1937 Pattern Web Equipment
Basic Components and Specialized Equipment
The focal point of 1937 Web Equipment was the waistbelt. The belt
was 2¼ inches wide and made in three lengths, 44, 50 and 56 inches. Two
1-inch buckles were mounted on the reverse of the belt.
The belt was sized by using hooks fitted to the brass ends of the
belt; the ends of the belt were doubled back, and these hooks were then
inserted into cloth loops running the length of the interior of the
belt. (Postwar versions of this belt had velcro substituted for this
system of hooks and loops, both the 1964 Pattern field belt, and later
versions of the 1937 Pattern waistbelt issued specifically for walking
out, right up into the 1970s).
The belt was secured, normally, by a set of brass buckles with
both a male and a female end. These buckles were slipped over the belt,
and retained by folding the belt over as described above, and also
through the use of a pair of brass "keepers". As the Second World War
progressed, the brass buckles, keepers and tabs on most components of
web gear were replaced with painted steel, usually of a brown shade
resembling tarnished brass.
The cotton webbing was supposed to be treated with "blanco", a form
of cleanser that came in cake and powder form which also coloured the
webbing. There were several shades, which are not easy to distinguish
in black and white period photos, with shade 97 (light green), and
shade 3 (Khaki Green) - a shade of dark green - being most common.
Other common shades are shown at right (image from the Blanco and Bull website).
The "Buff" shade is probably indistinguishable from the colour of raw webbing in
(Photo courtesy Ed Storey).
Contemporary colour photo of British
paratrooper, showing webbing treated with KG3 blanco, which appears to be
wearing off, showing the raw webbing underneath.
Contemporary colour photo of British armoured
crewman, with webbing
treated in what appears to be light khaki green blanco (shade 103).
Some units used specially coloured belts - the Canadian Provost
Corps used white webbing so that traffic control policemen might be
highly visible. White was also a colour traditionally associated with
infantry equipment, and for ceremonial purposes, some white belts may
have been employed by some units, including musicians. Rifle Regiments
traditionally have been associated with black equipment, and some belts
may have been blackened by them for ceremonial or walking out purposes in the
Second World War.
Black belts have been associated with the Royal Canadian Armoured
Corps, though how widespread the practice of wearing black belts may
have been during the Second World War is unclear.
There is colour motion picture footage of Canadian soldiers in the Korean War
era wearing full sets of black webbing worn by Royal Canadian Armoured Corps
- Brace Attachments and Braces
||Standard Brace with brass metal ends.
||Brace with late war phenolic resin ends, showing also the "loop" for attaching another brace through.
Two common styles of Brace Attachment existed the "gate" style as
shown at left with hinged central bar, and the one piece style shown at
Pouches, Packs and Carriers
- Ammunition Case
|Used to carry loose rounds or boxes of .38 and .455 calibre
ammunition for the pistol. Secured to the belt by means of brass hooks
on the back, with cloth loops for securing to the brace/brace
attachment, and also for securing the pistol case to the bottom of the
pouch rather than to the belt.
- Basic Pouch
|Typically, two Bren gun magazines were carried in each pouch, but a
pair of 2-inch mortar bombs would also fit. Sten gun magazines would
not fit properly, but the pouches were also used for these. Riflemen
would also carry bandoliers of rifle ammunition and grenades in the
basic pouches. Men not in infantry units received cartridge carriers
until midway through the war, when the cartridge carriers were replaced
by the basic pouch for men of all arms.
Variations on the Basic Pouch. Ed Storey photos.
- Typical Contents
The contents of the Basic Pouch
were usually restricted to ammunition. Loops on the inside of the top flap were
designed for .303 calibre ballistite cartridges (used for firing grenades from a
cup discharger on the Lee Enfield rifle). The pouches could hold bandoliers of
rifle ammunition, various types of grenades, bombs for the 2-inch Mortar,
magazines for the Bren Gun or Boyes Anti-Tank Rifle, or magazines for the
Thompson machine carbine. When the Sten Gun was introduced it was found the 30
round magazines were too long to allow the Basic Pouch to be done up. A water
bottle could also be carried in the pouch, in lieu of suspending it from the
brace ends or wearing it in the haversack. Photos below courtesy of Ed Storey.
The length of the Sten Gun magazine shown in the center
photograph is evident. While a longer Basic Pouch was designed to
accommodate them, few of the new pouches actually saw issue by the end
of the war.
- Bayonet Frog
Slipped over the waistbelt and worn on the left hip to carry the bayonet.
The early bayonet frog was designed for the long sword bayonet used on
the No.1 Mk III Lee Enfield. This frog was also modified for use for
the smaller spike bayonet used on the No. 4 Mk 1 Lee Enfield. The
method of conversion was usually to poke a hole in the uppermost web
loop in order to secure the retaining post on the bayonet sheath.
Unlike the 1908 pattern frog upon which it was patterned, the 1937 frog
had a small loop near the top to secure the handle of the bayonet in
A purpose built web frog, similar in appearance to the earlier one but much smaller, was introduced by Canadian manufacturers.
Several variants were used during the war; when the first No. 4
rifles were introduced, the older bayonet frogs were sometimes used to
carry the new spike bayonet in.
|Original examples; artifacts and photos courtesy of Ed Storey.
- Binocular Case
Fitted to the waistbelt as part of the basic Officer's set, on the
right front. Used to carry one pair of 6 x 30 issue binoculars.
Generally discarded in the field in favour of slinging the binos around
the neck. Not only did it draw the attention of snipers, but the stiff
construction made it difficult to go to ground. The second pattern had
two 1-inch buckles on the side of the case, the first pattern did not.
- Cartridge Carrier
Designed to carry two 5 round chargers per pouch, or twenty rounds
in one carrier and forty rounds in a two carrier set. Two for every man
not in an infantry unit, or those in infantry units whose duties did
not require the basic pouches (ie driver). Replaced midwar with the
Basic Pouch. Photos courtesy Ed Storey.
- Compass Case
|The case for the issue compass was identical to the Ammunition
Pouch issued with revolvers, with the exception of being lined with
felt and stiffened, so as to protect the compass from damage. It could
be attached to the belt via the metal hooks. There were two cloth loops
also, the upper loop allowed the brace attachment or brace to be passed
through vertically; the bottom loop was designed for attachment to the
metal hooks on the top of the pistol case. The pistol case could then
be attached to the compass case (itself attached to the waistbelt)
rather than directly to the waistbelt itself. Photo courtesy Ed Storey.
- Entrenching Tool Case - Folding type
During the development of WE '37 in Britain, four types of
entrenching tools were proposed; Pattern No. 3 was selected. Similar to
the design in use in the German Army in the First World War
and into the Second, the tool was a short spade with a 12" wooden
handle attached to a metal head. The tool had its own web carrier for
attachment to the Waist Belt, worn suspended from the brace ends. The
Pattern No. 3 was issued to Canadians in the UK from 1940 to 1942 from
British stocks, though they are not widely seen in period photos.
Entrenching tools were not carried by Canadian soldiers in Hong Kong or Dieppe, and by 1943 the 1908 style tool had replaced the cumbersome Pattern No. 3.1
|No. 3 Pattern entrenching tool. At right, Canadian soldiers photographed at Spitsbergen showing the No. 3 Pattern tool in use. Both Photos courtesy Ed Storey.
- Entrenching Tool Case - 1908 style
The 1908 entrenching tool was used virtually unchanged from 1943 on;
the web carrier was naturally redesigned to interface with the 1"
buckles of WE '37. A modified helve appeared during the war, with an
attachement point for a spike bayonet, in order that the helve and
bayonet could be used as a mine prod. The helve was attached to the
outside of the carrier by web loops and was easily lost. Photos below
by Ed Storey.
The problem of losing the helve from the carrier was not resolved
until late in the war; on 21 Apr 1945 Overseas Routine Orders gave
"specific instructions on the modification of the entrenching tool
carrier, to prevent further loss." Carriers were to be modified at unit
level with the addition of a web strap to fit over the end of the
helve. "Up to this time, troops had been wrapping the handles with
tape, or even carrying them in their packs. It is unlikely that many of
these official modifications were carried out" during the war. 2
In action, veteran troops preferred to use full size General
Service Shovels (the official title, and a misnomer, as it was actually
a spade) and pickaxes and these implements are often seen in period
photographs being carried in lieu of the small entrenching tool.
A Company Sergeant Major of the Queen's Own Rifles noted:
Our number-one priority was making a hole. In our training
days, we all had the small trenching tool most people have seen in
photographs or films. It was useless. Within hours after D-Day,
every second man had a regular round-bladed shovel; one in every
section had a pickaxe. Two men could make a decent place for themselves
in about an hour.3
The haversack, or "small pack",
could be worn suspended on the brace ends below the waist, as was done in full
marching order, or worn on the back with the addition of a pair of "L" shaped
straps (which were interchangeable with the Large Pack. The haversack was
originally intended to carry the water bottle and mess tin (and had internal
pockets for same) though these were often worn outside the haversack in web
carriers, especially by infantrymen. The haversack was used to carry necessities
for a 24 hour period; photo at right (courtesy Ed Storey) shows some typical
contents, including white towel, sweater, wool shirt, water bottle, mess tin,
knife/fork/spoon, spare socks, rations, and shaving holdall. Other contents
might include cleaning kit, polishing kit, housewife, iron ration, or spare
ammunition. As well, the groundsheet was carried by regulation in the haversack
and tucked under the flap. In action, it was often left with personal kit in the
unit baggage, and the rain cape substituted as a waterproof garment, despite
repeated orders not to undertake that practice.
- Large Pack (1908 Pattern)
The Large Pack remained unchanged from 1908 Pattern Web Equipment
and was primarily used when changing station or transferring between
units. Normally, the pack was left with unit transport, and contained
items necessary but not immediately needed, such as sports clothing,
sleeping gear (blankets) and greatcoat rolled and attached to the
outside, spare Battle Dress,
etc. The "L" straps used with the haversack were also used on the large
pack, attaching to the large brass tags on the upper rear of the pack,
and interfacing with the blanket straps via 1-inch buckles.
Both the haversack and the large pack
had a set of web pack straps.
- Blanket Straps
The 1908 Pattern Large Pack came with two blanket straps, these
were used to attach not just the blanket, but also the greatcoat and
steel helmet to the outside of the large pack when in full marching
order. The blanket straps were probably also adopted to a variety of
other tasks, such as securing the gas cape to the waistbelt when in
- Map Case
A rectangular piece of
stiff composite material equipped with clips for holding maps and a
clear cover to keep them dry in the rain was fitted with a web cover,
with loops for a protractor and writing implements. This map board could
be slung over the shoulder on a 1-inch web strap, and made up part of
the "Officers' Set" of standard equipment. It was rarely worn into
action by junior officers, as it distinguished the wearer as an officer,
and was also uncomfortable to go to ground on.
- Officer's Haversack
The Officers' Haversack
likewise was part of the standard set of equipment for officers and was
a small bag measuring 9-inches by 12-inches by 2-inches. It was secured
closed by a single flap and one-inch buckle. The satchel was intended to
carry maps, notebooks and other related stores, and was divided
internally along its length by a cloth partition. It could be secured to
the brace ends by one-inch buckles (and was intended to be worn that way
for specific orders of dress) or alternately carried by a small cloth
handle sewn to the rear of the haversack.
- Pistol Case for Large-Frame Revolver
Since many of the First World War-vintage .455 revolvers
were still in use during the Second World War, a pattern of holster was made to
accommodate such revolvers (e.g. the Canadian-issue .455 S&W Hand
Ejector) with British/Commonwealth P'37 webbing. Made with an internal
slot for a cleaning rod. Shown mounted on a P"37 web belt, with
revolver cartridge pouch attached (which, in this configuration, would
in turn be attached to the shoulder brace.) Various manufacturers -
this example was made by Zephyr Loom and Textile Limited - Canada's
primary WWII web equipment manufacturer; marked "Z. L. & T. Ltd"
and dated 1942. Photo by Grant Rombough.
- P'37 Web Holster for Small-Frame Revolver
Standard P'37 Web Equipment "pistol case",
designed to fit the British .380 Enfield revolver and, in the Canadian
context, our standard-issue .38/.380 S&W M&P revolvers. Made
with an internal slot for a cleaning rod. Also known to have been used
with the 9mm Inglis High Power. Various manufacturers - this particular
example made by "Z. L. & T. Ltd" and dated 1940. Photo by Grant
- P'37 Web "Tanker" Holster
A special holster pattern introduced with the
P'37 Equipment as the "Pistol Case R.A.C.", i.e. for use by Royal
Armoured Corps personnel. Note the six cartridge loops and external
cleaning rod slot. Also designed to accommodate the .38 caliber
revolvers, it hung well below the waistbelt and was kept snug to the
leg by the thigh strap; this configuration was intended to minimize
interference in going through armoured vehicle hatches. Not a
particularly successful or popular design, it was replaced by the
shortened and simplified pattern shown below. Many of the earlier
pattern were converted to this configuration, with the result that this
type is now relatively scarce. Various manufacturers - this particular
example, a first pattern holster, was made by "Z. L. & T. Ltd." and
dated 1940. Photo by Grant Rombough.
- Later Pattern P'37 "Tanker" Holster
This is the simplified, shortened version of
the Armoured Corps holster mentioned above. Various manufacturers. This
particular example is well used, and any maker stamp and date is no
longer visible. (Note: this modified pattern holster appears to be
non-Canadian manufacture, likely British. Canadian web-equipment,
though made to standard P'37 dimensions, is generally easily recognized
by its noticeably more "golden" hue.) Photo by Grant Rombough.
- First Pattern Web Holster for Inglis Pistol
"Holster No. 1" (made to specifications
supplied by China) for the Inglis High Power pistols supplied to them.
Internal compartments for cleaning rod and spare magazine. These
holsters were also utilized by Canadian and other Commonwealth troops.
They were not popular, being excessively stiff, and too tight - such
that it was difficult to insert and remove the pistol, or even to
secure the flap over the pistol. Made by "Z. L. & T. Ltd."; this
example is dated 1944. Photo by Grant Rombough.
- Second Pattern Web Hoslter for Inglis Pistol
Canadian-designed "Type F" or "No. 2" holster
for Inglis semi-automatic pistol. Double flap closure, and also has
internal compartments for cleaning rod and spare magazine. Manufactured
by "Z. L. & T. Ltd."; this example is dated 1945. Photo by Grant
- Respirator Case
service respirator at the start of the Second World War had
changed little from that worn in 1918. The large rubberized mask
was connected to a filter by means of a rubberized hose; both
were carried in a canvas satchel. This respirator case could be
worn in the "alert" position on the upper chest, or slung over
Personnel entering a gas
chamber during a training exercise, No.2 Canadian Women’s
Army Corps (C.W.A.C.) (Basic) Training Centre, Vermilion,
Alberta, Canada, July 1943. The early pattern box respirator
is being worn. LAC Photo
In 1943, a "Light
Respirator" was introduced, with a filter integral to the face
mask. A much smaller respirator case, also in canvas, was
introduced. The case measured 9-3/4 inches by 5-1/4 inches by 5
inches and was suspended on a narrow web strap over the hip. By
1943, very often the light respirator was left with unit
transport as the threat of enemy gas attacks was deemed low.
- Utility Pouches
The utility pouches were designed to carry additional ammunition for platoon weapons or the Bren Gun.
Similar to the Basic pouches, the Utility Pouches were larger and not
generally attached directly to the webbing set, consisting of two
pouches, a neck yoke, and a long waist strap. Photo at right by Ed
Storey shows typical contents, including also grenades, the water
bottle, or magazines for the Boys Anti-Tank Rifle.
Below are reconstruction photos of the Utility Pouches; these
could be worn on the soldier's front or front and rear. They could also
be worn attached to the sides of the haversack. These pouches were
originally designed to be carried in unit transport and slung over the
other equipment just prior to going into action. They could carry 3
Bren magazines, two Boyes ATR magazines, or three 2-inch mortar bombs.
Like the Basic Pouches, loops were provided in some versions of
the Utility Pouches for ballistite cartridges. Photos at bottom by Ed
- Water Bottle Carrier
Attached to the brace ends to carry either the standard water
bottle, or for field use sometimes the mess tins were carried in a
spare water bottle carrier as well. There were two types of carrier,
the skeleton style (photographs below by Ed Storey), and the sleeve
style, though Canada only produced the first type.
- Wire Cutter Frog
There were several different "sets" of webbing depending on the wearer's duties.
- Set with Basic Pouches for infantry
- Set with cartridge carriers (rifle armed personnel except infantry)
- Set for Officers and certain Warrant Officers and NCOs
- Set for personnel armed with pistol only
- Set for Royal (Canadian) Armoured Corps and Royal (Canadian) Corps of Signals personnel employed with those units
Orders of Wear
There were four basic orders of wear for WE '37; a fifth was developed unofficially in the field.
Drill order, consisting of belt and side arms (bayonet, or pistol
for officers) was used on special parades and duties in camp/barracks.
Jack Summers noted in The Tangled Web
that "This order has come to be associated with ceremonial parades and
duties, but in wartime many ceremonial parades...were performed in
battle order with respirators at the alert!"
|Skeleton order, consisting of belt, braces and basic pouches (or
cartridge carriers for those issued them in lieu), was used for
training parades, drill and duties under arms.
Battle Order, as originally conceived, was designed so as not to
have anything hanging below the waistbelt; the water bottle was to be
carried in the haversack.
In reality, the haversack was usually filled to capacity,
leaving no room for the water bottle. It, and the entrenching tool were
usually suspended below the waisbelt on the brace ends.
Full Marching Order
Full Marching Order was
the complete issue of web equipment, with the addition of the large
large pack, usually worn when a unit was moving one location for another
permanently. The haversack was worn on the left and the water bottle on
the right with the respirator slung. Spare kit was carried in the
soldier's kit bag, though often the kit bag was transported as baggage.
wearing the web equipment began to evolve while the Canadians
trained in England, as Battle Drill put men and gear through
increasingly more challenging situations. In Sicily, however,
contacts with battle experienced soldiers of the British 8th
Army led to quick revisions in how best to carry equipment in
action, leading to the adoption of "Fighting Order." The small
pack, or haversack, was quickly discarded due to its distinctive
outline and the mess tins were instead added to a water-bottle
carrier, and worn suspended from the brace-ends, in a spare
water bottle carrier, on the left side of the waistbelt,
opposite the water bottle. The gas cape was used to wrap spare
clothing, rations and kit, then tied to the back of the
waistbelt with spare blanket straps.
Troops of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment at Ortona, December 1943, wearing Fighting Order.
- Storey, Ed. "Pattern No. 3 Entrenching Tool." Article in Military Artifact, No. 3 Mk III. (Service Publications, 1998).
- Cameron, John. "Modification of the WE '37 Entrenching Tool Carrier." Article in Military Artifact, No. 1 Mk II. (Service Publications, 1996).
- Martin, Charles C. Battle Diary (1994).
- Brayley, Martin J. British Web
Equipment of the Two World Wars (The Crowood Press Ltd.,
Wiltshire, UK, 2005) ISBN 1-86126-743-6
- Storey, Ed
37 Web (Service
Publications, Nepean, ON, 2003) ISBN 978-1894581097
- Summers, Jack L. Tangled Web:
Canadian Infantry Accoutrements 1855-1985 (Canadian War
Museum, Ottawa, ON, 1992) ISBN 0-919316-97-2