Of all the patterns of accoutrements used by the British Army over decades, in many ways the 39 pattern is one of the most extraordinary. Apparently the whole pattern was devised over the course of a weekend in 1939 in response to a desperate need to supplement the army’s limited supply of cotton 37 pattern equipment. The new design was a very close copy of the 37 pattern design, but manufactured in leather to allow an alternative industry to be used to capacity and to quickly equip troops. The 37 pattern continued to be the pattern used in combat by the British Army, but the 39 pattern set saw service on home soil and was issued to other nations the British were re-equipping.
The individual components combined the general layout of the 37 pattern pieces with construction and techniques that had already been proven on earlier leather patterns and this is especially apparent with the cartridge carriers:The twin pouches set next to each other and each holding 10 rounds are identical in concept to those produced in webbing in the 37 pattern set, but the construction mirrors that used for the 03 pattern bandolier’s pockets:Under each top flap is a separate retaining tab, secured using the same stud as the main flap:The 37 pattern design has been modified to better suit leather, most obviously on the rear:The metal ‘C’ hooks used on the webbing were clearly unsuitable for leather and these are replaced with a simple pair of leather loops a belt can be passed through:The top of each pouch has a brace attachment to attach the shoulder braces through and a double buckle to allow the small pack’s L straps to be attached to:It is on the rear of these straps that the pouches’ maker’s mark can be found, here dating one of the pouches to 1941:Pictures of these pouches in service are rare, but in this image of the King inspecting an honour guard in Belfast in 1942 each man is clearly wearing a pair of 39 pattern cartridge carriers: