WESTERN ATLANTIC BLUE

1919 SETS

The 1908 pattern showed the way forward for webbing sets so at the conclusion of the Great War a new pattern of canvas sets was contracted from Mills for both rifles and revolvers for the Royal Navy, due to severe financial constraints procurement was very slow leading to at least one re-issue of the 1901 revolver sets and due to the availability of surplus 1908 rifle sets the 1919 pattern production concentrated on the revolver sets so the intended 1919 rifle sets were never needed, circumstances curtailed the use of this fine pattern firstly through lack of funds (hence the scarcity of prewar dated examples) and then through the adoption of the 1937 pattern as the standard WW2 tri-service webbing.

The number four Chief Petty Officer uniform below represents a Master at Arms with early 1930s style half closed leaf cap badge and double breasted rough serge suit dated 1940 and in an exceptionally large size, full marching rig is worn with a long variant early holster.

The Master at Arms in this series wears the number ten whites and carries the early variant short holster, he has a Naval badge sewn onto an Army Warrant Officers wrist strap which was a non standard way of displaying his role, surprisingly dress regulations permitted the use of gold wire badges on tropical uniforms, the shorts are wartime with a 1950s shirt identical to the 1935 type, officers and C.P.O.s wore white socks and all other ratings wore black socks.

The MAA below has the long variant late holster with early 1940s red badges, this C.P.O. uniform type originated in 1921 and the first cap badge had a weedy loose leaf ring which gave way to a closed leaf style by the late 1920s but had opened up again by the mid 1930s, by 1938 the rough serge jacket was being supplanted by the more modern looking smooth diagonal serge type, the jacket displayed here is another rough serge type with a very late date (1946) pictorial evidence suggests that by the 1940s only the belt order webbing was normally worn.

For this final sequence the tri-service khaki drill uniform found late in WW2 in the far east is worn, badge this time is tropical and a short variant late holster is shown, cap badge is a late war vee type and a khaki cap cover is worn.

The iconic Webley .455 mark 6 had a six inch barrel and over 100,000 were built from 1915, the previous mark 5 manufactured from 1913 (20,000 made) was similar but had a rounded handle known as the bird beak type, almost all of the mark 6s were refurbished prior to WW2 with most receiving new barrels, Maria Von Trapp knew that Webley ammo also came in "brown paper packages tied up with string" like the twelve round boxes the six round packs had their date of packaging prominently displayed so the legend on the top left pack tells us it was packed on 5th June 1918, a new copper nosed mark 6 round was introduced in 1939.

By 1937 the number of weapons held in ships armouries were :

Battleship = 200 rifles and 140 revolvers for 10 platoons.

Large Cruiser = 120 rifles and 84 revolvers for 6 platoons.

light Cruiser = 80 rifles and 56 revolvers for 4 platoons.

Destroyer = 20 rifles and 14 revolvers for 1 platoon.

From late 1942 a quarter of all rifles were to be replaced by Lanchester sub machine guns, just how many ships managed to attain these Admiralty numbers is open to question.

In 1936 on the day after Trafalgar Day the cutlass was officially retired to ceremonial duties, it was a serious offence for any rating to draw a cutlass in the presence of a commissioned officer, the verisimilitude of cutlass use in the Altmarck incident has been questioned and its provenance is now in doubt so the last use at sea of a cutlass in anger remains a hotly debated subject.

Throughout the 1920s and 30s the Master at Arms was unique amongst C.P.O.s in wearing the frock coat uniform for ceremonial parades combined with an officer patterned dress sword that differed by having a dark ray-skin handle, this was due to his role of preceding the officers by several yards to check that no drunken or mutinous sailors were lined up ahead, with the outbreak of WW2 all royal parades were suspended due to the threat of air attack so sadly the very fine MAA frock coat disappeared never to return, for Sunday parades the wartime MAA switched to a gold badged number one uniform with a cutlass and white blancoed webbing, from 1938 and throughout WW2 ratings were permitted to wear gold badges on weekend or long leaves as well as the Sunday parades.

The first model holster had a wooden plug base with central drain hole secured by four upholstery nails, there were long and short versions of both early and late model holsters for long or short barreled Webleys, some suggest this was merely a manufacturing fault but the precise uniformity of the length difference indicates that it was most definitely intended for if it was just sloppy quality control then we should see a variation in lengths, of the 3 early models in my collection 2 are short and of the 5 late web plug models 2 are short but about a third short overall of both models seems likely, although the later web plug model was in production for just six years (1934 to 1940) the number produced in its final year makes it by far the most numerous model, a top brass hook was never fitted and the popper was never moved.

Naval webbing issued from stores or stone frigates was never ever green blancoed, but the Royal Marines were using green Blanco from the 1930s, the coloured items shown on this page in KG3 and 103 are for reference only.

The wide ammunition pouch had an early modification when an internal fabric strip was added to secure its contents, this pouch could stow two 12 round ammo boxes or six 6 round paper packs, always worn opposite the holster it never had lower hook attachments.

The cutlass frog looked similar to the 1908 bayonet frog but was marginally wider and shorter, cutlass, revolver and haversack were all worn on the left which caused a very pronounced downward pull that even a full water bottle could not compensate.

The marvelous three piece belt came with fitment tubes around its whole length and featured brass ends to its central part, this belt was much loved by C.P.O.s as it was so difficult to polish.

The swing gate brace adaptors joined the shoulder straps (braces) to the belt with the early model having a rather pleasing brass ring which it must be said was an awkwardly tight fit for a brace tab to go through, from 1930 a square opening replaced the ring, early dated squared adaptors have an "N" stamp but the 1940 dated utility stamped examples are the only 1919 items that are impossible to distinguish from the 1937 webbing of that year unless they have an "N" stamp on the brass (1937 braces have "long" or "normal" stamped on them).

1919 mki adaptors1919 brace adaptor stamp1919 brace adaptors mkii

The 1919 braces only ever came in one length and were a set with the top brace having a fabric retaining strip through which the lower brace passed, this X arrangement strengthened the load carrying capacity.

The standard blue enameled water bottle was carried in a skeleton canvas carrier which never had a version that attached to the rear of a haversack, the 4 inch long buckle side straps were much longer than the later Canadian 1937 pattern version.

1919 bottle harness

The Great War vintage dee-shaped mess tin set was stowed in a canvas carrier which strapped to the rear of the rucksack, from 1922 the buckle was moved aft so that the carrier coud be opened whilst still on the pack, the connecting strap was far too long which made for much clunking on the march.

The handsome little haversack is roughly triangular in shape and was worn on the left with the cutlass inboard, this pack has no internal dividers and can be worn on the back utilizing its rear strap which goes over the X of the braces and connects to its end buckle to prevent the pack from sliding down, two straps normally stowed beneath the pack go around themselves over the brace adaptors which hold them up before returning under arm to connect to buckles underneath the pack, having a 46 inch chest it has never been possible for me to deploy these straps as they are too short by an embarrassingly large margin.

HAVERSACK CONTENTS

(as per 1932 regulations)

knife - fork - spoon - brush - comb - toothbrush - soap - towel (hand) - socks (pair) - boot cleaning kit - latrine paper - 1lb. of preserved meat / 1lb. of biscuits (or pasties or sandwiches in place of both).

Like the haversack the rucksack was first produced with half open buckles which soon changed to a closed design, the very rare early type being much sought after by collectors, this fine pack features many straps, two for the front flap, two for the mess tin carrier, five for an outside blanket, two L-straps and a key strap underneath to secure the pack to the belt, this all makes for an awful lot of brass to polish and as the mess tin set is mounted on the rear any helmet carried had to be slung over the water bottle on the side, I have always found this pack surprisingly comfortable to wear and after a while you forget it is there which is fine away from doorways.

RUCKSACK CONTENTS

(as per 1932 regulations)

Spare suit - overalls - oilskins - spare boots (pair) - flannel - drawers (pair) - socks (two pairs) - towel (large) - housewife* - comforter** (winter only) - woolen gloves (pair)(winter only) - jersey (class 3 ratings) - or four white collars (C.P.O.s and P.O.s) - jean collar (class 3 ratings) - or two white shirts (C.P.O.s and P.O.s) - two black ties (C.P.O.s and P.O.s only) - 5/6oz. tea and 2oz. of sugar stowed in paper packets in mess tin set on rear of rucksack.

Modern notes * was a sewing kit not a real woman and ** was a wooly hat.

Only the haversacks and rucksacks made in 1924 had their year of production engraved into their brass tabs by the manufacturer, more difficult to decipher is the seemingly random Naval application of "N"s and arrows over a number of years stamped or engraved onto their brasswork.

 

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