Category Archives: Webbing

‘First Type’ Mk III 37 Pattern Basic Pouch

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:imageApart 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;imageThis 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:imageAs mentioned earlier, these early MK III pouches retained the brass press studs to secure the lid:imageThis particular pouch is marked on the underside of the lid as having been manufactured by BG Ltd in 1943:imageThese 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.

58 Pattern Webbing Overview

The 58 pattern webbing set was the mainstay of the British Army throughout the Cold War and although we have covered odd pieces on the blog before, a recent purchase of a nice clean set of webbing has given the opportunity to go back and look at the set as a whole and then study the missing components not previously covered.

When it was introduced the official list of changes from 1959 described the set as:

The above items of web equipment are hereby introduced to meet the requirements for an improved pattern of equipment for use in temperate and tropical climates. The equipment will enable the soldier in the field to carry his ammunition, rations, water, personal clothing and necessaries. Issue will be restricted to units as nominated by War office from time to time.

The new design comprises two orders, Fighting and Marching.

The main features are:-

  • Transference of the weight from the shoulders to the hips
  • Transference of the ammunition pouches from the front of the body to the sides of the waist belt.
  • The fitting of a yoke to the shoulder straps to provide greater stability

 

The design was to remain in manufacture for over thirty years and many of the components were updated and their design tweaked with experience. This example is a very late set, but shows the basic principle and the primary components:58 PatternThe water bottle and its carrier were not originally included in the set, and had to be retrospectively added. This component is not shown above, but we have covered it here. Also not illustrated is the large pack, which was universally detested for its poor design, again this has been covered previously here.

The web gear was attached using a combination of traditional wire ‘c’ hooks and also straps with metal hooks and loops that secured each piece to the belt or yoke:imageThe yoke itself was a major advance for this set of webbing as it was padded and far more comfortable than previous webbing sets and the 58 pattern set was to see service right through until the mid-1990s, with the Falklands campaign being its shining hour. By the fist Gulf War it was partially replaced by PLCE, but was still used by many troops who had not yet received the new PLCE web set.image76The first set of fitting instructions gives the following, comprehensive, overview of the set:

With this equipment a considerable part of the load is normally borne by the waist, but the import of the old adage “a change is as good as a rest” can be brought into effect by the simple expedient of unfastening the buckle of the belt, thus transferring the load entirely to the shoulders. The equipment can be assembled in “fighting order” or in “marching order” and by means of easily adjustable straps the load can be shifted whilst the wearer is on the move. The front of the body is kept free from encumbrances which might restrict certain movements.

The items of this equipment, which are not interchangeable with similar items of earlier types of webbing equipment, have been designed to accommodate the latest types of arms and accessories issued to the Services, including the lightweight pick and shovel.

Description of the Equipment

The main items of equipment are made of rotproofed and water repellent lightweight webbing, dyed to British Standard Camouflage Colour no 15.

The metal fittings are principally of light alloy with a dull protective finish which should not be removed. Quick release fittings have been used wherever possible to give quick access to the contents of the pouches etc.

The following are the component parts, which can be assembled in a variety of combinations to meet differing load carrying requirements:

  • Belt, Waist
  • Carrier, Cape
  • Pack
  • Pouch, Amunition, Left
  • Pouch, Ammunition, Right
  • Pouches, Rear (pair forming one item)
  • Straps, Utility (two)
  • Yoke

 

 

1972 Pattern Butt Pack

Tonight we come to the fourth and final component of the 1972/75 webbing set; the rear haversack, more commonly called the butt pack:imageThis is a nylon haversack that sits at the rear of the webbing set and is designed to carry the same contents as the 58 pattern kidney pouches and poncho roll:- NBC kit, field rations, spare socks, wash kit etc. Whilst the pouch is larger than the kidney pouches of the earlier set, without the poncho roll the capacity remains small and this was one of the major shortcomings of the set.

The throat of the rear pouch secured with a drawstring:imageThis in turn was covered with the top flap. On the underside of this top flap are the maker’s details:imageAt the rear are a pair of plastic D-loops that allow the yoke to be attached to the pouch:imageBeneath these is a white panel used to write the soldier’s name and number on when in service:imageThe 72/75 pattern set does not have a separate belt, so the rear pouch attaches to the side pouches directly so straps and plastic frictions buckles are sewn to each side of the pouch:imageTwo variations of haversack apparently exist; a plain one and a type like this one that has a long pocket across the base:imageSome sources say this was for a machete, whilst others say it was for a pick axe head, which is what I have fitted it with:imageA loop with a friction buckle is also fitted to the top of the flap of the pouch:imageThis seems to have been used to allow extra items to be strapped onto the webbing.

This piece finishes my set of 72/75 pattern webbing and I now have a complete set:imageThese sets are scarce as they were a trials item half a century ago, but all the pieces are still available from one supplier (albeit not cheaply) so I am pleased to have finally finished the set and have a full set up as a soldier on exercise whilst trialling the new web set in the early 1970s:imageimageimageimageHaving worn the set, I can see why it was never adopted. It is flimsy and complicated and the carrying capacity is limited, as is the sets adaptability. On the plus side the butyl nylon is much easier to decontaminate than cotton webbing, but it would be another ten to fifteen years before a far superior design was adopted by British Army when the PLCE set became the standard load bearing set for the next thirty years or more.

I have deliberately named this as being the 72/75 pattern in this post rather than the 72 pattern as I have done previously. I have been informed that the term 72 pattern is a collectors’ term and the official designation was the 1975 pattern PLCE set- this name would today cause far more confusion as the pieces are all dated 1972 or 1973 and PLCE is more commonly associated with the 1980s and 90s sets.

Modified 37 Pattern Bayonet Frog

We have previously seen how the British Army had introduced leather and brass tabs to allow spike bayonets to be carried in the 37 pattern bayonet frog that was designed for the very different SMLE sword bayonet and scabbard. This was an expedient design and many troops also solved the problem by simply cutting a small slot into the frog to fit the boss of the No4 scabbard. In many cases this was simply done with a soldier’s knife and the threads left loose to fray. In May 1944 this expedient was made official when an army instruction was distributed that formalised this modification. The order stated:

Open one side of the upper loop by carefully cutting the stitching. Lay the loop flat and cut a slit 1/2″ long horizontally in the desired position 3/4″ from the top edge of the web. After the slit has been securely reinforced by means of button hole stitching, the loop must be carefully re-sewn in its original position.

A diagram was provided to explain how this modification was to be made:imageIt is one of these modified bayonet frogs we are looking at tonight:imageThat this started out as a standard frog for the SMLE bayonet is evident from the upper loop to secure that bayonet’s handle under:imageThe modification itself can be seen on the upper loop where the slot has been cut as per the instructions and the hole stitched around with button hole stitching:imageThis then allows the scabbard of the No4 spike bayonet to be secured through this little hole:imageThis little modification is one of those fascinating cases of the War Office recognising a common practice undertake by troops and deciding that it was better to just formalise and regulate the practice as it was the simplest and most practical solution to the problem rather than trying to outlaw it.

Jungle Green 37 Pattern Bayonet Frog

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:imageIn 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:imageThe 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:imageAs 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:imageThere 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.

Indian Jungle Green 37 Pattern Belt

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:imageAs 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: imageAs are the rear buckles:imageA C/|\?? inspector’s acceptance code is faintly visible on the rear of the belt:imageAs is the maker’s mark and a date of 1946:imageThe 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.

Shell Dressing Haversack

The shell dressing haversack was a small webbing satchel issued to troops to carry shell dressings in in the field to allow stretcher bearers to perform first aid on casualties before they were passed back down the line to the Royal Army Medical Corps. These bags had originated in the First World War, where the edges had been bound in leather and the securing straps made of leather with brass buckles. By the Second World War this design had been updated to a completely web based design:imageThe satchel is a simple design, with a pair of weather flaps and a box type top flap to protect the shell dressings from the elements:imageThe lid itself is secured with two web straps and a pair of brass Twigg buckles:imageAlthough the main body of the bag is made of woven cotton webbing, the carry strap is of a lighter weave, sewn to the rear of the haversack:imageA brass buckle allows the length of the strap to be adjusted, in the same manner as the respirator haversacks of the period:imageThe front of the haversack has a large red Geneva cross on a white circle to indicate that the contents are for medical use:imageThe designation “Shell Dressings” is stencilled on the front, together with the number ‘2’:imageThe markings inside indicate that this haversack was made by M&Co in 1942:imageThe haversack would hold a dozen of the standard shell dressings and can be seen being carried in the field by medical personnel:imageThese packs lasted in service for decades and even today they lurk in various reservist units as a haversack for general first aid supplies during exercises.

I do not currently have enough shell dressings to fill this pack, however it does serve as a useful place to keep all my other medical related equipment.