Most of us are quite familiar with the wartime Lend-Lease scheme, where the US agreed to supply arms and equipment to her allies for free, in exchange for repayment after the war was over. What is, perhaps, less well known is ‘Reverse Lend Lease’. This was a scheme whereby Britain produced equipment for the US military serving in Europe. This scheme served a number of purposes. It cut down the shipping costs and space needed to move items across the Atlantic Ocean and from the UK’s point of view it helped offset the bill for American lend lease materials: the cost of the items being supplied to the US being deducted from the amount Britain would have to repay. A number of areas were targeted for reverse lend-lease including the rental charged to the US for the use of bases in the UK, but one of the most extensive was that of accoutrements. Britain had a large and well established industry producing cotton webbing items and this could easily be diverted from making British equipment to making US items. The materials used might have been a little different to that used by US manufacturers, but the designs remained the same and were accepted by the US as being suitable for issue to troops in the European Theatre. Today we are taking a look at one of these reverse Lend Lease items in the form of an M1910 first aid pouch:
This pouch is made of the same woven cotton webbing that can be found on British webbing items and the snap used to secure the top flap is again identical to that used on British patterns. On the reverse a wire hanger hook is fitted to allow it to be attached to the belt:
Under the top flap can be seen the words ‘British Made’ to make it quite clear where this pouch came from:
Like most militaries, this pouch would have entered the normal stores system and been issued out alongside US manufactured items. The US Army would not care where the pouch came from, only that it was functional and it would have been as likely to be worn as part of a mixed set with US manufactured components as it would to be part of an all British made set. As a collector of British and Empire militaria, this makes an interesting curiosity and sheds light on a part of the wartime economic supply structure that few know much about.
I have two of these, both inherited from family members, although neither was British made. One is a pre-WWI example in that pea green shade in use at the time. I also have the pistol magazine pouch and the pistol belt, which had a d-ring for sword slings. It belonged to an officer who did not go overseas and is in excellent condition. Another family member has his sword.
The other one belonged to my father-in-law, who did go overseas, to England, if fact, serving with a bomber squadron. His web belt and 1st aid pouch are well-used, and curiously, his 1st aid pouch is older than the other one.