1908 SETS

The 1908 rifle sets were produced in vast numbers during the Great War becoming the standard British Army infantry set but their only WW1 Naval use was by the land based khaki clad Royal Naval Division later in the conflict, the R.N.D. force sent to defend Antwerp in 1914 wore blues and Victorian/1901 webbing, post 1920 the 1908 set entered full Naval use with surplus Army stocks equipping the Royal Navy throughout the 1920s and 30s and well into WW2.

The Master at Arms was the ships policeman and the only member of the crew to freely roam the ship in pursuit of his duties, they were normally only present on capital ships and cruisers with Regulating Petty officers performing the same role on destroyers and submarines, Coxswains did the job on corvettes and smaller vessels, the rig seen below is full marching order.

The double breasted serge jacket was worn by C.P.O.s from 1921, the closed leaf style cap badge was first seen in the late 1920s, all ratings wore a white cap cover throughout the summer months until 1940, the three versions of marching order without pack are shown.

The Short Magazine Lee Enfield .303 rifle was very robust and could produce a high rate of fire due to its easy loading arrangement, mark 7 rounds were standard issue from 1910 until 1955, the 1907 pattern bayonets were used.

1908 smle right

The top heavy ammunition pouches could each carry three 5 round stripper clips of .303 inch bullets for a total of 150 rounds per set, each pocket had two internal fabric dividers to form three sections, the upper popper was used when three clips were carried and the lower popper used when only one or two clips were stowed, the top pockets were sometimes known to empty themselves, the heaviest set by far when loaded up this robust pattern is somewhat over-engineered and you feel that you are covered in webbing when it is worn.

The main drawback of the wide belt was its awkward closure, although normally crossed at the rear the chunky braces had no retaining sleeve to hold them in place.

Three types of ex Army haversack/water bottle carrier sets were supplied to the Royal Navy, the oldest water bottle carrier had a rear mounted popper that located onto a stud on the haversack front, it also had a long rear strap to fasten onto the haversack top buckle, the brass tabs had no rivets.

The second set deleted the poppers and simplified the water bottle carrier frame, the rear strap went through a fabric strip on the haversack flap before joining the top buckle and the haversack lower strap buckles moved aft.

The third set deleted the top buckles and fabric strips entirely, for this version a single separate utility strap of the kind seen on the big pack was used, this went behind the downward flap straps of the haversack and laced through the water bottle carrier frame to secure to its own buckle.

The spacious big pack was hard to improve on so the design was repeated for the later 1937 pattern webbing, both could stow a helmet on the rear using utility straps that could also be deployed to carrying straps to wear the pack separately, the packs running up brass sliders on the braces were difficult to adjust.

The frog for the 1907 pattern bayonet had an extra strap added below for an e-tool helve carrier to buckle on to.

Termed an intrenchment tool in Navy speak so we should really call it an i-tool the wooden helve was carried alongside the bayonet whilst the shovel head carrier was worn opposite or at the rear.

Surplus unissued 1908 pattern items originally intended for Army use and already cleared for service were N stamped at receiving Naval stores so 08 pieces with an N mark were not necessarily made to an Admiralty contract.


Produced from 1914 by the Birmingham Small Arms factory (BSA) over 145,000 examples were made entering service in late 1915, the pan magazine held 47 rounds of .303 inch bullets joined later by a double depth 97 round drum, post WW1 surplus examples equipped the Royal Navy becoming the standard Naval party section machine gun from 1920 until 1946, this weapon also went to sea in large numbers in single, twin and (rarely) quad mountings on a wide range of ships and craft, twin mountings were still being fitted to newly commissioned motor torpedo boats in 1943.


The Naval two man Lewis gun team rose to three for anti-aircraft work with the gunner and loader being joined by a spotter who had to lug the heavy AA tripod mount around, prewar Lewis gun teams usually wore Webley revolvers on 1919 webbing and carried the ammunition in the eight drum tin box or the 1915 vintage four drum webbing buckets.

The twin drum pouches were first seen in 1917, four pouches could buckle together around the body to form a nice vest of webbing, as the Army re-equipped with the Bren spare Lewis guns went into storage only to be refurbished and re-issued after Dunkirk to Home Guard units and home Naval bases, newly made pouches were issued but seem to have been seldom used by the Navy, examples with a large solitary U stamp were made for South Africa who subsequently began their own production in 1941, very similar Vickers K gun pouches with 1937 pattern belt fittings were used by Commandos.

1908 lewis pouches front 1908 lewis pouches rear