Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

What is "London Brown"?


brummie76

Recommended Posts

Hi Guys

Me and my ww1 living history friends have been having a heated debate about what is the colour of "London Brown"?

We all own sets of reproduction P14 webbing in various shades and are wondering if we should dye them "London Borwn" to make them all uniform.

So i have looked on these forums and i cant see anything about the colour? So i have started this thread to pose the question....

I have been on Khaki web and they seem to have changed their stance a little however i personally do not agree. I believe that London Brown is the darker shade of brown. I just dont think an Officer would be happy with all his lads wearing different shades of leather (as the sets would come from different manufacturers with different leather supplies) and would have all the kit dyed the same colour to make it more regimental. In addition when i look at a lot of period, colour postcards i see the P14 webbing etc is always depicted as the dark brown. Why would they choose this colour on the postcards if the webbing was not this shade?

There is also the issue of "service dress" colour for the webbing prior to "London Brown".... this too suggests that LB was a darker shade as SD tends to be lighter to match the jacket and trousers as much as possible...

So guys what can you add to this? What colour was London Brown?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Based on observation and ownership of quite a large amount of Pattern 14 and other British leather equipment (from both the World Wars actually) over the years, I would say that any colour variation you are seeing is the result of aging and polishing of the leather.

The 'Service Dress' colour was an attempt to add a green colour to the hides to more closely match and blend with service dress uniform. It seems to have been abandoned very early on certainly near the official dates of December 31st 1914 to March 1915. In 43 years of collecting I have only seen a handful of items that had the green tinting applied. Not least I would imagine it was dropped because of the difficulty of maintaining consistency of colour from differing hides and manufacturers.

Whilst it was a good idea in principle it actually added nothing to the usability of the equipment and was quickly dropped. No attempt had been made to so treat the Pattern 1903 bandolier equipment for instance.

Your post seems to imply that you think there was a third, even darker shade of brown used. I've not seen anything to indicate this. I have a complete set of Pattern 14 issued to a member of the 7th Black Watch. Most of it is dated 1915 with some 1914 items. One of the pouches is shown on Karkeeweb and the rest of the set is that colour too, with minor shade variation between items even though they have always been together and were issued and marked to the same person.

Given the extreme shortage of infantry equipment in late 1914 early 1915, I very much doubt that variance in colour would have been a reason for rejecting equipment. The wide range of makers and leather suppliers would also have added natural variation to the mix. Hides would have varied in shade and quality but probably not massively so.

I have seen and handled much new condition Pattern 14 over the years. In extreme cases it was virtually pink when new and ranging to a reddish orange brown colour. I have personally not seen an item of new Pattern 14 in the darker brown shade you imply in your post, darker shades yes but not noticeably so. You'll note that I am choosing my words carefully here, I have never personally seen an original new Pattern 14 item that would fall into anything other than normal limits of issued leatherwork. However I have seen plenty of Pattern 14 that has been polished using 'ox-blood' or dark tan colours. Some of this polishing has been done in recent years to tidy up or improve old leatherwork. Some must have been so polished at the time of the Great War.

On issue these sets would have been softened, polished and handled by oily dirty fingers. Exposure to the elements will also quickly darken new leather. Some units used tallow to treat Pattern 14 leather which would darken it immediately. No doubt others applied dubbin and polish depending on the requirements of unit standing orders. The majority of equipment was probably allowed to darken through continuous usage.

Some of the reproduction Pattern 14 I have seen does seem to be too red brown in shade to my eyes, but then the makers have to work with the leather they can get now.

Other than maintaining them, ie some form of dressing, I wouldn't touch them. Uniformity is all very well, but it also might add an artificiality that didn't exist at the time. I don't doubt that when a smart turnout was required for an inspection or parade, that some units would have made an effort to harmonise the look, but for field service I very much doubt it.

Using a black and white period photo is not a very reliable way of trying to work out the colour. Have a look at this WW1 autochrome image of Indian troops wearing leather equipment and look at the wide range of colour displayed, from the obviously new to the well handled and polished. The saddle is interesting as when new it would have been a similar colour to the bandolier of the soldier second from the right. Vestiges of this colour can still be seen in the saddle. Exposure and use would quickly darken this down, oiling or other forms of polish cleaning would accelerate the process.

post-7141-0-46794000-1396013162_thumb.jp

Now the same photo in black and white. Though it is easy to still see the difference between the dark bandoliers and the new one on the right, the colour difference to the saddle is a lot less noticeable. Another interesting difference is the shade of the tunic of the Naik in the centre foreground. His Kurta tunic seems to be of a greener colour than the rest of the men, but the difference is not apparent in black and white of course.

post-7141-0-15738900-1396013886_thumb.jp

Maybe you should agree on a unit cleaning method which will over time achieve a more realistic result than artificially darkening the whole lot at the same time which could be a tad expensive if you get it wrong!

Regards

Tocemma

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The 'Service Dress' colour was an attempt to add a green colour to the hides to more closely match and blend with service dress uniform. It seems to have been abandoned very early on certainly near the official dates of December 31st 1914 to March 1915. In 43 years of collecting I have only seen a handful of items that had the green tinting applied.

I had a Simmons pouch (which went to a mate), Joe's got, I think, a frog; and my chum with my pouch also has a tool cover and, IIRC, a single brace. And that's the sum total that I've ever seen.

Was an object lesson in learning that museums don't necessarily know what they're talking about: before I knew about the SD colour, I showed the pouch to the NAM (I'd written in query about the green, and they asked me to bring it in). The most senior uniform and equipment bod there told me it was Australian, and had been camouflaged...

Cheers,

GT.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Any good leather work supplies company should know what London Brown is talk to these people

http://www.leprevo.co.uk/dyes.htm

Hi all,

what is London brown? the simplest answer is probably whatever the individual currier on each batch of hides made or mixed the dye colour to be as they tried to colour match the sample. Each hide will take the colour in different way and his may differ depending upon thickness of the item. There being hundred of tanners and curriers working for dozens of suppliers.

Even in modern leather production where chemical mixes are much more precise there is still a difference when colour matching batches. It is therefore even more probable that 100 years ago they had the same issues. I have seen items ranging from a modern coloured London tan through to a Conker and even a Dark Havana which is so dark it can be mistaken for Black depending upon the light.

Sedgewick & co produce some of the finest leathers you will find in the UK and although they produce a sample colour guide there can be very minor differences.

I have three 14 pattern belts the lightest would fall between a modern London Tan to a Light Havana and at the other end one being a very dark brown.

regards

Dave

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Based on observation and ownership of quite a large amount of Pattern 14 and other British leather equipment (from both the World Wars actually) over the years, I would say that any colour variation you are seeing is the result of aging and polishing of the leather.

The 'Service Dress' colour was an attempt to add a green colour to the hides to more closely match and blend with service dress uniform. It seems to have been abandoned very early on certainly near the official dates of December 31st 1914 to March 1915. In 43 years of collecting I have only seen a handful of items that had the green tinting applied. Not least I would imagine it was dropped because of the difficulty of maintaining consistency of colour from differing hides and manufacturers.

Whilst it was a good idea in principle it actually added nothing to the usability of the equipment and was quickly dropped. No attempt had been made to so treat the Pattern 1903 bandolier equipment for instance.

Regards

Tocemma

Tocemma - Thanks for your post! Really interesting reading and just loved the photos! Do you have any others? So from what you are saying you think we could do either with oru P14 either have it all fairly regimented or have mixed shades.....both could be ok....?

Any good leather work supplies company should know what London Brown is talk to these people

http://www.leprevo.co.uk/dyes.htm

T8HANTS - yeah i understamd what you say but the issue is that it was never recorded anywhere exactly what colour "London Brown" actually was.... nobody was kind enough to leave a colour chart..... yes there are modern ideas but each company will have a different take on what the colour should be.....

Have you had a look here?

Karkee web is usually a good place to start (and end!) with things web related.

Chris

4th Gordons - As i say in my post originally "I have been on Khaki web and they seem to have changed their stance a little however i personally do not agree.". Thanks though!

Thanks all for responding please keep it coming! I am still thinking of the period postcards all show the leather as a darker shade.....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I believe that at least as far as saddles and other tack go they were issued in fair leather, that is undyed. I have a SMLE rifle boot that is unissued and obviously undyed. German saddles were also issued in fair leather. I have seen an unissued, unused Armeesattel 25 that was in fair leather. I suspect that the P14 gear was also issued undyed. The light bandoleer in the photo above is pretty close to a fair leather. It wouldn't take long in the field for items to start darkening.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...