The Chindits' Damned Pack... just how heavy was it really...?

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Hebridean Chindit, May 13, 2011.

  1. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    I have heard so many references to the weight of this beast, from 50lbs to 100lbs (including a Bren Gun and max rations) but has anyone ever tried to acurately reference how heavy it truly was, how much they could be carrying at maximum capacity...?

    Obviously there would be slight variations, but some things are quantifiable... the main pack bag itself, the webbing, the Lee Enfield, expected ammunition, a grenade, a Bren Gun (dad carried one for most of the time he was in), Bren magazines, weapon variations (a Thompson, a Sten, etc), a single pack of K rations (dad mentioned that after a drop they could be expected to carry up to five packs), the spare clothing normally issued, a chaggal full of water, cleaning kit (what did it comprise), etcetera...

    What else...?

    I'll ask the two veterans I'm in communication with for an idea of a "standard pack" and if anyone else can offer any ideas of what they would pack away... :D
  2. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Those chaps carried their whole life in them!

    Talk about self-support.
  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Oooh! the stuff of legend this one is................:D

    I would say by the time you get to 1944 and the standard steel framed Everest pack is in use then we are talking 50-70lbs. As you say Ken it was at it's heaviest when the men had a full ration supply, probably 5-7 days of K rations.

    50 rounds for the Lee Enfield was usual. Or 5 mags of 45 calibre etc for your other weaponry.

    Water bottle and chagal, dah machete and bayonet were all heavy items. Mess tin and utensils, housewife, small ropes and 'camp comforter' (whatever that was?).

    Also carried were the chlorination tablets, malaria creams and tablets, a pullover, PT shoes and the light-weight blanket. Some men were issued with silver rupees, payment for services rendered by the Burmese villagers along the way.

    The Gurkhas on 'Longcloth' still plumped for the old style Army issue backpack which must have been very tough to carry, especially when wet!
  4. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    'camp comforter' (whatever that was?)

    Rubber doll? :D
  5. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Rubber doll? :D

    Some members from 1943 were issued with water wings, so you are nor too far off the mark there mate!!:lol:
  6. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Rubber doll? :D

    As well as a housewife! Is that why they always looked so haggard?

    The cap comforter was the woolly headgear worn by the old Airfix commandos. Like a headover (if that's not confusing the issue) but sewn at both ends. To wear, push one end inside the other, insert head into the now open end then roll it up in typical woolly hat style.

    A bit on packs:
    Our equipment was basic infantry issue, but very much modified and added to. The side pack was sewn on the back of the big pack, to which were also added sizeable pockets on each side.
    Lt CS Phillips, IO No. 22 Column in The Queen's in Burma 1943-1945 published by the Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment Museum.
  7. wtid45

    wtid45 Very Senior Member

    Camp:huh: comforters Rubber dolls........... and Airfix Commandos:lol: trust Idler, but to give him his due his description does indeed conjure up that image! not quite the way I saw this thread going when it started.
  8. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    Housewife is a small sewing kit enabling repairs to shirts, socks, buttons, etc. In my time was seen in both green and white versions. Contains cotton, wool, needles.

  9. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Remember that men would have also carried heavy weapons ammo when on the move such as a couple of belts of .303 for the Vickers or a couple of mortar bombs, these would have been dropped off at the weapons points on reaching a new location.
  10. Tab

    Tab Senior Member

    This photo is of a just part of a load that a British Paratrooper carries into action, then there is his water his spare clothes sleeping bag and other kit. Every thing that they need is carried on their back and when you add to that you have a 60 lb Parachute and a 40 lb reserve you need to be a bit of weight lifter to take it all on.

  11. Ray Hanson

    Ray Hanson Member

    I read recently that a modern day infantryman actually carries a heavier load than a medieval knight in full armour. The idea of knights being winched onto their horses is apparently a Hollywood invention, or maybe in this case a Pinewood invention.
  12. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    This photo is of a just part of a load that a British Paratrooper carries into action, then there is his water his spare clothes sleeping bag and other kit. Every thing that they need is carried on their back and when you add to that you have a 60 lb Parachute and a 40 lb reserve you need to be a bit of weight lifter to take it all on.

    Strewth...!!! as you say, weightlifter territory...

    Great input Tab... this shows the lunacy these people had to go through...

    The kicker for this thread is, "but for how long...?"

    Were any Para's expected to be behind the lines, with that arsenal, for more than 30 days...? the 100lbs of chute would be gone on touchdown... The Para's were in a league of their own and remembered for it - if someone said "Para" they would almost certainly know what was meant...

    Not an expert here... would it be fair to say that they were considered "hit-and-run" specialists, ie get in, do the job, get out...?

    I guess the difference here is the strength of the "snap" weightlifter against the combination of the "Iron Man" endurance athletes - a weightlifter (as a general rule) would never be seen running a marathon every day, in a jungle, carrying all that weight... strength versus endurance...

    Dad's notes on his pack...
    … Troops used to complain about our equipment, as it was alleged that the best went to our European comrades. Our worst enemy was the actual weight we had to carry. This came mainly on your shoulders and there was no relief from padding. On our back we had the big pack with large pouches sewn on both sides; we had the usual belt and straps. On one side was the small pack, on the other a water bottle and a chagall made out of canvas, which held about half a gallon of water. The two normal pouches, which held Bren-Gun magazines, were secured to our belt at the front. We had to carry clothing, which was to last us for months, plus a ground sheet, a blanket (which was half a standard blanket), a towel, shaving gear, etcetera. We also carried our rifle (weighing 9lbs/4kg), and each nine man section had a Bren-Gun (weighing 32lbs/14.5kg), which was passed from man to man; with hand grenades and ammo this consisted of our main armaments.
    … The only medical equipment we carried was a field dressing, Mepacrine anti-malarial tablets and a tin with blue and white tablets for water sterilisation. We also carried five days rations (over 20lbs/9kg): this consisted of American K rations, of which you had three boxes daily, marked breakfast, dinner and supper; each box about 8” x 4” x 1½” deep. They contained a tin of cheese, meat, or some such substance, a packet of bullion, coffee or orange, but best of all each packet contained five cigarettes (Lucky Strike, Chesterfield or Philip Morris). Separately, we were given packets of tea; the boxes were waxed and came in very handy when we needed to boil something.
    … Our pack was our home, and even in action, we had to carry it. When we had five days rations, and it was our turn to carry the Bren, our load must have been in the region of one-hundred pounds. Why didn’t someone in authority try carrying a load like that in heat? They then might have devised some type of shoulder pads that would have helped us carry that terrible weight…

    I'll try and start a list here - please feel free to add anything to it, if possible as accurate/approx a weight for each item (or group of items - ie 50 rounds = ?)

    Everest Pack
    Small pack (? as per my dad's notes)
    Additions fitted to pack (pockets, etc
    Spare clothing (how much), "comforter", hat, etc
    Water bottle
    Chagal (how many spelling variations:D)
    K-Rations x 5 (most my dad ever mentioned carrying)
    Mess-tin and utensils
    Silver Rupees (dad dumped his early on)
    1/2 blanket
    Towel (very Hitchhikers :D(, shaving gear, "housewife", bog-bag, etc
    Medical gear (dressings/Mepacrine/water purification, etc)
    Dig-in/toilet gear (I've been told they had to ensure everything was buried)
    Lee Enfield Rifle
    50 rounds for Lee Enfield
    Dah Machete
    Grenade/s (how many?)
    Bren Gun
    5 magazines for Bren

    That will do for a start - cut this (list) out and expand/add as you see fit...

    Donald MacKenzie (Rifleman, 26 Column, 1st Cameronians) had to carry a LILO ("That's more for you to carry, MacKenzie...!") as he could not swim so I'll try and get an idea of how big that was...
    Stanley Rothney (Saddler, 90 Column, 1st Cameronians) will hopefully give us some more ideas...
    I'm going to visit Major Bill Towill (Adjutant, 3rd/9th Gurkhas) in the near future (unfortunately on call this week) to get an officer's-eye view...
  13. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    And who would be an Officer, same pack, unless he pinched space on a nearby maps, compass, hand gun and binoculars.

    Almost every story I have read in conjunction with an officer on Chindit 1 and 2, tells of the selection of good books to read on those long Burmese nights.:)

    Most of these ended up as makeshift Rizzla papers. Or for other more urgent purposes.
  14. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Forgot to say, didn't some larger weapons also have tripods or other stand equipment?

    Must of weighed a fair bit too!:)
  15. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    My father (lieut) on Op Thursday had several books with him, but they were pinched by other officers in the mess before they set out-otherwise i am sure he would have had them with him! What did the famous mules carry?
  16. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    My father (lieut) on Op Thursday had several books with him, but they were pinched by other officers in the mess before they set out-otherwise i am sure he would have had them with him! What did the famous mules carry?

    The most precious item of all....the radio set and charger!:D
  17. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    I know the name of the mule eaten at Mokso Sakan was "Albert"...

    Masters' took "Paradise Lost" in with him...

    I think I have the weight of the radios noted - the "walkie-talkie" weighed 9lbs iirc
  18. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    I had a chat with Stanley Rothney (90 Column Saddler) this evening and have amended the list to suit his notes... this is a first draft for this from him and I'll amend it as he remembers more...

    ... What we were wearing as standard issue and my Lee Enfield.
    The standard issue FSMO big-pack, not the Everest pack - the Commandos had them - I sewed two ammo pouches onto each side of the big-pack for extra storage space - the "K" ration packs slipped right in them.
    The small pack worn as a side pack.
    Spare clothing, not much mind - spare socks, a vest, pants - that's about it - we got stuff as it was dropped in.
    A tin water bottle, not much use, mind.
    The canvas chagal, much more use than the tin water bottle, kept the water cooler.
    We flew in with 5 days "K" rations - 15 tins, spread out over the pack.
    Mess-tin, mug, knife, fork and spoon - a lot of us ditched our mugs early on and used a jam tin or some such thing - it was more useful if you were brewing up.
    A special lightweight blanket; it was a pretty good quality thing.
    Towel, soap, razor, brush, comb, the "housewife" for sewing buttons on, etc. - this was kept in a side pack
    Toilet gear, the "bog-bag" - we had to ensure everything was buried.
    About 50 rounds for the Lee Enfield kept in pouches kept on webbing braces - there was a hook on the front for ammo pouches.
    The Dah machete, supplied without a sheaf - the American Dah machete was much better than the crude Indian thing originally used: longer, fleeter, better balanced; I sewed two straps onto my belt to keep my blanket in and kept the machete wrapped up in that - it formed the centre of the roll as you wrapped it.
    A bayonet, kept on the left-hand side of the waist band.
    Two Grenades - one kept in each ammo pouch.
    The Cameronians wore their puttees on the inside tied with bow-ties, just to be bloody different! :D

    I hope to speak to Donnie MacKenzie tomorrow evening to find out what he took in - I suspect there is an infinite variation of things with this...
    MacKenzie14 likes this.
  19. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    I had a list of the Medical officers supplies somewhere! However, I'm thinking that he would have worked from a couple of mule panniers?

    Well at least at the start of each columns operational plan!:)
  20. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    When it comes to carrying kit I work in Kilo's and had to convert the pounds. I see 100 lbs works out at 45 Kilos.

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