As far as I am aware, ther is only one reference book out there for the collector of Australian produced and used accoutrements. Published back in 1998, ‘”Saddle Up” Australian Load Carrying Equipment of British, American & Local Origin’ by Rick Landers has been out of print for many years and is now demanding high prices second hand on Amazon. Despite that, the book still occasionally crops up at more reasonable prices and so is worth considering.
Rick Landers covers the entirety of Australian accoutrement use from the early, pre-federalised states through to the introduction of integrated body armour and webbing in the late 1990s. The book is lavishly illustrated in a mix of line drawings and black and white photographs with a small section in colour at the rear of the book.
Landers is an author who believes in reprinting primary source material extensively in his works, with this book having large sections quoted from both original fitting instructions and contemporary reports. This is a mixed blessing, on the one hand portions of the book can be excessively dry, on the other there are some great sections of original material that are not widely available elsewhere, such as large parts of the Lethbridge Report into jungle equipment that would lead to the development of the 1944 pattern set.
One thing the book could really do with is more background information on the webbing that puts it into context. I was left wondering things such as who made the accoutrements? How was production brought up to speed in wartime? What did the users think of the webbing, and how was it actually used in the field. In many ways this is a missed opportunity as, certainly for the 08, 37 and 44 pattern sets, much of the material published is generic to the set and does not give much background on the specifically Australian experience.
Having said all that, this is the only good reference book out there that covers the Aussie use of M56 webbing and the development and use of both the 1915 leather set and the 1988 Auscam webbing and these are far more satisfying elements of the book. This volume is not without its limitations, but it is well illustrated, well written and sees regular use by myself for writing this blog. If you do come across a second hand copy at a reasonable price, I would urge you to pick it up as I can only see prices on this volume increasing.