Tag Archives: South Africa

South African Leather Bayonet Frog

As previously touched upon in the post on the South African small pack, South Africa had very limited production capacity for modern woven cotton webbing. The country started the war with most cotton equipment being imported from abroad and very limited quantities of it available. One area the country did have capacity in was leather manufacturing. Leather was cheap and plentiful in the region due to the rural economy of much of the country, it was also durable and easily worked to make into equipment.

Perhaps because of these reasons South Africa continued to manufacture 1903 pattern leather bandolier equipment well into the Second World War. Tonight’s object is a South African made leather bayonet frog. Soldiers have used bayonets since the eighteenth century, originally because muskets were single shot and another form of weapon was needed for after a shot ahd been fired. By the twentieth century this was less of an issue, however bayonets were essential in close quarter fighting and all troops equipped with rifles were issued with one. The British Empire used a 12 inch sword bayonet and of course needed a way of attaching this to their equipment.

The 1903 pattern bandolier equipment never had an official bayonet frog, however the leather 1882 pattern frog and numerous variations of it were issued to troops wearing the bandolier equipment.imageThe frog itself is made of brown leather with a loop at the top for a belt to pass through:imageThere is a hole through which the scabbard can pass and a cut out for the scabbard fastener to slot into, with a buckle to secure everything into place:imageIt is of sewn and rivetted construction:imageOn the rear is a manufacturer’s stamp for E.B. Joffett of Johannesburg, with a date of 1940:image

There is also the South African acceptance mark of a /|\ inside a ‘U’:imageWithin a couple of years the use of leather equipment, even in South Africa, would be replaced with more modern cotton webbing. However at a time of acute pressure, the continued use of leather was a helpful stopgap that allowed troops to be equipped and trained whilst manufacturing capacity was increased.

Cigarettes (fags)

In the modern world, where smoking is seen as a socially undesirable thing, it is often easy to forget the central role tobacco had in the lives of nearly all members of the armed forces in every country involved. Indeed tobacco was seen as so important by the British government to morale that they never rationed it (that’s not to say it was easy for civilians to find though!).

The British military took great steps to supply their men and women with their daily allotment of tobacco, both loose and cigarettes. This was supplemented by the work of the NAAFI who sold the most popular brands of the day at a reduced price to service personnel. The following are a representative sample of some of the military tobaccanalia available. These make a nice sub-set to my collection and I am always on the lookout for more to add.

Cigarette Packets

All these boxes are civilian in origin but typical of the paper packets sold at NAAFI shops and civilian tabacconists across Britain. As might be expected most would have been thrown away at the time, however as they were made in their tens of millions they are still easy to find and pretty cheap. The ones I am always looking for, but never seem to find are those with stamps saying ‘Only for sale to HM Forces’ which indicate they were specially made for the military.imageNAAFI Cigarette Tin

Similarly this tin is an example of commercial tobacco sold to members of the armed forces.imageNote the printing indicating ‘NAAFI STORES H.M. FORCES’:imageRation Tin Cigarette Tin

This grey cigarette tin was included in the 14 man ‘compo’ ration issued to troops in the field. The tin contained 50 cigarettes and was designed to be opened and distributed between the men on the battlefield. These are simple grey tins with ‘CIGARETTES’ on the top:image

Craven A Cigarette Tin

This tin is another officially issued cigarette tin, one of a number of branded tins for military use made by the big tobacco manufacturers.image

South African Comforts Committee tin

This little cigarette tin was given to South African troops in Christmas 1943 by the South African Gifts and Comforts committee:image

It has the South African springbok and pictures of the SA prime minister Jan Smuts and his wife on the front, and a message in English and Afrikaans on the rear:image

South African Small Pack

Indian webbing has a reputation for being poorer in quality than its British or Canadian counterparts. However it is miles ahead of its South African equivalent which is generally acknowledged as the poorest quality webbing produced in the Empire during the Second World War. South African webbing is unique in using multiple layers of very thin webbing rather than one thicker woven layer of other countries. It seems likely that the decision to make equipment in this fashion was influenced by the lack of manufacturing capability within the Cape and the need to rapidly expand its forces.

Of all the countries who entered the war in 1939 on the allied side, South Africa was the least prepared with virtually no army, weapons nor ammunition. Despite this ‘The Active Citizen Force’ (South Africa’s Territorial Army) was mobilised in 1940 and was involved in the fighting against the Italians in Ethiopia and Abyssinia.

One area where the South Africans were particularly deficient was in the supply of personal equipment. Despite adopting the British 37 pattern webbing, there was a lack of the large box pouches so most of the army were equipped with the cartridge carriers; limiting them to 40 rounds of .303.

By 1941 South African Industry had geared up and was producing its own webbing equipment. This small pack, dated 1943, is an example of this manufacturing:imageThis bag is marked as being manufactured by ‘D.I. FRAM & CO. LTD JOHANNESBURG’.imageThis was one of the two biggest manufacturers of webbing in South Africa, both based in Johannesburg. The bag also has the South African War Department acceptance stamp, a broad arrow within a ‘U’:imageInterestingly the pack also features khaki drill edging to the webbing, presumably to reinforce the poor quality webbing:imageThe same brown drill material is used to make the interior dividers:imageSouth African webbing is rare, and this is the first small pack I’ve ever seen on the market. I am very pleased to add it to my collection, especially as it’s such good condition. I now need to track down the rest of the set…