The enamelled kidney shaped water bottle was to have an extraordinarily long service life with the British military. It’s successor was to be equally long lived and it is the black nylon water bottle and cup introduced in the 1960s is still in use today. Originally the 58 pattern webbing set did not have a dedicated water bottle- the old enamelled Mk VII bottle was expected to soldier on in service despite it having been obsolete as early as the First World War. It was quickly understood a new plastic bottle was essential and after a couple of different trials models the familiar design was agreed upon in olive green plastic. By the mid-1960s this had been changed to the familiar black:The water bottle holds two pints and comes with a separate cup that fits over the top half of the bottle when stowed in a pouch:As is typical with plastic bottles, a moulded warning is provided reminding the user to keep it away from heat, note also the date for this particular example, 1985, moulded into the side:Bizarrely the NSN numbers for the bottle allocate a separate code for the bottle, cap and cup! The cap is also dated 1985 and is secured to the collar of the bottle with a flexible plastic strap:Once the S10 respirator was introduced the bottle lid was replaced with a new design that allowed a straw to be attached for use with the new design of mask. The cup provided for the bottle is also made of black nylon, with two folding metal handles:The use of a plastic cup prevented the user form burning his lips when drinking hot liquids, but meant that you couldn’t use the cup to melt snow for a cup of tea- many troops found old 1944 pattern cups and swapped them over! The metal handles are secured to the cup with a riveted plate and fold flat around the cup for stowage:This water bottle remains in widespread use in the British military and water bottle pouches were added to the PLCE and MOLLE systems when they were introduced to carry the same design of bottle. As it is cheap to buy (the stores catalogue prices the bottles at £1.14, the caps at 40p and the cap retainers at 10p each) and held by the military in massive quantities it seems likely that there are many more decades of service ahead for the humble black water bottle set!
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:
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.
Following yesterday’s post on the 44 pattern water bottle, I have been kindly sent some photographs showing the differences between the early and late pattern caps. As can be seen in the photographs below the early metal cap was replaced with a rubber cap. The two bottles are different so the caps are not interchangeable as the neck of the bottle with the rubber top is slightly narrower . (Courtesy of the Darren Pyper collection)
Tonight we are looking at the 44 pattern water bottle and carrier. Perhaps the surprising thing about the 44 pattern water bottle is how long it took to be introduced. Even before the 37 pattern webbing set had been issued to troops it was clear that the enamelled steel water bottle was hopelessly outmoded. It was an awkward shape, impossible to clean properly, the enamel chipped easily allowing it to rust and the cork rotted and disintegrated after extensive use. These problems were all apparent before the war and an aluminium bottle was introduced- and then rapidly withdrawn.
Both the water bottle and its holder draw heavily upon the US M1910 water bottle and cradle. The 44 pattern webbing finally took notice of the design that the Americans had been using for the last 34 years and gave the British Soldier his first effective modern water bottle:
In the rear of the cover is a small pocket to hold a Millbank bag:This is a filtration bag, it is filled with water and suspended, allowing the water to drip through leaving any impurities behind. Sterilising tablets can then be added to make it safe to drink. This example is dated 1945:And a set of instructions for use are printed on a label near the mouth:
The 44 pattern water bottle has remained highly popular with troops, even after it was officially withdrawn as obsolete and is still sought after by those serving today. Not surprisingly then examples are not as common or cheap as their more numerous predecessors.