Australian Army M56 Sleeping Bag Spider

Of all the parts of the M56 webbing system adopted by the Australians, probably the least popular was the Sleeping Bag Carrier, usually known as the sleeping bag spider. This was a set of straps that would hold a rolled sleeping bag together and allow it to be worn as part of the M56 webbing set, as illustrated here in the US manual for the same set:

Firstly the carrier was a complicated set of straps that took time to understand and assemble correctly. It was slow to get the sleeping bag into and out of and the carrier only allowed you to carry the sleeping system, not any other kit. Most Diggers quickly dropped the spider and threw their bedding in the bottom of a rucksack instead which was quicker to pack away in a hurry and left space for other items of equipment. Having said that the carrier was produced and used for a time and this example was manufactured in the US as part of the initial run of equipment for Australia before local production began. It is shown here with the Australian sleep system consisting of a blanket and blanket cover in a groundsheet and all rolled up before being secured into the carrier:

Note the two pressed metal buckles to secure the roll and the carry handle at the top to allow it to be carried when not attached to the rest of the webbing set. The opposite side of the carrier has the D/|\D marking indicating it was Australian Army property:

Attached to the roll are four straps:

The top two straps attach the carrier to the loops on the suspenders, passing through them and back on themselves to secure to a pair of press studs:

The two thinner straps pass under the armpits and pass through the angled loops at the end of the suspenders at the front. Small buckles allow the length to be adjusted and they secure to themselves with press studs:

The markings on this carrier are in black ink and follow US practice with date, manufacturer and contract numbers:

Despite the apparent hatred from the troops for these carriers, they were manufactured in the US in a number of batches, with and without the D/|\D marking, and locally in Australia where the tips of the straps had British style blackened brass ends fitted rather than these US style tips. They were used on operations, mainly because in the early days of the Vietnam War the Australian Army’s load carrying equipment was so poor there was little else available and they can be seen in this image being carried by troops in a landing craft along with 37 pattern large packs!

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