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'58 pattern

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1958 ('58) Pattern webbing was introduced in, you guessed it, 1960*, to replace the old '37 pattern ('44 pattern had been designed as 'tropical' issue, though it later had wider use). The '37 Pattern webbing had been designed in line with a British War Office policy of keeping the bulk of the soldier's load above waist level: the Battle Dress (BD) blouse and high-set ammo pouches were examples of this policy. The Korean War influenced a rethinking of this ergonomic approach: BD was replaced by combat kit in olive-green cotton, with full-skirted drawstring jacket. The new uniform (1960 Pattern, or '60 pattern) came with a new set of webbing equipment.

The standard '58 Pattern webbing set, made of dark green tightly-woven cotton, included a belt; left and right ammunition pouches, each of which could hold two SLR magazines (the left pouch also incorporated loops for a bayonet scabbard, the right a small attached pouch for an Energa grenade); water bottle pouch with plastic water bottle and cup; one pair of kidney pouches (two linked pouches); a poncho or 'bum' roll; a yoke, to spread the load over the shoulders; and last - but by no means least - the large pack. The poncho roll held a waterproof poncho, which made a reasonable basha, and many people obtained a second roll for their NBC suit.

There were several other, non-general, items in the '58 Pattern range, including load straps, compass pouch, binocular pouch, pistol holster for the Browning High Power pistol, an altimeter case and SLR butt pouch.

As a practical way to carry your shit around, it wasn't so bad. The main drawback was that when wet, the pouches shrank, whilst the little webbing tabs which secured everything would expand and become impossible to thread into the metal securing loops.

The large pack, however, was an abomination, sent by Mephistopheles himself to torture the human race for something or other. In the first place, it wasn't particularly large, having the carrying capacity of a decent sized supermarket shopping bag. Secondly, it wasn't remotely waterproof or even water resistant. And thirdly, it attached to the yoke of the webbing via four poxy straps with hooks on the end, rather than having its own shoulder straps.

Typically, the young Recruit or RMAS Cadet was obliged by training unit SOPs to carry virtually their entire 1157 around on exercise, crammed into the large pack, inside a black bin liner, with their Sleeping Bag, steel helmet, digging tool (either a shovel or a pick) and sleeping mat attached to the outside, like some thieving vagabond gypsy.

Oh yes, and because they were trainees, recruits and RMAS Cadets weren't allowed a second bum roll, so their NBC suit had to go in the large pack as well, and thus would be the only thing removed from it during the course of the entire exercise.

A nylon version of the '58 Pattern was attempted in the '70s and trailed as the '72 pattern but was rejected as the material used made the webbing fall out of adjustment when placed under stress.

Still, it made us the men we are today.

(* Sources;

British Post-War Jungle Webbing, (Europa Militaria No 34) Simon Howlett, pub The Crowood Press, ISBN 978 1 84797 086 2

Modern British Webbing Equipment, (Europa Militaria No 35) Simon Howlett, pub The Crowood Press, ISBN 978 1 84797 140 1