Camelbak is a commercial trademark for a particular company specialising in manufacturing water bladders for both the civilian outdoors market and the military. Much like ‘hoover’ came to mean any vacuum cleaner, camelbak has come to mean any sort of water bladder system. A water bladder is a soft plastic bag which can be filled with water and can be carried on the back in a special carrier. A flexible hose comes from this bladder round to the front of the user and has a special valve that allows the user to sip water without needing to remove the bladder. This has obvious advantages to the military where in combat situations or on the march, removing a waterbottle is not always practical. Us troops started using camelbaks in the First Gulf War and the practice had spread to the British by the time of the War on Terror. Special packs were produced on British military contracts in both DDPM and in the temperate green pattern of DPM. It is one of these covers we are looking at tonight, although this is just the cover and is lacking the bladder itself:The maker’s logo is prominently displayed on the back zipped flap:This opens to reveal a hole where the refill cap of the bladder would be located:Looking to the rear we can see a pair of shoulder straps and a single grab handle at the top:An NSN number is stamped directly to the back of the camelbak:Female fastex clips are fitted to the top:And bottom of the carrier:These allow it to be clipped to the back of an assault vest if so required. The typical way of carrying the bladder however is by the integral shoulder straps. A chest strap is also included to help hold the camelbak in the correct position on the soldier’s back:It is on these shoulder straps that the contractor’s label can be found with the NSN number and space for the soldier’s name and number:Although DDPM and DPM covers were produced, it seems squaddies weren’t too fussed about what they used, resulting in decidedly mixed kit such as on this chap:The camelbak was a popular and welcome addition to soldier’s kit, even if it was not always the easiest thing to fill up or sterilise after use. I have used one myself on exercise many years ago and although the water is a bit topping when it has gotten warm, the bags are excellent and far easier than trying to pull a bottle out of a pouch when you want a mouthful of water.
We continue our review of the 88 Pattern webbing set this week with the second pattern water bottle carrier. The earlier pattern was covered here, and side by side the differences are clear (the first pattern is on the left, the second on the right):The most obvious change between the two patterns is the replacement of the webbing loop on the front with a full pocket for carrying a hexamine stove:Both the front pocket and the base of the carrier have eyelets to drain water out:The pattern of Auscam is also brighter and slightly greener than the older carrier. On the rear the belt fastenings have changed:Instead of the sprung metal ALICE style clips, plastic fasteners are fitted instead:The rest of the carrier is broadly similar in design, borrowing heavily from the US M1910 style of carrier. Two top flaps secure the bottle into the carrier, fastening with a pair of press studs:The inside of the carrier is lined with felt to help insulate the bottle and keep it cool in the heat of the Australian outback:This particular carrier dates from 2010:The US M1910 must be one of the most enduring designs of webbing in history, inspiring dozens of derivative designs across the world; we have covered the 44 Pattern British carrier, 51, 64 and 82 pattern Canadian and 88 Pattern Australian designs which are all inspired by this design and this does not include all the non-commonwealth countries that have also adopted variations of this design.
With water being such a high priority in Australia, it is typical for soldiers and cadets to carry a minimum of two bottles on their webbing at all times, with extra bottles added to the rucksack if extended operations are expected.
A few years back we looked at the Indian 37 pattern water bottle cradle and in passing mentioned the Indian made water bottle. We did not however look at it in any great detail and I have now managed to pick up a different example of the bottle that allows us to take a more detailed look at this particular bottle. The bottle is of the traditional kidney shape and would have had a woolen cover originally. From the date it was designed to be used with 37 pattern webbing and it is made of tinplate that has been painted in a matt sand colour, rather than being enameled:The bottle does not have anywhere for a cork string to be tied to it, suggesting the thread of the cork was sewn to the cover. The top of the bottle has a distinctive spout, with a tapering section, before the main opening:By way of contrast, this is a 1941 dated version of the bottle, from the same factory and it shows a slightly different variation in the style of the top pressing:(This particular bottle is now on its way across the Atlantic to join the collection of a good friend of mine). The base of the bottle has manufacturer’s details stamped in. In this case someone has rubbed the paint off before I managed to pick it up so we can clearly see it was made by The Metal Box Company of Calcutta in 1944:This bottle is made of tinplate and The History of the Supply Department in India relates some of the demands for tinplate in the sub-continent:
Tinplate is essentially needed by all the three Defence Services in war. Mechanised armies depend on tinplate for their petrol, water, oil and grease, all of which must be packed in tins. It is also needed for packing food stuffs, in operational areas, for army utensils like camp kettles, degchies. mess tins, water bottles, and gas mask boxes. In munitions also, tinplate is essential.
Nearly every round fired or bomb dropped owes something to tin-plate. It is required for lining the boxes of rifles and machine gun ammunition. Charges for big guns are stored in tinplate containers. Fuses for small bomb and tails and vanes for bigger ones are all made from tinplate. Depth charges also are dependent on tinplate. These increased military demands led to the expansion of the Indian tinplate industry and its output rose to 58,300 tons in 1942, 68,400 tons in 1943 and 80.000 tons in 1944. The largest increase has been in heavy gauge (26 E.G. and thicker) production in special qualities.
All this expansion has been carried out and maintained despite the loss of Malaya and its supplies of tin and palm oil, as the Company had fairly large stocks of tin. Some imports came from the U.K., the U.S.A. and China. Arrangements were also made for the supply from Kenya of sufficient ore. By confining the use of tinplate to certain essential articles such as containers for
food-stuff and pharmaceuticals, mess this, water bottles etc., the consumption of tin was reduced by about 80 per cent. All other essential war demands requiring coated plate either for anti-corrosion protection or for ease of fabrication such as ammunition boxes and ordnance stores were produced in ‘terneplate’
Over the last few months we have looked at the Canadian 51 pattern and 82 pattern canteen carriers. However we have not yet considered the canteens that were carried inside these items of webbing so tonight we are looking at the two post war canteen designs used by the Canadians. Up until the introduction of the 51 pattern webbing set, the Canadians had been using the standard Mk VII enamelled iron water bottle. This design was clearly antiquated and a new aluminium canteen was introduced, based closely on the design used by the US since the First World War:It took a long time for these canteens to be rolled out, and many troops issued the 51 pattern set when it was first introduced had to use an old enamelled water bottle as the canteens were not ready for them. The canteen is gently curved to fit better against the hip, with an indent on the rear:The lid is made of black plastic with raised grooves to help grip:A short piece of chain is attached to the lid, that would originally have been fastened to the canteen so the lid was not accidently lost:This canteen is marked with a date of February 1957 and was produced by ‘CMF’:The aluminium canteen was certainly a vast improvement on the old enamelled water bottle, but presented some difficulties unique to Canadian service. Canada’s army had to operate in very cold conditions for much of the year meaning the water in their canteens could freeze. When this happened the aluminium canteen could split or be bent out of shape very easily. To combat this problem the Canadians introduced a plastic canteen, actually introducing this ahead of the US Army:This canteen is an incredibly early example with a date of 1960 on the base:The canteen has raised lettering on the front reminding troops not to heat water in it as it is plastic and would melt!Although this seems obvious, it must be remembered that when the canteens were introduced there were ample supplied of the aluminium canteens in use and it would not be hard to pick up a plastic example in the dark and accidently apply it to a heat source.
The canteen has a plastic screw cap, that is held in place with a plastic collar so it does not go missing:The plastic canteen was to prove very popular and widely copied, the US, Canada and Australia amongst many other nations all using variations of it right through to the present day.
The enamelled kidney shaped water bottle was to have an extraordinarily long service life with the British military. It’s successor was to be equally long lived and it is the black nylon water bottle and cup introduced in the 1960s which is still in use today. Originally the 58 pattern webbing set did not have a dedicated water bottle- the old enamelled Mk VII bottle was expected to soldier on in service despite it having been obsolete as early as the First World War. It was quickly understood a new plastic bottle was essential and after a couple of different trials models the familiar design was agreed upon in olive green plastic. By the mid-1960s this had been changed to the familiar black:The water bottle holds two pints and comes with a separate cup that fits over the top half of the bottle when stowed in a pouch:As is typical with plastic bottles, a moulded warning is provided reminding the user to keep it away from heat, note also the date for this particular example, 1985, moulded into the side:Bizarrely the NSN numbers for the bottle allocate a separate code for the bottle, cap and cup! The cap is also dated 1985 and is secured to the collar of the bottle with a flexible plastic strap:Once the S10 respirator was introduced the bottle lid was replaced with a new design that allowed a straw to be attached for use with the new design of mask. The cup provided for the bottle is also made of black nylon, with two folding metal handles:The use of a plastic cup prevented the user form burning his lips when drinking hot liquids, but meant that you couldn’t use the cup to melt snow for a cup of tea- many troops found old 1944 pattern cups and swapped them over! The metal handles are secured to the cup with a riveted plate and fold flat around the cup for stowage:This water bottle remains in widespread use in the British military and water bottle pouches were added to the PLCE and MOLLE systems when they were introduced to carry the same design of bottle. As it is cheap to buy (the stores catalogue prices the bottles at £1.14, the caps at 40p and the cap retainers at 10p each) and held by the military in massive quantities it seems likely that there are many more decades of service ahead for the humble black water bottle set!
When Canada started producing their own 37 pattern webbing in the Second World War, they modified the British design of skeleton water bottle carrier in 1942 to closely resemble that introduced by Mills in the earlier 1919 pattern set. What this meant in reality was that the water bottle had a single long fastening strap, secured to the rear:This passed over the top of the bottle and fastened to a press stud on the front of the carrier:This was in contrast to water bottle carriers from other countries of the Empire where the fastener was on the top shoulder of the bottle. At first glance the 1919 and Canadian 1937 pattern water bottle carriers are identical, however we can tell them apart either by the markings (which are very hard to make out on this example) or by the press studs themselves. These are made by United Carr of Canada:As to why the Canadians changed the design of the carrier; that is a harder question to answer, presumably it was felt that by moving the fastener to the front manufacture could be speeded up as you were not having to sew two straps to the rest of the carrier. It also reduced the amount of brass needed as you were only reinforcing on strap end with a brass chape. It might also have made it easier to open and close the carrier when worn as the strap would be easier to access on the front of the carrier than it would on the top. There are a lot of weird and wonderful changes made by Canada to their webbing over the war years, resin impregnated tips and unique construction techniques amongst others. For those with an interest in the subject I cannot do better than point you to this thread here on Canadian webbing which is excellent.
Many items of RAF 1925 pattern webbing are identical to their later RAF 1937 pattern equivalents- cross straps, brace attachments and tonight’s object, water bottle carrier, were identical. This then presents problems and opportunities for the collector; these items can be found for very low prices misidentified as 37 pattern items, but the collector needs to know what he is looking at, and how to identify the earlier pattern items. This water bottle carrier is of the sleeve type:This design had been used on a number of cavalry webbing sets by Mills before it was adopted for the 1925 pattern set, however it was the lack of any water bottle covers but drab that led to the design being used by the RAF, allowing them to hide the water bottle and present a wholly blue grey finish. The sleeve design was ironically then adopted by the army in WW2 as it was cheaper and easier to manufacture. Basically the design has a single piece of webbing that wraps around the bottle, with a strap that passes across the base:Which ends in two buckles at the top to allow it to be fastened to the rest of the webbing set:To positively identify the carrier as 25 pattern though, it needs to be turned inside out to view the markings:These have the ‘Air Ministry’ crown and markings and a date of 1939 (it is slightly clearer in real life). As the RAF didn’t start using 37 pattern webbing until 1941 at the earliest, this carrier can be positively identified as 25 pattern webbing. The inside of the carrier also has the original airman’s number:The number appears to be 2353415 which was a number from a batch of National Service Airmen taken on at Padgate in 1947, suggesting that either the cover had been languishing in a store for eight years or had been reissued. Indeed due to the similarity in appearance between 1925 and 1937 pattern webbing, they were mixed and matched for years, with no one seeming to care what an airman was issued as long as it was functional.