Web Equipment for Officers (R.A.F.)

Belts, Braces, & Straps

The R.A.F. W.E.O. was not simply the Army pattern made in blue-grey, as it was only intended as a means of carrying side-arms, not as a full field equipment. It therefore incorporated features unique to this one pattern, which had not been seen before and which were never used again. There was never a blue-grey Rucksack, although curious provision was made for a Sword frog, despite there being no evidence that the R.A.F. ever introduced a web Frog. In the R.F.C. - an Army corps - there appears to have been a reluctance to conduct air-to-air combat with swords. In consequence, for the R.A.F., the sword was very much a ceremonial item! Aside from officers in the Levies, who used a Sam Browne Belt, the attractive eagle pommel R.A.F. sword was only ever worn on slings, carried on a decorative waist belt. All components were in “fine-weave” webbing.


Attachments, brace

ba 1 frontba 1 rearba cat 2These were identical to the Army pattern, but had the added refinement of a web runner below the brass loop on the Brace attachment. The lower part of the gateleg buckle incorporated a brass dee, for the attachment of the Haversack and Water bottle carrier. With no Rucksack, there was strictly no need for a Buckle, brass, 1-inch, with loop. Although no documentation exists on this point, the Patt. ’25 W.E. Two-Part Rucksack could have been attached. As was their practice, Mills originally incorporated a round brass loop, which divided the Attachment. In other patterns, this was essential, working in conjunction with superimposed Compass pockets, or Ammunition pouches, which both had a transverse web loop on their reverse faces, aligned with the brass loop (see detail at right, taken from a 1919 dated Mills Web Officers' Equipment catalogue). These were never made for W.E.O. (R.A.F.), and Mills could have “lean manufactured” the Attachments accordingly. Perhaps they held out hope that the R.A.F. would expand the range of add-ons? The only use was to pass the already-short Brace ends behind the Attachment, where it was tidied away into the loose web runner. It could just have easily have been left on the outward face of the Attachment. The example shown here is maker marked M.E. Co., but undated. From the Graham Tweeddale Collection, photographs © Graham Tweeddale 2010.


ba frontba rearThe pair show here are the later type, incorporating a square brass link in place of the loop. No documentation is known detailing when this change took place, but based on the equivalent List of Changes entry for W.E. Patt. '19, it would have been c. 1928-1930. This pair of Brace attachments are maker marked M.E. Co., but are undated. From the Karkee Web Collection.





Belt, waist

belt 1 outbelt 1 inThis being a back-adjustment design, utilising “flat-loop” belting, the belt was in three sections, comprising Pieces, side, left & right and a Strap, back-adjustment though these nomenclatures were not used. Three sizes were offered, Small 29 – 33 in., Medium 34 – 37 in. and Large 38 – 45 in. A.M.W.O. 284/1926 also stated that sizes smaller and larger than these could be specially provided. A.M.W.O. 284/1926 detailed three sizes, Small, Medium and Large and early examples have the Strap, back adjustment marked as either S, M, or L, but not the Pieces, side. These would need to have been in proportion, to place the useless Sword hook properly over the left hip, but no marked examples have been noted. The examples illustrated here have no size marking. Perhaps as each set was made up for a named officer and would not ever be taken into R.A.F. Stores, it was sufficient just to mark the one section. KW would welcome photographs, with a ruler incorporated, in order to establish what was the case. At left, a Belt with Sword hook, comprising the Back adjustment strap and left and right Side pieces. This Belt is maker marked M.E. Co. and dated 1937. From the Karkee Web Collection.

belt 2 outbelt 2 inThe three-piece construction was completely standard, with a “hook & loop” buckle halves permanently attached to each Side piece, whose rearward ends had the usual Hooks, brass, 2.25-in. The left Side piece incorporated a Hook, sword, stitched between the rear web sandwich that held the adjustment hook. The Strap, back-adjustment was very different to the Army version, having angled web chapes with brass loops at the lower ends, but small “C” hooks in place of the 1 inch three-bar buckles of the Army Belt. Thus was an arrangement unique to this one pattern, although the principle re-appeared in Patt. ’44 W.E., but located on the Side pieces and not the Back adjustment strap. At left, a second example of the Belt. Between 1937 and 1939, a penny seems to have dropped and the pointless Sword hook was itself dropped from the Piece, side, left. This example is maker marked M.E. Co. and dated 1939. From the Karkee Web Collection.


belt compare 1belt compare 2A comparison of three left Side pieces. Top (far left) and left (near left), the 1937 example shown above. Bottom (far left) and right (near left), the 1939 example without a Sword hook. Center in both pictures is a Side piece from a 1928 dated M.E. Co. Pattern 1925 Waist belt. Notice the difference between the fine weave used in the officers' equipment and the heavier weave of the OR's Belt.




Braces, left, with loop
Braces, right, without loop

left outright outleft inright inThese were reduction-woven, to have the usual shoulder flares, with a distinctive “corded” weave. The front portions were sufficiently long to reach the Brace attachment and for the running ends to be passed through the Brace attachment links. The rear sections of the Brace were doubled back to 1-inch adjustment buckles, which could not be dismantled. The bight of each doubled portion was then inserted into the appropriate “C” clip, in the same fashion as those on a Patt. ’44 W.E. Belt. The left Brace was fitted with a crossing loop for the right Brace, fitted on the inside face. The left Brace shown is maker marked M.E. Co. and dated 1937, and is from the Rog Dennis Collection, photographs © Rog Dennis 2010. The right Brace is from the Karkee Web Collection, and is maker marked M.E. Co. and dated 1937.