Things tend to move slowly in military procurement, and designs that should have been obsolete decades before continue to be manufactured long after their sell by date. One such example is today’s water bottle, a version of the venerable Mk VII kidney shaped water bottle produced in India in the 1970s. This example is finished in blue enamel:
The finish is decidedly rough and lacks the manufacturing quality of British made examples, however it does conform to the Mk VII specifications by having a small loop soldered to the neck of the bottle to allow the string for the cork to be attached:
These bottles were produced by both Bengal Enamel and Madras Enamel and it is the latter company who made this one. The date is a little hard to read, but I believe it says either 1964 or 1984:
This design of water bottle had been recognised as being inadequate by the British Army in the 1930s and would have been replaced with an aluminium bottle if the Second World War had not broken out. Indian soldiers continued to use the pattern well into the 1980s and it was far from popular as Reji Koduvath explains:
My tryst with the water-bottle began on joining the National Defence Academy (NDA) in 1979. We were issued with the Field Service Marching Order (FSMO) with the all important water-bottle. In the Scale A version of FSMO with the bigger backpack, the smaller haversack was attached to the belt on the left and the water-bottle on the right. Most soldiers were right-handers and for easy access the water-bottle was placed on the right. In the Scale B version where the small haversack became the backpack, the water-bottle was attached to the back of the belt.
Scale B was used for most training as a cadet – for endurance runs, weapon and tactical training, etc – and the water-bottle hanging by the belt at the back kept pounding one’s butt as we cadets ran. It was more of an encouraging tap on the butt that kept many of us going and the wet felt outer casing did cool our butts in the warm Indian afternoons.
This water-bottle, officially known in the Indian Army as Bottle Water Mark 7, owed its origin to the British Army’s 1937 Web Equipment. Made of blue colored sheet metal welded at the shoulder and at the bottom with outer side convex and the inner side concave to fit with the contours of the human body. The spout was closed with a cork stopper and the stopper was attached to an eye on the top of the bottle with a string. The outer felt cover protected the metallic bottle and when kept soaked, evaporative cooling kept the water inside cool. These enamelled water-bottles were manufactured in India mostly by the Bengal Enamel Works of Kolkata and also by the Madras Enamel Works of Chennai.
The British Army originally called the water-bottle a Canteen. A canteen is a place outside a military camp where refreshments are provided for members of the armed forces. This very ‘place of refreshment’ became the water-bottle that the soldier carried on a march. This canteen’s design and use have remained the same since 1937. It appears that the technological revolution marched right past one of the Indian soldier’s most vital personal equipment – the water-bottle.