Generally the 51 pattern webbing set was a well thought out system that drew on the best practices of both Britain and the US, it did however have some weaker design features and amongst the poorer design choices were the shoulder braces:In basic form these are clearly heavily inspired by Mills designs for the 19, 25 and 37 pattern sets, with one of the two having a small loop for the other to pass through:They have the same one inch ends, increasing to 2” over the shoulders but instead of being made from a single reduction woven strap, or separate components, the shoulder braces are instead produced from a piece of 2” wide, thin webbing which has been folded over and sewn on the ends:This then gives the required strength at both ends, where the tips are finished with a blackened brass chape:However the middle part of the strap, where it passes over the shoulder, is only a single layer of thin webbing:This seems a particular weak point of the set as this area is flimsy and would wear out far faster than if a more robust design, such as that used by Canada in WW2, had been chosen. One does wonder why this design choice was made, and the only reason I can think of was to save money, as this must have been a cheaper design to produce, even if it was far weaker structurally.
As we have discussed before, the Canadian 51 pattern webbing set drew heavily on earlier British and American load bearing equipment designs. The 51 pattern set used ‘L straps’ to secure the large and small packs to the rest of the webbing and these were a close copy of the British design Mills had used on the 19, 25 and 37 pattern sets. Here the ‘L strap’ is made of a dark green pre-shrunk cotton webbing and the brass fittings are chemically blackened:The L-Straps attach to the large pack using two-inch Twigg buckles in the same manner as 37 pattern webbing sets to fasten to the webbing tabs on the top of the pack. One obvious thing to note though is that the 51 pattern ‘L strap’ uses a single piece of two inch webbing and attaches to the tops of the ammunition pouches with a 2” hook rather than the 1” hook seen on the earlier British designs:Not only does this make the ‘L Strap’ easier to manufacture, it also increases the load bearing area making the connection stronger and easier to manipulate by the wearer. The ends of the tabs have brass chapes to prevent fraying, again blackened:Faint manufacturer’s markings and dates can be seen on the webbing, but as with much of this pattern they are faint and often hard to read:I think the date here is 1951, but I could be mistaken. As with the rest of the set, it is interesting to see how the Canadians have taken a British design and modified and improved it to meet their own needs.
It’s been a month or two since we looked at any components form the Canadian 51 pattern set on a Tuesday, so this week we go back to this webbing and take a look at the entrenching tool cover:The most obvious thing to note is how radically different this cover, and indeed the tool that went inside, are from traditional British practice of the period. Up until this point the Canadians had been using the British style two piece ‘Sirhand’ entrenching tool and the traditional cover for it. From the 51 pattern set onwards we can see a move away from British influence and much closer ties with US practice of the period. The tool adopted for the 51 pattern set was a folding entrenching tool was a close copy of the US 1943 pattern tool. The following illustration comes from Andrew Iarocci’s article on Canadian load carrying equipment and shows, l to r. Canadian 51 pattern entrenching tool, US M43 entrenching tool and British 37 Pattern Sirhand entrenching tool:Returning to the cover, on the rear can be seen three sets of eyelets allowing a wire hanger to be used to attach the entrenching tool to either the belt of the 51 pattern set, or the tab provided on the flaps of the small and large packs:Note also the manufacturer’s initials ‘TIL’ for ‘Textile Industries Limited’ and the date 1952:The top flap of the entrenching tool cover is secured with a lift the dot fastener in the distinctive shield shape of the 51 pattern set:This would originally have been chemically blackened, but this has worn to a bronze colour now. In use the tool would have had its handle sticking out through a hole in the bottom of the cover, with the head at the top. The top edge of the opening for the cover has leather and webbing reinforcements to prevent the metal of the entrenching tool fraying vulnerable parts of the cover:
In our continuing study of Canadian post war webbing we turn to the 51 pattern large pack tonight. This pack was designed to fill the same role as the large pack in the old 37 pattern equipment- to carry the soldier’s extra kit during transit rather than for use in the field. The design is clearly closely based off the old 08 pattern large pack we looked at here, but it has some uniquely Canadian features added to the basic design:The basic pack has been modified by adding a webbing flap with two eyelets to the top flap to allow wire hangers for items such as the entrenching tool cover to be attached:A second flap with the same eyelets is provided on one side of the pack, I suspect this was for the machete to be attached:Notice above there is another small eyelet on the top flap of the pouch, this was carried across from the earlier design and allows a piece of string to be used to help tighten the top flaps across. Other features carried across from the earlier design include the use of 1” Twigg buckle and strap to secure the main top flap:As with the rest of the 51 pattern set the brass fittings were orignally chemically blackened, as can be seen here on the ends of the straps this did not always wear well. The same strap and buckle arrangement at the top of the flap to attach the L-Straps to as the 08/37 Pattern Large Pack was carried across to the new design:It does seem odd that this pack even exists- the 08/37 pattern large pack was viewed as being entirely unfit for purpose by the end of the Second World War- it wasn’t big enough, was uncomfortable to wear and was not sufficiently adaptable to the changing needs of a modern soldier. However it was cheap to produce compared to more flexible and useful framed rucksacks and in a time of post war austerity the large pack continued to be made and used in both Britain and Canada.
One of the unique elements of Canadian webbing design was to add a dedicated mess tin pouch to their 51 and 64 pattern sets. Most nations carried their mess tins inside the large pack, or if the design permitted slung from a convenient strap on part of the equipment. Canada however seems to have looked at the experience of its troops in the Second World War where it was common for them to acquire a second water bottle carrier to be used as a mess tin pouch- the mess tin then being easily available at unexpected ration stops without the need to go hunting in the main pack:The 51 pattern set had a large pouch to carry the mess tins in:The top flap is secured with a quick release pull tab fastener:A pair of mess tins fits inside, they are tight enough to prevent rattling, but easy enough to pull out:The methods of attaching the pouch to the rest of the equipment follow the same pattern as the canteen carrier we looked at last week:With a wire hook to attach to the belt:And a pair of brass Twigg buckles on either side to attach to the ends of the shoulder braces:As with a lot of this 51 pattern webbing, the markings are too faint to read, however unusually this pouch appears to have been blancoed at some point in its life, giving it the slightly shiny appearence seen in the photos abovve. Interestingly despite adopting this pouch, and a similar one for the following 64 pattern webbing set, Canada abandoned aluminium mess tins in the 1980s due to fears of aluminium poisoning- something the British military clearly didn’t consider a problem for their troops as aluminium mess tins are still issued!
As ever my thanks go to Andrew Iarocci for helping me add this piece to the collection.
Continuing our in depth study of post war Canadian webbing, tonight we are looking in detail at the 51 pattern webbing belt. As with last week’s canteen carrier, the belt combines elements of contemporary British and American design:The use of riveted eyelets along the length of the belt is clearly taken from the M1910 US webbing set. They allow items with wire hangers, such as the canteen carrier we looked at last week, to be hooked on easily with a slight adjustment in carry height depending on which set of eyelets are used. The central set of eyelets are not for wire hangers, but rather for the hooks fitted to the back of the ammunition pouches:They are also used for adjusting the length of the belt as a hook is fitted centrally at either end of the belt:Note that the brass belt buckle and keepers are identical to British practice, as seen on the 37 pattern webbing belt and its antecedents. These were originally chemically blackened, but as is often the case this has now worn off.
The second British influenced feature is on the back of the belt where there are a pair of 1” Twigg buckles to attach the shoulder braces to, again lifted directly from the British mills designs:In many ways this belt combines the best of two designs- the flexibility of the American belt eyelets with the far superior method of attaching the shoulder braces afforded by the British design.
Tonight’s post starts with a hearty thank you to a fellow collector from Canada, Andrew Iarocci, who has kindly helped me add almost a complete set of 51 pattern Canadian webbing to my collection. This set is virtually unknown on this side of the Atlantic and over the coming months we will be taking a detailed look at each component, along with its successors the 64 and 82 pattern sets all being well. To save you all from getting ‘webbing fatigue’, I am going to ration these posts to once a week on a Tuesday so it will probably take us all year to get through the whole lot but hopefully you will enjoy looking at something a bit more unusual than your typical British webbing.
We start tonight with the 51 pattern Canteen Carrier. Note that for the first time the Canadian military dropped the British nomenclature ‘water bottle’ and replaced it with the American ‘Canteen’. The design of the carrier is an almost exact copy of the American M1910 canteen carrier:It must be said that this design was far better than the traditional British water bottle and carriers, as witnessed by the 44 pattern British webbing set which also looked to the US for inspiration for this component. The carrier is made of a softer canvas, with traditional cotton webbing fixtures sewn on as appropriate. This particular carrier was manufactured in 1952, as seen by the large stamp on the rear:Interestingly the canteen and carrier were the components in shortest supply when the set was introduced, with old 37 pattern waterbottles and carriers being pressed into service with the new set for the first few years whilst supply levels caught up.
The rear of the 51 pattern carrier has the same wire suspension hooks as American waterbottles, sewn securely to the rear with a wide strip of webbing:The unique feature of the Canadian 51 pattern set is a pair of 1” Twigg buckles sewn onto either side of the carrier so it can also be attached to the ends of the shoulder braces offering either a choice of fastening, or giving extra support to a full canteen:The canteen is held in the carrier by a pair of flaps at the shoulder, each has a distinctive shield shaped press stud:The inside of the carrier is lagged with a pressed felt to help insulate the bottle and keep the contents cool:You will notice I have not touched on the bottle itself in this post, we will look at that separately at a future date as it has some interesting features of its own.