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1903 Pattern Equipment
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1982 Pattern

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1903 Pattern Bandolier Equipment

The 1903 Pattern Bandolier Equipment was designed by the British and intended for use by all soldiers, whether mounted or dismounted. While the full set consisted of a bandoleer, belt and pouches, bayonet frog, haversack and a water bottle, great coat carrier and D-shaped mess tin pouch. Canada only issued some parts of the equipment, from before the First World War, between the wars, and even into the Second World War.

Items of the 1903 Pattern Leather Bandolier Equipment used by Canada included:

  • Waistbelt
  • Bayonet Frog
  • Water Bottle Carrier
  • 5 Pocket Bandolier
  • 9 Pocket Bandolier

Item descriptions from the British War Department's "List of Changes in War Matériel and of Patterns of Military Stores" describes the items as such:1

  • Bandolier - The bandolier is cut on a curve in order to fit closely to the wearer's shoulder, and has five pockets riveted on the front, each of which is designed to take 10 cartridges in two chargers. A small strap is fitted inside each pocket to secure the front charger after the back one has been removed.

50 Round Bandolier

90 Round Bandolier

  • Belts, waist - The waistbelt is a plain strap with a buckle and runner at one end and holes punched at the other, to enable it to be adjusted to the man's waist.

  • Bandolier, 90 rounds (Mark I) - Brown leather, with nine pockets, double buckle and runner...It is made of brown leather, and is shaped as shown (see image)...The pockets are made to carry 10 rounds of ammunition in two chargers. A small guard strap to prevent the second charger from falling out when the first has been withdrawn, is fitted to each pocket...No steadying strap is fitted to this bandolier.


Jack Summers, in his book Tangled Web mentions that the "design and introduction of the leather Bandolier Equipment, Pattern 1903, along with the prejudice against web, presented a challenge to the Mills Equipment Company." Web cartridge equipment was used experimentally by the British in the Boer War, though soldiers there apparently complained that the web loops stretched and become useless for carrying ammunition. The Mills Equipment Company, who had produced the majority of those belts, had countered that troops in the field were using bandoliers intended for emergency use only as a standard issue. British officers reportedly, according to Summers, mistrusted the idea of webbing.

However, Mills Equipment and an officer of the Royal Navy continued to pursue contracts in the British Army, resulting in the adoption of 1908 Pattern Web Equipment. Canada would continue to use leather equipment, both 1903 Pattern and Oliver Pattern Equipment well into the First World War.


  1. Info courtesy Grant Rombough, who also added the following analysis at this site's forum in response to the suggestion that the larger bandolier was designed for wear on a horse:

    A few specific points should be noted:

    • In addition to the 5-pocket bandolier, the P'03 infantry equipment had waistbelt-mounted pockets to accommodate another 50 rounds of ammunition - two of them holding two chargers (10 rounds) each, and the other two holding three chargers (15 rounds) each.

    • The 9-pocket bandolier is specifically stated to be for "mounted services" (i.e. mounted infantry, cavalry, etc.) The entry does not specify how the bandolier is to be worn, but from my experience with the List of Changes, that indicates it was intended to be used as an ammunition bandolier would normally be used - i.e. on the man. Any intended departure from such normal usage (such as slinging it around the horse's neck) would be mentioned in the LoC entry. However, such "non-regulation" usage may have developed in practice.

    • (The War Office reference) specifically states "No steadying strap is fitted to this bandolier"; the illustration shows no strap fitted, though this bandolier had the same buckle as was used on the 5-pocket bandolier - which makes sense, considering that the built-in angle was necessary in order for the bandolier to be correctly configured for wear, and it would not have made much sense to design and make a different pattern of buckle.

    To my mind, these LoC entries indicate that:

    • It would be awkward for an infantryman to try to rotate a chest bandolier to access pockets on the back, especially since he might have other equipment strapped to his back, but he had additional ammunition pockets on his waistbelt.

    • Mounted troops normally wouldn't have anything strapped to their backs, and would likely find it awkward to access waistbelt pouches while mounted, so they were provided with the 9-pocket bandolier - which very clearly was not intended to be strapped to the waistbelt, specifically so that it could be rotated to bring the four back pockets around to the front. This concept, by the way, is entirely in keeping with the earlier Pattern 1882 Mounted Infantry bandolier (for .577/.450 Martini-Henry ammunition) and the very similar Pattern 1888 Mounted Infantry bandolier (for .303 ammunition, which was loaded one round at a time prior to adoption of the charger-loading system, of course) - both of which had individual cartridge loops set in flap-covered groups of five and ten. When these bandoliers worn, quite a bit of the ammunition was on the man's back, but the bandolier was simply rotated to bring it around to the front, when needed.

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