Category Archives: 44-Webbing

Stores bundles of 44 Pattern Brace Attachments

Tonight’s post is a little different as it is not the object we are interested in so much as how it is packaged and labelled. Like all militaries the British Army has always maintained large stores of uniform, equipment and weapons. Partly this is to allow new troops to be equipped when they join the military and partly this is to provide a reserve of materiel in case of a war breaking out and a large number of extra men needing to be equipped. There could be literally millions of items in a British Army store and there needed to be a way of tracking what was held in inventory and re-ordering supplies when they were running low. Storesmen, despite there not always helpful reputation, were essential at keeping this vast collection of items inventoried and restocked. Some idea of the scale of a military store can be seen in this photograph of RAF and WAAF storemen preparing supplies to be sent to India:13627000_1781716032105687_4767855636282637445_nWhen items came from the manufacturer they were normally either boxed or bundled together and tied with string, as in these two bundles, each containing ten 44 pattern brace attachments:imageThese packs are tied together with a piece of string around the centre:imageAnd have a card label attached with a description, quantity and stores code:imageThe same code is printed onto the webbing itself:imageThese codes are part of the British Army code system in use before the introduction of NSN numbers in the 1960s and the codes used would all match up with a catalogue in the storeman’s office allowing items to be identified and reordered. During the Second World War the army found itself receiving men who had training as storemen in civilian life and took advantage of this, using them to man its own stores regardless of their personal preference, as related by Stan Wood:

Reality brought me back to earth when I was posted to Hinkley for army stores training. Remember the special tests and my qualifications for the Royal Signals? Well, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps needed storemen at that time and, since I was a junior storeman on enlisting, choice was non-existent. All the other lads had similar stores or warehouse experience. The course lasted about three weeks.

Many items in stores are never issued or used, and once a piece of kit is marked as obsolete, these bundles are sold on the secondary market. Most are opened by dealers and sold as individual items, but occasionally you come across complete stores bundles such as these ones that have never been opened and issued. As I have a set of 44 pattern brace attachments already I will be leaving these two packs alone as they tell their own little story as they are.

44 Pattern Bayonet Frog

Included in the standard items of webbing for the 44 pattern set was a bayonet frog. Interestingly a bayonet frog was also supplied on the side of the basic pouch, but clearly it was felt a separate one would be useful as well. The frog is clearly copied from the 37 pattern design, but made in the newer more rot proof webbing:imageThe official webbing pamphlet describes it thus:

Bayonet Frog- This is provided with a woven hole in the upper scabbard loop to enable the No. 4, No. 5, or No. 7 bayonet to be carried by inserting the stud through the hole. The No. 1 bayonet is held in the frog in the usual way by the stud of the scabbard being inserted between the web loops.  imageA narrow web loop is provided to slip over the hilt of the No. 1 or the No. 5 bayonet to prevent swinging. imageThis frog is clearly unissued, as can be seen by the rear which has no wear at all:imageThe markings include the frog’s store code ‘CN2006’ and the manufacturer and date:imageDespite the integral bayonet loops on the 44 pattern basic pouch, these separate frogs must have been useful as manufacture continued into the mid-1960s, with dates of 1966 observed on some examples. Ironically however most examples found today seem to be in mint condition and never issued.

44 Pattern Webbing Belt

Continuing our detailed look at British Webbing sets, tonight we consider the 1944 pattern belt. This design by Mills Equipment Company drew upon the three section belts of the earlier 19 and 25 pattern sets, but added the grommets on the lower edge of the US webbing sets. This was the first time they had been used in a British design and the belt was in that respect ground breaking, allowing items to be easily slung from it by a wire hanger. The belt is made from a closely woven dark green cotton, with anodised fittings to help it survive in jungle conditions. As usual we turn to the fitting instructions for the official description of the belt:

Waistbelt- This is issued in two sizes, large and normal, having a maximum adjustment of 48 inches and 40 inches respectively.  imageThe normal size should fit 95 per cent. Of troops. It is made in three parts (two side pieces and an adjustment strap) and the webbing is two inches wide.  A closing buckle of the “hook and loop” type is fitted to the front ends of the side pieces imageand a double hook on each rear end;  imagea 1 inch link with gap is fitted diagonally to each side piece for attachment of the braces;  imageloops are provided for the spare ends of the adjustment strap.  imageTwo 1-inch 3-bar buckles are fitted to the back piece for attachment of the inner braces.  imageGrommets (i.e. eyelets with spur tooth washers) are fitted in the lower edge- four in each side piece imageand six centrally spaced in the adjustment strap;  imagea 1-inch strap with snap fastener is fitted to the right hand side piece to secure the rifle when slung on the shoulder. imageThe back part of the belt was supposed to be removable so the set could be worn without it to ease pressure on jungle sores if needed- whether this was ever done is hard to say. The belt was a complicated piece of webbing when compared with the 1937 pattern belt, however it was a well thought out piece of kit  apart from the rifle strap that seems never to have been used, and remained in use for many years. The Iraqi army copied it almost exactly in tan webbing for one of their equipment sets.

1944 Pattern Basic pouches

Continuing our occasional series of posts looking at the elements of the 1944 pattern webbing set, tonight we turn to the basic pouches. A pair of these was worn on the front of the chest and carried the soldiers ammunition, Bren magazines and grenades. The pouches are clearly inspired by those used on the 37 pattern webbing, but are deeper and will now hold three rather than two Bren Magazines. The height of the fastened flap is also adjustable, again based on experience with Sten Gun magazines which had been too tall for the pouches on 37 Pattern Webbing. The following description comes from the fitting instructions:

Basic Pouch, Left- The internal dimensions are approximately 4 ½ inches by 3 inches by 9 ½ inches deep.  imageOn the back, two 2-inch wire hooks are provided for connecting to the waistbelt, imagea tapered chape with 1-inch 4-bar buckle for the braces and two vertical webbing loops for the haversack straps; imagethe hooded flap is fitted with the staple portion of a quick release fastener imagewhich can be fitted to either of the two links on the front of the pouch. imageThe normal method of closure is to use the bottom link; imagethe alternative method is for use when longer items are carried in the pouch. The left-hand side has loops as an alternative method of carrying the No. 4, 5 and 7 bayonet. imageBasic pouch, Right- Exactly the same as the left pouch except that bayonet loops are not fitted on the side.

As can be seen the pouches are made of pre-shrunk green died cotton webbing, with anodised aluminium fittings typical of this set of webbing. They are clearly visible in most photographs of soldiers fighting in the jungle campaigns of Malaya and Borneo; in this image a Ghurkha is wearing them in Borneo in 1965, the Ghurkha’s short stature makes the pouches look particularly large:P04762_012

44 Pattern Shoulder Braces

One of the most innovative features of the new 1944 pattern webbing set was the shoulder braces which were a departure from anything Mills had made before. These braces incorporated much wider sections where they passed over the shoulders, and the braces split into two at the rear to allow attachment to the belt in four places, rather than the two on the 37 pattern set, to better distribute the weight:imageThe braces are made from lightweight pre-dyed green cotton webbing, with anodised metal fittings to minimise corrosion in the jungle. As ever we turn to the fitting instructions issued by the War Office when the set was introduced:

Braces (pair)- These have shoulder sections made of webbing 3-inches wide, imagewith 1-inch wide front straps to connect to the basic pouches;  imagetwo 1-inch straps are sewn to the rear ends of the shoulder sections and stitched where they cross; imagewhen fitted these are attached to the diagonals on the side pieces of the belt and are adjustable by the 3-bar buckles. imageThe other two 1-inch straps which are not sewn where they cross are for attachment to the buckles on the back of the waistbelt. imageThe illustration from the fitting instructions shows how they worked in practice:44 pattern strapsThese were a major improvement over anything that had come before and illustrate a move more towards the ‘yoke’ style of straps used on 58 pattern and PLCE equipment in the post war period.

WS88 Radio Set Pouch

When the British Army introduced the WS88 radio set we looked at yesterday, they issued it with an accompanying webbing pouch to allow it to be attached to the recently approved 44 pattern webbing set.UntitledThis pouch was supposed to be worn on the left hand side of the webbing, with a similar pouch for the battery on the right. It is made of the same green lightweight cotton webbing as the rest of the 44 pattern tropical webbing:imageAs can be seen the pouch is secured by a quick release fastener on the front, this example is sadly broken. Whilst sharing many characteristics with the contemporary 44 pattern set, this pouch is not strictly speaking part of that set, as it is not listed in the pamphlets of equipment, rather it is an associated piece of equipment designed to be compatible with the main webbing set. The rear of the pouch is virtually identical to the 44 pattern ammunition pouches, but is marginally wider to accommodate the larger radio set:imageA pair of metal loops are sewn to the pouch to attach it to the waist belt:imageThe rear also has a radio stores’ code of ‘ZA33126’ and the letter ‘L’ indicating it is to be worn on the left:imageThe base of the pouch has a small drainage hole:imageThis combined with the waterproof casing of the WS88 set allowed the operator to wade through water and still use the radio at the end of it. The top flap of the pouch has a large opening allowing the user to operate the WS88 set:imageA small pocket runs down the side of the pouch to hold the aerial when not in use:imageThis pouch was manufactured by MECo in 1948:image

Updated 1944 Pattern Pack and Contents

Back in January we looked at the contents of my 44 pattern small pack here. As I pointed out at the time, this was a work in progress; I have now decided an update is in order as over the last year I have added a lot more items to this set, and it is looking much more complete. Please click on the links to get more information about an individual item.Publication1

  1. 44 pattern Small Pack
  2. Rubberised Poncho
  3. Aluminium Mess Tins
  4. Knife, Fork and Spoon Cover
  5. Foot powder
  6. Water Sterilisation Kit
  7. Knife Fork and Spoon Set
  8. Jumper
  9. Vest
  10. Waterproof Ration Bag
  11. Insect Repellent
  12. First Aid Kit
  13. Aluminium Soap Dish
  14. Housewife
  15. Underpants
  16. Rot Proof Socks
  17. English/Malay Phrase book
  18. Guide for soldiers serving in the Far East Theatre
  19. Mirror
  20. Washroll