South African 70 Pattern Webbing Overview

Today we start a major new series of posts on the blog over the coming weeks that will cover the South African 1970 pattern set of webbing. This webbing was introduced at the start of the 70s, as the name would suggest, and was to see service throughout the decade in the Bush Wars the South Africans were involved with in this period. It would continue in front line service, being updated slightly when the nation moved from the R1 to the R4 rifles, until replaced with the 1983 pattern assault vest in the 1980s.

The 1970 pattern webbing was heavily influenced by the British 1958 pattern, certain features such as the kidney pouches clearly originating in that set, but other features were based on experience. The rucksack was not attached to the rest of the webbing, but had its own integral shoulder straps so could be worn on its own if desired. There are also numerous ammunition pouches dotted all over the webbing to allow extra R1 magazines to be carried for sustained periods in the bush. It was also recognised early on that soldiers adapted their webbing based on operations and personal preference, so the design allows for extra bits to be clipped on and off with ease. The small patrol pack (not illustrated here) can be worn on its own or clipped to the rucksack to increase carrying capacity. Similarly the ammunition pouches and water bottle have a male press stud on the rear that allows them to be attached to a seperate trouser belt to make up a belt set of webbing.

  1. Belt
  2. Yoke
  3. Rucksack
  4. R1 Ammunition Pouch
  5. Kidney Pouches
  6. Water bottle and carrier
  7. Poncho roll

One user of the webbing explains something of its use:

The ‘groot sak’ literally ‘big bag’ was the rucksack. The skeleton webbing had a two piece adjustable belt, and a separate webbing belt was issued as mentioned above. Operationally the kidney pouches were a waste of time and ‘gyppo’ webbing was made up with the belts taken off and sewn together, and the yoke attached to carry the load. One could then carry several water bottles and 4 ammo pouches.

As usual, over the coming weeks we will be looking at each component in turn in more detail, so hopefully this will build up into a useful resource for a forgotten set of webbing for another former British Empire country.

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