Tag Archives: webbing equipment

RAF 1925 Pattern Webbing

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.imageLike 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:

http://www.karkeeweb.com/1925main.html

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.imageThe 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:imageSimilarly 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.imageThis 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.

Everything Bar the Kitchen Sink…A Soldiers Equipment (Part 2)

Today we move onto the entrenching tool cover. typically this was worn on the webbing either on the opposite side to the waterbottle or across the back, resting on the bum. As the name suggests the main purpose of the cover was to store the entrenching tool, however inevitably other items were also normally to be found inside.

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Entrenching Tool Cover

Made of webbing, this cover was based on the earlier design for the 08 webbing. It consists of a large pocket in which the head of the tool goes and a loop and buckle arrangement at the top which secures the handle or helve of the entrenching tool:

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Buckles allow it to be fastened to the bottom of the cross straps on the 37 pattern webbing. This cover is dated 1944:

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Entrenching Tool

The entrenching tool comes in two parts, the head and the helve. the head is made of cast iron and has a small shovel-like end and a small pick end. The helve is a wooden handle that slots into the hole in the centre of the head:

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This helve is a later war version with a bayonet slot that allows a spike bayonet to be attached to turn it into a mine probe for clearing mine fields:

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Boot Polish

Typically troops also stored their boot polish in the entrenching tool cover. This period example is ‘Big Ben Brand’:

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Dubbin

Throughout the war Dubbin was issued by the army both to waterproof boots and to act as an anti gas seal for footwear:

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Dubbin is a sticky wax traditionally used to feed and waterproof leather.

Rifle Pull Through

Rifle barrels get dirty quickly through firing, so each soldier was issued a pull through to help clean them. A piece of cloth would be put in the loop at one end and the metal weight at the other would be dropped down the barrel. The cloth could then be pulled through to clean the barrel of any residue:

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Although officially to be carried inside the butt of the rifle, many soldiers found this an awkward place to put the pull through as space was very limited, therefore it was very common to see it stored in the entrenching tool cover.

Sandbag

Another common addition made by troops in the field was t secure a sandbag under the strap on the entrenching tool cover. If all the men in a section had one, even if cut off from the rest of the army, a small firing position could be improvised:

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Next time- inside the Small Pack

Tuesday Finds

Another Tuesday and another set of finds on Huddersfield second hand market. I notice that as we get into the summer the quality of collectables improves as dealers get out to house clearances and auctions. Today I was lucky enough to pick up something neither myself nor any of the militaria dealers had ever seen before…

British Army Assault Gasmask

Typically when collecting militaria you are buying items that are seventy years old and been well used, it is unusual to find items in mint condition; its even more unusual to find them in the boxes they came from their manufacturers in, but this gas mask is one such item:

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In all my years of collecting I have never seen a gas mask as original as this one. Inside we have the bag, mask, filter and anti-dimming tin, unfortunately one of the eye pieces is cracked, but it doesn’t appear too noticeable.

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The gas mask still has the cardboard cover over the mouth piece from the manufacturer:

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The assault gasmask was introduced in time for the D-Day landings and was much lighter and more efficient than the previous type with the long hose and separate canister. These masks were issued routinely throughout the last years of the war and into the 60s when the potential use of CS gas, which the masks could not cope with, saw its withdrawal for replacement by the S6 respirator.  This example is a post war one, as indicated by the screw thread on the mouth piece which was to allow a microphone to be screwed to the mask.

Shell Dressing Bag

Whilst commonly associated with 37 pattern webbing, the Shell Dressing Bag isn’t actually part of the 37 pattern set. Made of webbing with a canvas strap similar to gasmask bags of the period, this bag was used to carry shell dressings and basic first aid supplies in the field:

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This example is dated 1942 and was manufactured by M&Co:

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Forks

These two forks are both stamped with the WD arrow and dated 1939 and 1941:

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I always try and have a root through boxes of cutlery in case there are any army forks lurking. The usual cry is ‘there’s no silver in there’…that’s fine because I’m not looking for silver! As they are not silver these spoons and forks can be picked up for pennies, these two cost me 25p each.

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…