Brooksbank Method of Wearing Webbing

Although the fitting instructions offered up a number of different ways of wearing the 1937 pattern equipment, it was recognised that the set would be configured in service in new ways based on experience and the ideas of soldiers. Some of these methods were recorded by officers and published in period publications to allow others to benefit from their experience. One of these, published in a training memoranda in 1943, was the Brooksbank Method of wearing the equipment.

The haversack is worn knapsack fashion over the right shoulder on one of the shoulder braces, that is attached to the buckles on either side of the haversack to form a shoulder strap. The two supporting straps are then attached to the buckles on the base of the haversack and passed around the body as a steadying strap. The author explained that the purpose of this method of carriage was to reduce the equipment worn by an infantryman to the bare minimum, “thus making the soldier more mobile and giving him a more comfortable load to carry, by dispensing with the two basic pouches, the belt, the straps supporting, and the waterbottle carrier.”

The haversack was used to carry a minimum fighting load, although the author argued that it could actually be used to carry more ammunition than the normal method of carriage. The suggested load for the haversack was “ammunition (grenades, 2-in mortar bombs, Bren gun magazines, Tommy gun magazines or anti-tank rifle magazines can be carried) is placed in the small pack together with mess tins, waterbottle, leaving room for a groundsheet or towel, knife, fork and spoon, spare pair socks and soap.”

The Brooksbank method of carriage involved slinging the haversack over the right shoulder and then putting the respirator haversack in the reverse alert position where it was worn high on the back over the gas cape with the sling as short as possible. The 37 pattern haversack was then swung round to sit on the back below the respirator haversack. The memoranda explained what to do when time came to access the contents:

“If ammunition is required, the left thumb is put under the brace, and with a smart jerk the small pack is brought round and down on the left hip, where easy access to the ammunition is achieved. The small pack is then replaced in the small of the back when not required.”

Likewise, the anti-gas respirator only required the pull of a tape to swing around to the front and be in the alert position if gas attack was expected. The author explained the advantages of his method of carriage:

“This method of wearing equipment is essentially suited to the individual, and the individual can himself adjust it to his own comfort. For instance, if on a long route march the weight of the pack fully loaded eventually starts to tell, relief can be achieved by raising the brace off the shoulder with the thumb of the right hand, and it is possible to march very easily in this manner.

“The actual weight of the pack is taken mostly in the small of the back and the right shoulder and slightly by the stomach: but on a route march, or when ammunition is not likely to be wanted immediately, the valise straps can be tightened so that more weight is taken around the waist.”

Like many of these ideas, photographs of its actual use in the field seem not to exist. The fact that it was published in an Army Memoranda, however, shows that officers and men were allowed to experiment with their load carrying equipment and develop new ways of using it, at least during wartime. The fact that this could be done easily also validated the principles behind the 1937 pattern set which were set out in the fitting instructions as, “a basic principle which enables it to be adapted to suit all Arms”. Even if this method of carriage was not to see widespread use, other adaptations can be seen in period photographs reflecting the universal trait of soldiery to adapt their equipment in ways un-thought of by their designers to meet needs in the field.

One comment

  1. Very interesting post. That’s a very uncomfortable way to wear your gear. All the weight ripping into the shoulder carrying the strap. Much easier to just wear it as a knapsack

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.