Category Archives: 39-Equipment

39 Pattern Cartridge Carriers

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:imageThe 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:imageUnder each top flap is a separate retaining tab, secured using the same stud as the main flap:imageThe 37 pattern design has been modified to better suit leather, most obviously on the rear:imageThe 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:imageThe 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:image-10.jpegIt is on the rear of these straps that the pouches’ maker’s mark can be found, here dating one of the pouches to 1941:imagePictures 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:SKM_C30819010309230

1939 Pattern Leather Belt

Continuing my slow and steady acquisition of 39 Pattern Leather Infantry Equipment pieces, my latest addition has been the leather belt:imageFamously used by the prop department of the BBC for Dad’s Army, these belts were not actually commonly issued to the Home Guard but were used with the short-lived 39 pattern set. The design of the belt is based off the webbing 37 pattern example, with two buckles secured to the back of the belt with leather chapes secured by hose rivets. These are designed to allow the shoulder braces to be secured at the rear, however they are open gate examples of the three bar buckle rather than the closed type seen on the webbing version:imageThe belt also uses the brass male:imageAnd female buckles of the 37 pattern belt:imageNote how the belt is noticeably narrow for the buckles, the buckles being designed for a 2” wide belt, and the 1939 pattern belt using leather 1 7/8” wide. This difference is so the belt can use another standard fitting, the brass securing loop and pin that holds it at the right adjusted length:imageThis standard fitting, the Buckle, brass, waist belt, 1 7/8-in, dates back to the 1882 pattern Valise Equipment and the designers of the 39 pattern equipment clearly copied the belt design closely from these late Victorian patterns. Again this sort of clever design indicates the speed of development of this equipment set- apparently the prototype was produced in a single weekend! The pin passes through the belt and then into a slot on the rear:imageNote how instead of the brass slides used on the webbing belt, two leather runners are used to help keep the belt taught at the buckles, secured on the rear by another hose rivet.

This makes four different components in my collection now- still plenty more to track down!

39 Pattern Utility Pouches

The 39 pattern leather equipment set included not only the standard personal load bearing equipment sets, based off the webbing 37 pattern set, but also various accessories including the subject of tonight’s post the utility pouches. These pouches were used to carry either additional Bren magazines, 2” mortar bombs or anything else that might be fitted into them. The pouches are based off the webbing versions but made of leather, I have two rear pouches:imageSadly the front pouches seem much harder to find. The case is formed of brown leather hose-riveted to a fibreboard backing, one in red-brown and one in grey-black:imageThe side of the pouch shows the single rivet in the centre used to attach the leather to the fibreboard on this side:imageThe lid of the pouch is secured using a leather tab and a snap fastener:imageTurning to the rear of the pouch we can see a fairlead riveted to the bottom half of the pouch, the front pouch had a leather strap that passed around the body and through this fairlead to prevent them bouncing around:imageAt the top of the pouch is a leather tab connected to a 2” buckle. This was to allow the pouch to be attached to a leather yoke that then went over the shoulder connecting front and rear pouches. Note also the /|\ marking:imageA drainage hole is fitted to the base of the pouches to allow any water to run off and not collect inside:imageAs with most 39 pattern equipment, these pieces were made in fairly large quantities but saw little use beyond training and some second line units. The 39 pattern set has largely been ignored over the years but is starting to get a following; some items are incredibly rare, but these pouches are one of the easier pieces to find.

1939 Pattern Utility Strap

My small collection of 39 pattern leather equipment doubled last week when I picked up a utility strap for the set. As was mentioned when we looked at the bayonet frog for this set, it is essentially a copy of the 37 pattern webbing set, but made of leather. The utility strap’s design actually dates back even further to the 1908 pattern webbing set when it had first been introduced in webbing. The whole 1939 pattern set was designed in a weekend, approved and an order placed for a million sets- the speed of turnaround being quite remarkable to modern ears. This example however is made from brown leather:image

One end of the strap has a brass 1” buckle, this is secured by a pair of metal hose rivets:imageThese are secured through both layers of leather on the rear:imageOriginally this strap would have been 36” long, but somewhere in the last seventy years the end of the strap has been shortened and holes punched in it and it now measures only 2 feet long:imageTwo utility straps were fastened to the rear of a large pack to allow a helmet to be secured to the outside when not required- interestingly the webbing large and small packs of the 37 pattern set continued in use with the leather 39 pattern equipment- presumably because it was impracticable to make a pack of that size in leather. Ultimately 1939 pattern webbing was to be used for training purposes and to equip second line units such as the Pioneer Corps- sets were also issued to the allied armies in exile such as the Poles and Czechs. Photos of the sets in use are rare:standing_big

1939 Pattern Bayonet Frog

The 1939 pattern leather equipment set has always interested me, but it was only this week that I finally picked up my first piece, a 1939 pattern bayonet frog. The 1939 pattern leather equipment set was designed in a weekend at the start of World War Two when it was realised that, as in the Great War, there was insufficient cotton webbing production capacity to meet the country’s need but surplus capacity in the leather industry. The 1939 pattern set is a virtual copy of the 1937 pattern webbing set, but in leather. As can be seen the bayonet frog is identical in design to its webbing equivalent, with only a few minor changes to accommodate the manufacture in a thicker and less flexible material:imageThe two loops that retain the scabbard stud are the same as on the webbing frog:imageHowever instead of being sewn to the rest of the frog they are secured by eight brass hose rivets:imageThe top loop to prevent the handle of the bayonet from moving around is again replicated in leather:imageThese frogs were one of the most used elements of the 1939 pattern set as they were adopted by the Home Guard for use with their bayonets. As the Home Guard was heavily equipped with American P17 rifles, the American bayonet and scabbard were frequently placed in the frog. However as the American design lacked a frog stud they were held in purely by friction and were far less secure than when used with English bayonets! Here a Home Guardsman can be seen clearly wearing a bayonet in a frog, the stiffness of which suggests it is the leather 1939 pattern example:124943841