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Phillosoph

Soft-Core Pack: Military Version

The battle order suggested in the previous blog raises an interesting question: How does the soldier carry his poncho? Items such as bayonets and ammunition have obvious places on the webbing. Not only must a poncho be carried when not worn, but it must be protected from unnecessary damage.
The official solution was most probably to carry the poncho in the butt-pack. As I have discussed in previous posts, there are objections to using a butt-pack or similar. Its capacity is a temptation to carry extra gear. Its position makes it hard to easily access and it is inconvenient if sitting in a vehicle for any time.

Military Soft-Core Bag

In a previous post I described my “soft-core bag”. This idea can easily be adapted to military applications. The military version of the soft-core bag would actually be lighter than my version. Items such as the fire-kit, first aid kit and sweets can be omitted, since these roles will already be met by items carried on the soldier’s webbing or person. For the same reason, the water-bottle can be omitted unless operating in particularly arid conditions.

Contents

What should the military soft-core bag contain?
• A poncho. This should ride at the top of the bag for easy access.
• Accessory clothing items such as warm hats, gloves, spare socks, bananas, shemagh. Many outdoor coats lack sufficient pocket space to carry such items, and you may need your pockets for more tactical items. The soft-core bag is a practical solution. Wrap in plastic bags to waterproof them.
• A spare shirt, jumper, jacket or liner. Useful if the temperature drops or you reduce your actively level. Wrap in plastic bags to waterproof them.
• Toilet roll in waterproof bag. As well as the intended use, good for fire starting.
• Items such as cordage and space blankets are optional for the military soft-core pack. You may decide these are better carried in your trouser or shirt/jacket pockets.
• A “non-soft” item of equipment that might be carried in your soft-pack are your goggles. These can get in the way if you are not wearing them. When not in use they need to be covered for camouflage purposes. Stowing them in your soft-core bag is a very practical solution. Place them in the middle of clothing to provide padding and protection.

Carrying Bag

Like the other version, the military soft-core bag fits in a simple draw-cord bag. This is stowed in the top of your rucksack so the poncho or other contents can easily be accessed if needed. When you stow your rucksack you pull out the soft-core pack and wear it as part of your battle-order. When seated in a vehicle the soft-core pack should act as additional padding for your back.

Camouflage

Ideally, your draw-cord bag should be of an effective camouflage pattern. A grey-beige-brown scheme may be more versatile than the green-dominant examples shown in the photos. Sewing some textilage to the outer side is a good idea too. If you cannot get a camouflaged example, a suitably neutral-coloured bag can be camouflaged with a few passes of spray paint. Making a camouflage draw-cord bag will be within most reader’s capabilities. Note that the bags shown have carrying cords created by taking the cord down to eyelets at the bottom corners. If your bag lacks these, they can easily be added. Dark or unsuitably coloured cords are easily replaced with something such as “desert-camo” paracord.
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Phillosoph

Bandoliers for Budget Burdens

This interesting photo is from the Osprey publication, “Armies of the Vietnam War 1962-1975”.
Caption for the photo reads:US soldiers with Bandoliers

Soldiers of the 196th Light Inf.Bde., Americal Div., examine a VC cache near Chu Lai in December 1970. The abbreviated rifleman's equipment is typical of short-range operations at this period. Bandoliers are used to carry both magazines and grenades, and spare M-60 belt is looped around the riflemen's waists. The two XM203 grenadiers at the right wear the special grenadier's ammo vest; the man at far right also carries his rifle magazines in a spare canteen carrier, and ration toilet paper packs in his helmet band. Third from right has a Kabar knife sheathed in his trouser cargo pocket, and fourth from right has a civilian hunting knife on his belt.

A lot going on in that photo. The bandoliers used to replace, rather than supplement, the issue “ammo case” [pouch] are of particular note.
A previous blogpost discussed stripper clips or chargers. In this photo the bandoliers are being used to carry grenades and 20-round magazines.
More recent examples of bandolier can also accommodate 30-round magazines. In the photo below, a light-coloured thread is visible. Removing the thread makes each pouch deep enough to carry a 30-round magazine rather than a pair of stripper clips.
Bandolier with pull threadM16 Bandiolier
If you shoot 7.62 x 51mm (or 6.5mm Creedmore) you needn’t feel left out. Below is an Australian bandolier intended for use with the SLR/FAL.

Aussie Bandolier for SLR

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Phillosoph

The Brooksbank Carrying System

I have talked about using Claymore mine bags to carry ammunition on a number of instances. I was therefore intrigued by this idea from 1943, called the “Brooksbank” method. All credit to Karkee Web for the images and information:

(a) The gas cape folded flat, about 10 in by 12 in, is put on first in the normal manner.

(b) The small pack is slung over the right shoulder and the two valise straps fastened (firmly but not tightly) over the stomach with the bayonet and frog on the right hand side, slung on the valise strap.

(c) The respirator is put on in the reverse alert position, i.e., the haversack goes on the back resting on the gas cape with the sling (shortened as far as possible) on the chest, with a piece of tape on each lower " D " on the haversack coming round to the front and with the left tape underneath the brace, through the sling, fastening on the right with a slip knot. (The right tape therefore will be only approximately 4 in to 6 in in length).

Commentary

Some clarification is in order. The “gas cape” or “anti-gas cape” was a protective garment against chemical warfare agents such as mustard gas. It actually resembled a long, sleeved coat rather than a cape. The model in use in 1943 was provided with long tapes so that the rolled garment could be carried across the back of the shoulders. No webbing was needed to carry the cape in this fashion. In the figure on the reader’s right in figure 1 the tapes of the cape can be made up coming up from under the soldier’s armpits and disappearing behind his neck. The cape could be quickly unrolled down the back and put on without unfastening the tapes. An excellent source of information on these items can be found on this video.
What is possibly not made clear is that the small pack would spend most of its time across the small of the back, and would only be pulled around the side when ammunition or other items were wanted. A photo of how just the pack would be worn is shown on this page.
The Brooksbank method was supposed to save weight. While it does away with the ammo pouches, belt and water-bottle carrier, the soldier still carries his standard haversack contents, plus finding some room inside for carrying individual and squad ammunition. Although called a haversack, not many of the recommended contents of the 37 pattern small pack were actual clothing. The interior was divided into two compartments, the forward one bisected by an additional divider. One forward pocket held the soldier’s pair of mess-tins, the other a water-bottle. Carried in the main compartment was a groundsheet, towel, soap, pair of spare spare socks, cutlery and possibly an emergency ration and cardigan. Below is a photo of a typical British infantryman’s small pack contents, taken from “British Army Handbook 1939-45” by George Forty.
Many of these items should probably have been left with the truck rather than being carried into combat. I recently read a 1940s manual on street-fighting and soldiers were told not to bring their haversacks into action. Urban environments had plenty of shelter so groundsheets and gas capes were not needed. Haversack items that might prove useful could probably be carried by other means.
The groundsheet carried at this time is of interest, since this would probably be of some variety of MkVII, and was designed to also act as the soldier’s rain protection. The gas cape was supposed to be reserved for the event of chemical warfare, but in practice might be used as a raincoat.
Many years ago, I travelled down Italy, my belongings packed in a sports bag. At one town I had to walk longer and further than usual to located accommodation. Even though I could swap over the shoulder I carried the bag on the uneven weight caused me to sprain one ankle, resulting in a rather painful couple of days. Since then I have always used rucksacs. I don’t know if that would have been a problem with the Brooksbank method, but do feel more though should have been given to what was carried, as well as how.