Airborne Equipment

With the 502nd PIR being an elite unit and one that required specialist equipment, the 'extra' kit we can adorn ourselves with certainly has some interesting choices! As long as you can find them for sale of course...

T5 Parachute

The T5 has its own section, although I had to cut most of this out as the website owners who I 'borrowed' the information from had a shit fit and threatened to take me to court should I not take it down. Typical American reaction to anything they don't like, so don't but a chute from them. Moving on...

Update, I purchased a Chinese made repro T5 £200 all in, harness, reserve and main (no actual silk parachutes of course) this arrived today. It took some figuring out to understand the harness, but I got there in the end. Of course it came with no instructions what so ever. After assembling it and taking some photos, I posted it on Facebook with some text that I found online about the T5. Didn't think any more about it, then saw a comment on that thread complaining that I had taken it from a site... ffs unreal, it was the same god-damn site as before. He had even put a link to his over-priced near perfect replicas. Yes they are near perfect repros, but the prices HA! You gotta be fucking kidding me right... sure it has "The harness features ultra heavy 7-class stitching" who cares... when the prices is $1000 and that doesn't even include the reserve chute! But then again your metal work does have "authentic paint shades" so maybe it is worth.... no, still no. Oh and the reserve is only another $300 on top of the $1000... all probably without shipping too. So...... you can probably see why I went with the £200 option. Agreed it is not as perfect as his, but then again, for a saving of around £1000 its just not even in the same competition. Its not like buying a weapon where its a £150 plastic Denix Garand or spend £2000 on an original deactivated weapon. There you can see the value, feel the value and it will only go up in value... the value of reproduction kit only ever goes one way..... down!

Oh if you didn't guess, I just deleted his comment and link to his website and unfriended him, not that he'll care, I just can't be bothered with sulky "I'm going to take you to court types", block, ignore, you don't exist! 


As part of the jump kit, each paratrooper was issued with a life vest, just in case they dropped into water... having all that kit on otherwise they would have sunk like a rock! There are surprisingly few of these being made as reproductions, however there is a small 'cottage industry' in the UK that is producing lots of items, as well as American, they also make British and German life vests in various different variations. These are also surprisingly affordable for something so specific that will never be required by all re-enactors. These B3 life vests, or loving named 'Mae Wests' after the rather buxom woman of the era are only around £50. Now I say 'around', because you can buy three of them for £150, or individually for £55, or if buying off EBay or through Facebook you can talk to the seller and make offers. A very friendly and pleasurable experience was had when communicating with this company and I can't praise them enough.

However once thing that I must point out! Do not suddenly decide you want one of these and want it in two days time. They are made in small batches, or when they are needed. So usually a 3 or 4 week turn around is needed. So be warned, the seller is very clear about this and I love that he has a no nonsense approach to selling, just like myself. Clearly he has had to deal with idiots in the past too! I'm really looking forward to getting mine. 


WPG also sell their own copy of a Mae West, in their own words they describe it as - "Exact reproduction of the yellow cloth outer shell, CO2 inflators, and all other external features. There is a piece of rubber inside to simulate the bladder, but this is not a functioning life vest. Only 500 of these have been made, and they will sell out fast."

Yet this is £118 and that's without shipping. However as with all WPG items, they are always really good.


Now, this is something that I don't plan on ever getting, but thought that it should be included because of its randomness and impact on the Normandy invasion for the American troops. Having no training on how to use these, the result being that almost all soldiers using this bag, simply lost it and all of its contents! 

I could barely find anyone even making these, however I did come across two, firstly was the company who made all the leg bags for the filming of Band of Brothers. I looked on their website and sadly there is no mention of making these anymore. However, they may still make them if you ask. I did see mention of about a 2 month waiting time!!! No price listed, but I get the impression that it will be expensive as hell.

The only realistic choice seems to be a company called Jump Master 44. They have, what look like a good copy to me, not being an expert in leg bags at all of course. The two photos below are of their leg bag, costing 450 Euros. Which seems like a lot for a bag, but it does look complicated and for such a specialist bit of kit that they will rarely sell, the prices is probably justifiable.

Hawkins/gammon/smoke grenades

Although not specifically made or used by the airborne, they are always seen in period photos and drawings. The Hawkins was also referred to a mine, however what ever its correct name or terminology is isn't really important. What is important it that there are a few reproductions on the market and none of which should be expensive, as there are cans available on the market which resemble these. So for those of you with some skill in making things, they should be easy to make. 

Soldier of Fortune also make one for about £38, eventually I will add one to my kit, however as they are so easy to purchase, I will keep buying the harder to find items first, and see if I can find one at a better price elsewhere first!

The Gammon grenade was a lethal invention, both for the user and the target... possibly more dangerous for the person throwing it! I'm pretty sure from looking at the photo here that it uses the same fuze as the British plastic 69 grenade. However the bag contained the explosive charge. A soft flexible none protective cloth bag with an explosive charge inside.... anyone else see any potential dangers with that!

From what I remember reading about these, they were very unpopular. I'm not sure I have read much about if they were actually a good grenade or not. Only that they were universally disliked and dangerous to use.

From as you can see on the photo, WPG make fair reproductions of these. There website does state that they are out of stock at the moment, priced at £28

Now getting a couple of M15 or M18 smoke grenades was something I really wanted to add to my impression. However, it soon become clear that this wasn't going to be straight forward. Firstly all I could find was the M18 in post war colours. They were used all the way through Korea and Vietnam. These green cans with a totally different style of text. Number 11 on Osprey drawing above is of the type used during ww2, the only problem was where to find some. It would seem that all the big companies have omitted this item that would have been fairly commonly carried compared to some of the odder items that it is really easy to purchase. Luckily I have 4000+ 'friends' on Facebook and the bulk of those are either collectors of militaria or re-enactors. So when I post something up like "I need some WW2 M15 or M18 Smoke Grenades" it goes to a big audience and I got a reply. I was offered two almost solid metal M15 Smoke grenades. They were not cheap compared to US ww2 fragmentation grenades (£20 each, Ian Malugani) cost just over a £100 with postage for 2.

Unless you get lucky like I did, or can find something that I missed online, I think the only real options are 1, to respray the post-war versions, or 2, to 3d print them in hard plastic or resin. The files do exist already for these on 'thingyverse'. I would be really interested to see photos if any of you have printed these.

M1 Carbine - Folding stock

Although the M1 Carbine gets a slating by almost everyone, for the biggest part this is really unfounded. Yes, it didn't have the stopping power of the M1 Garand (often seen as its bigger brother) but it was still a great and very capable weapon. Hence why so many of these were made. The only thing that let this weapon down was the calibre, not that it didn't kill targets, but that it was the only weapon in the US arsenal of this type. A box of .30-06 could be split between the M1 Garand, .30 Cal Browning machine gun, M1903 Springfield and the BAR. .45 'slugs' could be used be the M1911 pistol, Thompsons and Grease gun... yet this new M1 carbine had its own need to be supplied. I can imagine that everyone in the supply chain and quartermaster departments all having an instant dislike to the weapon for this reason alone.

The carbine did have some great features to it, it was compact, lightweight, a standard magazine system that held 20 rounds which was unheard of then. This is an semi automatic rifle with a 20 round box mag! Something very overlooked now when you hear people saying, it was 'rubbish' and that you couldn't' kill a thing it. If it was that bad, the army would have dropped it, long before creating a M2 carbine and making the folding stock version and issued it to its elite units!

Forget buying a deactivated folding stock carbine... they would be £1000s. You can of course, just a normal M1 carbine and buy a reproduction folding stock and swap them over, no damage would be done to the carbine in doing this. 

You can buy Denix folding stock version too. I haven't examined one, so I can't comment on the quality. So I would suggest going to a fair to look at one before you order one online.

Number 4 on the Osprey drawing scroll up a little now. It shows the holster that these could be carried in on the side of the leg. This being ideal for those members of crew weapons, like mortar teams, or someone carrying a M1A1 bazooka. 

drop ropes

Another of those random items that you often see in photos of the Normandy invasion are bright white ropes which are all neatly rolled on themselves. They are seem usually attached under the bottoms of the musette pack, probably as its simple to put them there, and very easy to get to as your musette bag would be in front of you when you jumped. Not behind you. See the photo below. It appears that this trooper with the bazooka has two... one on the bottom of his musette pack as normal and one across his front. Its not too clear how that is attached though. 

For us, the rope are really easy to find for sale. Soldier of fortune sell them as well as every other re-enacting supply company. Of course, if you can be bothered to wind it up, you could just find a supplier of thick white rope and create your own... in fact they would probably sell rather well on EBay for those of us who are too lazy to do it ourselves...

Identification panels

The Pathfinders had additional items that were more specialised to them, although these were also used by other units too. They are also seen attached to vehicles quite a lot.

The pathfinders laid these out during the Normandy invasion as a method to help guide the rest of the airborne force. Laid out in a 'T' pattern. 

The cases can be obtained fairly easily if you look about. I only started looking a few weeks ago and already I have two cases and one case with original panel. 

If you can only find the cases, they are considerable cheaper than buying a complete unit. You can obtain modern panels for a few pounds. All it really needs is a green light canvas edge sewn around it. Do that and you'll have saved yourself £50+ Not bad. 

se-11 signal lamp 'gun'

As well as the recognition panels above, the Pathfinder units were given these signal lamp guns, each one came with an assortment of accessories. Including a tiny lightweight tripod, Morse code handheld finger tapper, googles and binocular filters.

The idea being that it could send a Morse code message over many miles and only be seen by the intended target. The message had to be sent a lot slower than usual, even if they sender could 'type' much faster in reality. The signal lamp gun is extremely light weight, has flip up sights on the top to aim exactly at the intended target, once set up on the tripod the message can be sent using the tapper.

The gun itself uses the same parts as the TL 122 series of flashlights. Same bulbs, same batteries and if you were careless enough to loose the cap which held the batteries, the ones from the flashlights would fit too.

The googles were used to help spot someone else sending a signal from one of these guns. Having a red filter made it easier to find. The little cardboard box in the photo contains to metal lenses attached together on chain that goes over the lenses on the US Signal Corps binoculars. These caps contain a red filter again, with the same purpose as the googles.

The bundle of wire is attached to the Morse code tapper, shown to the left of the wire, it attaches by the two metal posts at the bottom. Those work in the same fashion as old stereo speakers, push the clip up and push the wire in... job done.

The small rectangular bit of card contains a load of spare bulbs. This looking like it wouldn't survive ten seconds in that bag as there are no compartments small enough to keep that safe.

The only thing missing in the photo is the shoulder stock, which slides over the handle. There is an Osprey drawing of two Paratroopers and one Glider trooper, one of which has a SE-11 signal lamp with the stock attached tied to a strap over his shoulder. It was probably never worn this way as it is pretty fragile, but for purposes of showing it in the drawing they added it this way.

Surprisingly these are fairly easy to find for sale. They remained unchanged and were used into Vietnam. The only hard thing to do is find someone selling everything in one lot. I am missing the googles and tripod. Which I know I will find hard to locate on their own.

griswold bag - for garand rifle

One of the more commonly seen items that would have littered the French drop zone sites would have been the Griswold Bag, designed to hold the M1 Garand Rifle broken down into its two main components. Basically a sleeping bag with a large clip on hook for your rifle.

Originals can be found on a fairly easy basis if you look, however your really going to pay for them and they will only be the second type. Reproductions vary wildly, from thickness, colour and more importantly in size... some of these are two small to fit the parts! 

Sadly 'good' reproductions are few and far between now. A company called Man The Line make a bold claim with their bags saying "CUSTOM MADE FROM ORIGINAL WWII HARDWARE, INCLUDING ZIPPER, WHITE RIGGIN STRAP AND HOOK. THE FINEST REPRODUCTIONS ON THE MARKET." they charge $200 without shipping.

They are examples all over EBay, just be wary that it could be either a weird colour, weird size or weird material... or all three! 

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