WW1 BRITISH BATTLE of MESSINES RIDGE 1917 ‘YUKON’
Before describing this item I really should give a brief outline as to the above battle and how the need for such a pack, and its use, became part of British infantry field equipment of the day.
To give an in-depth account is a book in its own right, so I will do my best to compress down the relevant points in relation to the packs introduction.
The Battle of Messines was a ‘small’ offensive launched as a prelude to the much larger planed ‘Third Battle of Yyres’ (Passchendaele).
A number of new initiatives were to be employed in this offensive learnt the ‘hard way’ from previous failed assaults.
Artillery fire was to be better directed at specific targets rather than a mass ‘hap-hazard’ blanket barrage. (This was possible due to newly developed gun sites and improved spotter location marking).
Tunnelling was also to be a major part of the offensive….To follow up these modified assault techniques the British General Staff had identified the need for the first waves of infantry to be better supplied on its initial assault. (This was learned from the Somme offensive with British troops running out of essential assault supplies in the opening phase of an operation, allowing the enemy to recover its positions).
Hence a pack to carry above all ammunition, but to include medical supplies and amounts of food and drink was needed. The pack also needed to be unloaded easily and quickly….British army large packs of the time were not a suitable option !
Hence the ‘Inuit’ / Alaskan wooden framed back pack with its laced loading capacity was tested for purpose and introduced as part of British infantry assault equipment.
It could be packed / un-packed easily and quickly. It also carried a much larger load than existing British field equipment.
My research for British (rather than Canadian etc.) troops shows that for each division, approximately 250 packs were issued and distributed as needed.
Packs were capable of carry up to 65 -70 lbs (approx.) of equipment in comparative ‘comfort’….They were issued to first wave assault troops in modest numbers with immediate second wave troops carry the main bulk of supplies, to reach taken objectives 4-5 minutes after the first wave had reached them….Thus enabling the consolidation of a taken position, rather than having to relinquish it, due to lack of ordnance etc.
So successful were the packs on this assault, not only in their use, but manufacture also, that they were used for the remainder of the war.
Again in WW2 they were used in larger numbers primarily in the S.E. Asian jungle and by US American troops in the various campaigns that they took part in.
It should therefore be noted that their are packs manufactured by colonial and North American manufactures for use in both the First and Second World Wars….These packs should not be confused with this listing, which is a British WW1 issued item !
"YUKON" BATTLE BACK
Now to the pack itself :-
This has not been an easy item to photograph to show at its best. It is best appreciated in the ‘flesh’ so to speak.
It is a field used item, recently found and totally new to the market.
The pack is now 97 years old and has, as already stated been field used. It is in undamaged complete condition with all original fittings, including the lacing chord.
The wooden frame is sound and free from wood worm. Canvas backing material is in matching condition with the securing lace in said same matching condition.
All steel side hooks are original and present with some slight bending to several of the them.
The backing exterior leathers to these hooks is with in some cases age hardened, with wear and service damage.
Upper inner canvas is maker / supplier marked and dated ’Waring & Gillow. Ltd 1917,
One of the inner upper side frame woods still retails its original user paper instruction label. The label is very grubby and with wear, with said instructions not fully clear to now fully read. (see images).
This is a choice, stunning item of considerable rarity. It is the only WW1 example with British maker details that I have ever encountered.
Waring & Gillow were a large privately run company with contracts to supply the government with various pieces of field equipment throughout the whole of WW1.
Some items they most definitely manufactured in their own factories….This item being primarily a ‘foreign’ piece of equipment; I have not been able to determine whether or not it was manufactured by themselves or bought in under licence and then stamped with their own issue markings.
This is a SOLD Item.
It is currently on view in Mons Military Antiques ‘Archive Pages’ of previously stocked and sold items....For items currently on sale from Mons’ go to the ‘On-Line Shop’ pages !