The introduction the Sten gun in 1940 gave the British Army a minor headache when it became apparent that the magazines were too long to allow them to be carried in the standard 37 pattern basic pouches then in service. This therefore led to the introduction of the MK III pouch, which was 1/2 inch longer than the earlier model to allow the magazines to fit in. Later models would be produced with quick release tabs, like the example here, but the early versions retained the press stud to secure the lid and it is an example of this pattern we are looking at tonight:Apart from its length, the pouch conformed to the standard design that had been in use since the start of the war, described in the 37 pattern webbing manual as:
Basic Pouches- these are interchangeable, and are rectangular in shape to contain two Bren gun magazines each, or a number of grenades, or S.A.A. A buckle is provided at the top of each pouch for attachment of the brace;This buckle has a loop at the top which serves for connecting the hook on the shoulder strap. Two double hooks are fitted to the back of each pouch for attachment to the waist belt:As mentioned earlier, these early MK III pouches retained the brass press studs to secure the lid:This particular pouch is marked on the underside of the lid as having been manufactured by BG Ltd in 1943:These pouches saw service after the war and the following instructions for what to carry in them come from a Royal Navy publication of 1950:
These are designed to carry ammunition or Bren magazines. A typical ‘carry’ for the rifleman of a section is two Bren magazines in each pouch, or two magazines in one pouch and fifty rounds of rifle ammunition in the other. Grenades cannot be carried in the pouches with other ammunition. There is no specific place for grenades to be carried, but they are usually placed in the haversack. The pouches are fitted with metal prongs that fit in the canvas sockets in the inside of the belt. They are worn on the front of the equipment, equidistant from the central buckle and so that the arms are free to move across the body.
This week sees the final part of our mini-series on Indian jungle green 37 pattern webbing when we take a look at the bayonet frog:In design this exactly matches the description from the 37 pattern fitting instructions:
This is made of narrow webbing with a loop for suspending from the waist belt and has two horizontal loops for suspending the scabbard:The scabbard is inserted and pushed through until the stud on the outside comes out between the two loops.
A second loop is sewn at the top to allow the handle of the bayonet to be slipped under to prevent it from bouncing around excessively:As with the other pieces of jungle green webbing we have looked at, the piece is very faded and the markings on the rear are very badly stamped and hard to read:There were a number of webbing manufacturers in India, Bata and ‘KEF’ being two whilst ‘CA’ is often seen marked on webbing and is the mark of the Cawnpore Government Harness and Saddlery factory. This manufacturer was based in Cawnpore and was a government run equipment company dating back to the First World War. In addition to this factory, the company had branches at Calcutta and Cossipore, whilst yet more satellites were set up in Amritsar, Bombay and Madras when the threat of Japanese invasion was at its height.
This then concludes our look at Indian jungle green webbing for now, I am still missing some components such as the small and large packs but rest assured, when I add examples to my collection I will bring them to you here.
We return for a second week to look at another piece of Indian produced jungle green 37 pattern webbing, with a pair of shoulder braces:These are faintly dyed green, but would have been more vibrant when new. Dyes were a constant problem in India, with many being supplied from the United States as lend-lease. Chemicals used in the dyeing process included Sodium Bichromate and Potassium Bichromate, neither of which had been produced in India before the war and acetic acid which was only a tiny industry before the war (the Mysore government rapidly set up a plant producing 600 tons a year once the war began). The country also looked into what it could produce from its natural resources, as outlined in the post war review of Indian production and supply:
In the field of drugs and dyes, the failure of imports from abroad resulted in the initiation of research projects for the utilisation of the country’s indigenous resources. Glandular products were prepared from slaughter house wastes. Atoxyl and carbarsone were synthesised from easily available raw materials. Various vegetable dyes were extracted from the country’s forest wealth.
I suspect vegetable dyes, derived from plants such as bamboo, sabai grass and munji grass, were used extensively to dye jungle green webbing which would explain why the colour has often faded quite markedly in the individual pieces.
Even through the jungle green dye, the distinctive ‘striped’ look of Indian webbing comes through, as does the slightly looser weave that gives Indian made webbing its softer feel:As with last week’s components, the brass fittings on these shoulder braces are blackened to aid the camouflage of the piece in the field:One of the two shoulder braces has a set of stamped numbers on the reverse:These are again typical of Indian produced webbing and are most likely inspectors’ marks. All items of jungle green Indian webbing are scarce and this pair are in typical condition. Some pieces do turn up in vibrant green, and these I suspect were produced with chemical dyes, whereas the majority are like these and I think it’s fair to say they were produced with vegetable based dye.
Over the coming weeks we are going to be taking a look at a few pieces of jungle green Indian made 37 pattern webbing. Standard 37 pattern webbing had been produced in India for some time in undyed cotton, which gave it a tan colour. This would then be blancoed, as with other webbing across the empire. The problem found in jungles was that this blanco was quickly eroded by the extremes of humidity and the webbing reverted to its natural, light colour. This then stood out like a sore thumb against the dark background of the jungle, making the wearer an easy target for the Japanese. To counter this it was first decided to dye the webbing green, later the thread used in its manufacture was pre-dyed before the webbing was even wove and this has led to two distinct types of jungle green webbing out there for the collector. The webbing that was dyed as a batch of assembled pieces has green stitching, as this cotton was dyed at the same time as the rest of the item. Pieces made from pre-dyed thread often have distinctive lighter coloured assembly stitching as they were sewn together later and have tan thread on a green background.
The first piece we are looking at tonight is a 37 pattern belt in jungle green:As is often the case, the green colour has faded of this belt so it is far less intense a colour than it would have been when new, nevertheless when compared to standard Indian made 37 pattern webbing the contrast is clear.
The fittings on this belt are made of blackened brass, with the buckle, sliders and chapes all black in colour: As are the rear buckles:A C/|\?? inspector’s acceptance code is faintly visible on the rear of the belt:As is the maker’s mark and a date of 1946:The jungle green 37 pattern webbing was only introduced in 1944 so was only used in the last 12-18 months of the war. Nonetheless it was a simple but welcome change to the soldier’s equipment and far more suited to jungle fighting than the tan version.
Tonight my thanks go to Wojciech Musial who has very kindly sent me pictures of a South African made 37 pattern webbing holster. This example was made in the Union of South Africa during World War Two and is identical in form to the British made examples:The official 37 pattern manual describes the holster as:
Pistol Case- This consists of a woven article finished to accommodate the 0.380 revolver. It is lined with smooth webbing and the flap is closed by a snap fastener. Two double hooks are provided of the back for attachment to the waist belt and a similar hook is fitted horizontally at the top for connecting to the ammunition pouch when the article is to be carried over the pistol case.Of interest is the particularly crude stitching around the end of the muzzle part of the holster. This is completed with a blanket stitch, although it is unclear if this was the way the holster was manufactured or if it is a later repair. The C-Hooks are made of a base metal rather than brass and this was most likely an economy measure to save a strategic metal for other more important purposes. The holster was made by Daniel Isaac Fram and the maker’s stamp is on the underside of the holster flap:South African webbing is always hard to find and pieces rarely come on the market so it has been great to be able to share Wojciech’s item on the blog.
I have slowly been working on building up my Canadian 37 pattern webbing collection over the last few months, I have a British set and an Indian set, whilst South African and Australian are a little trickier to find so for now the Canadian set is the one I am working on.
Recently I have picked up a pair of basic pouches and they have a number of distinctive Canadian features that are worth examining closer:It is worth reminding ourselves of the description from the 37 pattern webbing manual:
Basic pouches- These are interchangeable, and are rectangular in shape to contain two Bren Gun magazines each, or a number of grenades, or S.A.A. A buckle is provided at the top of each pouch for attachment of the brace; this buckle has a loop at the top which serves for connecting the hook on the shoulder strap. Two double hooks are fitted to the back of each pouch for attachment to the waistbelt.
Compared to British made pouches the strap securing the box lid is 1″ wide compared to 3/4″ of the standard pattern:Early Canadian basic pouches had the same 3/4″ wide strap, but seem to have swapped over to the wider pattern in around 1941. Despite these pouches late date of manufacture, the underside of the lid still retains three loops to hold Ballistite cartridges for grenade launchers:The second major difference is the top brass buckle on each pouch, which is of a completely different design to that used in other parts of the Empire:The rear of the pouch has a pair of ‘C’ hooks:This pouch is particularly well made, as is typical of Canadian manufacture. This pair was made in 1943 by Zephyr Loom and Textile:The Canadian acceptance mark of a /|\ inside a ‘C’ is stamped on the underside of each pouch lid:Like much Canadian webbing found today, this pair of pouches is in almost unissued condition and is another great addition to my little set. I find collecting up the Empire variants of 37 pattern and the various pack fillers to be great fun and hopefully I can continue to fill out my collection.