Now we have covered the uniform, we can move on to something a little more interesting. Things you can tangle yourself up in! Webbing.
Everyone who joins Miss Drop 44 will start as a rifleman, please don't see that as a bad thing, its the most important job. You will need to acquire all the correct pieces from the correct places. Later on, should you wish to fulfil a secondary role, then it can be addressed, however, for most events, we need riflemen and lots of them. Hence this being the most important thing for the group. It will also be a great starting point to learn from. Even the officers have either a spare M42 jacket, or strip their rank insignia off if needed and become privates.
If you're not sure on if the item is correct that you're thinking of buying, then just ask us. We have the group on MHN, if you're a member of the group (even if you're in the process of kitting up), then you'll have been added to the Watsapp chat and someone is usually available at all times. If you're at a show, send us a photo; the seller won't mind as he might get a sale. Check, don't risk wasting money on kit that is no good.
Secondly, please don't start buying everything you see, simply because it looks right! It's better to ask us if we think its worth the money and worth buying. Even those who have been in the hobby for years don't know the best places to buy everything, but someone in the unit will. Also, try and avoid using soldier of Fortune as a one stop shop, we all know its easy to buy it all there... but the quality of the webbing will not last, the colours are lets face it 'weird' and there is much better out there.
M1 Garand Rifle - Paratrooper Rifleman
The backbone of the US Army during World War two was the much loved M1 Garand rifle. Its semi automatic function was an great advantage over the Germans bolt action K98 rifle that had been first developed before World War 1! The Germans did have a couple of semi automatic rifles, but in the grand scheme of things, very few were ever made. Not to the scale of the Garand that, which was issued to every basic infantryman, not just specialists like other nations.
US World War two webbing in my opinion is fantastic, I love the versatility of it all, it's so adaptable and unless tangled up, is easy to put on and take off, with many ways of layout it out and wearing it.
The webbing you will need is as follows
M1936 pistol belt
2 or 3 Rigger Pouches
First aid pouch and first aid tin
M1936 Suspenders with felt pads
M1936 Musette bag
Entrenching tool (either M43 or M1910 T Handle)
All these items either clip or slots together easily, although adjusting the suspenders so they don't feel uncomfortable or look ridiculous takes some tinkering with, but again, we can help you with that. It is far easier to adjust them when wearing them, but if your wearing them it's almost impossible to adjust them yourself and need someone else to adjust it for you. Everyone goes through this, so don't worry about being literally manhandled... I'm sure some of you enjoy this part a little too much!
So now you know what you need, this is what they are, do and where to get them from.
M1942 First aid pouch and first aid tin
One of the most simple and what was one of the most common items to find for sale out of all the World War 2 US items. Reproductions of these can be gotten from At The Front (ATF), however its like lots of the webbing it is almost pointless buying reproduction kit as originals of almost everything are hardly difficult to find, don't cost that much more than repros and will last you 10 times as long and will always hold their money.
So buy an original; or if you really want ATF, then buy that. We'd recommend original however.
You can if you wish open the tin carefully, removed the useless bandage. You now have a nice empty tin that can be put to good use, I have a series of plasters, varying in size, great for blisters, cuts etc. I also have ear plugs for when we battle (or your sleeping next to someone who snores), pain killers and even hay-fever tablets just in case. You'll probably want those plasters for when breaking in your new boots!
Secondary to the first aid tin, this is the item you'll use all the time, even more so in the summer. You can get brand new bottles if your scared of germs, or you can sterilise an original. I have several original bottles I use and they have never yet been cleaned properly! Blurgh!!! Original covers can be got hold of, just takes a little looking. I recently got three covers, a belt and 2 bottles from the US for $50 including postage... of course I got stung for import tax, but still a great deal. Repro covers can be obtained, but will rarely be as strong as an originals, unless its made by HTC. A full canteen worn on the hip when running (yes we may do some running occasionally) puts lots of pressure on the cover by the way it attaches to the belt. Repros do not always hold up well to this. Again the only repros that are tolerable are ATF in the US; or HTC in the UK.
So buy an original; or if you really want a reproduction then go HTC or ATF.
Despite its have misleading name, these are worn over the shoulders and not below the waist! Without this essential bit of kit, all these bits wouldn't really be a set of webbing, just a belt that would never stay up with all the weight that you'll need to carry. Unlike most things, originals of these can still be got at a good price. There is a company in the US who has a mountain of these at fantastic prices and they will ship to England the best way. Advance Guard Militaria. Originals can be gotten on EBay and at militaria fairs. Originals of these will be the same price as a decent reproduction.
So buy an original
M1936 Musette bag
I have a weird love of the Musette bag, it is such a wonderful improvement over the M1910 and M1927 Dough-boy packs. With the latter if you didn't pack it correctly, everything could fall out and onto the ground, especially the smaller items. This Musette bag can just be opened and stuffed full of everything you want to carry!
You can pretty much forget buying an original Musette pack from the UK, the prices are usually ludicrous over here! However, if you look in the US you will find some cheap. I got a couple of originals recently for the same price as those that SOF sell.
So buy an original from the US or over here if they are a decent price; or if you really want ATF, then buy that.
Entrenching tools + (axes & pick mattock)
All enlisted men were required to carry one of the following, either the M1910 'T Handle' entrenching tool, , M43 entrenching tool, a Pick/Mattock set or an Axe. Out of every ten men, one would be carry a Pick/Mattock and one would carry and an Axe, the rest would all have the M1910 or M43 Entrenching tool. With the introduction of the new M43 entrenching tool, the need for the Pick/Mattock was gone (although this was only the armies opinion) the Axe was still on the issued equipment list.
Originals of the M43 are fairly easy to source, especially the covers. The T Handles are a little more tricky to source originals of. With original covers being so easy to find, there really is no point even looking at reproductions, unless you with one made by HTC, being a canvas tent company, the items they make are built for the original job intended and you really can 'use' them.
So buy an original tool and cover, or if going M43, then you can get repro covers from HTC.
M7 Gas Mask Bag
These black rubber bags were mostly worn by paratroopers on the leg, however they can be attached in various other places. A large number of troops soon discarded the contents of these as they were cumbersome and most troopers didn't believe in the risk of gas being used as a weapon. Some choose to keep hold of the bag and use it as a good rugged waterproof bag. One trooper said it was a good fit for inside the musette bag to keep personal items dry. Others discard the bag too, you can only imagine that Normandy was at one time littered with all this discard equipment. These M7 bags are fairly easy to buy, although like everything in re-enacting there is good and bad.
The only decent M7 gas mask bags are from ATF.
---> Now what isn't available to purchase any reproductions of are the M5 Gas Mask that would have been inside. However, there is an easy option to convert a modern Yugoslavian one. See the link below.
M1936 pistol belt
Don't even bother looking for a reproduction, I got 4 originals of these recently, brand new old stock, perfect condition except for a couple of tiny storage marks on them from the packing crates they would have been stored in since the war. They came from Lituniania of all places! I paid £25 each and all 1942 dated. Look about, you'll find one at a good price. If you really want a reproduction for some reason then you can always go down the ATF route.
So buy an original, cheap and better!
Now aside from finding a musette bag from somewhere, these are the other item that requires some effort to get. Although it does only mean placing an order for them to be custom made. Yes, that's right, made especially for you. These are not an off the shelf product if you want them correct. Sure, if you look online you'll see lots for sale... all of which are crap. No other word for it...they are just crap.
There is only one place any serious airborne re-enactor would get them and that is from Harrison Tent Company. Never heard of them I hear you say.... well, (although I have mentioned them above since writing this) why on earth would you! Google them and look at the items that they can make for WW2 re-enactors. Amazing attention to detail an simply no better.
Order from HTC
p.s. you are not going to find originals!
Right, showing how 4 Garand clips fits in neat and snug. Although, I tent to alternate which way round they go, they fit more balanced. With three of these pouches you actually carry more clips than someone with a M1923 cartridge belt.
General Purpose (GP) Bags
If you look at any original photographs of the 502nd you'll see a lot of guys carrying bags over the shoulders, sometimes worn on the front (don't mistake this for a musette pack. These GP bags are rectangular and half the size of a musette. These were used for stuffing full of everything from rations, TNT, ammunition and anything that someone needed or want to take. Sadly, unlike the Rigger pouches almost all that are available are pretty duff! So these need to be avoided, if you want a GP bag; then it's best to order it when you order the Riggers pouches from HTC. Nowhere else makes and sells anything half way near as good. There is an incredible lot of work that goes into each GP bag that HTC makes, so be patient and be aware they do come cost £45 each. Yet, they are by far the best and will carry a heavy load without falling to bits!
Above is shown my Normandy officers webbing set, the smaller Rigger pouches contain either grenades of En-Bloc 8 round clips for the M1 Garand. The suspenders and musette pack are original from the US as is the belt. The water-bottle cover is an original and the re-enforced M1942 type, the first aid pouch, binocular case, wire-cutter pouch and M3 knife are all original. The felt shoulder pads are from Daz at the Parachute Maintenance Company as his are excellent. He will also be supplying the parachute first aid pouch as that is missing. Below shows the contents of the pouches, as state before, all the pouches in Miss Drop 44 should all contain the correct contents.
below - M209B pouches - I have a OD3 one for my Normandy webbing, but I wear it over the shoulder on a separate shoulder strap. The OD7 one is worn on the belt on my Market Garden webbing.
Below - The next 'set' of webbing is my Harvey's, the small Rigger pouches a re all from HTC. The Musette bag is an original and isn't quite as light as it looks in the photo. He has an M43 shovel but it wasn't photographed as it hides the M3 knife, the cover is really nicely marked inside Victory Canvas 1943. Still need to add a M1 Garand bayonet scabbard, the bayonet is waiting for a home. The felt pads are from Daz at the Parachute Maintenance Company. A parachute first aid pouch should be added also.
Below - The next 'set' of webbing is a spare rifleman's set. The small Rigger pouches are all from HTC. The Musette bag is an original. The T-Handle has been shortened to suit jumping with. There is a first aid pouch almost hidden under the drop rope. Still need to add a M1 Garand bayonet and scabbard. The felt pads are on order from Daz at the Parachute Maintenance Company. A parachute first aid pouch should be added also.
A few links straight to some companies that supply kit, you can see the rubbish that SOF sells and compare it against better. For the best, go to HTC first, then WW2 impression and then ATF. Others can simply supply what you need, but it certainly wont excite you or be as good. Never rule out buying original items though, they just take some hunting out and some effort to find.
The examples below are original belts so give you an idea of what colour originals are, please bare in mind that, dirt, grease, sweat, oils, rain, food, drinks and time will alter the colour of original items.
Now for a few examples of the worst of the worst reproduction items... The items below can only be described as yellow crap! Not only wafer thin and a weird colour of yellowy-orangey-khaki, some items are just weird! The rifle belt show on the below right is missing all the holes to attach them to the suspenders? Ooops... who over looked that! If you have any doubts about what your thinking of buying, please get in touch. No points anyone wasting money on anything which is either wrong or just worthless crap!
Soldier of Fortunes Webbing Sets
I have been asked this time and time again.... Of course one of the easiest ways to get a complete set of webbing in one go, in fact to transform yourself into a SOF one hit wonder 101st farb trooper would be to buy the whole lot in one swift and easy order from them. Complete with shoulder holsters, cut-up parachute flag, Toccoa T-Shirt, Sunglasses... the only thing they don't supply is a fat cigar for you to chomp on. Yes its easy, yes its cheap, yes it'll arrive fast...is it either good or acceptable... I don't really think I need to answer that!