Uniform and Equipment

PERSONAL PARATROOP EQUIPMENT

from Airborne Forces Manual

The personal equipment of paratroops may be divided into four categories as follows:—

 

  1. Clothing

  2. Parachute

  3. Arms and ammunition

  4. Provisions and toilet requisites

 

The information given in this chapter should be treated as representative only. Items of clothing and provisions may be varied according to the length and nature of an operation, and the arms and ammunition carried may be varied at the discretion of Brigade Commanders.
 

Clothing

 

  1. A water-proof tunic is worn over the standard battle-dress. The purpose of the tunic is to prevent any entanglement of such items as ammunition pouches and respirator during the descent. The tunic may be either retained or discarded on landing.

  2. In some instances it has been found convenient to rip out the lining sleeves of the tunic and stitch these inside the tunic to serve as pockets for hand grenades. There is at present no official ruling on this subject.

  3. A close-fitting helmet, with camouflage net and chin strap, is worn by paratroops during descent and subsequent action.   The helmet need not be worn during the flight to target.

  4. Leather boots and anklets are worn by paratroops.

  5. A spare pullover and a pair of socks is packed in the haversack with the paratroops provisions.
     

Parachute
 

  1. For paratroop operations the standard parachute is the 'X' type, Stores Ref. 15A/386 (standard canopy) and 15A/387 (Jacob canopy), which is fully described in A.P.I 180A, Vol. I, Part 3. This is a static line parachute and carries a D ring for attachment to one of the strops and strong points in the paratroop aircraft.

  2. On landing, the parachute harness is disconnected by twisting and sharply pressing the release disc which is located on the wearer's chest.
     

Arms and ammunition
 

  1. Each paratroop wears over his battle-dress a belt to which is attached an assap.lt.respirator. If this respirator is worn at the back, two ammunition pouches may be carried towards the front of the belt. If, however, the respirator is worn at the right-hand side of the belt towards the front, the ammunition pouches must be attached to shoulder braces. The arms and ammunition carried vary with the category of the paratroops.
     

Rifleman
 

  1. The following armament and defensive equipment is carried by a rifleman:—

 

  1. One light assault respirator, attached to belt.

  2. Two pouches, each with two Bren gun magazines, attached either to belt or shoulder braces.

  3. One needle bayonet and scabbard held in 'frog' on belt

  4. One bandolier with fifty rounds of rifle ammunition.

  5. Two hand grenades carried either in knee pockets of battle-dress or in tunic pockets,

  6. One fighting knife, either in scabbard on hip or in pocket provided in battle-dress.

  7. One toggle rope, for climbing, slung round shoulders.

  8. One haversack. For contents see below.

 

Bren gunner

 

The following armament and defensive equipment is carried by a Bren gunner:—

 

One light assault respirator, attached to belt.

One revolver carried at left-hand side.

One pouch with revolver ammunition carried at right-hand side.Two pouches, each with two Bren gun magazines, attached to shoulder braces.

Two hand grenades.

One fighting knife. One toggle rope.

One haversack. For contents see below.

Sten gunner

 

The following armament and defensive equipment is carried by a Sten gunner:—

 

One light assault respirator, attached to belt.One Sten gun. The barrel, body and butt are stowed separately in the parachute harness, see fig. 2.

One Sten bandolier containing seven magazines of twenty-eight rounds each.

One magazine either in pocket or tucked in parachute harness.

Two hand grenades.

One fighting knife.

One toggle rope.

One haversack. For contents see below.

 

Provisions and toilet requisites

 

A paratroop haversack is packed, for a typical operation, with the following items:—

One ration S.T.6 (4 lb. 4 oz.), see Below.

One knife.

One fork.

One spoon.

One solidified spirit burner.

One mess tin (two parts).

One water bottle.

One ground sheet or gas cape.

One pullover.

One pair of socks.

One towel.

Soap, shaving soap, shaving brush, razor, toothbrush and comb.

 

The system of packing these items in the haversack is illustrated in fig. 3.

 

Ration S.T.6

 

This ration is intended to cover a period up to forty-eight hours and comprises the following items:—

 

One 12 oz. tin of corned beef, with key.

One 2 oz. tin of dripping spread.

Two tins of processed cheese.

One tin of tea and dried milk.

One box of matches.

One tin containing service biscuits, sweet biscuits, chocolate, acid drops, and barley sugar.

 

The ration S.T.6 is issued to paratroops at their operational base where the separate articles should be packed tightly in the smaller mess tin, using broken biscuits to prevent any possibility of rattle which might reveal to the enemy the whereabouts of a paratroop.

 

The method of packing is illustrated in fig. 3. The larger mess tin is used as a lid when packing is complete.

 

Solidified spirit burner

 

The burner is supplied in the form of a fiat tin filled with 4£ oz. of solidified spirit. To use the burner the lid is removed and the two tin vanes are sprung out from the lower lip of the tin. The vanes are pushed one into the other in the form of a cross and are then inserted in the tin to form a stand for the mess tin. A protection from draughts is essential. The flame is extinguished, after removing the vanes by a wire passed through the holes provided, simply by replacing the lid.

Video Examples of Uniforms and Equipment

Newsreel No. 19 (1943)

https://youtu.be/dDg7tlsPbos

This newsreel begins with a segment on Canadian airborne training. It shows the obstacle courses, running and ropes courses used for fitness. They also mention that paras would trained to subsist on less food, to prepare them for operations on limited supplies. Next we see paras training on an indoor jump simulator, using a zipline and cushioned landing pad. Finally the Paras do a real jump out of a British plane, possibly filmed at Ringway in England? Two main things of note: mix of corcoran and ammo boots, and mix of camouflage and white parachutes.  

Newsreel No. 26 (1943)

https://youtu.be/ENBT87NhK_c?t=8m37s

At 8:37 a segment begins shows Canadian and British airborne troops jumping in the British manner. Judging by greatcoats being worn by the observing officers, this is likely late fall/winter 1943. Of note: though the narrator says that men have white parachutes and equipment canisters have mottled (camouflaged), there is clearly a man landing with a camouflaged parachute at 9:50.

Newsreel No. 28 (1943/44)

https://youtu.be/2W79U7Eu_fo

This newsreel begins with a segment showing a platoon of Canadian paras standing by their aircraft in a staged discussion of the newest round of Canadian War Bonds. Of note here: how the dennisons are worn/ fit in cold weather. This entire platoon appears to be wearing the ammo boots and anklets, which makes sense since the leader mentions being back in Shilo (the Canadian Airborne Training Center). Also of note: the variety of locations the jumpwings were sewn onto the dennisons, just about anywhere above the left breast pocket seems to have been accepted.

Newsreel No. 37 (1944)

https://youtu.be/87OJlyl8m7o?t=3m19s

At 3:19 a brief segment begins showing Field Marshal Montgomery awarding Canadian Paratroops medals. Medals awarded:
Military Cross: Captain Peter R. Griffin, Lieutenant John P. Hanson
Military Medal: Sergeant Harvey Morgan, Lance Corporal Russell Geddes, and Corporal Noval.
Note, at this point all enlisted troops are still wearing their battledress fully buttoned, rather than open with a tie. This also gives some good shots of hairstyles in the berets, as well as how the beret was worn.

Newsreel No. 67

https://youtu.be/NCer0gakIg4?t=6m50s

At 6:50 a segment begins showing the Canadian participation of Operation Varsity ( the Rhine Crossing). At 7:33 the airborne segment begins, showing emplaning, and the eventual drop over the Rhine. This gives a great sense of how large and complicated an operation this was, with airborne, gliderborne and ground components all working together. At 8:10 there’s a good shot of a para running with a Sten Mk V, and a web belt full of just about every bit of kit he could get his hands on. There are a few brief shots of German prisoners of war, dead and wounded, one can see that these weren’t all the old men and boys talked about in propaganda. The segment ends with Canpara meeting up with the Royal Scots, this gives us a glimpse into what the Paras would wear on patrol, as little as possible. A 1st Lieutenant is shown with no equipment other than his Sten, and a pair of field glasses. Most men aren’t wearing their identification slips (yellow cloth tabs on the epaulettes) on their denison smocks.

Newsreel No. 69

https://youtu.be/BJj6UxfohEs?t=4m28s

At 4:28 a segment begins showing 1Canpara fighting through Germany after operation Varsity. It’s stated that their goal are the German North Sea Ports, likely Wismar, on the Baltic near the Danish border. Nearly every moment of this segment is a fantastic shot of 1Can soldiers in full battle loadout. Note that most have placed their mess tins in the water bottle carrier. Most of the men are in helmets, save a radio operator riding in the back of a jeep. This was only a brief moment in 1Canpara’s race to Wismar, They jumped from town to town picking up support from various Allied units as they moved ever farther north to stop the Soviet advance.

Newsreel No. 80

https://youtu.be/d1S2cCdRIcQ

This newsreel begins with a segment covering repatriation to Canada after peace is declared. Throughout the segment there are good examples of how the men wore their uniforms while relaxing, and if one pays close attention, there are a number of shots showing men with white jump wings over their left breast pocket, these are paratroopers. The segment ends showing the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion disembarking, and marching down the streets of Halifax. It was the 1st Canadian unit to return as a single unit, and the Commanding Officer is given the key to the city of Halifax.

Newreel No. 103

https://youtu.be/Rzx5v-lW2Oo?t=4m23s

At 4:23 the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion is given a brief mention in this 1945 in Review newsreel. Of note, is the award of a Victoria Cross to Cpl. Frederick George Topham, for his actions during Operation Varsity. Cpl. Topham risked his life on multiple occasions to assist wounded men during the operation, first by running into enemy fire to assist a wounded man, whose first two orderlies had only just been killed. Topham treated the man’s wounds, and carried him back to safety, despite a severe injury to his nose. After refusing to be evacuated for his wound, he came across a universal carrier full of mortar ammunition. It was under German mortar fire, and was aflame, setting off the ammunition it stored. Despite warnings not to, Topham rushed towards the vehicle, and pulled 3 crew members out, one of whom unfortunately died. The two other men survived, thanks to Topham’s willingness to risk his life to save his fellow man.

                                              - G. Christy & W. Rodger

Music

© 2015-19 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion 1942- 1945 Preservation Association (USA) Inc.

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