It has been a while since we looked at any Indian made 37 pattern webbing on the blog, but tonight we have an example of an Indian made brace attachment to look at:Just as a reminder, the official British Army pamphlet describes brace attachments as:
These are interchangeable and are used for sets of equipment adapted for Officers, certain W.O.s., N.C.O.s and personnel armed with pistol, or ranks not carrying arms. They consist of a “gate” slide for attachment to the waistbelt, with narrow webbing fitted at the top to carry a buckle for the brace, below which a link is provided to receive the free end of the brace.
Surprisingly for Indian manufactured webbing, the cotton webbing part of these brace attachments is well made and quite solid. The nature of the design results in multiple layers of webbing folded over each other and sewn which might explain the relative rigidity of this piece compared with much Indian produced webbing. The brass fittings are a little cruder than you would see on English made pieces, here the gate buckle has definite imperfections in the brass that are visible, although they would not affect the strength of the brace attachment in use:The buckle and loop are also a little crude, being stamped from heavy gauge brass sheet:The back of the brace attachment is marked ‘Bata 1943’:This mark is a little faint, but gets more visible when tilted in the light. Bata seems to have produced webbing up until 1943 so this would have come from their final year of production. For more information on this company please check out the post here. Sadly I just have the one brace attachment so far, two being needed for a set. Like all Indian webbing though these brace attachments are not that easy to find so I feel lucky to have picked this one up and I will keep my eyes open for a second.
The 37 pattern webbing set originally included a small shovel for entrenching. This was found to be pretty useless and it was decided to reintroduce the ‘sirhind’ type of entrenching tool used with the 08 pattern web set. This entrenching tool obviously needed a carrier, so the designers at Mills took the old 08 entrenching tool cover and modified it for use with 37 pattern webbing. The design included the same kidney shaped webbing bag as the old 08 pattern design, and it was into this that the head of the entrenching tool was placed:The top fastenings were replaced with 1” straps and Twigg buckles to allow the carrier to be attached to the thinner straps of the 37 pattern set:These straps are also slightly angled, in a way the old 08 design was not. This was because men tended to carry the entrenching tool on the rear, over their buttocks, rather than on the side as the designers had intended. The angled buckles make the connection of the carrier to the bottom of the shoulder braces less awkward as they mirror the angles of these straps more closely than if they had been at ninety degrees to the main carrier.
The big innovation on the 37 pattern carrier was the introduction of a set of loops across the top to allow the helve of the entrenching tool to be carried, this having a separate carrier on the 08 design:Note the longer strap and buckle used to tighten around the helve and prevent it coming out. This was later felt to be inadequate and post war carriers have an addition strap set at 90 degrees to this one to help prevent the helve slipping out of the end.
Inside the carrier is liner with heavy duty cotton and has the manufacturer’s marks stamped on, here this example was made by W&G in 1944:This is the mark of the company Waring and Gillow who were one of a number of firms contracted to make webbing in World War Two by the government. Waring and Gillow were a large furniture manufacturer before the war and they put their upholstery section to work making webbing, kit bags and tents during the war. The skills needed to manipulate heavy upholstery fabric through a sewing machine would have been easily transferred to working with webbing and canvas.
Technically this entrenching tool cover was not part of the 37 pattern set during World War II, it was only retrospectively added in with the rest of the 37 pattern equipment in stores catalogues and manuals in 1951. It was however used extremely widely throughout the Second World War and soldiers carried not only the entrenching tool, but also other useful items in it such as boot polish, rifle pull throughs and other small bits of personal kit. In this famous image of Fusilier Tom Payne in Normandy you can see not only the entrenching tool cover, but also the outline of a circular tin he was carrying inside it in addition to the head of his tool:Update: My thanks to Rich for pointing me to these two additional photographs of Fusilier Payne’s entrenching tool cover and it’s contents:
The 37 pattern webbing set is very much associated with the Second World War, however its story does not end there and it was to see front line service for another two decades and continue being used by reservists and cadets for over forty years. Some changes were made to post war production, such as the fitting of quick release tabs to the ammunition pouches, however one of the most obvious changes was the move from brass to blackened fittings on the webbing. Tonight we are looking at an example of the water bottle carrier dating from the 1950s:Although the sleeve carrier had been produced during the war to save manufacturing costs, once in peacetime the skeleton design of carrier resumed production, being made up of criss-crossing strips of webbing:It might be helpful at this point to remind ourselves of the official description from the fitting instructions:
Waterbottle Carrier- Consists of a framework with tabs at the top fitted with a snap fastener for securing the bottle, and a buckle each side for attachment to the ends of the braces (when desired).
In design then the carrier matches pre-war production. The difference comes with the buckles which instead of being made of brass are made of bonderised steel which give them a distinctive matt-black finish:Bonderisation is a chemical process where steel is passed through a phosphate solution, this leaves a layer of crystalline zinc phosphate on the surface of the metal that prevents corrosion and gives the metal its dull black finish. This has the advantage of being far cheaper than the old brass fittings, but not rusting like a pure steel buckle would. Clearly the finish was only suitable for flat stampings such as buckles as the press stud on the top of the carrier is made of brass, but enamelled black:The webbing with a blackened finish was given a special stores code to distinguish it from the older webbing, either CN/B/XXXX or CN/XXXX/B. The webbing code is stamped on the inside of the water bottle carrier in black ink:Post war 37 pattern webbing is largely ignored by collectors as it is unsuitable for World War Two impressions and collectors seem to have a natural bias towards that conflict. Consequently post war 37 pattern webbing with black fittings is considerably cheaper than webbing with brass fittings and is usually found in near-mint condition. Going forward I would quite like to build up a set of this bonderised webbing and hopefully I can bring you more components as I acquire them.
Back in 2016 we looked at an example of a 37 pattern basic pouch here that had been manufactured in South Africa by ‘SAPAW’- South Africa Proving and Weaving Company Ltd. It has taken me eighteen months, but I have finally found a second south African produced basic pouch, however this example is manufactured by the other webbing producer in Johannesburg, D.I. Fram & Co – David Isaac Fram and Company Ltd:I hope you will forgive me coming back to a topic we have already covered, but the manufacture of this pouch is sufficiently different from the earlier example that I felt it warranted its own post, especially as all examples of South African webbing are very rare so the more information available for collectors the better. The most obvious thing to note about the pouch is its colour, it is far greener than normal South African Production, and I believe it has been blancoed at some point in its life. This is particularly evident on the rear, where the colouring fades out towards the centre:It is worth noting the way the ‘C’ hooks are sewn to the body of the pouch, with two small pieces of webbing, one for each hook and sewn very close together. The positioning of the hooks is also higher than on the SAPAW example:The design of the attachment for the top buckle is also radically different, with the DI Fram example having the buckle fitted much closer to the main body of the pouch:The quality of the DI Fram pouch is far higher than that of the SAPAW version, and the webbing material is much stiffer, this is very noticeable in the front view:The top flap of the pouch does not have the blank round loops of the SAPAW version, but is nicely stamped with the maker’s mark and a purple /|\ inside a ‘U’ mark indicating acceptance into South African service:The difference in manufacturing between the two South African webbing companies is marked, and whilst both are pretty poorly made, the DI Fram pouch is clearly a superior product. I still have a way to go until I have a full set of South African 37 pattern, but it is starting to come together:
My thanks go to my good friend and fellow collector Michael Skriletz for tonight’s post. South African webbing is generally considered to be the poorest quality and scarcest of all the Empire produced 37 pattern sets. I have slowly been building up my collection and can now count a small pack, water bottle holder, single basic pouch and one shoulder brace in my collection. Now I also have a selection of supporting straps for the set:The 37 pattern webbing manual describes the straps as:
These are interchangeable and each consists of a strip of 1-inch webbing, fitted with a buckle at one end and an eyeletted tip at the other.
This description is certainly correct for these straps, but a number of distinctive Sou African features are worth noting. The webbing is made of two thin layers and has distinctive stitch lines running the length of the strap to reinforce it:The buckle is not made of brass, but off a metal I believe is steel, that has now corroded slightly:These were frequently painted gold when new. The eyeletted tip is again made of a metal that easily corrodes, as witnessed by the staining to the webbing:A South African acceptance stamp is marked on the straps in a redish-purple ink, consisting of a /|\ mark inside a ‘U’:All of these straps were made by Daniel Issac Fram of Johannesburg, and we can see two distinct styles of manufacturer’s mark on the straps:Like all the other items of South African 37 pattern webbing, these are not easy to find and I am very pleased to have added another piece to the puzzle!