Reverse Lend-Lease "British Made" Equipment
Background Information & History:
When Great Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, the United States immediately assumed a neutral stance. As the German Army began to notch up victories throughout Europe, the administration of President Roosevelt began seeking ways to aid Great Britain and the Commonwealth armies, while remaining free of fighting. Initially constrained by the Neutrality Acts, which limited arms sales to "cash and carry" purchases by belligerents, Roosevelt declared large amounts of US weapons and ammunition "surplus" and authorized their shipment to Britain in mid-1940.
Seeking to move the nation towards a more active role in the conflict, Roosevelt wished to provide Britain with all possible aid short of war. As such, British warships were permitted to make repairs in American ports and training facilities for British servicemen were constructed in the US. To ease Britain's shortage of war materials, Roosevelt pushed for the creation of the Lend-Lease Program. Officially titled An Act Further to Promote the Defense of the United States, the Lend-Lease Act was signed into law on 11 March 1941.
As the American military mobilized for war, Lend-Lease materials in the form of vehicles, aircraft, weapons, etc. were shipped to other Allied nations who were actively fighting the Axis Powers. With the alliance of the US and Soviet Union in 1942, the program was expanded to allow their participation with large amounts of supplies passing through the Arctic Convoys, Persian Corridor, and the Alaska-Siberia Air Route, which helps to explain the large quantities of US equipment found in Russia to this day.
While Lend-Lease generally saw goods being provided to the Allies, a Reverse Lend-Lease scheme also existed where goods and services were produced to the US. As American forces began arriving in Europe, Britain provided material assistance such as the use of Supermarine Spitfire fighters. Additionally, Commonwealth nations often provided food, bases, and other logistical support. Other Lead-Lease items included patrol boats and De Havilland Mosquito aircraft. Through the course of the war, the US received around $7.8 billion in Reverse Lend-Lease aid with $6.8 of it coming from Britain and the Commonwealth nations.
Of special interest to US Army collectors is the plethora of web equipment that was produced by the British Government for the US Army. The equipment was produced at British factories under contract to the US Army Quartermaster Corps, and was offset against the loans made to the British Empire at the start of the war. This thread aims to document the numerous items that were produced, the variants and patterns that can be observed, and hopefully serve as a useful topic for collectors and re-enactors alike.
For the most part, the items that were produced by the British Government fell under Class II of the QMC's classification system; i.e. Clothing and Individual Equipment, Organizational Equipment, Expendable Materials for Cleaning and Preserving, Office Equipment and Supplies, Special Purpose Vehicles and Spare and Maintenance Parts. In addition, however, British "accommodation stores," such as cots, furniture, and barracks items provided by the British for American troops arriving in the United Kingdom, saved shipping space and replaced the Class II post, camp, and station allowances familiar to U.S. troops.
As the war effort continued to grow and develop, the US Army placed an increased emphasis on local procurement and production of certain items and materiel. However, this brought with it a number of problems. The main stumbling block for the obtainment of clothing from British factories stemmed from the range of sizes provided for the various parts of the American uniform. The British used suspenders with loose-fitting trousers and thus reduced the tariff of sizes. In shirts, the British provided two sleeve lengths for each collar size and did not wish to use scarce manpower to give the Americans their accustomed four sleeve lengths. The Chief Quartermaster agreed to this limitation, but in the case of shoes no agreement could be reached. The British equipped their troops with 18 sizes, the US Army required 105 sizes.
The US requirement , based on civilian procedures in the Zone of Interior, was reinforced by Army regulations on the correct fitting of service shoes, and could not be readily modified. Therefore large-scale manufacture of shoes for Enlisted Men could never be satisfactorily arranged in the United Kingdom. But the British supplied over 152,000 pairs of Officers' shoes in 1942-43, and about 75% of all shoes for Officers, Nurses, and WACs in the ETO during hostilities.
With respect to the magnitude of American requirements for items of clothing and individual equipment, the British also raised the question of "scale." They did not favour the diversion of their facilities to production for the Americans unless requirements approximated British rates of issue, which were generally lower for corresponding items. Replacement factors posed another problem. The British applied to their home forces garrison allowances for wear similar to those used in the United States, while the ETO Quartermaster used overseas combat replacement factors. The Chief Quartermaster refused to cut maintenance requirements to the British scale and, in general, the British yielded on specific requirements, but the question was a persistent one.
Most of these difficulties were resolved during the spring of 1943, and May to November of that year was the most fruitful period for local procurement of clothing and individual equipment, especially of wool knit goods. The fact that the International Division, ASF (Advanced Service Forces –ed), had decided to adopt the exchange basis rejected a year before, and to ship woollen goods to British troops in the Pacific, greatly eased these arrangements. Although the British at first believed that their own military contribution to Overlord would curtail their industrial capacity severely in 1944, they were prevailed upon to continue large deliveries to the U.S. forces during that year. The following items are representative of deliveries from reverse lend-lease by the middle of 1944:
Coats, Mackinaw: 328,802
Drawers, Wool: 2,286,190
Gloves, Wool: 871,690
Mufflers, Wool: 1,200,000
Socks, Wool, Light and Heavy: 8,604,180
Trousers, Battledress: 417,785
Undershirt, Winter: 2,242,151
Bag, Canvas, Field, M-1936: 378,204
Belt, Cartridge, Cal. 30: 186,294
Belt, Pistol, M-1936: 381,646
Blanket, Wool, Olive Drab: 640,000
Carrier, Pack, M-1928: 369,024
Carrier, Canteen: 823,209
Pouch, First-Aid: 1,554,875
Unfortunately, no definitive list exists documenting the exact items that were produced by British contractors for the US Army QMC, however by studying items that are currently available on the collectors’ market and those items which already exist in public and private collections, it is possible to highlight the clothing and equipment that was produced in large numbers and issued to US troops by the QMC. The following list is not definitive or exhaustive, but should offer a general overview of the items that were procured by British contractors:
Cap, Garrison, OD
Cap, Wool, Knit, M-1941
Coat, Mackinaw, OD
Coat, Service, Officers
Jacket, Field, Lined, ETO (two patterns)
Jacket, Field, Officers
Socks, Wool, Light and Heavy
Suit, Sniper’s, Blouse
Suit, Sniper’s, Trousers
Suit, Snow, Smock
Suit, Snow, Trousers
Trousers, Enlisted Men, ETO
Trousers, Officers, Dark
Bag, Canvas, Field, OD, M-1936
Bag, Carrying, Ammunition, M1
Belt, Cartridge, Cal. 30, M-1910
Belt, Cartridge, Cal. 30, M-1923, Dismounted
Belt, Magazine, BAR, M-1917
Belt, Pistol or Revolver, M-1936
Case, Canvas, Dispatch, M-1938
Case, Magazine, 30-Round, with Shoulder Strap
Carrier, Axe, Entrenching, M-1910
Carrier, Magazine, M-1928 (Drum-type)
Carrier, Meat Can, M-1928
Carrier, Pack, M-1928
Carrier, Pick Mattock, Entrenching, M-1910
Carrier, Shovel, Entrenching, M-1910
Carrier, Wire Cutters, M-1938
Cover, Canteen, Dismounted, M-1910
Cover, Canteen, Mounted, M-1917
Cover, Canteen, Mounted, M-1941
Extension, Belt, Mounted
Suspenders, Belt, M-1936
Pocket, Cartridge, Cal. 30 M1, Carbine or Rifle
Pocket, Magazine, M-1918
Pocket, Magazine, Double Web, Carbine, Cal. 30 M1
Pocket, Magazine, Double Web, M-1923
Pouch, First-Aid Packet, M-1924
Pouch, First-Aid Packet, M-1942
Rope, Drag, with Shoulder Strap, M-1918
Sling, Carrying, Machine-Gun and Ammunition
Strap, Shoulder, Military Police
Contractors & Markings:
All items produced by the British contractors were marked in a number of ways. All of them bore the date of manufacturer, as well as the company’s name (or initials). In addition, the US Government fiscal markings (i.e. “U.S.”) were also present in a variety of font variants, some bearing serifs, while others were applied using a sans-serif font. In addition, the broad arrow marking of the British Government “/|\” was also applied to the item, coupled with an inspector’s stamp, usually comprising a two digit number. The vast majority of items all bear the words "British Made". The illustration below illustrates how the markings were generally applied:
Unfortunately, a definitive list of contractors is not available, but the following can be deduced from general observation (once again, the list is not exhaustive):
B. H. G. Ltd.
B. R. Ltd.
B. S. A. S. Ltd.
Cohen & Wilks Ltd.
H. M. C. & Co.
H. W. & S. Ltd.
M. W. A. S. Ltd.
Mills Equipment Company (M. E. Co.)
P. S. S. Ltd.
R. R. C. & Co. Ltd.
The overall construction of the majority of British-Made web equipment was similar in style and design to their US-produced counterparts. However, the webbing used was traditionally British ’37 Pattern weave (which was typically a coarser weave then the US produced canvas duck used). In addition, buckles used in the construction were generally of British ’37 Pattern, as were the metal chapes used on the end of straps (to prevent fraying, and ease threading etc.) The illustration below compares three types of chape, all of which can be found on M1936 Belt Suspenders. The left-hand version is British-Made, while the two at right show variants found on US-produced straps:
Finally, the majority of British-Made webbing also featured a different, more simplified version of the spring clip. There are two types of British-Made spring clip, one being more resembling of its US counterpart. The figure below shows the two variants of BM clips (at left), and a US-produced example at right:
One final note of worth is that unlike US-produced web equipment which used a variety of Lift-the-Dot fasteners (i.e. Klikit, Star Pull and DOT), British-Made webbing seems to exclusively use the blackened brass “Lift The Dot” variant, which was produced under license from United Carr in the US. The photograph below shows three items of BM webbing; two Canteen Carriers, and a Cartridge Belt:
The posts that follow this brief introduction will illustrate the numerous types of British-Made equipment that was made available under the Reverse Lend-Lease agreement.
Last edited by BenM on Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:20 pm; edited 2 times in total
Bag, Canvas, Field, OD, M-1936:
Bag, Carrying, Ammunition, M1:
Belt, Cartridge, Cal. 30, M-1910
Belt, Cartridge, Cal. 30, M-1923, Dismounted:
Belt, Cartridge, Cal. 30, M-1923, Dismounted:
Belt, Magazine, BAR, M-1917:
Belt, Pistol or Revolver, M-1936:
Case, Canvas, Dispatch, M-1938:
Case, Magazine, 30-Round, with Shoulder Strap:
Carrier, Axe, Entrenching, M-1910:
Carrier, Magazine, M-1928 (Drum-type):
Carrier, Meat Can, M-1928:
Carrier, Pack, M-1928:
Carrier, Pick Mattock, Entrenching, M-1910:
Carrier, Shovel, Entrenching, M-1910:
Carrier, Wire Cutters, M-1938:
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