EQUIPMENT OF BRITISH AIRBORNE FORCES IN WWII

NOTE - This page does not purport to be an all-inclusive list of the different variations and web gear that were worn by British paratroopers during World War II.  It is designed as tool for new recruits and members to research in order to be more acquainted with the uniforms they must wear as a member of the 1st Airborne Division L.H.A.


BRITISH 1937 PATTERN WEB GEAR

        The main item of the webbing equipment was the waist belt (1), provided with a brass patent clasp buckle, two runners or slides and two rectangular buckles at the back to which the braces fastened. The latter were attached on the front onto the buckles of the basic pouches (2), which in turn were attached onto the waist belt by means of hooks that slide in the beltís inner hoops. When the pouches were not worn, the front ends of the braces were fastened on the buckle with special straps which were pinned in the loops of the waist belt.  The braces, once fastened to the waist belt were attached to the Entrenching Tool (4) and the Water Bottle (3).

P37 web gear P-37 web gear

1.  Waist belt
1a.  Haversack straps
2.  Basic pouches
3.  2-Pint water bottle and carrier (Skeleton carrier illustrated)
4.  Entrenching tool and carrier (late model illustrated)
5.  Haversack with ground sheet
6.  Enamelled mug
7.  Respirator
8.  No. 4 Enfield spike bayonet

        The water bottle (3), the case of the entrenching tool (4) and the haversack (5) were provided with a pair of short straps ending with a buckle for fastening on the ends of the braces. The water bottle was intended to be placed in the haversack, but by late in the war, it was usually suspended in a framework of straps or in a special web sleeve. The entrenching tool was made up of the blade, carried inside the case, and the handle carried outside.

        The spike bayonet (8) could be fitted on the narrow end of the handle thus providing a mine-prodding tool. The haversack (small pack) was usually worn on the back by means of two L-shaped braces (1a) which were hooked on the buckles of the basic pouches.

        The entrenching tool was then usually attached to the ends of the L-braces, below the haversack. The same braces were then used to support the valise, or large pack although this was rarely seen in combat.

        The spike bayonet (hidden in the above illustration under the Entrenching Tool) matched the rifle No. 4 Mk. I. Sometimes the frog from the SMLE No. 1 (*) was used in favour of the frog for the No. 4. The gas mask or respirator (7) could be worn on a strap or attached to the belt. If worn on the strap, the string tied across the back to prevent the case from dangling loosely.

Here are some illustrations of a fully equipped paratrooper

British paratrooper

British airborne sniper

Here is a paratrooper in full Battle Order taking a rest.  He is wearing the traditional maroon beret and has his airborne helmet slung onto his web gear.  He also has two issued cotton bandoleers of .303 ammunition for his Enfield rifle that is slung over his right shoulder.

 

 

Here is an airborne sniper with his No. 4 Mk. I(T) sniper rifle.  His has elected to wear the full airborne Battle Order in lieu of the handmade sniper suit.  Notice the FS dagger worn on a frog next to the standard Spike Bayonet and how he has the Toggle Rope slung around his shoulders, neck and lower back.

Equipment and Weapons carried by Parachutists

Rifleman

Bren LMG No. 1

1 No. 4 Enfield Rifle 1 Bren LMG
1 Respirator 1 Kit bag for LMG
2 Basic Pouches with 2 Bren magazines each 1 Respirator
1 Bayonet and frog 2 Basic Pouches with 2 Bren magazines each
2 Grenades in Denison Smock pockets 1 FS Dagger
1 Toggle Rope 1 Revolver or pistol with ammo pouch
1 FS Dagger 2 Grenades
1 Haversack, 1 water bottle 1 Toggle Rope
1 Entrenching Tool with carrier 1 Haversack, 1 water bottle
1 General Service shovel or pick 1 Entrenching Tool with carrier

Corporal, Section Leader

Contents of Haversack

1 Sten Mk. V 1 Pair grey wool socks
1 Respirator 1 White hand towel
1 Magazine Pouch with 7 Sten magazines 1 Water bottle (spare)
2 Grenades 1 Mess tin
1 FS Dagger 1 Ground sheet
1 Toggle Rope 2 Packs of 24-hour rations
1 Haversack, 1 water bottle 1 Emergency ration tin
1 Entrenching Tool with carrier 1 Collapsible stove
1 General Service shovel or pick 1 Tin of fuel blocks
1 Tin of water purification tablets

Various Equipment Illustrations

entrenching tool and carrier

General Service shovel and pick

toggle rope

Gas mask  FS Dagger

British mess tin and mug



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