1944 Pattern Poncho

Before the 1944 Pattern poncho was introduced, the British Army had used a combination of waterproof groundsheets and ponchos made from a heavy rubberised fabric, used alongside gas proof capes. There was clearly a need for a lighter weight item of clothing that could fulfil both roles and the British turned to the USA’s nylon poncho for inspiration. Britain lacked the manufacturing capacity in the new nylon fabric at this point in time, so the new poncho was made of neoprene proofed cotton sheeting, and weighed 3lb 2oz, although it was hoped to replace the neoprene waterproofing with Butyl proofing once manufacturing difficulties had been overcome.

The design of the poncho was a large rectangular sheet, with a central head hole:

In this period photograph, the poncho can be seen opened out to its full extent:

The head hole of the poncho had a seal around the neck, with a draw string to pull it tight and reduce the risk of water entering the poncho here:

The seams of the poncho are sewn, then had glued strips of the fabric attached over the stitching to prevent water from getting in through these points:

Whilst most seams are fairly simple, the ones around the neck hole are more complex:

One of the key features of the poncho was the requirement to be used as a shelter half, as such the edges of the poncho have press studs and eyelets to allow two to be fastened together to make a two man waterproof shelter:

To fulfil its role as a gas cape, a small pocket is fitted inside the poncho that is sized to carry a tin of anti-gas ointment:

As this poncho was clearly superior to the previous patterns, it was quickly put into production in Britain, with similar patterns also produced in India and Australia. This example was produced in 1945:

Early criticisms of the poncho were that it was too heavy, not durable enough and it would be better if it included sleeves as this would provide more mobility. The design would be replaced with nylon examples in the post war period, but the basic principle of the poncho would endure for many decades after.

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