Category Archives: 58-Webbing

58 Pattern Compass Pouch

When it was first introduced the 58 pattern webbing set did not include any of the pieces of webbing usually used by officers, so there was initially no binocular cases, holsters or compass pouches. It was quickly realised that these were essential components for any equipment set and by the early 1960s these pieces had been introduced, although they do not appear in the fitting instructions for the 58 pattern set. Tonight we are looking at the compass pouch from this set which accompanies the pistol and binoculars cases I already have nicely. The case is a small square pouch in the green pre-shrunk cotton typical of the 58 pattern set:imageIt is more square in shape than earlier designs and the box lid secures with a brass turn buckle rather than a press stud:imageThe lid opens to allow a marching compass to be fitted inside:imageThe interior of the pouch is padded with felt to help protect the slightly delicate compass from shocks and bumps:imageManufacturer’s details were printed on the underside of the box lid, unfortunately in this case they are now very faint and I can’t make out who made this pouch or when:imageThe rear of the pouch has a single metal ‘C’ hook and a transverse webbing loop to allow the 58 pattern yoke to be slotted through:imageFor some reason, this pouch has had a splash of yellow paint added to the rear:imageI am not sure exactly why this has been done, possibly it has been added by a previous user so he can quickly identify his piece of webbing in a pile of his comrades.

As items like the binoculars case, holster and compass pouch were produced in smaller numbers than the standard infantry 58 pattern webbing, they are slightly harder to find today than other components. Having said that, they are still out there and careful shopping will allow the collector to find them at a reasonable price. I paid £5 for this case and the dealer I bought it off had three of them for that price so they are still readily available.

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SAS 58 Pattern Shoulder Brace

A few weeks ago we looked at an altimeter pouch that had been designed for use by the SAS. There were a number of different pieces of specialist 58 pattern webbing produced for Britain’s special forces and tonight we are looking at another example. The 58 pattern yoke was a comfortable piece of equipment that was well padded and generally well liked by troops. It was not however designed to be worn with the large A Frame bergans popularly used by members of the SAS. The thick padding was uncomfortable under the bergan and the metal stud for attaching a pick axe helve interfered with the fit of the metal frame. Early modifications to the 58 pattern yoke included removing this metal stud which helped to some degree, but in the end a dedicated pair of shoulder braces were introduced to be used by the SAS and it is one of these we are looking at tonight:imageThe shoulder brace is quite reminiscent of a 37 pattern strap, with a wider portion 2” wide in the centre where it passes over the shoulder, thinning to 1” at each end of the brace. As the 58 pattern belt was never designed for use with traditional shoulder straps, simple loops are fitted to pass a belt through. At the fixed end of the strap there are two of these, one above the other:imageThe opposite end of the strap is plain and a separate loop with a buckle is provided to go over the belt:imageThe plain end of the shoulder brace goes through this buckle and allows the length to be adjusted easily for comfort. The strap is an official piece of webbing rather than a piece made at unit level. The straps had an NSN number of 8465-99-130-0246 and this was stamped on the strap, although it is very faint on this example:imageThe straps came as a pair, one plain like this one and a second with a loop on the back to allow the straps to be worn crossed. Sadly I don’t have a complete pair yet, but like any SAS related equipment this strap is quite scarce and commands high prices on the collectors market. The prices for SAS related objects often have as much to do with the cache of the Regiment than any actual relationship to their scarcity. Often far rarer items sell for much less because they do not have the association with Special Forces. Happily for me, this strap came as part of a general job lot and was a pleasant surprise when I finally managed to identify what it was for!

SAS Altimeter Pouch

In the late 1960s a number of new items of webbing were quietly added to the stores catalogue to go with the 58 pattern web set. These were items for use by the SAS and were pieces of equipment that were felt to be useful based on operational experience and some experiments in unit with producing similar pieces of equipment unofficially. None of these items of SAS webbing are easy to find now, however the most common piece to come across today is the altimeter pouch.

The altimeter pouch is a small green webbing pouch for carrying an altimeter, the SAS had been operating in jungled mountainous terrain in Indonesia and Borneo and an altimeter was very helpful in determining a troopers height in this rugged landscape and how far up a particular mountain they had actually gone. The altimeter was small and round, so the pouch was shaped accordingly:imageA box lid fits over the altimeter and is secured with a single press stud, keeping the contents safe and secure within:imageDue to the size of the pouch it was impractical to have it mounted on the belt itself, so a pair of one inch drop straps allow it to hang below the waist belt:imageThe large eyelet is to allow a lanyard to be fastened, securing the altimeter to the pouch and preventing it being dropped and lost. Underneath is the faint markings of a stores code and date, it seems to have been made by MW&S in 1982:imageI have struggled to find much further information on the pouch, presumably due to the secretive nature of special forces there is not much out there on the pouch. I did however come across this photograph which I believe is a 1980s photograph of an SAS belt kit set up (the site I found it on is in Polish so I have no context I can give to the image). Here the altimeter pouch can be seen on the belt, but it is being used to carry a compass:img27If anyone has any pictures of the actual altimeters used with this pouch, please get in contact as it would be interesting to see what is supposed to fit inside the pouch!

Northern Ireland Belt Kit

On patrol in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles, British troops had very strict rules of engagement and were only permitted to carry very small amounts of ammunition- normally two SLR magazines, each with eighteen rounds- one in the gun and one in a pouch. Troops also wore body armour so there was a move away from large traditional equipment sets to more minimal belt kits. This example is a representative set like those put together by troops on Operation Banner:imageAs can be seen the set consists of one 58 pattern ammunition pouch and two water bottle pouches on a 58 pattern belt:imageThis set up emphasises the need for hydration during grueling foot patrols, with minimal ammunition needed. One ex soldier describes what he carried in Northern Ireland:

First tour 75 country Tyrone, dress was boots dms with puttees, trousers lightweight, kf shirt, woolly pully, combat jacket with yellow card in breast pocket, green waterproof, sometimes a parka, beret and blacked out badge.
Belt order with ammo pouches and water bottle only, although it was a bit of a waste as we only had 20 rounds. So lots of room for sweets and choccies.

58 Pattern Holster

When the 1958 pattern webbing set was introduced originally there was no provision for a holster. The British Army were in the process of replacing their revolvers with Browning Hi-Power automatics and as a stop gap Canadian 51 pattern holsters were issued to troops (see here). This was clearly far from being an ideal solution so by 1965 a new holster had been developed for the 58 pattern set. This was closely based on the wartime Canadian Browning holster and had a pair of overlapping flaps to protect the pistol:These flaps were secured with a quick release tab:And when opened allowed easy access to the Browning:Inside the holster a small pocket was provided for a spare magazine:That was secured with another quick release tab:A small channel was provided for a cleaning rod:Sadly I do not have a Browning Hi-Power in my collection, but this Model 1922, although smaller, illustrates how a pistol was carried:Stamped onto the underside of the top flap was the manufacturer’s details, date and NSN number:This example was made in 1978 by MECo. Turning the holster over we can see a number of attachment methods were offered:These were a single channel for a belt loop and ‘C’ hooks to allow it to be fastened to the belt of the 58 pattern set:The fitting instructions gave alternatives for the carriage of the holster:

The holster may either be clipped to the belt by two ‘C’ hooks, or it may be attached to a leg strap by means of a webbing loop sewn between the ‘C’ hooks. A link similar to that on the ammunition pouches provides anchorages for the front yoke straps. A ‘D’ ring at the bottom enables the holster to be anchored, if required, to the cape carrier or to the main pack, to prevent the holster from swinging and chafing the legs. MECo were not the only manufacturer of 58 pattern webbing, and this illustration comes from the webbing catalogue of M Wright & Co:Not only was the holster produced in the standard green seen here, but white examples for military police and blue grey RAF examples were produced, albeit in much smaller quantities.

Third Pattern 58 Pattern Ammunition Pouches

There were a number of problems with the first design of 1958 pattern basic pouch. The pouch hung vertically like 37 pattern pouches, but much lower than the earlier patterns. With the adoption of armoured personnel carriers it was found troops had to push the pouches out of the way to prevent them digging into their thighs when seated. It was therefore decided to modify them with angled waist attachments so they sat at an angle rather than straight down. Tis became the most common variant of the 58 pattern ammunition pouch. As ever we turn to the fitting instructions for a description, note however that this refers to the Mk1 pouches, not the Mk III so there are some minor changes pointed out as we go along:

Pouch, Ammunition Left

This is approximately 10 inches deep, and 4 ½ inches wide with 2 ¼ inch gussets.  imageIt is closed with a ‘box’ lid having a quick-release fastening.image

The top back of the pouch has metal fittings for connection of the pouch to the belt and the yoke.  imageOn one side of the pouch are two webbing loops to hold the bayonet scabbard, imageand on the same side near the bottom there is a metal loop for connection to the cape carrier. imageInside the pouch there is an adjustable strap and buckle to support short magazines on a level with the top of the pouch (quickly deleted and not present in these pouches)

Pouch, Ammunition, Right.

This pouch is similar to the pouch, ammunition, left, excepting that is has an external pocket on one side instead of the bayonet scabbard loops. This pocket is for a grenade launcher or a 1 inch signal discharger and is closed by a hooded flap with a turn button closure: imageThie pouch was designed for the Energa launcher, but was usually used for knife, fork and spoon in later years. Turning the pouches over we can clearly see the angled ‘c’ hooks on the back:imageAnother point to note is the usual metal grommet in the base of each pouch to let the water run off:imageI apologise for the ‘salty’ nature of these pouches- I do have better examples but they are built up into webbing sets. The condition of these pouches though is not untypical as these webbing sets were used heavily first by the army, and then even after the introduction of PLCE by the reservists and cadet units. The cotton webbing is not as durable as some more modern materials and hence some of these pouches can get pretty worn and ratty.

Trials Poncho Roll

Before any equipment goes into production for the military it is subject to extensive trials and following feedback the items are modified before going into full scale production. These trials items are obviously far rarer than issue items as they were produced in small numbers and subject o plenty of wear and tear in the process of testing. I have very little trials webbing in my collection, but I was sorting through last week and noticed that one of my 58 pattern poncho rolls was different to the others. After enquiries it turns out that this poncho roll is part of the trials equipment:imageThe design is very similar to the final product, having an external pocket for the pick head:imageHowever the quick release straps are secured with press studs, a feature that was to be dropped on the final design:imageThe difference can be seen in this comparison of the trials pattern (lower) with a standard production model (upper):imageThe poncho roll is dated 1957:imageThis indicates it was part of the ‘Number 2 Experimental Set’ manufactured by MECo and issued in limited numbers. There were three different sets used on trials, of which the No2 set is the easiest to find today. This example however survived to see use alongside the similar 58 pattern equipment, as witnessed by the soldier’s name written in black marker on the webbing:imageThe snap fasteners seem to have been rejected as being overly complicated, making it harder to undo the roll quickly and adding to the expense of the design. These snap fasteners were used on all the experimental webbing and are an easy way to identify the components. Sadly my poncho roll has suffered a hard life and the snap fasteners have been removed from the ends and back of the roll, but this is a scarce piece of webbing that I didn’t know I had so I shouldn’t complain too much!