Mills Equipment: The Original World Wide Web!


fifty yearsReaders will have noted our wider title, British and Empire Accoutrements and may therefore have puzzled over the presence of Spanish Cavalry webbing, for one. The reason is simple - it allowed a wider historical context for the subject of Cavalry W.E.s.

The very interesting photographs of French items from Simon Braillon, now transferred from Contributor’s Collections, plus new photographs from Eric Baradon, have prompted a re-think on what KW’s standpoint should be. In point of fact, we have received numbers of photographs of “foreign” items, but Simon’s particularly captured the imagination. Simply put – we had no idea of the existence of a French pattern, after Mills-Bruzon webbing had been rejected. It was therefore too good not to include.

wantedTaking a more liberal view, who are we to deny the many Non-Empire countries their place in the sun - a sun that once never set on the Empire and its various accoutrements?! To deny the existence, of those unfortunate enough to have resided outside the Empire, would be cruel indeed and unfair. These countries include one recently termed The Senior Partner, to the U.K.’s Junior Partner status, this by the present incumbent Prime Minister, who could not even get the date right (stating it was 1940), for the U.S. entry into the Second World War. How The Great Man, Churchill, might have fulminated against this grievous lack of an historical education. They also include one, France, over much of which England once ruled, in the days long before Empire!

Those with an education, in advance of the U.K. Prime Minister, might also recall a time when the islands of Britain were once ruled by Vikings from Denmark, whose territory later included Norway. That country’s first and democratically chosen King was a Danish Prince, moreover one married to an English Princess. Looking even further back, Albion (but not Hibernia) was part of the Roman Empire, or Italy as we call it today. When Royal marriages, particularly those of Queen Victoria’s children, are taken into account, the spiders’ web of connections, across Europe, are extensive. Some time after the Romans left, the Normans conquered the island of Britain – and we’re back to the Vikings again, the Normans being Norse-men, who had settled in Normandy!

Britain’s friends include its oldest historical ally, Portugal. The one-time Queen of Spain was a grand daughter of Queen Victoria and a daughter of Victoria married the Kaiser of Germany and so it goes on. In short, KW’s coverage of Britain and the Empire could usefully include other “associated” countries, just as we have Associated Equipment, under some of our coverage of equipments with a Pattern Year.

The technical justification is more simple – the U.K., in the form of the Mills Equipment Company, supplied 52 countries. Of these, Great Britain and the Empire, plus Egypt, totalled just 10 countries, meaning 42 were nothing whatsoever to do with the Empire. It is a tribute to the marketing effort of the first Managing Director, William P. Wise, that so many countries purchased Mills’ webbing products, some continuing to do so in later years.

Anxious to prove their mettle, Mills’ early years were spent offering exactly what these countries wanted, resulting in a huge variety of products, many un-described and even more completely un-identified. In the years after 1945, it was Pattern 1937 W.E. that was the most common, but there were countries who demanded tweaks even to this, resulting in some interesting derivatives – Israel’s for one. After M.E.Co.’s Golden Jubilee, in 1956, their grasp on world markets slipped somewhat, the Senior Partner having assumed the duties of Supplier to the World. However, even today, a Danish correspondent has informed KW that their current Personal Load Carriage Equipment is the U.K.’s Pattern 1990.

peruThere is no intention to stray outside the confines of webbing equipment, where these are clearly of U.K. origin, or U.K. influence. You’re also going to have to click on a one-liner to obtain access, so the purists amongst you need not feel we have completely betrayed our original Mission Statement, which will remain our Core Business, to borrow the modern business term, so beloved of industry’s Managers.

Lighten up – you’ll be amazed at patterns used by such as Afghanistan, Brazil and Siam (or Peru, as shown in the picture at right, taken from the Mills Golden Jubilee booklet). In the case of Holland, they were in at the dawn of web equipment – before the invention of Patt. ’08 W.E. Coverage of these countries is thin to non-existent – who better than Karkee Web to shine the Torch of Knowledge into these dark corners? It will be to better understand the more complete process of Mills’ designs down the years. It will be by no means an easy journey, since Lethern gave either no, or scant coverage to these designs. However, it will be a Worthwhile Journey and one in which you, the reader, may have much to contribute.