the ground he had merely to follow the short cord to recover the bag with his weapon in. This method was experimented with during World War II, but post war saw development accelerated and by the late 1960s this set up was being issued to British parachutists:

Sadly I do not have the full set of harness and lines, I do however have one of the drop bags in my collection and today it is this weapon bag we are considering:

The sleeve is made of heavy duty canvas and in cross section is a squashed oval:

To help protect the contents from the shock of landing, the inside of the sleeve has a padded base to help protect the contents:

Down the length of the bag is sewn a heavy duty webbing tape that is used to attach the sleeve to the main harness assembly:

A drop line is woven back and forth through these loops so that when the sleeve falls away it slowly pays out to the end of the line. Note also the two pieces of sniper tape attached to the bag, one with the paratrooper’s name written on in marker.

A large label is sewn to the sleeve near its mouth:

These sleeves turn up every so often, however the harness and static line are far less common and I think it is going to prove challenging to build up a complete set…

One comment

  1. Ed,

    The complete set pictured is a Mk3: when completing your set, do bear in mind that it takes different hooks to the Mk1 and Mk2. The Mk2 was in use when the Low Level Parachute Mk1 (LLP) entered service, the Mk3 entered service around 2000. The black carabiner is used on the LLP but not the Type X (PX4) before then. You’d need a jettison strap for that.

    The looped strap on the weapons sleeves are for attaching to the bundle (“container”) but not used for suspension line payout. The suspension line is tucked into the two black elastic straps seen partially covering the blue straps on the harness. The weapon remains with the bundle as it falls away when released.

    These days, Paratroopers usually don’t use weapon sleeves if they have the SA80, though other military parachutists do. 16 AA Bde attach the SA80 under the left arm and it stays with him during the descent.

    Later on in WWII, the Leg Kitbag was used and the rifle or Bren valise was used on the other side of the body – a bit of a nightmare! The Leg Kitbag didn’t work so well for the US Paras, surely because of the way their parachute rigs deployed.

    At the moment, there are a few Mk2 harnesses on eBay. The hardest parts to acquire are the carabiner (for the LLP) and/or the jettison strap (for the Type X harnesses). Oddly, hooks, too. Before Brexit, I was buying genuine Mk3 hooks from overseas – too expensive now.

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