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!
Earlier this month we looked at a set of Indian made 37 pattern shoulder braces and delved into the history of the Bata company. The other major manufacturer of webbing in India were the Government Harness and Saddlery Factory, Cawnpore and tonight we are looking at a bayonet frog from that company. The frog is made to the same basic design as other examples from across the Empire:The webbing has the distinctive slightly striped pattern of Indian production. The loops at the base of this frog do not have any cut outs for spike bayonets- The Indian Army sticking with the SMLE and sword bayonets for the most part and not needing to modify their frogs in the same numbers as the British:The stitching holding the frog together has a distinctive arch shape to it, allowing the process to be done with one pass of the sewing machine:This compares with the much squarer stitching used on British made frogs where the stitching turns through 90 degrees rather than being a single arc. The stitching is through both layers of webbing so can be seen on the rear as well:This frog was made in 1942 and has the ‘CA1942’ stamp of the manufacturer The Government Harness and Saddlery Factory, Cawnpore indistinctly stamped on the back:The following history of the factory comes from ‘Karkee’ and is the most comprehensive I have come across, as ever if you get the chance check out his superb threads on the Warrelics forum covering British and Empire equipment:
After the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and the capture of reserve stocks by rebels, the British Army in India faced severe shortages of harness saddlery and leather accoutrements. Resupply from England involved a long sea voyage around the Cape of Good Hope which damaged much of the leather equipment. Lieutenant John Stewart of the Bengal Artillery was ordered to stimulate the local leather industry and established the Government Harness & Saddlery Factory, Cawnpore in 1863. Many other private leather and textile firms followed and Cawnpore quickly became a major industrial center in Northern India.
The Government Harness & Saddlery Factory was operated by the Military Supply Department of the Government of India and was entirely devoted to the manufacture of military equipment. It had its own brass and iron foundry for making equipment fittings and during times of mobilization it could place orders with the private firms of Cawnpore, which were brought up to the standards of the harness factory.
The Government Harness Factory expanded rapidly to meet the needs of the Indian Army during the Great War, employing around 4,000 workers by 1916-17. Demand decreased during the interwar years.
In addition to leather accoutrements, the factory began producing Mk V Gasmask Bags and Pattern 1908 Web Equipment components. It is unclear when the production of webbing commenced or if full sets of webbing were manufactured, but extant examples of frogs and water bottle carriers bear 1930s dates. The Government Harness & Saddlery Factory marked their items with a Ca. for Cawnpore, which changed in 1940 to ca. The brass fittings on early pieces were also stamped with the same “Ca.” mark and were probably made on the factory premises. In general, early production webbing is of higher quality with better stitching and fittings. Additionally, some early pieces feature a mix of canvas and webbing.
In November 1941, large scale orders for Pattern 1937 Web Equipment were placed by the Indian Government. The Government Harness & Saddlery Factory produced the full range of components, but the wartime webbing was of a much looser weave with undyed stitching and cruder brass fittings made by outside firms. Additionally, snaps were a mixture of imported British-manufactured snaps made by Newey Brothers, Limited of Birmingham as well as locally made Indian snaps of poorer quality. The latter featured the classic ‘pebbled’ pattern or a snowflake pattern unique to India. The stamps on wartime webbing are often upside down and poorly stamped, which may be due to a largely Indian workforce with less supervision from European foremen. The government factory may have also called upon local private firms to fill these orders during the war.