It is always rewarding to complete a set of webbing, and recently I have been able to complete my set of post war 1937 pattern webbing with blackened bonderised fittings. Bonderising is a chemical process where steel components are placed in a phosphate bath and a layer of chromate is left on the surface of the metal that prevents corrosion. Steel fittings were cheaper than brass, but subject to rusting so this treatment potentially allowed some savings. The blackened fittings were introduced in the early 1950s and were used interchangeably with brass. It is unlikely that efforts would have been made to give a soldier a matching set of webbing, however as a collector this is of course something we strive towards. No 1937 pattern webbing set would be complete without the belt around which everything else is built and so it was essential that I added a version with blackened fittings to the collection:
The blackened fittings are used for both the buckle and keepers on the front of the belt:
And the buckles on the rear:
As can be seen, long term the bonderising process is not entirely successful. Inevitably the fittings would get scratched and dinged in service which then allows moisture to get under the finish and to start the rusting process. This was probably not a major issue in service as this process takes time, but in the seventy years since time has taken its toll on some fittings such as the ones on this belt.
The belts were marked up with store’s codes on the rear featuring a ‘B’ to indicate that they had blackened fittings. This is very faint on this example, but the markings of a former owner can be seen written on the back:
Despite being largely ignored by collectors, the bonderised set is a challenge to collect and getting a full set is not as easy as you might imagine- some components being particularly rare. We will be returning to other elements of this set in the coming months.
If you want to learn more about 1937 Pattern Webbing, check out my new book on the equipment set that can be found here.
What are the metal fittings on the current issue web working belt made of, do you suppose? On the 58 pattern, they seem to be made of neither brass nor steel but they don’t seem to be made of aluminum, either.
The 58 pattern uses anodised aluminium, which can be found in black and green and both matt and gloss finishes! Plenty of variety there! Not sure what the black metal fittings on PLCE are made from off the top of my head however…
“…It is unlikely that efforts would have been made to give a soldier a matching set of webbing…”
That in itself is enough to give a Sgt-Major an apoplectic fit, let alone give bored midranked officers with nothing to do or fresh faced subalterns trying to make themselves noticed, something to draft Unit policies for…
When they go so far as to make you unblouse your trousers to check what colour socks you’re wearing, mismatched buckles, especially on the same set of webbing would make blood squirt out of their ears 🙂