We come to the final part of our series on the Evolution of British Webbing this week with the 1944 Pattern set. This set was originally intended to be used by all infantry, however it came to be used almost exclusively by those in the jungle. The following description of the evolution and development of the set is a useful primary source and explains much of the thinking behind this set:
Prior to 1943, the 1937 pattern web equipment had its critics on the grounds that it was clumsy, noisy, cramping, uncomfortable etc., but it was in regard to the requirements of jungle warfare that severe criticism first arose. When worn over thin tropical clothing in sweaty jungle conditions, a common complaint in New Guinea and Burma was that the braces chafed the collar-bone and arm pits, and that the pack was always dragging down the shoulders and pulling the belt up from the chest; the webbing material was readily soaked by rain and was difficult to dry in the normally humid atmosphere, attracting mould, and, being neither waterproof nor water repellent, it let through both wet and sweat; it was heavy when dry and heavier still when wet; and the press studs were not reliable and the buckles slipped.
The 1944 pattern web equipment was developed to overcome these disadvantages. The webbing was made of finer yarn which rendered it thinner, lighter and more pliable, the metal fittings were made of an anodised light alloy instead of brass. The yarn was treated in manufacture to make it rot proof and water repellent; it proved impracticable to make it waterproof as water would in any case have seeped through the interstices between the threads. It was hoped that the material would retain its water repellency for its normal life and thus obviate the necessity for application of a renovator, but it was found that its water repellent properties deteriorated with age and that the use of a cleaner was necessary to restore them.
Large basic utility pouches replaced the cartridge carriers of the 1937 equipment. The haversack (or small pack) had several compartments, the back and base being lined with waterproof to prevent the penetration of moisture from the body; straps were fitted to it by means of which a bedding roll or blanket could be attached, and fittings were incorporated for the carriage of a pick or shovel if required. Straps were also attached to each of the bottom back corners of the haversack which could be passed through the loops on the basic pouches and connected in front of the body; this prevented the sag of heavily laden pouches when crawling and helped to retain the haversack in a firm position…
The braces of the new equipment were widened to 3in. where they passed over the shoulder; in front they connected to the basic pouches by a 1-in. strap; at the rear each brace bifurcated into two 1-in. straps, thus admitting of four points of attachment to the belt- one at each side and two at the rear. The two outer rear straps connected with the belt just behind the basic pouches, taking the majority of the weight; the two inner ones connected with the back centre portion of the belt, taking the weight of anything on the back of the equipment...
The belt was made in three portions, and the equipment could, in fact, be worn with the back centre portion of the belt completely removed without the equipment “flopping about”. Thus constriction of the waist was avoided and the equipment could be worn by men with minor waist injuries, Grommets (i.e. eyelet holes with a spur tooth washer) were fitted to the lower edge of the belt for attachment by hooks of certain items, e.g. the waterbottle cover.
- Basic pouch- a pair of basic pouches were issued, the left hand one having a bayonet attachment sewn to the side of it. The pouches were inspired by the earlier 37 pattern design but were larger and could carry a mix of different ammunition including Bren magazines, mills bombs and bandoliers of ammunition. The box lids are secured with quick release fasteners and the rear of each pouch has brass c-hooks to allow it to be attached to the belt.
- Shoulder Braces- The braces were an entirely new design and connected to the belt in six places rather than four. The two sides of the straps were sewn together to make a single unit and by having six attachment points the rear set could be omitted, along with the back belt and the remaining four points were still under tension so held the set together perfectly well.
- Haversack- the haversack is larger in capacity than earlier designs, with two additional pockets on either side. The interior of the main compartment is waterproofed and additional straps on the outside allow different loads to be attached as circumstances dictate. A pair of L-Straps are fitted to allow the haversack to be carried on the back.
- Waterbottle carrier- the carrier was based on the US M1910 carrier and bottle and was a vast improvement on earlier designs. The bottle is secured into the carrier by a pair of press fasteners at the shoulders. A loop is fitted to the rear together with a wire hanger hook to allow it to be carried on the waist belt. A small pocket inside allowed a Millbank bag to be carried for purifying water.
- Belt- The belt is made in three parts and secured with a standard Mills-type hook and loop buckle. Eyelets along the base of the belt allow items to be hung from it and a small loop if fitted to one side to secure the butt of a rifle to prevent it from bouncing around.