A few years back we looked at the Indian 37 pattern water bottle cradle and in passing mentioned the Indian made water bottle. We did not however look at it in any great detail and I have now managed to pick up a different example of the bottle that allows us to take a more detailed look at this particular bottle. The bottle is of the traditional kidney shape and would have had a woolen cover originally. From the date it was designed to be used with 37 pattern webbing and it is made of tinplate that has been painted in a matt sand colour, rather than being enameled:The bottle does not have anywhere for a cork string to be tied to it, suggesting the thread of the cork was sewn to the cover. The top of the bottle has a distinctive spout, with a tapering section, before the main opening:By way of contrast, this is a 1941 dated version of the bottle, from the same factory and it shows a slightly different variation in the style of the top pressing:(This particular bottle is now on its way across the Atlantic to join the collection of a good friend of mine). The base of the bottle has manufacturer’s details stamped in. In this case someone has rubbed the paint off before I managed to pick it up so we can clearly see it was made by The Metal Box Company of Calcutta in 1944:This bottle is made of tinplate and The History of the Supply Department in India relates some of the demands for tinplate in the sub-continent:
Tinplate is essentially needed by all the three Defence Services in war. Mechanised armies depend on tinplate for their petrol, water, oil and grease, all of which must be packed in tins. It is also needed for packing food stuffs, in operational areas, for army utensils like camp kettles, degchies. mess tins, water bottles, and gas mask boxes. In munitions also, tinplate is essential.
Nearly every round fired or bomb dropped owes something to tin-plate. It is required for lining the boxes of rifles and machine gun ammunition. Charges for big guns are stored in tinplate containers. Fuses for small bomb and tails and vanes for bigger ones are all made from tinplate. Depth charges also are dependent on tinplate. These increased military demands led to the expansion of the Indian tinplate industry and its output rose to 58,300 tons in 1942, 68,400 tons in 1943 and 80.000 tons in 1944. The largest increase has been in heavy gauge (26 E.G. and thicker) production in special qualities.
All this expansion has been carried out and maintained despite the loss of Malaya and its supplies of tin and palm oil, as the Company had fairly large stocks of tin. Some imports came from the U.K., the U.S.A. and China. Arrangements were also made for the supply from Kenya of sufficient ore. By confining the use of tinplate to certain essential articles such as containers for
food-stuff and pharmaceuticals, mess this, water bottles etc., the consumption of tin was reduced by about 80 per cent. All other essential war demands requiring coated plate either for anti-corrosion protection or for ease of fabrication such as ammunition boxes and ordnance stores were produced in ‘terneplate’
Over the last few months we have looked at the Canadian 51 pattern and 82 pattern canteen carriers. However we have not yet considered the canteens that were carried inside these items of webbing so tonight we are looking at the two post war canteen designs used by the Canadians. Up until the introduction of the 51 pattern webbing set, the Canadians had been using the standard Mk VII enamelled iron water bottle. This design was clearly antiquated and a new aluminium canteen was introduced, based closely on the design used by the US since the First World War:It took a long time for these canteens to be rolled out, and many troops issued the 51 pattern set when it was first introduced had to use an old enamelled water bottle as the canteens were not ready for them. The canteen is gently curved to fit better against the hip, with an indent on the rear:The lid is made of black plastic with raised grooves to help grip:A short piece of chain is attached to the lid, that would originally have been fastened to the canteen so the lid was not accidently lost:This canteen is marked with a date of February 1957 and was produced by ‘CMF’:The aluminium canteen was certainly a vast improvement on the old enamelled water bottle, but presented some difficulties unique to Canadian service. Canada’s army had to operate in very cold conditions for much of the year meaning the water in their canteens could freeze. When this happened the aluminium canteen could split or be bent out of shape very easily. To combat this problem the Canadians introduced a plastic canteen, actually introducing this ahead of the US Army:This canteen is an incredibly early example with a date of 1960 on the base:The canteen has raised lettering on the front reminding troops not to heat water in it as it is plastic and would melt!Although this seems obvious, it must be remembered that when the canteens were introduced there were ample supplied of the aluminium canteens in use and it would not be hard to pick up a plastic example in the dark and accidently apply it to a heat source.
The canteen has a plastic screw cap, that is held in place with a plastic collar so it does not go missing:The plastic canteen was to prove very popular and widely copied, the US, Canada and Australia amongst many other nations all using variations of it right through to the present day.
When Canada started producing their own 37 pattern webbing in the Second World War, they modified the British design of skeleton water bottle carrier in 1942 to closely resemble that introduced by Mills in the earlier 1919 pattern set. What this meant in reality was that the water bottle had a single long fastening strap, secured to the rear:This passed over the top of the bottle and fastened to a press stud on the front of the carrier:This was in contrast to water bottle carriers from other countries of the Empire where the fastener was on the top shoulder of the bottle. At first glance the 1919 and Canadian 1937 pattern water bottle carriers are identical, however we can tell them apart either by the markings (which are very hard to make out on this example) or by the press studs themselves. These are made by United Carr of Canada:As to why the Canadians changed the design of the carrier; that is a harder question to answer, presumably it was felt that by moving the fastener to the front manufacture could be speeded up as you were not having to sew two straps to the rest of the carrier. It also reduced the amount of brass needed as you were only reinforcing on strap end with a brass chape. It might also have made it easier to open and close the carrier when worn as the strap would be easier to access on the front of the carrier than it would on the top. There are a lot of weird and wonderful changes made by Canada to their webbing over the war years, resin impregnated tips and unique construction techniques amongst others. For those with an interest in the subject I cannot do better than point you to this thread here on Canadian webbing which is excellent.
Many items of RAF 1925 pattern webbing are identical to their later RAF 1937 pattern equivalents- cross straps, brace attachments and tonight’s object, water bottle carrier, were identical. This then presents problems and opportunities for the collector; these items can be found for very low prices misidentified as 37 pattern items, but the collector needs to know what he is looking at, and how to identify the earlier pattern items. This water bottle carrier is of the sleeve type:This design had been used on a number of cavalry webbing sets by Mills before it was adopted for the 1925 pattern set, however it was the lack of any water bottle covers but drab that led to the design being used by the RAF, allowing them to hide the water bottle and present a wholly blue grey finish. The sleeve design was ironically then adopted by the army in WW2 as it was cheaper and easier to manufacture. Basically the design has a single piece of webbing that wraps around the bottle, with a strap that passes across the base:Which ends in two buckles at the top to allow it to be fastened to the rest of the webbing set:To positively identify the carrier as 25 pattern though, it needs to be turned inside out to view the markings:These have the ‘Air Ministry’ crown and markings and a date of 1939 (it is slightly clearer in real life). As the RAF didn’t start using 37 pattern webbing until 1941 at the earliest, this carrier can be positively identified as 25 pattern webbing. The inside of the carrier also has the original airman’s number:The number appears to be 2353415 which was a number from a batch of National Service Airmen taken on at Padgate in 1947, suggesting that either the cover had been languishing in a store for eight years or had been reissued. Indeed due to the similarity in appearance between 1925 and 1937 pattern webbing, they were mixed and matched for years, with no one seeming to care what an airman was issued as long as it was functional.
Despite being a maritime force, the Royal Navy has always expected its sailors to be trained to go ashore and act as a landing party for a short period of time. This need to be able to act as both an infantry force and as a lightly equipped boarding party for seizing enemy ships has ensured that from Victorian times to the present day ships have carried a supply of load bearing equipment to be issued out to matelots as and when needed. Although these days it is normally an older pattern of army equipment that suffices (most commonly PLCE), during the first half of the twentieth century the RN used its own unique patterns of equipment. As a sailor was as likely to be equipped with a pistol and cutlass as a rifle and bayonet the navy had rather different requirements to the army.
In 1901 a new and innovative leather load bearing system was introduced, using a leather bandolier, anticipating the army’s 1903 pattern by a couple of years. As can be imagined this set is not easy to track down, so I was delighted to be able to finally pick up my first piece recently. This is the MkII 1901 pattern water-bottle introduced from 1903 onwards:As can be seen, from the front it looks virtually identical to the Carrier, Water-bottle, Other Services, commonly associated with the 1903 pattern leather equipment. The carrier is made from brown leather, sewn and riveted together:Sadly this example is missing its carrying strap but I am planning to get a reproduction made. Turning to the reverse face of the carrier though we can see that there is a distinctive leather reinforcing strap on the rear and a leather tab riveted to the rest of the carrier. This has a strip of brass within for rigidity:The waterbottle was fitted last when putting on the equipment, so it could be taken off easily and the 1907 ‘Rifle and Field Exercises for His Majesty’s Fleet’ instructed sailors:
Place the water-bottle sling over the left shoulder so as to allow the water-bottle to hang against the right hip, and steady it by placing the steadying clip into the belt.
Two iron rings at the top of the carrier provide a place for the sling to attach:
I have studied the carrier carefully and the only marking I can find is a single ‘4’ stamped on the rear so we don’t when it was made or by whom. The number might be an internal stores number from a ship or base used to identify which sailor was issued with which set of equipment. The 1901 equipment was widely used by the RN division when it first went to the western front in WW1 and was to remain in use even after the introduction of 1919 pattern webbing. It was finally declared obsolete in 1943 when it was to be replaced by 37 pattern webbing on auxiliary vessels.
Whilst most troops are issued with some form of webbing, there are always some who do not need a full set of equipment and today’s object is part of the webbing used by those personnel. The webbing Water Bottle Carrier, Other Services was introduced in 1943 and replaced an equivelant leather example. The carrier was used by services such as the ATS and drivers who would not need a set of 37 pattern webbing.
The carrier consists of a webbing cradle for the bottle with an adjustable shoulder strap:
The strap is adjusted by a buckle that allows it to be shortened or lengthened:
This example is stamped inside with a date of 1953:
As can be seen there is also a /|\ mark and a stores code. These water bottle carriers seem to have come on the market in large quantities in the last few months. This example was a buy it now from eBay and the seller had loads more available for under a tenner. They had rather limited use, but at that price are a nice pick up for the collection.