Regular readers will know that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for Canadian webbing. Therefore I have been looking for a copy of tonight’s book, Tangled Web, Canadian Infantry Accoutrements, 1855-1985, by Jack Summers for quite a while. This book was first published in 1989 and it is, as far as I am aware, the only book covering the use of webbing and leather accoutrements by the Canadian Militia and Army. The book covers a wide variety of load bearing equipment from the earliest leather sets used with percussion muskets up to the 82 pattern design that had just been introduced when the book was published. The book is beautifully illustrated throughout, but as is often the case with books of this age all the illustrations are in black and white- this does not distract from their usefulness and many rare images of troops wearing the articles appear alongside photographs of the objects themselves.The book is divided thematically based on the type of weapon in use by the Canadian Army at various times in its history. This book very much focuses on the items themselves, modifications made in the field and depots and feedback on their utility based on user reports. It is not a book about Canadian manufacture of accoutrements or the specifically Canadian methods of production, so there is no coverage of companies such as Zephyr Loom and Textile Ltd or of uniquely Canadian features such as resin dipped strap ends. This however is not the aim of the book and there is plenty of uniquely Canadian information between the covers to make it worth tracking down a copy. As well as the modern sets we have covered on the blog before (the 51, 64 and 82 pattern sets) the book also covers in detail the pre-WW1 Canadian sets such as the Oliver leather equipment set and the numerous modifications made to them in Canada based on experience on the Western Front.Summers has an easy writing style and it helps that he provides context of the various conflicts Canada was involved with at the period each set was being used- I for one knew virtually nothing about the Fenian Raids on Canada in the Victorian era so this background was very much appreciated. This book covers a long period of history and it is nice to see the stop start nature of military procurement. On occasions incremental changes are made to equipment, at other times in history it is a revolutionary leap and this comes across nicely in a way that is not always the case with books covering a shorter time frame.There is no denying that this book is a specialist title, but it is packed full of information and well worth tracking down a copy if you have a particular interest in Canadian accoutrements. Sadly it seems to have been out of print for a number of years and copies are not easily available in the UK. If you are in the US or Canada this seems to be less of an issue. It is currently listed at £70 for a volume on Abebooks, however it is possible to find the book for less if you are willing to import from North America or check EBay regularly. My copy came from the latter site for £20 and this is a book well worth snagging if you can find a copy at a reasonable price.
It has been a while since we looked at any post-war Canadian army uniforms and equipment. Last year we took a detailed study of the Canadian 64 pattern here, one of the defining features of this set was the lack of an ammunition pouch, troops carrying magazines in the pockets of their jackets. It is one of these jackets we are looking at tonight:Officially these are known as ‘Coat, Combat, Mk II’ and were a modification of a design of jacket introduced in 1964. This design of uniform was a major departure for the Canadian Army and was the first uniform that was designed to not be ironed or starched. Bright insignia was replaced with subdued rank and name badges and it was forbidden to dry clean or iron the uniform due to the nylon reinforcements. The Mk I uniform carried four magazines for the C1 rifle, the Mk II though had provision for 6 magazines and had a waist drawstring added.
Two angled pockets are fitted to the chest:These are reinforced with nylon and can each hold a C1 rifle magazine:Two further, larger pockets are sewn onto the skirts of the combat coat:These each have internal nylon pockets as well:Two magazines can be carried in each large pocket, although the fit is extremely tight on this particular coat:Please note that I am using SLR magazines rather than C1 magazines as I do not have the latter so this might explain why they are not a perfect fit! All the fastenings on the combat coat are secured using buttons that themselves are sewn on with tapes rather than thread:It is interesting to note that this feature was in use by the Canadians thirty years before the British adopted it in the CS95 series of clothing! This combat coat has epaulettes on the shoulders for rank insignia:However as it was worn by a sergeant his rank is sewn to the sleeves. The rank is in subdued green, but has a rather nice embroidered Canadian maple leaf above it:The original owner’s name is embroidered on a cotton tape sewn to the chest:Sadly the original label for this combat coat is completely unreadable, however this design was produced between 1969 and 1982 so it is most likely from the 1970s. Although very popular, this garment had one fundamental weakness. It was made of a 50% cotton 50% nylon blend so it was not flame retardant and could catch fire easily. It also had a tendency to pick up oil stains that were very hard to shift and if bleached went an interesting pink colour! Despite these flaws, the combat uniform was much liked by troops and saw service for many years, indeed it was still used into the 2000s by cadets who, for political reasons, were not issued Cadpat uniforms for field exercises.
Canada had some interesting variations to the standard 37 pattern webbing used across the empire. One of the most radical was their standard pistol holster which has a far more curved shape than that manufactured in other countries:This was actually the second pattern of Canadian holster, the first pattern was the same as a standard British 37 pattern holster. In 1942 though, a new design was introduced that better fitted large frame revolvers such as the World War One .455 Webleys and Smith and Wesson Hand Ejectors. Although officially replaced by .380 versions, these older and larger revolvers were still popular amongst the Canadians for their stopping power, but they were too big for a standard 37 pattern holster. The new Canadian design accommodated these revolvers easily and was still perfectly compatible with a standard .380 revolver (as seen in the photographs in this post). As is typical of Canadian production, the webbing is of excellent quality, with a separate tape binding sewn along every seam. The base of the holster has a small brass drainage hole fitted to allow water to drain away easily:The top flap is secured has a nice curved shape and rounded corners secured with a smooth brass press stud, produced by ‘United Carr’ of Canada:The back of the holster is fairly standard and mirrors the design of the standard Mills product:The holster is secured to the belt by two brass ‘c’ hooks and a top ‘c’ hook to allow it to be fastened to the pistol ammunition pouch:A channel is sewn into the inside of the holster to fit a cleaning rod into:The holster is marked inside ‘ZL&T Ltd’ with a manufactured date of 1943 and a Canadian acceptance mark of /|\ inside a ‘C’:This holster was manufactured by the Zephyr Loom and Textiles Ltd, one of two main Canadian manufacturers. For a detailed study of Canadian webbing development check out this excellent thread.
Following the end of the Second World War the Canadian Army reviewed its uniforms and introduced a pair of new peaked caps for its troops. One was a lightweight summer cap, whilst the other was a winter cap made of brown serge wool:This cap has a broad peak to keep the sun off and a brown leather chin strap:This strap is secured to the cap by a pair of blackened Canadian army buttons, with King’s crowns on them:Interestingly though, despite the Queen’s crown coming into use from 1952 onwards, this cap wasn’t manufactured until 1954:From the label we can see that the cap was manufactured by the Buffalo Cap Company and is in a large 7 1/4″ size. These details are repeated on a small label sewn into the joint between crown and peak:Photos of these caps in service are hard to find, but I have been directed to this one of a parade in the 1950s where the caps can be seen clearly:These caps actually saw service in Korea but we’re not really suitable as related in Brent Watson’s book “Far Eastern Tour, The Canadian Infantry in Korea 1950-53”:
Helmets were seldom worn on patrol. Instead soldiers wore the equally useless Canadian peaked cap. Designed in late 1950 with the parade square in mind, the cap came in two patterns. The winter version was made of heavy serge and had no provision for ear coverage…Both patterns of peaked cap were incompatible with the hood of the poncho- another item of kit first used by the Canadians in Korea- and undermined its effectiveness. During the battle of Chail-li for example, the peak capped- and poncho clad soldiers of 2RCR were drenched by a vicious 30 minute wind and rainstorm that left them soaked and chilled.
It was quickly recommended that a broad brimmed bush hat, such as used by the British, be introduced to replace the peaked cap in combat.
I would argue that of all the countries manufacturing webbing in the British Empire in World War Two, the Canadians produced some of the nicest. The quality is superlative and aesthetically their webbing has a lovely yellowish hue. The Canadians also used some distinctive methods of construction for some of their webbing pieces and tonight we are looking at a nice example of a 37 pattern shoulder brace:This particular example is (poorly) stamped up as having been made by Zephyr Loom and Textiles Ltd (ZL&T):There is also half a Canadian acceptance mark of a /|\ inside a ‘C’ visible. ZL&T Ltd used a unique form of construction on their shoulder braces, with a continuous piece of 1” wide webbing, around which a wider piece to aid comfort was sewn. Here the central core can be clearly seen running underneath the main load bearing surface:This method of construction differed from other manufacturers who either used reduction weaving to make the shoulder brace as one single piece, or sewed together webbing of varying widths. Other features of this shoulder brace include a sewn loop to pass the matching brace through on the back:The strap also includes a bright brass chape at the end:These were replaced with ‘battle brass’- a brown phosphate metal- in 1943. It is these minor manufacturing variant that to me are so fascinating- wartime economy and ways of speeding up production all having an impact on the design of components. Small changes multiplied over hundreds of thousands of pieces had a major cumulative effect and could help make large savings in manpower and strategic materials such as brass.
Tonight we come to the final post on post war Canadian webbing, at least until I purchase some more items! Once again I must express my thanks to Andrew Iarocci from Canada who kindly helped me add these pieces to my collection- I suspect I have the most complete collection of Post War Canadian webbing on this side of the Atlantic now, although I am also probably the only person over here who wishes to collect it!
Our final piece of 51 pattern webbing is the bayonet frog, it is made of the same dark green webbing as the rest of the 51 pattern set, but in form is identical to late war 37 pattern frogs:This similarity in design is not unexpected as Canada was still using the No 4 rifle with a socket bayonet at the time of the webbing’s introduction so it made sense to use a tried and tested design. The bayonet frog has a belt loop to allow the belt to pass through, and two loops on the front for slotting the stud of the bayonet scabbard through:Unusually for 51 pattern webbing, the manufacturer’s mark is sharply stamped on the rear of the frog:Normally these stamps are very faint and almost impossible to read, but here it can be clearly seen that the frog was manufactured in 1952, with a distinctive circular manufacturer’s logo above:There are still some elements of the 51 pattern set I need to track down, and as and when I find these I will post again. I hope this six month survey of post war Canadian webbing has been of interest and not too esoteric for you. I leave you with this nice view of Canadian infantry wearing the 51 pattern set from a period weapons pamphlet:
Tonight we come to the final post on the 82 pattern webbing set, at least until I track down some more components. The Canadian Army issued a special lightweight rucksack for their troop’s NBC equipment that accompanied the 82 pattern set, although technically it was never actually a part of the equipment. This small pack was popular with troops and frequently used in the field as a general purpose haversack to supplement the ‘butt’ pack we looked at a few weeks back. The pack is made of green nylon, with three straps on the front securing the flap:These are secured with black ‘Fastex’ fasteners:The pack here is made in a mid green shade, other examples can be found with much darker colouring. Under the top flap is a drawstring that helps secure the main part of the rucksack and keeps the contents dry:One side of the pack has a small exterior pocket, secured with Velcro:The rucksack has a pair of shoulder straps sewn to the rear, with slide adjusters to allow the wearer to get a comfortable fit:Each strap is heavily padded for comfort:This pack has clearly seen heavy use as there are a number of different soldiers’ names and numbers written in pen on the underside of the top flap:The only label inside the bag is a small manufacturer’s label for ‘Just Kit’:This then ends our study of the 82 pattern set for the time being- there are still some components left to find so we will revisit the set as and when I add these to the collection. I hope this series has been of interest to you and that I have managed to raise the profile of this underappreciated set of commonwealth webbing.