In 1888 the British Army replaced its 1870 pattern Valise equipment with a new design that has been known through history as “Slade Wallace” equipment after its designers Colonel Slade and Major Wallace. As can be expected for a set of leather equipment introduced over 125 years ago it is not easy to find original pieces. The easiest component to find is the belt, many surviving long after the rest of the set had been thrown away due to their smart appearance as parade belts. Last week I was lucky enough to pick up one of these belts:I must confess I originally thought that the leather must have been replaced due to the good quality it is still in. The leather is heavy duty and was originally produced in buff, being whitened for parade use. A bit of research has shown that the belt is in fact original, the three buckles at the back of the belt being a good indicator:The design of the buckles dates from a minor modification to the design of the belt in 1891, as illustrated in Pierre Turner’s book on accoutrements:The original design is on the left, the post 1891 modification on the right. By all accounts once the belts were relegated to parade use if the back panel needed to be replaced a plain piece of leather was substituted as the buckles were unnecessary without the rest of the set!
The buckle is made of brass, with the crown of Queen Victoria on the locket:The motto ‘Dieu Et Mon Droit’ means ‘God and My Right’. Originally two chapes were fitted to attach the shoulder straps to, sadly only one is still extent:This belt was originally issued to a Royal Marine, as indicated by the stamps on the back of the belt:The ‘PL’ on his service number indicate he was from the Plymouth depot. The belt also clearly saw service later with the West Riding Territorial Army, as evidenced by their initials on the back of the leather safe:Incidentally on long marches the waist belt could be slackened by inserting the locket into the slot on the safe:This belt is a great addition to the collection and they are becoming scarcer. I will display it with my 1913 pattern Home Service tunic which it will complement perfectly.