Category Archives: 08-Webbing

1908 Pattern Shoulder Braces

Continuing our detailed study of the components of the 08 webbing set, tonight we are considering the shoulder braces. These are made of webbing, which are two inches wide throughout. This combined with the three inch wide belt used on this set make for a particularly comfortable set of webbing to wear- which is just as well as full it held 150 rounds of .303 ammunition. There were two distinct types of braces for the 08 webbing set, the first had an expanded central section, but this was swiftly dropped in favour of a simple piece of webbing with a consistent width for the length of the strap, introduced under L of C entry No15048 on 22nd November 1909. We turn to the 1913 fitting instructions for a description of the braces:

These are interchangeable, and each consists of a strip of webbing 50 inches long and 2-inches wide.  imageEach brace is provided with a sliding buckle for the attachment of the pack. image The pack is secured to, but must not hang from the buckles.

The ends of the braces are reinforced with eyeleted brass tips to prevent the ends form fraying in use. The rear of one of these braces has a regimental stamp of KRR:imageThis stands for the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, the number 5600 indicates that the owner was a pre-war regular who had joined the regiment as early as 1903. Sadly no maker’s marks are visible on either of these braces, but that is not unexpected considering they had been used and are probably more than a hundred years old.

08 Pattern Belt

When the 08 pattern webbing set was introduced it was noticeably more comfortable to wear than its predecessors, in large part this was down to its belt that took much of the weight. The belt was wide and comfortable to wear and can be seen in use both as part of a full webbing set and on its own:WW1-Royal-Sussex-Regiment-Soldier-Wife-UnusedTonight we are looking at an example of the 08 belt from my collection, as ever we turn to the fitting instructions, in this case from 1908:

Waistbelt: This is issued in two sizes, large and small, the overall length of the webbing being 48 and 40 inches respectively.  FullSizeRenderThe width in each case is the same, viz., 3 inches. It is fitted with a large buckle in front FullSizeRender1and with two smaller buckles and two end pieces in the centre of the back. FullSizeRender2The length of the buckle is adjustable about the buckle end. FullSizeRender4The initial sizes of the belt were expanded in 1909 to include a 44 inch medium sized version. This example is a large, as indicated by the large ‘L’ stamped on the inside of the belt:FullSizeRender3Also just visible is a /|\ mark, a date of 1918 and a makers stamp for I believe MW&S which is Martin Wright and Sons Ltd. There are several different ways to fasten the buckle on the 08 webbing, the simplest method illustrated below:2015-06-26 08.08.42Other methods tucked the loose end of the belt behind to neaten up the appearance:skmbt_c36415091109260_0001-copy-copy-3The straps on the back of the belt were also folded back on themselves to neaten the appearance when the belt was worn on its own. These belts were popular and produced in large quantities for thirty years so they are not too hard to find- reproductions are also available but the webbing is often thin and does not stand up to use with the heavy 08 pouches as well as an original.

Modified 08 Pattern Waterbottle Carrier

Despite the Great War ending in 1918, the British Army’s 08 webbing sets would soldier on for another twenty years in front line service. As can be expected, during this time a continuing programme of upgrades and modifications were made to various elements of the equipment, so that on a detail level the webbing worn in 1938 was rather different to that used in 1918. Alongside major changes like the deletion of the entrenching tool, minor changes were made to the waterbottle carrier and it is that we are looking at tonight:imageThe original description of the water bottle carrier from 1908 when it was introduced read:

Waterbottle Carrier- This consists of a skeleton framework in which the waterbottle is inserted and secured by a snapped on retaining strap. The carrier is fitted with two buckles for attachment to the end pieces of the equipment and has a short extension piece and snap fastener for use when the waterbottle is carried on the front of the haversack.

The snap fastener to attach the waterbottle to the haversack was deleted before the outbreak of World War one, the major post war change to the waterbottle was to remove the snap fastener from its original position on the front of the carrier and move it to the top:imageThis change meant replacing one long strap that went over the bottle with two shorter ones that met in the middle- the straps being securely stitched to the front and back of the carrier:imageThis change was authorised by List of Chang entry L of C §24092 on 6th June 1921. Existing carriers were to be modified and all new carriers made to this design, my example was made to this design and has a surprisingly late date of 1940 printed inside, along with the makers mark for MECo:imageThe rest of the carrier remains unchanged and it still retains the large 2” Twigg buckles to attach it to the rest of the 08 webbing set:imageIn this image of Palestine form 1936, the modified waterbottle carrier can be seen being worn, albeit indistinctly, by the soldier second from left:6120336279_3064657534

North West Frontier Impressions

One of the nice things about collecting British kit is that after a certain point, your collection is large enough to allow you to mix and match equipment to make up a large number of different impressions. Tonight I have done that with three new impressions of soldiers serving on the North West Frontier in India in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

The North West Frontier was an interesting off shoot of the British military experience and there was an informality of dress when on campaign with a number of unique ways of wearing and carrying uniforms and equipment. These impressions are based heavily around an article that appeared in Military Illustrated Past and Present way back in the late 1980s and written by eminent historian Michael Barthorp. These impressions are not perfect as I am missing certain items from my collection, but hopefully they give an indication of dress on campaign on the frontier.

Gordon Highlander

This Gordon Highlander wears a ‘grey back’ shirt and his kilt with a kilt apron, he is equipped with 1908 pattern webbing, Wolseley helmet and a Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifle:imageFrom behind the broad and comfortable shoulder straps of the 08 webbing can easily be seen crossing over just above the belt:imageI am reliably informed that by this period the Gordon Highlanders were wearing full kilt covers rather than just aprons, however as this is all I have, please accept my apologies for this inaccuracy.

British Infantry Man

This infantry man wears the same Wolseley helmet and 08 webbing as the highlander, but wears KD shorts, KD Shirt and has pulled on his jumper as protection against the chilly nights:imageFrom the rear it can be seen that he has set up his 08 large pack in a haversack form with two utility straps to act as shoulder straps:imageAccording to Barthorp the large pack would have held typically spare socks and underwear, trousers, chupplis, eating and shaving utensils, towel, cap-comforter, 48 hours’ rations, mess-tin and groundsheet. Note also the waterbottle carried above the waist on the back of the webbing:imageThis was introduced by the 1st Northamptons in 1936/37 and was soon adopted by many other units on the frontier as it was presumably more comfortable. In this shot of the Ghurkhas manning a Vickers’ Berthier light machine gun on the frontier in 1940, the waterbottle can be clearly seen in this position:IMG_2931 (2)Second Lieutenant, West Yorkshire Regiment

This lieutenant wears the newly introduced 1937 pattern webbing and wears KD Shorts and shirt. This shirt is unusual in having premade holes for a rank pip and a shoulder title, in this case indicating he is a member of the Prince of Wales Own West Yorkshire Regiment. He wears a Bombay Bowler, a much smaller version of the Cawnpore Helmet produced commercially and which became popular with officers in the last years in India. He carries a map case and has a pair of binoculars for observing the hills and passes of the NW Frontier:imageFrom the rear it can be seen that the officer is wearing an aluminium waterbottle, painted green. These were a short lived introduction just prior to WW2 when they were dropped due to the need to conserve aluminium:image

Hopefully these impressions based on an oft overlooked theatre will be of interest and they highlight how kit can be mixed and matched to provide something more interesting than the usual impressions seen at many re-enacting events.

08 Pattern Large Pack

The design of the large pack we are looking at tonight served two different webbing sets faithfully for over 50 years, with troops in both world wars making use of it. The large pack was introduced as part of the 08 webbing and was designed to carry all those items that a soldier did not need immediately in the field. The pack was worn on the back, either by attaching it to a pair of 2” buckles on the 08 pattern cross straps, or using L-Straps on the 37 pattern equipment. Whilst designed to be used during transit and carried in unit transport where possible, it was used in the field on occasion as it had a much larger capacity than the small packs issued with both sets:FullSizeRenderThe following description comes form the fitting instructions:

Pack (1908 Pattern)- This consists of a rectangular sack, the dimensions being approximately 15 inches by 13 inches by 4 ½ inches:imageIt is open at the top and is closed by a cover secured by two narrow straps and buckles:imageWeather flaps are provided which fold down under the cover:imageTwo web loops are fitted to the bottom of the pack, through which the supporting straps are passed:imageA short 2-inch tab is fixed to each of the upper corners on the side nearest to the wearer’s back, also small buckles to which the upper ends of the supporting straps are secured:imageThe pack could also be set up and used as a rucksack, the illustrations below demonstrates how the supporting straps are set up for this:

FullSizeRender - CopyThis method of carriage had been used informally by troops in India for many years, but was formally recognised and listed in the fitting instructions for the 37 pattern webbing system. As the straps are thin and would dig in, it was common to hook them under the 2” twigg buckle on 08 webbing to increase the comfort level:1908_pack_can_ruck_bigThis pack is dated 1942 and marked ‘CP’ which indicates it was made by Caoutchouc Products Ltd:imageThe 1937 pattern fitting instructions list the following contents for the large pack: Greatcoat, Cap Comforter, Holdall containing Laces, Comb, Toothbrush. Razor and Case, Shaving Brush, Housewife, Socks, Soap & Towel. Additional or alternative contents could include: Ground Sheet, Waterproof Cape, Jerkin, Denims, Gas Cape (when not carried on Haversack), Underwear (vest and underpants), spare Shirt, PT kit (vest, shorts, plimsolls), Gloves/Mittens, Boot cleaning kit (Polish/Dubbin, Brushes). This should weigh 11lbs 1oz according to the fitting instructions; in reality many of these items of small kit would be carried in the small pack instead and other items stowed in the large pack as required.