One of the most commonly misidentified straps out there for the webbing collector is the subject of tonight’s post. Whilst most collectors can recognise that this strap is for communications gear it is repeatedly identified as being for the WS38 wireless set:This identification allows sellers to charge a premium for these straps, but the reality is rather different. The Fuller telephone system used the soil itself as a means to send telephone signals and Fuller telephones needed a large metal spike to push into the soil to act as a return for the signal. To carry these spikes, the carrying straps for the telephones were equipped with a pair of loops and a securing buckle:Whilst designed for Fuller telephones, the reality was that the straps were used on many different, more conventional, field telephones and here it can be seen attached to my L type set:To secure the strap the end is passed through the sling loop, doubled back on itself and secured with a Twigg buckle:This strap dates from 1942 and was made by the Mill’s Equipment Company:Note the store’s code of YA1532, the YA code clearly indicating that this was for use with field telephones.
Odd methods were sometimes called for to keep field telephones working, as recalled by Kenneth West:
Contact was by field telephone which was barely audible (strength 2-3 of 5). After about 3 days the line went dead about 9 o’clock in the evening, and as duty linesman it was my job to re-establish communications. I was allocated an escort of a young lad of about 18 years who had just joined the Coy , and subsequently his first excursion into the wild unknown. With the experience of my 22 years, I impressed upon him the necessity to have ‘one up the spout’, and to take the single signal wire in one hand and let it run through his hand as he walked about 10 yards to my rear. The only way to trace a line in the dark was to follow it by hand as it was looped along the hedgerow and fences by the side of the country road. On reaching the break, usually done by shell or mortar fire, the second man held the line as the linesman searched for the other end.
We were just over halfway to the section when the line came to an abrupt end. No blackened shell hole, just a single set of footprints in the knee deep snow leading from the German lines and across the road and fields to the outskirts of Zetten. With the youngster in a covering firing position, I reported the break to Coy HQ which was strength 5. Tying the single wire around his wrist, I went in search of the other end to contact the section. They were still very faint so I said I would make the joint and come to them and change their handset, checking the line as we went.
The handset was duly swapped, but there was no improvement. Army telephones were then earth return, so I checked the earth pin and everything seemed OK By now we had been exposed to the elements for about 1½ hours and the bladder was calling for relief, This I did in the proximity of the earth pin before returning to the cellar. The Corporal was all smiles and asked what magic I had performed as the signals were now almost full strength. When I told him of my simple remedy he scarcely believed me but showed his thanks with a tot of rum and a mug of hot char. We left them with the instructions that if they wanted to keep perfect contact, just give the line a tinkle from time to time.
On return to “A” Coy HQ I suggested that the forward section be kept adequately supplied with T.S.M. for their brew-ups, though I didn’t envy the bloke who would eventually remove the earth pin!!
The Desert camouflage version of the grab bag was a popular piece of ancillary load bearing equipment and we looked at an example here. As with many items of equipment, when the new MTP camouflage was introduced an updated version of the grab bag was issued in the new pattern:This bag is identical to the DDPM version and features the same external pouches. We have one large single pouch for a smoke grenade:Two smaller pouches for fragmentation grenades:And three pouches across the front for rifle magazines:Each of these opens up to allow access to the interior, a piece of elastic helps hold the magazines in place until ready to be withdrawn:The lid of the pouch features a velcroed easy access flap, the opening being surrounded by elastic to ensure it is easy to access the contents of the bag but there is no danger of anything falling out:This particular bag has been issued and the original owner has written his name and number on the underside of this elastic portion:The shoulder strap has a seperate MTP slider on it:This has a rough fabric finish on the inside to prevent the bag from slipping as easily from the wearer’s shoulder:A standard label is sewn into the inside, with a different NSN number compared to the DPM version:One user of the grab bag says:
I think the idea behind it being a grab bag is that you grab it an scarper.
It hold 9 mags which with the 6 or so you carry on your osprey, that’s your OP ammo sorted. Not many people wear vests over Osprey, just a few pouches for bullets on the front. A daysack with the grab bag under the lid = pouches to keep the ammo in one place. If you’re down 6/7 mags, you’re in the poopoo anyway. And maps, water, GPS, Leatherman NVG can all be stashed in there no dramas.
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.