For those of you not familiar with big World War Two events, don’t go there expecting to find bargains- they are few and far between. However with dealers from around the country they are ideal to find specific items you need to fill in gaps in your collection. They might not be cheap, but its much more likely you will find that elusive item than at a second hand market. I went to Victory show looking for two things- I didn’t find one (Bren magazines cheap enough to warrant buying 12 to fill out last weeks box), but although not exactly what I wanted I did find something suitable for the other (improving my RAF 25 Pattern) as well as a couple of other nice bits:
Indian Large Pack
This rather nice large pack is Indian made and helps add another piece to the set of Indian 37 pattern I am putting together:
The large pack was a hangover form the earlier WW1 era 08 pattern webbing and was used to hold large items of kit such as the greatcoat and the blanket. It was not taken onto the battlefield and most large packs were left with unit transport. This one isn’t marked, but has the distinctive look and feel of Indian webbing- its a lot softer and floppier than other commonwealth webbing and has quite a distinctive almost ‘striped’ appearance. On the rear there are the faint traces of a name and green blanco, now virtually all gone:
The giveaway for Indian webbing though is that sometimes (but not always) the brass fittings have a date stamp on the back of them. As far as I’m aware India was the only country that actually stamped its buckles. This example is dated 1942:
Canadian 37 Pattern Brace Attachment
One thing I did go looking for was a blue-grey RAF 25 or 37 pattern brace attachment, to replace the green army one that has been standing in on my 25 pattern set for the last few months. For an item of webbing that no one wants, they are surprisingly hard to track down and the only example I could find was a Canadian one, which is wrong for 25 pattern webbing, but indistinguishable from the correct one when worn as part of a set. The Canadians designed their brace attachments with a distinctive one piece brass section for attaching to the belt rather than the more typical design used by the rest of the Empire with a rectangle and moving bar (see Karkee Web for more information on the standard pattern).On the reverse, under the RAF blanco, is the faint trace of the Canadian acceptance stamp of a /|\ in side a ‘C’ (trust me its there and clearer on the actual item)
Throughout the war the British Army used dubbin both as a waterproofing agent for boots and as part of the anti-gas equipment. It was issued to troops in small tins and carried in the entrenching tool cover. I have a couple of the standard green tins of dubbin, but this is a variant I haven’t got. Unfortunately the tin is a little battered, but it will fill a hole in my collection until a better one comes along. Like most of these tins, the contents are complete and unused, with the thick grease still inside and still as useful as the day it was made.
A pretty quiet day on the market today, with only a couple of pick ups, but nice ones nonetheless:
British Army Cash Tin
In the days before widespread use of bank accounts most working people were paid in cash by their employers at the end of the week. Soldiers were no exception and they would queue up with their paybooks to collect their weekly wage and have it recorded. I believe this tin box is an example of the cash boxes used by the army to store these wages in prior to distribution.
It is a small 2”x3”x2.5” metal box, stamped WD on the top with a loop for a padlock on the front (now unfortunately broken):
On the base is the makers name and a date of 1951:Inside the box was silvered and has space for change:I must confess I bought this box without any idea as to what it was, beyond being military, however thanks to a post on a forum a fellow collector pointed me in the right direction for a possible identification.
When the British Army introduced their new uniform and accoutrements in the late 1930s priority went to the Infantry, then the other branches of the army. The RAF and the Navy came further down the pecking order and continued with their existing patterns of equipment into the middle of the Second World War. When they did finally get the new 37 pattern equipment many items were unavailable in the traditional blue-grey the RAF was used to, and army khaki had to suffice. It was therefore the mid 1950s before large quantities of blue grey 37 pattern webbing and associated kit such as anklets and rifle straps were produced.
The anklet was designed to replace the puttees that had been in use since before the First World War. It was actually based on an earlier Victorian design, but made of cotton webbing rather than leather. Anklets went around the ankle covering the bottom of the trouser leg and the top of the boot, preventing damage to both on undergrowth and the like.
This pair of RAF anklets is manufactured in blue grey:
They were manufactured in 1954 by SC Co, and are marked as a size 3:The buckles are in the post war blackened metal rather than the earlier brass:I am very pleased with this pair as I am slowly pulling together the kit for a 1950s aircraftman and these are another piece of the jigsaw. Post war RAF kit is very cheap at the moment and virtually unissued so I am picking bits up where I can.
25 Pattern RAF Webbing
All collectors have in their collections particular items that they are particularly proud of. These might be rare pieces, particularly impressive or beautiful pieces or objects with sentimental value. One of my favourite items is a set of RAF 1925 pattern RAF webbing. This particular set represents some of the things I like best about collecting militaria- fellow collectors helping one another to get a set, hard work hunting down pieces and finding a bargain and a sense of triumph when all that hard work pays off.
Briefly, 25 pattern webbing was designed by the Mills Equipment Company in an attempt to recapture the success it had had with the 08 pattern webbing set that became the standard during WW1. The new 1925 pattern was a development and supposed improvement on the earlier design, boasting a more flexible pack, larger haversack and other minor changes which it manufacturers hoped would persuade the British Army to adopt the new webbing. However in the 1920s the British Army was short of cash and had huge stocks of 08 webbing left over from WW1 so Mills was forced to sell its new set to the Canadians and the newly formed RAF. Whilst the Canadian army bought its 25 pattern webbing in traditional khaki, the RAF had theirs dyed blue-grey.Like all their sets, Mills designed their 25 pattern webbing to be modular so it could be constructed in a number of ways with different parts to suit different uses. My webbing is set up as a pistol set, with holster and ammunition pouch, however other users could replace these with rifle ammunition pouches. These pouches are virtually unobtainable now, hence why I went with the pistol set up. For more details on the individual components of 25 pattern webbing, please check out the excellent section on Karkee Web:
It took about six months to track down all the components for my set, with a good friend supplying me with both the repaired rucksack components and the belt.The haversack was a lucky find as its one of the hardest parts to track down. This one is dated 1935 and has the crown and ‘AM’ marking for the Air Ministry:Similarly I got lucky with the holster, cross straps and waterbottle holder. These are virtually identical to the later and very common 1937 pattern webbing, and thus were sold very cheaply. However as the dates are all 1941 or earlier, we can say with confidence that they were manufactured for the 1925 pattern set as the RAF only starting manufacturing 37 pattern webbing later on in the Second World War.This set of webbing has been a labour of love to pull together and as a set is worth more than the sum of its parts. I am just looking for a single blue grey brace attachment to complete the set (an army 37 pattern is standing in for now), but its one of my favourite pieces and one that gets some interested looks from those in the know at WW2 events.