The 1925 pattern RAF webbing set reused a number of components from the earlier 1919 pattern set, just re-colouring them from khaki to blue grey for use by the RAF. Amongst these pieces was the ammunition pouch for the pistol set, which was a direct copy of the earlier design, as a set of fitting instructions for the 1925 pattern set does not appear to exist, this description comes from the earlier 1919 set manual but applies equally to both:
Ammunition Pouch– This is a woven box-shaped pocket of substantial weave. It is provided with a covering flap having a snap fastener. A double-hook is attached to each end of the pocket to engage the flat loops on the inside of the belt. Across the top corners of the pocket, small flaps are provided to prevent ammunition working out.This particular pouch is dated 1941 under the top flap, along with the maker’s name ‘Bagcraft Ltd’:Bagcraft had been a London branch of a German leather goods manufacturers until the outbreak of the Second World War when it became an independent company in its own right and had substantial factories in Airedale Mill in Keighley. The company reverted to making handbags after the war and survived until 1968 when it went into voluntary liquidation. Throughout the war the firm seems to have looked after its staff well, with Agnes Taylor, a machinist, saying she ‘spent a very happy time at Bagcraft as a machinist’. There were a number of trips arranged for staff, including this staff outing to Blackpool in 1940 or 1941:The pistol ammunition pouch was adopted into the RAF with a stores code of 23/101 under Air Ministry Order No523/1938. Examples can be found both integrally woven and of folded construction. As well as being used for pistol ammunition, the pouch was also adopted to carry a Sten loader with the 37 pattern blue grey webbing as there was not provision for these on the basic pouches of this set.
This evening we are looking in more detail at the RAF 1925 pattern rucksack. This particular webbing is very complicated, with numerous straps and buckles and thus gained the name octopus from RAF personnel issued with it. This seems to be a trend across the board with the Mills Equipment Company during the interwar period. The simple packs of the 1908 pattern webbing system give way to ever more complicated systems with multiple straps for different pieces of equipment to be slung off them. It is perhaps understandable when one realises that the British Army had millions of spare sets of 08 webbing left over from World War One; a tailored webbing system was MECo’s attempt to find new markets and try and tempt the army with something that could do more than what it already had. Needless to say the Army took economy over innovation and these systems were sold to the RAF, RN and Empire nations instead.The 1925 pattern consists of two parts, an upper and lower pack, that fasten together:Noticeable are the two cross straps running over the top of the upper pack’s weather flap, these were used to secure a steel helmet to the pack; when not in use they were fastened under the flap to present a neat appearance. Buckles join the two packs together at the front:And rear:The lower pack is a simple webbing bag that cannot be worn on its own, it provides additional carrying capacity but would have housed non- essential kit that could be left in unit transport if required:This example is Air Ministry marked, 1940 dated and named to 976966 Maule:Interestingly the lower pack is stamped ‘BACK’, clearly to prevent people attempting to fasten it to the upper pack incorrectly:The upper pack is a small self-contained bag, capable of being worn on its own:To the rear are ‘L Straps’ like those used on the 1919 and later 1937 webbing sets:This part of the rucksack is dated 1939:This equipment was adopted by both the RAF and the RCAF, from whom we have these details following the introduction of the 1925 pattern webbing sets:
Many items of RAF 1925 pattern webbing are identical to their later RAF 1937 pattern equivalents- cross straps, brace attachments and tonight’s object, water bottle carrier, were identical. This then presents problems and opportunities for the collector; these items can be found for very low prices misidentified as 37 pattern items, but the collector needs to know what he is looking at, and how to identify the earlier pattern items. This water bottle carrier is of the sleeve type:This design had been used on a number of cavalry webbing sets by Mills before it was adopted for the 1925 pattern set, however it was the lack of any water bottle covers but drab that led to the design being used by the RAF, allowing them to hide the water bottle and present a wholly blue grey finish. The sleeve design was ironically then adopted by the army in WW2 as it was cheaper and easier to manufacture. Basically the design has a single piece of webbing that wraps around the bottle, with a strap that passes across the base:Which ends in two buckles at the top to allow it to be fastened to the rest of the webbing set:To positively identify the carrier as 25 pattern though, it needs to be turned inside out to view the markings:These have the ‘Air Ministry’ crown and markings and a date of 1939 (it is slightly clearer in real life). As the RAF didn’t start using 37 pattern webbing until 1941 at the earliest, this carrier can be positively identified as 25 pattern webbing. The inside of the carrier also has the original airman’s number:The number appears to be 2353415 which was a number from a batch of National Service Airmen taken on at Padgate in 1947, suggesting that either the cover had been languishing in a store for eight years or had been reissued. Indeed due to the similarity in appearance between 1925 and 1937 pattern webbing, they were mixed and matched for years, with no one seeming to care what an airman was issued as long as it was functional.