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1942 Battle Jerkin

The 1942 Battle Jerkin was designed by British Colonel E.R. Rivers-Macpherson, the Chief Ordnance Officer of Field Stores, Aldershot in the UK. His opinion of the 1937 Pattern Web Equipment (WE '37) was sufficiently low as to state that it was "clumsy, noisy, restricting of mobility, difficult to get through obstacles, allowing no flexibility for weapons, cramping, uncomfortable and galling to the soldier!"1

The new design was a "complete departure from the trends of equipment design and evolution of the past 300 years."2 In Colonel Rivers-Macpherson's words, a "simple and easy fitting garment on the lines of a poacher's jacket" was the intended solution.3

A waterproof canvas duck material was used to produce a vest (in four colours, tan, white, brown and green for desert, snow, spring/summer European and Pacific uses, respectively) in three sizes (small, medium and large). The vest had a specific layout of pockets, intended for ammunition, as on the Basic Pouches of the WE '37, slots for a fighting knife or bayonet, attachment points for pistol cases, rain/gas capes and entrenching tools, and "soft kit" such as sweaters, gloves, socks, etc. and a large compartment for carrying items normally carried in the haversack (rations, water bottle, mess tin, eating utensils, personal kit, or spare ammunition.4

The vest was produced in Britain and copied in Canada.

The carrying capacity of the 1942 pattern battle jerkin was greater than that of the 1937 pattern web, and it was for this reason the jerkin was produced. The planners of Operation OVERLORD wanted each man to carry ashore 48 hours of supplies, and the battle jerkin was the answer. Also, the jerkin could be locally modified to meet specific needs by unstitching any of the pouches or pockets that were not needed. Therefore in early 1944, in the final stages of planning for Operation OVERLORD, many of the initial assault (units) of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division were provided with the British produced 1942 pattern battle jerkin to wear in lieu of the 1937 pattern web. Not all the infantry regiments in the 3rd Division were issued the battle jerkin and not everyone in the regiments that received the jerkin got issued one, but members of The Queen's Own Rifles, The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, and the 1st Battalion, Canadian Scottish were photographed wearing the jerkin on D-Day. Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando "W" were also issued the battle jerkin.5

Canadian produced jerkins were not issued for OVERLORD, though some were used for amphibious training in the UK prior to the invasion. At least one photo of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division in 1943 shows the jerkin in use. Light tan versions marked "TRAINING ONLY" were also issued to the 3rd Division in England. The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion tested the jerkin early in 1944, finding them awkward to use in combination with a parachute harness.6

At left, Padre Seaborn of the Canadian Scottish Regiment wears a Battle Jerkin immediately before the Normandy Landing. At right, a member of a Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando armed with a Lanchester submachine gun. The web pouches are 1922 Pattern Lanchester SMG pouches sewn to the Battle Jerkin. LAC photos.


Captains Albert Johnson and Gordon, both of the 1st Battalion, The Canadian Scottish Regiment, taking part in a house-clearing training exercise, England, 22 April 1944. They both wear the training vests based on the Battle Jerkin.

A two-inch mortar crew of The Regina Rifle Regiment taking part in a training exercise in Sussex on 18 April 1944. The rear of the training jerkins can be seen, with the compartments for equipment and "soft kit" below. Soldier in centre is wearing a carrier for 2-inch mortar bombs.

Notes

  1. Chappell, Mike. British Infantry Equipments 1908-80 (Osprey Publishing Ltd., London, UK, 1980) ISBN 0850453755 p.21
  2. Chappell, Mike. British Infantry Equipments (2) 1908-2000 (Osprey Publishing Ltd., Botley, Oxford, UK, 2000) p.21
  3. Chappell, Infantry Equipments 1908-80, Ibid, pp.21-22
  4. Gordon, David. Equipment of the WWII Tommy (Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Missoula, MT, 2004.) pp.48-49
  5. Storey, Ed. The 1942 Battle Jerkin. Article in Infantry Journal (Spring 1996, No. 30)
  6. Ibid.

 


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