Load Bearing Panniers

The subject of load bearing packs and webbing used by the British Army in the Second World War is sadly under-researched and so a lot of the items are subject to interpretation and speculation. Today’s post relies heavily on the description provided and information provided in DB Gordon’s book Equipment of the WWII Tommy, however I have found no other source of information or photographs of the item being used so I cannot corroborate any of his information.

The panier carrier is a pair of webbing bags that are worn on the chest and back to allow heavy loads to be man packed where traditional mules or vehicles cannot go. They allow a reasonable load to be carried, whilst leaving the hands free to help balance and pull the wearer over difficult terrain. The set we are looking at today date to the end of the war and as is often the case with load bearing webbing, they are virtually unused. Here they can be seen from the front:

And the rear:

Gordon suggests that the paniers saw most use in the Far East and were used for bringing rations up to the front line rather than ammunition. Whether they were to carry food or munitions, the weight that a man was expected to carry was clearly significant enough to provide the shoulder straps with felt pads for comfort at the point most weight would bear down on the wearer’s shoulders:

Whilst the weight was supported over the shoulder, a pair of waist straps were also fitted to balance the set and prevent the panniers form bouncing around too much, each adjustable with a brass buckle:

The two panniers were fitted with eyelets and cords to allow the tops to be tightened to secure the contents:

These would have been secured with a simple knot:

The panniers are stamped on the back of the waist straps with the maker’s initials and a date of 1944:

Although they only saw limited use, I do enjoy collecting these load bearing packs as they are more unusual than the usual personal webbing equipment and a great deal of though and ingenuity has gone into their design, even if the actual utility was not always as good as the designers had hoped.

One comment

  1. I could have used something like that a few times in the field, luckily we had carts with wheels for the flightline 😉
    I wonder, are the pouches a close fit for a ration box ? I forget what a compo box weighed but maybe two of them might be manportable if the bulkiness could be dealt with which it appears this arrangement just might ?
    I’d think that if both pouches were filled with ammunition a man might not be able to stand under the weight, but I suppose it depends on what it was, rations are the next heaviest thing besides water, and now I wonder would a ‘jerry can’ fit in each pouch ?
    Bren gun carriers and other transport can go over some pretty rugged terrain, so it should be only be needed for short distances and a very heavy load might be manageable.
    Then again casualties from ration delivery or ‘death by dixie’ was a common occurance…

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