British Army Washroll

It may seem odd, but although I have many variations of the humble washroll in my collection, the one I did not have was the simple, British made World War II version- I have been using an RAF marked version in my re-enacting gear for years. It was therefore very pleasing to finally had the most common variation of the lot to my collection and finally be able to move my Air Ministry one across to my RAF kit where it better fitted. The washroll is made from cotton and measures seventeen inches long by eight inches wide:

As can be seen there is a pocket at one end for larger items and a folded strip top and bottom to prevent items from slipping out when it rolled up. Most items are carried in the loops down the centre of the washroll and interestingly a close up reveals something about the design process of this feature:

Note how the stitching is a single line that passes back and forth to make the loops and then passes alongside the loop between each row of stitching. This means the sewing machine can produce the loops in one pass, with the foot lifted up and the fabric moved around the needle to change the direction of the stitching. This is much more efficient than sewing each pass separately where the ends of the threads for each one would need to be tied off and finished- with this method of construction the thread only needs to be finished at each end of the strip.

The wash roll is designed to be rolled up and so, to secure it when it is, a pair of cotton tapes are sewn to the end that can be passed around the roll in opposite directions and tied to secure it:

The wash roll has a single black ink stamp indicating that it dates from 1945 and was made by H.V & S. Ltd:

The wash roll was considered a ‘necessary’ by the army. This meant that soldiers received a single example when they enlisted, and then had to maintain it from their own funds, so if it became damaged or lost they would have to replace it themselves. Oddly the 1914 Clothing Regulations did make allowance for necessaries to be replaced at the public’s expense if they needed to be destroyed after being used with horses that had “contagious disorders”! The mind boggles!

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