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.
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.