Late Pattern M56 Australian Webbing Overview

Having concluded the South African 1970 Pattern set of webbing last week, we now turn to another part of the Southern Hemisphere and the Australian M56 set of webbing. The M56 set had been introduced during the Vietnam War to replace the variety of 37 and 44 Pattern webbing in use up until that point. The M56 was taken ‘off the shelf’ from American production but manufacture soon began in Australia itself and would continue until the late 1980s when it was replaced by the 1988 pattern set.

Over the fifteen or twenty years the set was manufactured in Australia a number of updates were made to the set, including larger pouches than American production to better hold SLR magazines, darker green edging tapes and the introduction of plastic Fastex buckles.

My set of webbing is a very late production example with many components dating from the mid to late 1980s and is made up of Australian produced webbing, except for the waist belt that is a US Alice belt. This was a common swap in Australian service, but I would like to replace it with the correct Australian made belt at some point.

  1. Yoke
  2. Large Field Pack
  3. Ammunition Pouches
  4. Water Bottles
  5. Butt Pack

I will be looking at each component in turn over the coming weeks and hopefully shedding a little light on this interesting web set.

2 comments

  1. Having used this set when I was in the U.S. Army in the late 60s, I can say that with one exception, it was a particularly good outfit–in my opinion. The exception was the pack, which was produced in two slightly different models during the life of that webbing set. It didn’t hold much, although neither did it’s predecessor. But it hung away from the body and had a tendency to sway back and forth and up and down when running. Official photos show it with a very rigid box-like shape that was very unrealistic. It was certainly easier to attach than the previous pattern, though. There was also a mysteriously produced framed rucksack (not the mountain rucksacks) that seems to have been widely used by infantry in Vietnam. There was also a webbing attachment to allow the field pack to be worn higher on the shoulders.

  2. I still have the Australian manufactured set of M56 webbing that was issued to me in 1973 when I was in the Royal Australian Engineers. Most of the Australian manufactured kit was good but the belt was not that robust especially if heavy items like the water bottle pouches were hooked into eyelets on the belt rather than being clipped on. In such instances the eyelets tended to tear away from the belt webbing. US made M1956 webbing items like ammo or water bottle pouches didn’t have hanging hooks which were an Australian modification to the American design. If they could get them, Australian soldiers scrounged other web belts such as the British army 1944 pattern that stood up to field use better. No internet in those days to buy army surplus kit on line!

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