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 Personal Kit

Correspondence
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Identification
Kit Bag
Lighters
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1937 Pattern Web Equipment

Basic Components and Specialized Equipment

Waistbelt

The focal point of 1937 Web Equipment was the waistbelt. The belt was 2¼ inches wide and made in three lengths, 44, 50 and 56 inches. Two 1-inch buckles were mounted on the reverse of the belt.

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The belt was sized by using hooks fitted to the brass ends of the belt; the ends of the belt were doubled back, and these hooks were then inserted into cloth loops running the length of the interior of the belt. (Postwar versions of this belt had velcro substituted for this system of hooks and loops, both the 1964 Pattern field belt, and later versions of the 1937 Pattern waistbelt issued specifically for walking out, right up into the 1970s).

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The belt was secured, normally, by a set of brass buckles with both a male and a female end. These buckles were slipped over the belt, and retained by folding the belt over as described above, and also through the use of a pair of brass "keepers". As the Second World War progressed, the brass buckles, keepers and tabs on most components of web gear were replaced with painted steel, usually of a brown shade resembling tarnished brass.

The cotton webbing was supposed to be treated with "blanco", a form of cleanser that came in cake and powder form which also coloured the webbing. There were several shades, which are not easy to distinguish in black and white period photos, with shade 97 (light green), and shade 3 (Khaki Green) - a shade of dark green - being most common. (Photo courtesy Ed Storey).

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Some units used specially coloured belts - the Canadian Provost Corps used white webbing so that traffic control policemen might be highly visible. White was also a colour traditionally associated with infantry equipment, and for ceremonial purposes, some white belts may have been employed by some units, including musicians. Rifle Regiments traditionally have been associated with black equipment, and some belts may have been blackened by them for ceremonial or walking out purposes.

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Black belts have been associated with the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps, though how widespread the practice of wearing black belts may have been during the Second World War is unclear.

Brace Attachments and Braces
Image:brace.gif Standard Brace with brass metal ends.
Image:brace2.gif Brace with late war phenolic resin ends, showing also the "loop" for attaching another brace through.

Two common styles of Brace Attachment existed the "gate" style as shown at left with hinged central bar, and the one piece style shown at right.

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Pouches, Packs and Carriers

Ammunition Case
Used to carry loose rounds or boxes of .38 and .455 calibre ammunition for the pistol. Secured to the belt by means of brass hooks on the back, with cloth loops for securing to the brace/brace attachment, and also for securing the pistol case to the bottom of the pouch rather than to the belt. Image:amm.gif
Basic Pouch
Typically, two Bren gun magazines were carried in each pouch, but a pair of 2-inch mortar bombs would also fit. Sten gun magazines would not fit properly, but the pouches were also used for these. Riflemen would also carry bandoliers of rifle ammunition and grenades in the basic pouches. Men not in infantry units received cartridge carriers until midway through the war, when the cartridge carriers were replaced by the basic pouch for men of all arms. Image:basicpouch.gif

Variations on the Basic Pouch. Ed Storey photos.

Typical Contents

The contents of the Basic Pouch were usually restricted to ammunition. Loops on the inside of the top flap were designed for .303 calibre ballistite cartridges (used for firing grenades from a cup discharger on the Lee Enfield rifle). The pouches could hold bandoliers of rifle ammunition, various types of grenades, bombs for the 2-inch Mortar, magazines for the Bren Gun or Boyes Anti-Tank Rifle, or magazines for the Thompson machine carbine. When the Sten Gun was introduced it was found the 30 round magazines were too long to allow the Basic Pouch to be done up. A water bottle could also be carried in the pouch, in lieu of suspending it from the brace ends or wearing it in the haversack. Photos below courtesy of Ed Storey.

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The length of the Sten Gun magazine shown in the center photograph is evident. While a longer Basic Pouch was designed to accommodate them, few of the new pouches actually saw issue by the end of the war.

Bayonet Frog

Slipped over the waistbelt and worn on the left hip to carry the bayonet. The early bayonet frog was designed for the long sword bayonet used on the No.1 Mk III Lee Enfield. This frog was also modified for use for the smaller spike bayonet used on the No. 4 Mk 1 Lee Enfield. The method of conversion was usually to poke a hole in the uppermost web loop in order to secure the retaining post on the bayonet sheath. Unlike the 1908 pattern frog upon which it was patterned, the 1937 frog had a small loop near the top to secure the handle of the bayonet in place.

A purpose built web frog, similar in appearance to the earlier one but much smaller, was introduced by Canadian manufacturers.

Several variants were used during the war; when the first No. 4 rifles were introduced, the older bayonet frogs were sometimes used to carry the new spike bayonet in.

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Original examples; artifacts and photos courtesy of Ed Storey.
Binocular Case

Fitted to the waistbelt as part of the basic Officer's set, on the right front. Used to carry one pair of 6 x 30 issue binoculars. Generally discarded in the field in favour of slinging the binos around the neck. Not only did it draw the attention of snipers, but the stiff construction made it difficult to go to ground. The second pattern had two 1-inch buckles on the side of the case, the first pattern did not.

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Cartridge Carrier

Designed to carry two 5 round chargers per pouch, or twenty rounds in one carrier and forty rounds in a two carrier set. Two for every man not in an infantry unit, or those in infantry units whose duties did not require the basic pouches (ie driver). Replaced midwar with the Basic Pouch. Photos courtesy Ed Storey.

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Compass Case
The case for the issue compass was identical to the Ammunition Pouch issued with revolvers, with the exception of being lined with felt and stiffened, so as to protect the compass from damage. It could be attached to the belt via the metal hooks. There were two cloth loops also, the upper loop allowed the brace attachment or brace to be passed through vertically; the bottom loop was designed for attachment to the metal hooks on the top of the pistol case. The pistol case could then be attached to the compass case (itself attached to the waistbelt) rather than directly to the waistbelt itself. Photo courtesy Ed Storey. Image:compass.gif
Entrenching Tool Case - Folding type

During the development of WE '37 in Britain, four types of entrenching tools were proposed; Pattern No. 3 was selected. Similar to the design in use in the German Army in the First World War and into the Second, the tool was a short spade with a 12" wooden handle attached to a metal head. The tool had its own web carrier for attachment to the Waist Belt, worn suspended from the brace ends. The Pattern No. 3 was issued to Canadians in the UK from 1940 to 1942 from British stocks, though they are not widely seen in period photos. Entrenching tools were not carried by Canadian soldiers in Hong Kong or Dieppe, and by 1943 the 1908 style tool had replaced the cumbersome Pattern No. 3.1

No. 3 Pattern entrenching tool. At right, Canadian soldiers photographed at Spitsbergen showing the No. 3 Pattern tool in use. Both Photos courtesy Ed Storey.
Entrenching Tool Case - 1908 style

The 1908 entrenching tool was used virtually unchanged from 1943 on; the web carrier was naturally redesigned to interface with the 1" buckles of WE '37. A modified helve appeared during the war, with an attachement point for a spike bayonet, in order that the helve and bayonet could be used as a mine prod. The helve was attached to the outside of the carrier by web loops and was easily lost. Photos below by Ed Storey.

The problem of losing the helve from the carrier was not resolved until late in the war; on 21 Apr 1945 Overseas Routine Orders gave "specific instructions on the modification of the entrenching tool carrier, to prevent further loss." Carriers were to be modified at unit level with the addition of a web strap to fit over the end of the helve. "Up to this time, troops had been wrapping the handles with tape, or even carrying them in their packs. It is unlikely that many of these official modifications were carried out" during the war. 2

In action, veteran troops preferred to use full size General Service Shovels (the official title, and a misnomer, as it was actually a spade) and pickaxes and these implements are often seen in period photographs being carried in lieu of the small entrenching tool. A Company Sergeant Major of the Queen's Own Rifles noted:

Our number-one priority was making a hole. In our training days, we all had the small trenching tool most people have seen in photographs or films. It was useless. Within hours after D-Day, every second man had a regular round-bladed shovel; one in every section had a pickaxe. Two men could make a decent place for themselves in about an hour.3

Haversack

The haversack, or "small pack", could be worn suspended on the brace ends below the waist, as was done in full marching order, or worn on the back with the addition of a pair of "L" shaped straps (which were interchangeable with the Large Pack. The haversack was originally intended to carry the water bottle and mess tin (and had internal pockets for same) though these were often worn outside the haversack in web carriers, especially by infantrymen. The haversack was used to carry necessities for a 24 hour period; photo at right (courtesy Ed Storey) shows some typical contents, including white towel, sweater, wool shirt, water bottle, mess tin, knife/fork/spoon, spare socks, rations, and shaving holdall. Other contents might include cleaning kit, polishing kit, housewife, iron ration, or spare ammunition. As well, the groundsheet was carried by regulation in the haversack and tucked under the flap. In action, it was often left with personal kit in the unit baggage, and the rain cape substituted as a waterproof garment, despite repeated orders not to undertake that practice.

Large Pack (1908 Pattern)
Image:1937largepack.jpg

The Large Pack remained unchanged from 1908 Pattern Web Equipment and was primarily used when changing station or transferring between units. Normally, the pack was left with unit transport, and contained items necessary but not immediately needed, such as sports clothing, sleeping gear (blankets) and greatcoat rolled and attached to the outside, spare Battle Dress, etc. The "L" straps used with the haversack were also used on the large pack, attaching to the large brass tags on the upper rear of the pack, and interfacing with the blanket straps via 1-inch buckles.

Shoulder Strap

Both the haversack and the large pack had a set of web pack straps.

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Blanket Straps

The 1908 Pattern Large Pack came with two blanket straps, these were used to attach not just the blanket, but also the greatcoat and steel helmet to the outside of the large pack when in full marching order. The blanket straps were probably also adopted to a variety of other tasks, such as securing the gas cape to the waistbelt when in Fighting Order.

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Map Case

A rectangular piece of stiff composite material equipped with clips for holding maps and a clear cover to keep them dry in the rain was fitted with a web cover, with loops for a protractor and writing implements. This map board could be slung over the shoulder on a 1-inch web strap, and made up part of the "Officers' Set" of standard equipment. It was rarely worn into action by junior officers, as it distinguished the wearer as an officer, and was also uncomfortable to go to ground on.

Officer's Haversack

The Officers' Haversack likewise was part of the standard set of equipment for officers and was a small bag measuring 9-inches by 12-inches by 2-inches. It was secured closed by a single flap and one-inch buckle. The satchel was intended to carry maps, notebooks and other related stores, and was divided internally along its length by a cloth partition. It could be secured to the brace ends by one-inch buckles (and was intended to be worn that way for specific orders of dress) or alternately carried by a small cloth handle sewn to the rear of the haversack.

Pistol Case for Large-Frame Revolver

Since many of the First World War-vintage .455 revolvers were still in use during the Second World War, a pattern of holster was made to accommodate such revolvers (e.g. the Canadian-issue .455 S&W Hand Ejector) with British/Commonwealth P'37 webbing. Made with an internal slot for a cleaning rod. Shown mounted on a P"37 web belt, with revolver cartridge pouch attached (which, in this configuration, would in turn be attached to the shoulder brace.) Various manufacturers - this example was made by Zephyr Loom and Textile Limited - Canada's primary WWII web equipment manufacturer; marked "Z. L. & T. Ltd" and dated 1942. Photo by Grant Rombough.

P'37 Web Holster for Small-Frame Revolver

Standard P'37 Web Equipment "pistol case", designed to fit the British .380 Enfield revolver and, in the Canadian context, our standard-issue .38/.380 S&W M&P revolvers. Made with an internal slot for a cleaning rod. Also known to have been used with the 9mm Inglis High Power. Various manufacturers - this particular example made by "Z. L. & T. Ltd" and dated 1940. Photo by Grant Rombough.

P'37 Web "Tanker" Holster

A special holster pattern introduced with the P'37 Equipment as the "Pistol Case R.A.C.", i.e. for use by Royal Armoured Corps personnel. Note the six cartridge loops and external cleaning rod slot. Also designed to accommodate the .38 caliber revolvers, it hung well below the waistbelt and was kept snug to the leg by the thigh strap; this configuration was intended to minimize interference in going through armoured vehicle hatches. Not a particularly successful or popular design, it was replaced by the shortened and simplified pattern shown below. Many of the earlier pattern were converted to this configuration, with the result that this type is now relatively scarce. Various manufacturers - this particular example, a first pattern holster, was made by "Z. L. & T. Ltd." and dated 1940. Photo by Grant Rombough.

Later Pattern P'37 "Tanker" Holster

This is the simplified, shortened version of the Armoured Corps holster mentioned above. Various manufacturers. This particular example is well used, and any maker stamp and date is no longer visible. (Note: this modified pattern holster appears to be non-Canadian manufacture, likely British. Canadian web-equipment, though made to standard P'37 dimensions, is generally easily recognized by its noticeably more "golden" hue.) Photo by Grant Rombough.

First Pattern Web Holster for Inglis Pistol

"Holster No. 1" (made to specifications supplied by China) for the Inglis High Power pistols supplied to them. Internal compartments for cleaning rod and spare magazine. These holsters were also utilized by Canadian and other Commonwealth troops. They were not popular, being excessively stiff, and too tight - such that it was difficult to insert and remove the pistol, or even to secure the flap over the pistol. Made by "Z. L. & T. Ltd."; this example is dated 1944. Photo by Grant Rombough.

Second Pattern Web Hoslter for Inglis Pistol

Canadian-designed "Type F" or "No. 2" holster for Inglis semi-automatic pistol. Double flap closure, and also has internal compartments for cleaning rod and spare magazine. Manufactured by "Z. L. & T. Ltd."; this example is dated 1945. Photo by Grant Rombough.

Respirator Case

The standard service respirator at the start of the Second World War had changed little from that worn in 1918. The large rubberized mask was connected to a filter by means of a rubberized hose; both were carried in a canvas satchel. This respirator case could be worn in the "alert" position on the upper chest, or slung over the shoulder.

Personnel entering a gas chamber during a training exercise, No.2 Canadian Women’s Army Corps (C.W.A.C.) (Basic) Training Centre, Vermilion, Alberta, Canada, July 1943. The early pattern box respirator is being worn. LAC Photo

In 1943, a "Light Respirator" was introduced, with a filter integral to the face mask. A much smaller respirator case, also in canvas, was introduced. The case measured 9-3/4 inches by 5-1/4 inches by 5 inches and was suspended on a narrow web strap over the hip. By 1943, very often the light respirator was left with unit transport as the threat of enemy gas attacks was deemed low.

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Utility Pouches
 
 

The utility pouches were designed to carry additional ammunition for platoon weapons or the Bren Gun. Similar to the Basic pouches, the Utility Pouches were larger and not generally attached directly to the webbing set, consisting of two pouches, a neck yoke, and a long waist strap. Photo at right by Ed Storey shows typical contents, including also grenades, the water bottle, or magazines for the Boys Anti-Tank Rifle.

Below are reconstruction photos of the Utility Pouches; these could be worn on the soldier's front or front and rear. They could also be worn attached to the sides of the haversack. These pouches were originally designed to be carried in unit transport and slung over the other equipment just prior to going into action. They could carry 3 Bren magazines, two Boyes ATR magazines, or three 2-inch mortar bombs.

Like the Basic Pouches, loops were provided in some versions of the Utility Pouches for ballistite cartridges. Photos at bottom by Ed Storey.

 
Water Bottle Carrier

Attached to the brace ends to carry either the standard water bottle, or for field use sometimes the mess tins were carried in a spare water bottle carrier as well. There were two types of carrier, the skeleton style (photographs below by Ed Storey), and the sleeve style, though Canada only produced the first type.

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Wire Cutter Frog

Sets

There were several different "sets" of webbing depending on the wearer's duties.

  • Set with Basic Pouches for infantry
  • Set with cartridge carriers (rifle armed personnel except infantry)
  • Set for Officers and certain Warrant Officers and NCOs
  • Set for personnel armed with pistol only
  • Set for Royal (Canadian) Armoured Corps and Royal (Canadian) Corps of Signals personnel employed with those units
 

Orders of Wear

There were four basic orders of wear for WE '37; a fifth was developed unofficially in the field.

Drill Order

Drill order, consisting of belt and side arms (bayonet, or pistol for officers) was used on special parades and duties in camp/barracks. Jack Summers noted in The Tangled Web that "This order has come to be associated with ceremonial parades and duties, but in wartime many ceremonial parades...were performed in battle order with respirators at the alert!"

 

Skeleton Order

Skeleton order, consisting of belt, braces and basic pouches (or cartridge carriers for those issued them in lieu), was used for training parades, drill and duties under arms.

Battle Order

Battle Order, as originally conceived, was designed so as not to have anything hanging below the waistbelt; the water bottle was to be carried in the haversack.

In reality, the haversack was usually filled to capacity, leaving no room for the water bottle. It, and the entrenching tool were usually suspended below the waisbelt on the brace ends.

Full Marching Order

Full Marching Order was the complete issue of web equipment, with the addition of the large large pack, usually worn when a unit was moving one location for another permanently. The haversack was worn on the left and the water bottle on the right with the respirator slung. Spare kit was carried in the soldier's kit bag, though often the kit bag was transported as baggage.

Fighting Order

Variations on wearing the web equipment began to evolve while the Canadians trained in England, as Battle Drill put men and gear through increasingly more challenging situations. In Sicily, however, contacts with battle experienced soldiers of the British 8th Army led to quick revisions in how best to carry equipment in action, leading to the adoption of "Fighting Order." The small pack, or haversack, was quickly discarded due to its distinctive outline and the mess tins were instead added to a water-bottle carrier, and worn suspended from the brace-ends, in a spare water bottle carrier, on the left side of the waistbelt, opposite the water bottle. The gas cape was used to wrap spare clothing, rations and kit, then tied to the back of the waistbelt with spare blanket straps.

Troops of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment at Ortona, Dec 1943, wearing Fighting Order. PAC Photo.
Troops of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment at Ortona, December 1943, wearing Fighting Order. LAC Photo.
 

Notes

  1. Storey, Ed. "Pattern No. 3 Entrenching Tool." Article in Military Artifact, No. 3 Mk III. (Service Publications, 1998).
  2. Cameron, John. "Modification of the WE '37 Entrenching Tool Carrier." Article in Military Artifact, No. 1 Mk II. (Service Publications, 1996).
  3. Martin, Charles C. Battle Diary (1994).
 

References

  • Brayley, Martin J. British Web Equipment of the Two World Wars (The Crowood Press Ltd., Wiltshire, UK, 2005) ISBN 1-86126-743-6
  • Storey, Ed 37 Web (Service Publications, Nepean, ON, 2003) ISBN 978-1894581097
  • Summers, Jack L. Tangled Web: Canadian Infantry Accoutrements 1855-1985 (Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, ON, 1992) ISBN 0-919316-97-2

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